Free Homeschool Curriculum and Summer Deals

I found a great vocabulary curriculum with the Homeschool Buyers Club and want to share it with you, as well as some of my tips for building vocabulary!

Disclosure: In writing this review post, I am being compensated for my time.  All of my opinions communicated here are honest and are uniquely mine.

We are thoroughly enjoying our North Carolina summer! The cicadas’ chorus echoes throughout the tops of our pine trees on hot afternoons and continues into the early evening. Much of our summer has been spent swimming, playing, visiting with grandparents and friends, and enjoying new board games. 

Homeschool Curriculum Deals to the Rescue

As much as I love our unstructured summer time, being a homeschool mom of three, I have sought the necessary structure provided in a few short lessons in the mornings, when my son’s mind is sharp.  

All it takes is about fifteen minutes.  My son sits with me on the couch, and we practice building words to improve his grasp of vocabulary.  With third grade right around the corner, I found this area to be one in need of some practice. 

Photo by olia danilevich on

If you’re looking for some summer learning opportunities that take just a few minutes’ time, check out the Homeschool Buyers Club!  They are featuring many FREE  products right now, as well as running amazing deals across their siteTo see the three free gifts you can get with the purchase of any product, scroll down to the end of this post.  If my son was older, I’d check out Vocabulary Quest (see below), as it is appropriate for fifth through twelfth graders. 

Free Products from Homeschool Buyers Club:

1. Thinkwell Free Trial

2. Reading Skills Assessment Ongoing

3. HomeSchoolPiano Trial

4. Code Avengers Free Trial

5. Monarch

6. Kids Guitar Academy Trial

7. Mr Henry’s Music World Freebie

8. Free Trial

9. Mark Kistler Art Lessons

10. Creta Class 7 Day Trial

11. Math Mammoth PDFs


13. Reading Eggs

14. Doodlemaths

15. Smile and Learn

16. History Alive Grades 6-12

17. History Alive Grades 1-6

18. Vocabulary Quest

19. Dynamic Earth Learning (Aquaponics Course)

Word Building Lessons

I could see that my second grader needed some extra help with vocabulary this past school year. I started looking at Homeschool Buyers Club and their engaging language arts resources.  I ended up finding a GREAT deal on the Word Build Online Program.  

My son loves his word building lessons!  It only takes fifteen minutes a day.  His little sister even joins in on the challenge.  Since I adhere to a classical approach to learning, I know the importance of teaching vocabulary first and foremost in the context of good, living books

I list a few other ways to teach vocabulary below.

Photo by Pixabay on

Engaging Ways to Teach Vocabulary

  1. In Context: find the words ahead of time and write them down in a notebook for your child to review the word structure, synonyms and definitions throughout the week (pick about 3 words a week). Karen Andreola in A Charlotte Mason Companion  explains, “A vocabulary workbook that includes interesting text where the meaning of a word is derived from its use in context may be helpful.  But since there are so many delightful children’s books available these days, wider reading is to be preferred.” When we read our history and literature books this year, my son will have a composition book where he will write down interesting words, in their appropriate alphabetical sections.  He can do this with his independent reading, also.
  1. Interact with a Vocabulary 4-Square: Simply put, fold a piece of 8.5” x11” paper into fourths.  In the upper left rectangle, write the word you are studying, being sure to underline any prefix of suffix.  In the upper right rectangle, write a definition and synonym for the word.  In the lower left rectangle, use the word in a sentence.  Lastly, in the lower right rectangle, draw a picture of the word in an appropriate context. 

Look for ways to use the words in poems by looking at my Poetry 4-Square.

  1. In Conversation: Use words that you hope to solidify in your memory by using them in conversation.
  1. Using Morphology: WordBuild Foundations 1 (online) is described as such: “The Foundations series comprises three levels and focuses on prefixes and suffixes, having students add them to words they already know so they can understand how the meaning, spelling, and/or part of speech is changed by the addition of that prefix or suffix. They will then be able to apply this knowledge to new words as well.” (source: WordBuild Online user’s guide)
  1. Teaching Greek and Latin Roots: Did you know that teaching Greek and Latin roots benefits children in learning the meaning of many words?  If you are looking for an approach that emphasizes Latin and Greek roots, check out WordBuild Elements: “The Elements series, also three levels, focuses on Latin and Greek roots, the real foundation of academic English, the vocabulary that dominates all texts from about sixth grade on. Just as with prefixes and suffixes, students will gain enough experience with a given root to be able to apply it to a new word and figure out its true meaning based on the meanings of its parts.” (source: WordBuild Online user’s guide). 

A Look at WordBuild in Our Home

Over the course of about five days, a WordBuild Foundations (1) online unit looks like this:

Warm Up (pre-assessment)

Lesson 1: Affix Square -place a root word with the prefix OVER-, write a new definition of the new word, then select the best use of the word from the options. (Matrix)

Lesson 2: Attach the prefix OVER- to the root word, write a new definition, then select the best use of the word from the options as it appears in a sentence. 

Lesson 3: Look at the Matrix and match the definitions to the appropriate OVER- word.

Lesson 4: Fill in the blank with the correct OVER- word in different sentences. 

Summer Learning Success

My son responded very well to the WordBuild Foundations 1 exercises.  I did not help him in answering any of the questions, but did help him with operating the computer (keyboard class will be next, I suppose)!  We loved this time together.  Even his little sister joined us for many of the lessons.  I will gladly recommend this specific method of reinforcing and learning new vocabulary to anyone.  

One activity that was particularly engaging was the affix square.  My son loved it because he got to choose the root word that he would “affix” to the prefix OVER-.  He also enjoyed the mastery aspect.  Any time he completed a lesson, he would receive a “Daily Reward”.  He received 5 Daily Rewards before moving on to the next unit.  

One way I know my son enjoyed WordBuild is the fact that he would never complain about doing it.  I also think the fact that it was on the computer helped, too, since he hardly ever gets on the computer.  Novelty is a powerful thing.  Would he continue using WordBuild? Yes! As a mom, I like to see my son engaged in making meaning of new words and using them regularly in his everyday conversation and composition.  

Enjoy Up to 3 Free Gifts

I was really pumped to find out that with any purchase, we can enjoy up to three free gifts (a $38 value)! Check them out! 

Books I Have Loved This Summer, Books I Look Forward To Reading

C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I have a new book list I am dying to share with you.

I am so thankful for the Internet, aren’t you?! It allows us to find books within seconds and either check them out at our local libraries, or use our devices to get them delivered brand new to our doorsteps! Oh, technology surely has its pitfalls, but I do love that we can do some things so much easier in this day and age.

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I can recommend these books to you, and might receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Our homeschool has seen the accumulation of these beloved books over time. I cannot say that I’m ashamed to admit that I still have to read a handful of the more “adult” books I ordered for myself, because… you know what? The picture books get my attention first.

C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

Do you agree?

I sure do! That’s why I picked out the books on this list to reflect my hunger for living books. These books give us the noble ideas, the virtues and the facts about a person, place, time or process in the world. Some of these stories are fiction; many are nonfiction.

Please take some time to study this list. They span subjects of history, literature, science, math and I threw in some fun book basket ideas and summer read alouds, for good measure. I cannot wait to share these titles with you! You might get some ideas for future reading in your upcoming school year, or you might find something to enjoy before the school year begins. We have either read, or will read, every one of these books listed in our own homeschool.

We will be studying middle ages history this upcoming year, and I could not be more excited! The cross-section castle book looks amazing. I also cannot wait to read authors with whom I have not become familiar. They will become dear friends, I am sure, just like A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis were for us this past school year.

As this new school year begins, I thank you so much for supporting me and my mission to recommend quality, living books to families who love to read with their children.

In addition to these wonderful books, when you get the chance to sit down and think about what poetry you might read next year, you might consider Robert Louis Stevenson. I have a freebie I will send you that includes: 3 summer poems, copy work, an interactive 4-square template, and project ideas to introduce you to his work before you dive in and get his poetry collection. If you love his poetry already and are searching for a sweet, illustrated collection of “A Child’s Garden of Verses”, I am happy to share my recommendation with you here:

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (Illus. Tasha Tudor)

Would you like the Poetry Mini-Unit (Freebie)?

One of my favorite homeschool memories of all time was when we read Aliki’s A Medieval Feast and later held our own very special medieval feast, complete with cornish hens and “blackbird pie”, medieval tarts, and of course, “ale”. Where would we have gotten that inspiration if it had not been for that picture book?

This Is What Every Homeschool Bookshelf Needs: A Living Picture Book Biography Collection 

I am thoroughly enjoying this season of life, as it relates to read-alouds. Plopping myself down with a good picture book, I announce that it is time to read. Within a second, I have the bees buzzing up to the hive and all is well.

In fact, I cannot tell you how much I relish this time. Two or three kids surround me; their sweet heads rest inside the crooks of my elbows.

What’s on the menu today? I pull out a hardcover book with whimsical and detailed illustrations on its cover. In an instant, my daughter recognizes the work of the illustrator.
“This is a John Hendrix book!”

It sure is.

(Even if you only have one or two good picture books in your stash, that’s a win.)

Disclosure:  As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of some of these living biography picture books, at no additional cost to you.  I thank you for your support!

I am thoroughly enjoying this season of life, as it relates to read-alouds.  Plopping myself down with a good picture book, I announce that it is time to read.  Within a second, I have the bees buzzing up to the hive and all is well.  

In fact, I cannot tell you how much I relish this time.  Two or three kids surround me; their sweet heads rest inside the crooks of my elbows.  

What’s on the menu today?  I pull out a hardcover book with whimsical and detailed illustrations on its cover.  In an instant, my daughter recognizes the work of the illustrator. 

 “This is a John Hendrix book!”

It sure is.  

I mention the title: A Boy Called Dickens (by Deborah Hopkinson).  I crack it open and we are immediately taken on a flyover chase around London’s (almost) Victorian-era streets. The year is, well, long ago.  We can see that.  It would be helpful if the author gave an exact year, but in reading the author’s note, we can find out that British novelist Charles Dickens lived from 1812 to 1870.  This dreamlike picture book brings the reader in touch with the life of London’s poor youth.  

The chase-like scene sucks the reader in.  Where did Dickens go? Oh, there he is!

As the family gathers round for this reading, we learn that Charles Dickens had a dream to write stories, and was quite adept at telling them.  However, he had to overcome a major obstacle to realize his dream of becoming a true writer. 

I will not spoil it for you, but will point out that this book is one of a few that I would deem “living”.  

One hallmark of a Charlotte Mason education is the reading of good, living books.

“Our business is to give him mind-stuff, and both quality and quantity are essential. Naturally, each of us possesses this mind-stuff only in limited measure, but we know where to procure it; for the best thought the world possesses is stored in books; we must open books to children, the best books; our own concern is abundant provision and orderly serving.”

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

What, you might ask, is a living picture book?

Living books, generally speaking, have a few common elements (paraphrased from Simply Charlotte Mason website):

  1.  They are written in narrative form, by an author who is passionate about the subject on which he/she is writing.
  2. They are well-written and include a lot of description. 
  3. They feed the imagination and ignite the emotions.
  4. They contain living ideas, which spur the reader on to beauty, truth, awe, joy, confidence, compassion, etc. “Ideas are sparks of truth passed on from a greater thinker to another mind” (
We read these 3 while on our trip to the mountains Memorial Day Weekend.

How does one detect a good, living book?  

Usually, it only takes me a minute or two.  I read the book’s first page.  I skim the middle of the book.  I flip through the artwork on each page.  Oftentimes, a good illustrator will accompany a well-written book ( but not always).  I take into account how the author presents the material, and how engaging the story is for children and adults alike. Sometimes, I read the author’s note at the end of the book. I skim to ensure there are not any hidden agendas or glaringly inappropriate themes. These actions are what make up my quick “test”.

Let’s take a look at an example of a living picture book “opener”.  The first page of A Boy Called Dickens beckons me to plunge into its setting.  (As a side note, I would say this book is written for anyone about seven years old and up.) 

“This is old London, on a winter morning long ago.  Come along, now. We are here to search for a boy called Dickens.  He won’t be easy to find.  The fog has crept in, silent as a ghost, to fold the city in cold, gray arms.

Maybe the boy is down by the river – the thick, black Thames.  There are ragged children here, to be sure, scrambling for bits of copper and wood to sell.”

What did you learn from reading the first page?

I learned that the setting is London, a long time ago.  Foggy London is by the River Thames, and at that time there are many children on the streets who are trying to sell what they can find to make a little money.  I am still left wondering what year we are in, but that is not a deal-breaker, I suppose.

The first page is an excellent way to draw the reader in.  Throughout the book, Deborah Hopkinson uses vivid description, quotations, and clear transitions between time periods.  She weaves living ideas of perseverance and motivation into the story, as well as includes important facts.  Exposing children to biographical history in this way is more enjoyable than reading an encyclopedia article on the life of Charles Dickens, in my opinion.  

I stand up and grab another living biography off the bookshelf (or out of the book basket, in our case).

Maybe the kids will find this one endearing, I think to myself.

The title is Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wriggle: Pandemonium and Patience in the President’s House.  Written by Beth Anderson, it paints the picture of a loving and patient Lincoln with his impulsive, yet loveable son, Tad.  You might know the Lincolns’ story.  After losing a child, they have Tad: a vivacious, benevolent child, who is hard to understand when he opens his mouth, but has a heart to serve others.  This book is also pretty captivating, at first glance.  While it does show the everyday concerns of the president amid war, it does more than that. It highlights the uncertainty and trials of war, while also emphasizing the importance of charity and familial understanding.  Beth Anderson paints a picture of a winsome and sincere boy: Tad Lincoln. The opening page is quite simple, but accomplishes its purpose:

“Thomas Lincoln wriggled from the moment he was born.  Like a tadpole, thought Abraham, and he called his son ‘Tad’.  The name stuck.  So did the wriggle.”

I believe the reader could learn something about the demands of daily presidential life after reading this book, but even more, the reader is acquainted with the humanity of a presidential family.  A very nice author’s note is included in the back, with photographs of the Lincolns.

Now, for the book that surely engages children’s minds in more ways than just the historical: the engineering and innovative nature of Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford will hook young engineers’ brains.  Themes of dreaming big and tenacity to persevere in the midst of criticism are central here.  Mr. George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.  was the mastermind behind the unlikely monument that would become a landmark and mainstay of modernity: the ferris wheel. Learn about the process, from design to implementation.  Read about the ferris wheel’s debut at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.  

The first page test results in an easy decision to take the book home:

“It was only ten months until the next World’s Fair.  But everyone was still talking about the star attraction of the last World’s Fair.  At eighty-one stories, France’s Eiffel Tower was the world’s tallest building.  Its pointy iron and air tower soared so high that visitors to the top could see Paris in one breathtaking sweep.”

How does this page make you feel?  What does the page paint in your mind? 

I think you will find that the pages in Mr. Ferris and His Wheel are packed with facts, ideas, and artistic depictions of an era in time that showed our world was surely changing, with innovation and new technology at the forefront of science.

What should the result be, for our children, after reading living books? Delight and wonder are two things that should arise.  “This delight will arise from the experience of receiving those sparks of truth from the author” (

How about you, Mom or Dad? Shouldn’t you also experience delight in reading living books, too? I think so.

After evaluating my selection of books today, I must ask myself, “Why do I love the mid-to-late 1800s so much?”  

Maybe you’ll find a time period that draws you in.  Or perhaps you will be drawn to a particular group of people – inventors, artists, politicians, writers, explorers – and will want your children to take hold of the living ideas written about the lives of such notable women and men.  Flawed humans, yes, but significant to history. 

Think about what you want to read with your children this summer, “Mom” or “Dad”.

I hope your summer is filled with picture books that tell stories about people who accomplished great feats, lived lives that are different from your own, and most assuredly, were real humans who have a lot in common with you, too.  

Some of you might be familiar with the Charlotte Mason method of narration.  I am linking my narration matrix to this post for families who want to take reading aloud a step further

Recapping the Books:

A Boy Called Dickens

Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wriggle

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel


Anderson, B. (2021).  Tad Lincoln’s restless wriggle: Pandemonium and patience in the president’s house (S.D. Schindler, Illus.). Calkins Creek.

Davis, K. (2014). Mr. Ferris and his wheel (G. Ford, Illus.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing.

Hopkinson, D. (2012). A boy called Dickens (J. Hendrix, Illus.). Schwartz & Wade Books.

The Big Maine Basket and One Morning in Maine

I made something I think might bless you. The Big Maine Basket is a narration tool and booklist (with some extras included). If you are Charlotte Mason or classical homeschooling with narration, this is a great fit for you!

I Hope It Blesses You

Uses for this tool (THE BIG MAINE BASKET) I created:

-It allows readers to SYNTHESIZE what they are reading-It is a solid, consistent record-keeping tool for teachers

-It aligns with #charlottemason and #classicaleducation methods AND accounts for different learning modalities

-Its simplicity and predictability allow for short sessions (10 to 30 min. max), yet maximizes the time parents get with their children

-Being literature-based, it can be woven into any classical or Charlotte Mason curriculum, AND can cover multiple content areas (read alouds can cover so many different content areas)

-It can be easily incorporated into a morning time, with activities designed for different levels

So, for now, this kind of resource is completely FREE, until August 11, 2021!

Extra bonus: animals of Maine coloring pages (for littles) and an extension writing prompt and project (for the older kids)…didn’t I say it would be a great morning time element?

Your Morning Basket with Pam Barnhill

Find The BIG Maine Basket on:

Our Maine Visit

In the meantime, I thought it would be AMAZING to visit a setting of the book, One Morning in Maine, written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey. I am a big fan of his. It was amazing. It was a beautiful Maine morning, the morning of July 5th. My husband and I were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary by visiting the Maine Coast. Think: Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and some little, serene towns between there and Portland. We filmed a short tour of Buck’s Harbor (the setting of McCloskey’s book).

While shopping in Bar Harbor, I also snagged this TREASURE: Make Way for McCloskey: A Robert McCloskey Treasury.

All three of my kids love these stories! My husband remembers them fondly from childhood, as well.

Here is our YouTube tour of Buck’s Harbor:

Another great New England read
Buck’s Harbor

A HUGE Thank You

Thank you, readers. You know who you are. I know there must be some way to bless you, so I am going to keep offering my content.

I need your feedback, friends. If you like The Big Maine Basket, please drop a comment on this post. If you mention my content on Instagram or Facebook, that’s even better!

I do appreciate you all and want to see if the content I am working hard to make is making a difference.

Books to Kick-Start Summer

Wondering where to begin in your summer read-aloud adventure?

Here I have a few suggestions. Wonderful authors, wonderful illustrations.

Be sure to check out Read Aloud Revival .

Sarah Mackenzie has two great special editions on both Robert McCloskey and Barbara Cooney. I highly recommend both!

Enjoy! Please share and subscribe to my channel if you find it helpful!

Tips for a Smooth Summer Morning

Since our summer began a week-and-a-half ago, I have envisioned a morning rhythm that would unite our hearts, provoke good conversation, and facilitate good habits.  I love morning time.  However, it hasn’t always been easy to implement in the summertime.  Last week, my son’s full-day camp made it harder to start the morning time routine. He absolutely loved his time at camp!

brother and sister

Summer Morning Baskets

To kickstart the summer, I made a morning basket for each child.  With three children ages, 6, 4 and 2, I wanted to tailor each basket to spark wonder and curiosity.  I wanted to keep them coming back for more. 

See below the photos with each child’s morning basket:

My 4-year-old girl’s summer morning basket
My 6-year-old son’s summer morning basket
My 2-year-old son with his summer morning basket

Morning Time Vignettes

I want to implement the morning time vignette next.  Because of camp and a week-long beach trip with family, I have not started this.  My goal is to start the morning time (Week 1) with catechism review (BOOK I) for 5 minutes.  Week 2 we will add a layer: a song (5 minutes).  Week 3: ABC Bible Verses  (10 minutes).  And it will continue in this way until the first week of school: layering on short components of morning time. 

Independent Reading

Lastly, two new habits we have been working on this summer so far are the habit of attention and the habit of self-starting.  I have aimed to kill two birds with one stone here:  independent reading.  Right after breakfast, even on vacation, I have asked my son to gather his morning basket.  Inside, he finds books that are largely on or below his reading level (see his morning basket).  Then, I set the timer for him to have uninterrupted, independent reading time.   

My son is getting into the habit.  We have made sure we do this on vacation because we cannot afford to miss out on some time to practice reading.  Also, he cannot afford to miss out on that quiet, still time to practice focusing fully on one thing for a short period of time.  It is enjoyable.  He is left wanting more.  I am increasing the time by 2 minute increments every few days. 

If bringing his breakfast dish to the sink is his cue, then he can self-start his independent reading time.  He can go anywhere in the house where he can focus.  So far, it has worked well.  I ask him to narrate from one of his books after the timer sounds.

Tips for a Smooth Start

Some tips I have for setting up the morning baskets, beginning morning time vignettes, and independent reading to make the summer mornings go smoothly are:

  1.  Start simple.  Start your mornings with one thing at a time.  No need to make all 3 of these components happen at once.
  2. Shop your home.  What if the right book could be found in your own library?  Or maybe there is an engaging game you can find in your game closet to put in one of your morning baskets.  For my little one’s basket, I find little toy cars he hasn’t seen in a while.
  3. Keep it short.  Leave them wanting more.
  4. Pick books that are below level, or right on level (for book baskets/independent reading). 
  5. Use my narration practice sheet to touch base with your independent reader. It is not ideal to use this as your only narration practice, as reading aloud to your child is better for narration practice. For my child’s summer independent reading, I do think narration practice is a good thing.  It doesn’t have to be fancy; just a basic retelling of the story.  Make sure you have an idea of the content of the story before asking for a narration.

6. Attach your morning time vignette to breakfast.  Make it 5 to 10 minutes at first, then add on layers until the first week of school.

A Rhythm to Consider

Once we get back from vacation, the next part of our day (after morning time) will be math practice (Subtraction Facts That Stick) and maybe a quick reading review of our cards from All About Reading Level 1. That’s it. I do not predict this reading and math practice time taking more than 30 minutes.

The next part of the day? Pool, playdates with friends, exploring a new place, taking a field trip to a museum… the list goes on!

Then, lunch. Then, down time. Then, unstructured playtime and lessons when we have them on Monday and Thursday evenings. Lastly, dinner prep and time with daddy. Bedtime.
What works for your family might not work for mine, and vice-versa. That’s why I love sharing ideas. You might think of something I haven’t before.

Okay, friends! There you have it!  I am so excited to share more with you as our summer progresses.  Look for a booklist soon!

Until next time, bye!

All Parents Homeschool

Happy Father’s Day!

My dad with my children

All Parents Homeschool (VIDEO)

What do you think? Write your comments below and share if you find this video helpful. Thanks, friends!

School Year #2 In the Books… Hello, Summer!

Goodbye, school year number two.  Hello, summer!  The last two weeks of school have taken the shape of a lighter schedule, with a lot of play time interspersed between lessons.   We have made creative projects, written friendly letters to characters found in our stories, and appreciated good, living books.  We attended a graduation ceremony, and we have broken out the summer readers.  In this post, I will talk briefly about our last two weeks of school.  Next, I will look ahead to summer and our summer learning rhythm of morning time vignettes, layering, habit training, summer reading, and experiences we hope to check off our summer “bucket list”. 

Our Last Two Weeks of School

Projects and books.  Our last two weeks of school could be described as “language arts heavy”.  We still made time for math, using this time to preview the upcoming school year’s math program (Beast Academy, Level 2) and work on our Subtraction Facts That Stick  games and work pages.

Addition Facts That Stick

(We are using Subtraction Facts That Stick this summer… he finished his regular math curriculum for first grade back in March, so we are brushing up on some skills.)

Boxcar Children

After my son chose The Boxcar Children (book 1) as his favorite read aloud from the year, he made a diorama out of a cardboard shoebox and hosted his first video.  He liked explaining the ins and outs of making the swimming pool scene from scratch.  Poor kid is hard on himself, though.  The first thing he noticed while watching the video was that he needed to look at the camera more.  He is his own biggest critic.  It’s good that he notices those little things and has an eye for detail, though.

Working to complete the diorama.


We enjoyed reading our favorite fables from  Aesop’s Stories for Little Children.  The assignment I had him complete was to write a friendly letter, including at least three of his spelling words for the week, addressing the main character from one of the fables.  In the letter, he was supposed to include the moral of the fable, along with some examples of how he understood the moral in his own life.  He was to write with proper spelling and punctuation.  Then, he was to decorate the letter stationary to reflect the theme of the fable.  He chose to write to Grasshopper, from The Ant and the Grasshopper.  Sure enough, the moral, “It is best to be prepared” is one that resonated with him and is one we are all continuously working on over here. 

Emerging Readers

I was a third and fourth grade teacher in my previous life for a reason.  Now, I know that reason: teaching kids how to read is not my favorite thing in the world (albeit a good thing, of course!).  Yes, my son is an emerging reader, and is making steady progress going into the second grade.  Right now, he is reading Frog and Toad All Year to me.  I am asking the questions found at the back of Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory  the emerging readers questions.  We are taking a short break from the All About Reading Level 1 to focus on stamina and fluency. Reading for us has been an uphill climb, but I know we are not alone!  Remembering to stay positive no matter what has been a real challenge for me.  I am not going to lie, there have been times I have gotten more frustrated than he when he has been struggling to sound out a word.  Patience, people.  That’s what we all need. And when he hits a wall of frustration, it’s not a bad idea to assess whether you just need to close the book and come back to it later or give an encouraging word right then in the moment. 

Minn of the Mississippi

If you love a living book, then I can speak to Holling Clancy Holling’s illustrated stories.  They bring the science topics (animal kingdom, geography, ecosystems, earth science, etc.) to life.  The first time I heard of his Paddle to the Sea was on Audible, during a car trip we took to the mountains a few years ago.  It was captivating for both Andrew and me as well as for our 5-year-old son (not so much for the 3-year-old girl or baby).  One day, I want to Beautiful Feet Books’ Holling C. Holling collection, especially the Geography Through Literature Pack, when the kids get a little bit older. Right now, we are loving cheering on the baby turtle, Minn, as she finds her way along the Mississippi River.

Summer Learning

Morning Time

Pam Barnhill gave me permission, so I’m gonna do it.  I am going to incorporate morning time into our rhythms of summer.  BUT, we are going to do morning time VIGNETTES.  Snippets.  Brief snapshots of what’s to come next year.  SO, here goes the plan.

Morning Time: We will be layering in content each week.  So, the first week, morning time will only consist of catechism while eating breakfast.  Next, we add in a song the following week.  We continue adding in new elements until the last week before school begins.  That way, the hope is for everyone to have an idea of what to expect in the mornings when we begin our school year in August.  Plus, we need consistency in our summer days; we need some kind of structure.  This is how we will hope to achieve that.

Week 1: Introduce catechism- Book II, unless we need to review Book I (5 min.)

Week 2: Add in a song- we’ll use anything from traditional hymns I have already printed out in our family worship binder to the Hide ‘Em In Your Heart Songs (Steve Green) we’ve been singing all year long. (5 min.) We will begin Singing the Great Hymns in the fall.

Week 3: ABC Bible Verses – read a story and focus on a verse per week (10 min.)


Week 1:  Listen to Classical Conversations Timeline with hand motions (15 min.)

Week 2:  Bedtime Math– listen to the story and solve a word problem (5 to 10 min.)

Week 3: Picture Study – study a photo from The Stuff They Left Behind .  The hope is to help with the habit of attention, as well as broaden horizons and give children a feast of ideas.  (5 min.)


Week 1: Joke book – who doesn’t love a good joke?  (5 min.)

Week 2:  Ancient Times Study – The Story of the World, Vol. 1 – We will rotate through map work, hearing the story, responding to the questions, and narration.  I am thinking we will start doing this ancient history study in loop format, but I might combine elements as the year progresses.  (15 min.)

Summer Reading, An Enchanted Journey

I have decided to plan out how I am going to layer the morning time elements.  We even have a summer learning planning page you can use, if that would help you plan your summer rhythm.  Will you incorporate the core subjects in small, quick doses over the summer?  Will summer reading be an adventure?  Pam Barnhill provides a free resource for this: Traveling Through the Pages, An Enchanted Journey will be our go-to “gameboard” for encouraging a wide variety of pleasure reading over our summer. Why, I might even print one out for myself to use!  That Ariel Lawhon book is just sitting by my bedside table.  Collecting dust.  Now, that is a travesty.   

Oh, and be sure to check out the video below (Your Morning Basket: Help! My Kids Wake Up When I Do). Because you know it will happen. And we need to reframe the issue, perhaps. Thoughts?


To keep my 6-year-old’s skills sharp, I want to stick with Subtraction Facts That Stick the entire first six weeks of summer (except when we go on vacation).  Each week introduces a new strategy (i.e., subtracting 1 and 2), then teaches a game to play – just one per week – to be played daily. The next four days, after my son plays the game with me, he  completes a practice worksheet, and that’s week one.  It continues as such with new strategies for the next five weeks.


My son will be reading from the emergent readers list in the back of the Heart of Dakota, Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory.  The titles include reading comprehension questions for each day.  We will aim for no more than 15 minutes of reading per day. Obviously, he is a six-year-old boy, and we will not be reading every single title.  He will just work through these titles this summer and into next year. 

The emergent readers are:

The Early Reader’s Bible   4 to 8 years

Frog and Toad All Year Lexile 480L

Frog and Toad Are Friends Lexile 470L

Wagon Wheels Lexile 500L

Amelia Bedelia 4 to 8 years

Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express  4 to 8 years

Prairie School Lexile 540L

First Flight Lexile 580L

Christian Liberty Nature Reader: Book One 6 to 8 years

The Drinking Gourd: A Story of the Underground Railroad Lexile 560L

Tornado Lexile 610L

Animal Adventures Lexile 660L

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain Lexile 590L

The Courage of Sarah Noble Lexile 610L

Heart of Dakota (Beyond Little Hearts) has a suggested booklist of about 20 additional titles to read beyond the emerging readers, entitled “beginning chapter books”.  It can be found in the back of the guide, right after “Scheduled Books for Emerging Readers”.  These books should keep us plenty busy for at least a year!

Pathways were such sweet readers this first grade year.


We will not be doing any writing for the sake of composition this summer, as he is only six (almost seven).  We will, however, be writing for the sake of practicing fluency/speed/letter formation in the context of a friendly letter, which is composition after all. 😊 Composition is just not our main focus.

Ideas for writing friendly letters:

-local business (i.e., favorite restaurant)

-elected official/representative



-fire dept.

-police dept.

-our church

-if we are desperate, we will write Disney characters, but I do not see that as a must (apparently, they do write back!)

Habit Training

For each summer month, my plan is to help my kids ease into a housekeeping routine.  I know it will take an enormous amount of dedication. 
How do you train the kids in a habit?  Simply Charlotte Mason has some helpful how-to blogs and podcast episodes about this here.  By “habit”, I am referring to a consistent, almost clockwork action that does not require constant nagging/reminding.

JUNE Habit: make the bed

JULY Habit: fold the laundry (washcloths, shirts, socks, shorts)

AUGUST Habit: Bless the Mess (cleaning up the house to help our home feel inviting for whoever should stop by for dinner… usually just Daddy)

Before we talk about ACTIONS, let’s remember the CHARACTER behind the habits.  What VIRTUES do you want to cultivate or teach this summer?  The two main focal points for our family are:

  1. The habit of attention
  2. The habit of self-starting

Experiences we hope to share this summer

REGULAR family game nights (like 2x per week)

Hosting friends in the heat of the day at our “waterpark” [picture/video of waterpark]


Vacationing at the beach

Vacationing at the river

Celebrating our 10th anniversary of marriage on the Maine coast! WOOHOO!

Charlotte Mason Together Retreat

What’s your bucket list for the summer with your family?

What habits do you want to begin or to nurture?


What BOOKS do you plan to read this summer?

Bye, for now!

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