KBR: Books that Drive Kids Crazy

Kids Book Review: Books that Drive Kids Crazy by Beck and Matt Stanton

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Today, I just have to give a shoutout to this series by Beck and Matt Stanton. It’s called Books that Drive Kids Crazy, and boy do they. I know I mentioned one of them in a recent book post (here) but they really deserve their own blogpost. Any book that makes the entire family dissolve into a pile of giggles is a keeper, you guys. There are two books in the series, called “This Is A Ball”, and “Who took the B from My _ook?”. AND there’s another coming out next year! We’ve just read them from the library so far. However, these will make their way under our Christmas tree for sure this year. For a few of the reasons why these books need to go into your Amazon cart pronto, keep reading 🙂

1. They’re educational. Seriously. Here’s why.

These books are fantastic introductions to logic and scientific reasoning. They encourages kids (and adults) to think systematically and identify problems. You can get the gist of this just by looking at the covers. If your kids are anything like mine, the instant you read the title “This is a ball”, and point to the very orange square on the cover, they will erupt in laughter and protests.
Through this, they begin to discern that a couple of similar elements does not a true correlation make. It’s really a beautiful thing, and very elegantly done.

2. Books that Drive Kids Crazy create a healthy opportunity for your kids to disagree with you and actually be right.

Let’s just admit it–kid’s aren’t always right. In fact, they are very frequently wrong and we must teach them the proper ways to interact with the world. But when they have an opportunity to be right–even if it’s in the context of a silly book–and when they can prove their case, it’s a beautiful thing.

3. They make everybody laugh!

The kids laughed. I laughed. When my Superman came home from work, they begged him to read it, and we ALL laughed. Books have the power to unite, and when half the books your kids “love” make you cringe after reading them once, it’s such a joy to find a book that everybody loves. Books That Drive Kids Crazy are uniquely entertaining with an inquisitive twist.

Anyways, I truly hope you can find your way to a copy of these somewhere. Let me know if you love them as much as we did!

Our rating: 5 out of 5 stars

**This post contains affiliate links. Thank you!**


Little Minutes and Mighty Oceans

“Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land. Thus the little minutes, humble though they be, make the mighty ages of eternity.” ~ Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney (1845)

Every Little Minute

There are 1440 minutes in every day. Most adults hope to spend 420 or so of them sleeping, and our kids probably spend between 600 and 720 minutes asleep. Even so, we have about half of those minutes to spend with our kids. That’s a lot of minutes. Here’s the thing, not all of those minutes are good minutes. Toddlers have moodswings and tantrums. Preschoolers need (what seems like) constant attention. 5-year-olds can supply enough drama for an entire high school. And, let’s face it, sometimes our own attitudes are not what we want our kids to see and emulate. We get frustrated about so many things.

Funny thing about angst: one bad attitude begets another bad attitude. When the children are fractious, our calm is challenged and it’s easiest to join them. And everybody knows, “If Mama isn’t happy, nobody’s happy.”

Here’s my point: I think we focus on the bad minutes too much. How many minutes does the average toddler temper tantrum take? Maybe 5 if she’s really committed? Little kid drama can be ridiculous, but it takes just a few seconds of silliness to totally swing from sad/angry to happy. Are the minutes spent rereading the same book for the 25th time even bad in the slightest? A few bad minutes–when we respond with our imperfect, or when our kids exhibit their imperfect–can cast their flavor on the whole day, but I don’t think they have to.

What if we gave the good minutes as much weight as we give the bad minutes?

Wouldn’t our cups be full to running over with joy?

If we delight in every good moment the same way we wallow in every bad, will we even have time to wallow?

Probably. We’re not perfect and our children aren’t perfect either. But it seems to me a good place to begin.

I bet if we kept journals for even one day, counting up the good moments and remembering them when we’d like to wallow in the bad, our perspective of our lives as a whole would gain some depth. Maybe, just maybe, that little perspective shift is all we need to turn our “bad” days into the best days.

Favorite Summer Kids Reads

Today I’m going to share some of our favorite summer reads for kids that we have devoured this year. Summer isn’t really over yet, but school has started. So, I’m just going to go ahead with this list. If you see any you want to be on your child’s summer reads… well, it IS still summer, after all 😉

All Our Summer Reads

We have read 290 kids books since May. It kind of shocked me, and made me glad that I started keeping a booklist for the kids. It also doesn’t account for the many books that we read, and reread, and reread. For this list, I picked books that a) I clearly remember because b) they were enjoyed by all of us. So, without further ado, here we go!

Disclosure: All links to Amazon are my affiliate links. All that means is that I may earn money for any traffic to Amazon through my site–it in no way affects the price you pay. Each book cover image will take you straight to it’s page on Amazon. It’s handy 🙂 Thanks for your support!

Nonfiction Summer Reads

Here are three of our non fiction favorite summer reads.
#4. This is a Ball by Beck and Matt Stanton
This one should possibly be in the fiction list, but it seemed like such a great experiment with logic that it won a place in the nonfiction list. This book is so much fun to read with kids, and it is all about getting kids to pick out the differences and find faulty logic in statements. E.g. “It has four feet and a tail; it is a dog.”

#3. It’s Disgusting and We Ate It! by James Solheim
summer-read-kidsThis is a really fun one that is great for history, geography, and challenging your picky eaters. Somehow broccoli doesn’t sound so bad after reading about the many ways that people eat insects around the world.

#2. If… A Mind Bending New Way of Looking at Big Numbers and Ideas by David J. Smith
Breaking up challenging numbers that are just to big to grasp entirely, this book relates those big numbers to large numbers of smaller, more relevant things. It is really interesting, and puts some perspective to some of the vast numbers we see within the universe.

#1. Rivers of Sunlight: How the Sun Moves Water Around the Earth
This book demystifies the water cycle. With beautiful illustrations and language even small children can understand, it’s a great first look at weather cycles.

Fictional Summer Reads

This was definitely the summer of a few different series for us. We have absolutely LOVED the Frances series and the Five Little Monkeys by Eileen Christelow, but since I’ve already mentioned those in a few other posts (here, for example) we’ll just move on today.

#5. One Small Blue Bead by Byrd Baylor
The language in this book is just beautiful. It’s reminiscent of the epic poem in style, and a wonderful book to read aloud.

#4. One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
McCloskey’s classic books are a joy to read, and also to look at. The illustrations are completely charming, especially if you’re mildly obsessed with vintage-looking books and things.

#3. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
I’ve heard this book recommended so often, it probably is a surprise to no-one, but it is just as lovely as everybody says. I love the message too: Find a way, in your life, to make earth a more beautiful place.

#2. The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House by Eric Litwin
The Nuts books are a riot to read through, for kids and adults alike. Very funny to kids, but with that element of truth that tends to crack adults (okay, me…) up.

#1. Three Scoops and a Fig by Sara Laux Akin
This was a delightful story about a little Italian girl who wants to find a role in the family restaurant. It is a sweet story, all around! The little girl was names Sofia, so my Sophia, of course, was especially drawn to this story.

Those were our favorite summer reads for kids this year. What were yours?

Let us know! We love to talk books and get new recommendations!

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Family Schedule Product Bundle Review and Giveaway!

**UPDATE: This giveaway has ended! Please check your email inbox if you entered! Thanks for participating 🙂

Today I’m reviewing a family schedule and chore chart from Love My Schedule. I think you’re going to love this magnetic family schedule as much as I do! Spoiler alert: They’re magnetic, wet-erase, and they don’t fall off the fridge!

Family Scheduling and Management Tools

This post is a collaboration with Love My Schedule.  I was given this product for review and giveaway.  However, all opinions expressed are my own.  

Staying organized and productive is a strong focus for me here.  With a 5-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old, embarking on our first year of homeschool, and still trying to tackle personal goals… well, organized is the only way to be.  We generally keep to a routine, rather than specifically time based schedule.  It usually works better for me to have a more general flow to my day.  If you’re interested in my take on establishing routines and habits, read my post here.

This post is directly related to that, and it is about a scheduling tool that is totally versatile.  Maybe you’re wanting to have family plans accessible everyday so that people can be prepared.  (Does that work?) Or you may need a visual reminder to keep your day on track.  Maybe you have kids that enjoy being able to tell for themselves what is coming next.  Either way–if you have a strict time-based schedule or if you’re on more of a routine flow–this family schedule will work for you.

The Family Schedule

The Love My Schedule products are all magnetic and wet-erase.  Each basic chore chart has 6 different blocks that can be assigned to specific people and coordinated with the 5 colored strips on the family schedule. (Expansion packs are available too, if you have a bigger family or more lists.)

I’ve tried a few different magnetic, dry erase boards for family schedule or to-do list purposes and there are a few reasons I like this better than any of those.  First, it’s Wet-Erase, which means if I can manage to give it a few seconds to dry, it will not smudge.  Dry erase is handy, but it is not forgiving.  Kids fingerprints, inadvertent smudging… I end up having to reprint it nearly every day.  Wet erase holds up so much better to daily scrutiny.  Second, the entire product is magnetic.  It’s not a board with a couple magnets on the back; every single segment is a flexible magnetic strip.  I cannot even tell you how many times my dry erase boards have been jostled and gone spinning off across the kitchen floor. There is no chance of that with this. Third, it is specifically designed for multiple schedules.  It’s especially great for us homeschoolers coordinating multiple kids activities all day long.  I think it would be useful even if you don’t homeschool, particularly if you have kids with different extra-curricular activities.  It’s a great way to lay it all out there and see who is doing what and when.

I have mine set up now with hour blocks.  An hour is far more than we need for most things, but when we finish the kids get to go play and burn off some steam between events, and I get to bust out some housework.  Additionally, I’ve found that it helps to have certain things that are strictly bound to a time.  They work as mini-reset buttons throughout the day.  We try to always start morning time at 8:30, and nap/quiet-times are almost always at 2.  If things have gone askew, reading books together fixes it.  Of course, you could set yours up with any amount of time segment that suits your family.

The only thing I don’t like about the schedule is that it is difficult to set up for different days of the week.  For example, we have a different schedule/flow on Tuesdays than we do on Mondays.  I would have to erase everything every day and set it up new each morning.  The other thing I may try is using the different colored strips for the different days of the week.  We don’t really need all different schedules right now.  The little ones either do what we’re doing (kind of) or I channel them off into other activities for a work period.  But, I’m not sure it’s that big of a deal to me right now either.  I still keep my bullet journal list and that accomodates the differences in the day just fine.

The Chore Chart

These chore charts are the first we have used consistently.  Part of that is probably that we’ve just reached ages where chores work, but the other part definitely has to do with the design.  I picked up a Melissa & Doug chore chart a couple months ago.  It’s cute, but the chores were already listed, some weren’t relevant, and there were SO many little magnetic pieces to distribute if the chores were completed.  Eventually, I threw away all the “reward” magnets because they kept ending up on the floor and I have a child that tries to eats everything.

I’ll do another post soon about how we’re encouraging our kids to help around the house.  It’s new right now, and I’m sure it will change in the coming months (years) but we’re trying to get there.  Slow and steady! We’re currently using this chart to keep track of the jobs the kids do and what we’ve agreed to pay them.  They don’t do all of these things in a week, usually just a few of them, and we encourage helping out in other ways too.  I also have my week of house-cleaning focus points up here.  Lastly, there’s a block where I put jobs that I’m having trouble getting to.  Josh helps with what he can in the evening and it all gets done eventually.

You can find the family schedule and the chore chart here from

And now… the Giveaway!!!

If either of these things sound like something you’d like to try, you’re in luck!  Today, I am so excited to be teaming up with Amy over at Love My Schedule to bring you a fantastic giveaway that will help you schedule ALL the things!  This is my very first giveaway on the blog, so if you’re reading this, welcome to the action!

We are giving away a Love My Schedule bundle which includes: 1 family schedule and 1 family chore chart.  Both are magnetic, and wet erase–absolutely customizable to your family. The giveaway is running for a week (August 10-17), so be sure to share it with your friends! Simply enter the giveaway with your email address and check out Minding My Peas and Love My Schedule on Facebook. I’ll be selecting a random winner on Thursday, August 17th. Winner will be notified via the email address used to sign up. Good luck!

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Homeschool Planning Series: Homeschool Curriculum 2017-2018

Today in homeschool planning: The homeschool curriculum we will be using during the 2017-2018 school year!

The why, how, and what of it all…

Since that definitely wasn’t too dramatic, I’ll just jump right in to our homeschool curriculum choices for the year. We actually had our first day of school yesterday. Sophia is very excited, and I am too. I’m glad to have a point where the planning has to taper off, and work actually begin. Anyways, let’s start with the three R’s, shall we?


For reading, we’re going working through the McGuffey Reader series. (Ebook versions are available for free through the Gutenberg ProjectWe’re partly through the first reader right now. I will say that I am not a stickler about mandating that she ALWAYS read this particular book. Sometimes she would rather read a book from the library. I don’t always let her choose, but I am inclined to if she has a specific desire to read a certain book. After all, the point is to learn and love reading, not to work through some arbitrary checkpoints. She also reads a few verses from the Bible at our Morning Time. I’ll be reading aloud a selection of classic kids books. The Secret Garden, Grimms Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables, Fifty Famous Stories, and Just So Stories. This is mainly following the course from Ambleside Online. However, we were reading The Secret Garden before school started and are loving it!

Math Homeschool Curriculum

This year, we are using Saxon Math 1. It is a very organized approach with manipulatives and opportunities to make it a hands on learning experience. I think Sophia is nearer to the middle in terms of her skills, but I’m having trouble gauging where to jump to. I’m going to spend some time poring over the manual this weekend to figure that out though…

Writing/Copywork Homeschool Curriculum

For our writing curriculum, we’re using Handwriting Without Tears, and we’re using the printing book. Sophia enjoys writing, and especially likes to write little notes to people. I love that and encourage it! However, some structured formation practice is well in order. We’ll also do short copywork sentences based on narrations.

The other subjects…

Honestly, I’m most excited about our peripheral subjects. I think everybody is. Not that Math and Writing and Reading are boring by any means–I love them too–but I get so EXCITED about Geography, History, Science, and the great literature we’ll be reading in those subjects that I just can’t help myself. Throw in some music, art, and nature study? Yes, please…

History Homeschool Curriculum

For history this year, we’re using Story of the World, Volume 1, and studying Ancient Civilization. I spent a lot of time going back and forth between Story of the World and the Mystery of History for a curriculum, but we ultimately picked this. I’m so glad we did! I’ve been reading through the Activity Book and it is just fantastic (although I think I’m going to have to pass on mummifying a chicken…) I just finished prepping for our first activity (an archaeology dig) and it’s like Christmas. The history that we read will be supplemented by literature from the library that fits into the time period we’re studying or illuminates the scientific/mathamatical advances of the time.

Science Homeschool Curriculum

We’re following the science program from the Well Trained Mind through the grammar stage. That means that our first year (this year) will focus on studying the natural world. This ties into our first year history, because science in Ancient Times was based on what was observable to the naked eye. We’re spending our first semester on animal classification and the different families within the animal kingdom. In the new year, we’ll move on to the human body, and botany. We’re using encyclopedias for this, as well as lots of library books. We’re also going to be working through this book of science experiments for kids, and encouraging observation and discovery.

Especially in Nature

Moving on down the rabbit hole, we’re also delving into nature study. Again, something I’m really excited about. I’m using Nature Anatomy and the Handbook for Nature Study, and we’re setting aside Fridays for nature walks. We’re arming the kids with a pad of paper, a pen, and a magnifying glass, and I can’t wait to see what they turn up! Nature Study is pretty quintessentially Charlotte Mason, and I love her attitude towards children in the outdoors. She encourages observation deftly, but the emphasis is always on stoking the interest of the children and being certain they have a wealth of ideas and knowledge at their fingertips to satisfy questions and fuel the imagination.
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And if the world in our own backyard, why not the WORLD?!

Again with the segue… We’re memorizing the continents, and learning about important countries within each continent. We’ll get into some mapwork too. This is another subject that I am SO enthusiastic about. Josh and I have a basically insatiable desire to travel, and I’m sure some of that will rub off on our kids. I was really inspired by Jamie Martin’s ‘Give Your Child the World’. So, in addition to our maps and globes, and pins-on-places-we-read-about, we’ll be reading through her booklists for each continent. Plus, there are incredible documentaries on Netflix that we’ll use occasionally, and we’ll be trying our hand at making a special meal from various countries. Honestly, this is one of those subjects where I probably have too many ideas and too little time. Only time will tell, though!
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And the arts…

We’re doing a little composer study and art study in our Morning Time as well. Dvorak and Mary Cassat will be our composer and artist study this year. I have fond (probably too-fond) hopes for music. I would love to see the kids start playing the piano or another instrument, but it is not something I am going to force at this age. I’m getting the Thompson book for young children, will offer to teach them… and just see where it goes. I’m personally taking advantage of our composer study as a little direction for my violin practice, and intend to focus on learning the music to a few of the pieces we play.

So, that was basically a book… Bravo to you for sticking with me!

Are your curriculum choices made? What are you most looking forward to in this homeschool year?

This post contains affiliate links.  This in no way changes the price you pay, it simply means that I may get a small kickback if you purchase through my link.  Thank you so much for your support.


eMeals Review: Eating Healthy Life Hacks


Trying eMeals for our Groceries on a Budget

The following is my own opinion of the eMeals service. I was in no way compensated by eMeals for this review.

If you think that putting a homecooked, healthy meal on the table 3 times a day, 7 days a week, is too much work and too expensive, you’re in good company. Most people do. You’ve probably heard of meal subscription services like Blue Apron
or Hellofresh. While those subscriptions do make menu-planning and cooking a breeze, boy-oh-boy do they break my budget. I had a free trial of Blue Apron for a week a while ago. The food was delicious, but there wasn’t enough of it. We rely heavily on dinner leftovers for easy, cheap lunches, and the Blue Apron meals JUST fed our family. Then there was the fact that it was only a couple of meals for $70+ dollars. In my budget-world, that is only a good price if we were going to eat those meals out anyways. And since I cook every.single.meal, even using a fancy subscription box to cook yet another meal is just not how I want to spend my splurge money. Our weekly grocery budget is only $100, so that obvously did not continue. I had to resign myself to the fact that as long as our budget remains my primary concern, Blue Apron (or any meal subscription box) is just not going to be a good deal for us.

Enter eMeals

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a recommendation for eMeals on on the Dave Ramsey facebook page. I thought it was another grocery subscription service, and I wasn’t entirely wrong. It’s a meal plan and grocery list subscription service. They have a bunch of different meal plan types, for basically every diet imaginable. Low Carb, Paleo, Low-Calorie, Budget… and more. Each week you get a new menu plan. You can look over it and select meals that you want to make, and it automatically generates your grocery list. Then, you just look over the grocery list, add any other sundries you need, and you’re in business. You can even order the groceries through something like Kroger Clicklist.
Best of all, the price is really reasonable. If you buy it in 3 month increments, it’s about $10 bucks a month. If you’re menu planning and couponing and creating your grocery list yourself based on the best sales, you know it takes a LOT of time. eMeals cuts out so many of those really lengthy steps. But, y’all know I’m all about the budget, so let’s look a little closer at these pros and cons.


1. It’s only $10 a month. If you expect your menu-planning/grocery-list-making process to take between 1-2 hours every week, you’re basically paying between $1.50 and $2.50 an hour for a service. I think my time is definitely worth more than that.
2. The food was all fantastic. Not too time-consuming, but different dishes than I usually think to make.
3. It fits our diet. We’re currently Low-Carb (the kids get their carbs earlier in the day) for our main meals, and the Low Carb menu was great.
4. I love not having to plan our menu. I always feel like we’re eating the exact same things because I know what is healthy and works in our budget, and that’s just what I tend towards. It’s so enjoyable to have different meals every night. Flexing my cooking skills is actually bringing a little bit of fun back to cooking dinner–and I’ll be honest, it was getting to be not-my-favorite chore.


1. It’s $10 a month. I would end up spending my personal money on it. There is no room in the grocery budget for $10 that isn’t devoted to food because…
2. The food is delicious but it is harder for me to get most of what we need and keep it at $100. I’ve done it for two weeks, but I don’t like how stressed it makes me. Plus, I hate the debate in the store over what is actually essential to the recipe and what I can modify. Trying to think about recipes, budgets, and the groceries I’m trying to get, while corralling three small children? Not my most rational moments. I think just getting the groceries for the 7 main meals would max out my budget if I didn’t fiddle with things and modify recipes. Unfortunately, there are 2 other meals in the day that we have to account for, as well as cleaning supplies, paper products, etc. The maths aren’t good, y’all.

My Conclusion

I really, highly recommend eMeals, especially if you’re having trouble making a menu plan and sticking to a grocery list. If you’re just starting out in budgeting and meal planning, it can really help you get going. There are lots of healthy options that really aren’t that expensive, considering average grocery budgets. It is a fantastic deal, and it makes the whole menu planning/cooking dinner situation so much easier. Try it out! You can try it free for 14 days–that’s what I just did. Pick a menu plan, try several different menu plans. See what works for you and your family.

I LOVE this service, but I’m not continuing it.

ONLY because of where we are in our budgeting situation. We need to be focusing on saving for another house. I’d be truly happy to pay for it out of my personal money if that was the end of it, but I’m not comfortable with how tight it makes our grocery budget. If I ended up having to go over regularly, it would have a negative effect on our budget and saving. I could use the budget menu plan and make it work, but our diet is important to us. I CAN make a healthy, low carb menu work in our budget the way I’ve been planning and shopping. It’s a little work, but I think it’s worth the tradeoff right now.
At some point in the future, when our grocery budget eases up a bit, eMeals will be the FIRST thing I add.

So! Check it out! I hope it helps you and your budgeting and/or meal-planning situation. It’s a fantastic service, MUCH cheaper than meal subscription services, and it takes the stress out of meal-prep. As long as you don’t have a double-whammy of budget and diet considerations, I think you will love it.


Homeschool Planning: Creating Habits and Routines


Today in Homeschool Planning: Creating habits and routines for a successful year.

I admit it–I’m a little obsessed with homeschool planning right now. Even so, there comes a point where you have to sit back and wait on curriculum to get in. You can only plan your weeks so far, and there is a finite amount of detail that one can pack into those week plans. Well, you could go on, but realistically it would be pointless. If you are attempting to map out every minute of your homeschool, you will be disappointed and probably discouraged. Kids wake up late, make messes, coffee spills, breakfast burns… any number of things can throw off a morning. It’s life, whether you’re homeschooling or just trying to get your kids on a bus. Not all of homeschool planning–or life planning for that matter–needs to be about planning every minute. Establishing helpful habits and routines that will help schooldays to flow smoothly? That’s a good place to start.


“The Mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.” ~ Charlotte Mason

Establishing habits is not easy. As Mason implies, it may even be slightly painful–but it pays off in the long run. Our morning routine has given me the most concern as I think about planning homeschool days. Mornings are our most productive, happy time for learning or doing anything but they are slow. It takes so. long. to get through all the basics that we’re next door to lunchtime before we’re ready for anything. I really need to change that if we’re going to be able to settle into a schooling routine.
The following are the main goals I’ve set for the last month before we start into a schooling routine.

1. Getting Up and Being Purposeful

As much as my kids need good habits, so do I . We’re pretty early risers right now, because my Superman has a long commute, so we’re up every day between 4:30 and 5. Even getting up that early, I have to really be purposeful to get my day off to a good start. If I’m not careful, it’s easy to just lounge the morning away until 7. Then the kids start waking up, I still want to workout, they need breakfast, etc. So, I’m making these six tasks a routine in my morning. My goal is to have them all done by 7:30. I don’t set specific time limits for things, because (cue the chorus) life happens.
1. Have breakfast with my Superman and make his lunch.
2. Read my Bible and pick a verse to focus on for the day.
3. Check my calender and make a to-do list for the day.
4. Study whatever I’m working on in website design.
5. Exercise.
6. Shower and get dressed
Getting these things done before the kids are all up, or at least early in the day (if they get up earlier than usual) makes all the difference in how energetic and productive I feel through the day.

2. Limiting morning television shows.

Klaus and Eva often get up before I’ve finished working out. When they do, I let them watch a show while I finish. Sophia tends to wake up later and want to watch a show right around the time I’m ready to turn it off. I’ve gotten into a bad habit of saying yes. Our new “habit” is that the TV turns off at 7:30, regardless of whether everybody has watched a show.

3. Kids morning routine

Since Klaus and Eva need help getting ready, I’ve been getting them ready as we go through our day. Now, I’m focusing on getting them all ready for the day right after breakfast. Since I’ve already eaten, I’ll do some quick clean up while they eat. I’m also having Sophia get dressed and make her bed while I’m making breakfast. Once they’re dressed and reasonably clean, they play and I work at my to-do list.

4. We read at 9 AM.

Unless there has been a cyclone of destruction in the kitchen or something, I’m making myself set down the to-do list around 9:00. We’ll do a version of morning time–reading, singing, and memorization– and then move on with the day.

Having our mornings flow a little more quickly is a welcome change. So far, it’s going pretty well. We’ve been trying at it since I finished up my weeks of homeschool planning in the beginning of July. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and habits don’t happen overnight, but I’m hopeful that we’re on the right track.

How do you prepare your kids for school? Do you do anything special to get them ready for different routines?

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Summer Reading Update: Week 6

Summer Reading Week 6 Update

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The library summer reading program has only two weeks left. Our reading habits don’t really changewhen it ends, but all the free coupons for the kids are a really fun addition to our summer. So far, I’ve accrued tickets to a kids science museum, horse park, pool, Shaker Village, and Arboretum. So yeah. It’s been fun!

I spent the last few weeks previewing the materials that we’re buying for our homeschool year. The library had many of the books I plan to use, whether for read alouds or texts, and I’m so glad! There were a few books that I’m really relieved I didn’t buy first. They were all highly recommended, but I found they introduced topics I’m not ready to engage my younglings in. On the other hand, I fell in love with a couple of other books and am so excited to use them!

Summer Reading Week 6 ~ Kids Favorites

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1. Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban, Illustrated by Garth Williams

The kids love the Frances books and I do too. She is such a funny, precocious little character, and her parents are just fantastic. I don’t usually find admirable traits in the parents within kids books–not because they’re bad, but just because they can be very one dimensional. I don’t consider that a bad thing, but it makes the good ones stand out. Frances’ parents are unfailingly patient with her, but through the story you see their perspective too. Anyways, that was a longish way of saying that we love the Frances series and this book was another easy favorite.

2. 5 Little Monkeys Reading In Bed by Eileen Christelow

My little monkeys never cease to be entertained by Christelow’s little monkeys. These books are a riot–rhyming, witty, and usually downright funny. This was an especially fun one to read. Books about books and reading are just a special kind of fun 🙂

3. The Biggest Story by Kevin Deyoung

The Biggeset Story is a wonderfully unique take on bible stories for children. I’m not often an advocate for paraphrased childrens bible stories–so often they remove the substance and seem very pointless. The Biggest Story is definitely paraphrased, but it is made unique and purposeful by telling a variety of the short stories from the old testament all with the goal of pointing towards Christ’s salvation of His people. It is broken into short chapters that ultimately keep returning the story to Christ. The language was a little too casual for my grammatical sense, but I liked the theme enough that I will happily overlook it. It tied together the oft-told stories of the Old Testament with the purpose that is often neglected.

Summer Reading Week 6 ~ My Favorites

I scanned through a handful of books in preview for our homeschool this year, including the first volume of The Story of the World, a children’s encyclopedia on animals, and several books about ancient Egypt and Greece. I also read Kings Cage by Victoria Ayevard, Give Your Child the World by Jamie Martin, reread Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and finally finished Our Mothers War.

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Our Mothers War by Emily Yellin

This book was fantastic. It details the different jobs women performed during the second world war–jobs that really pushed the envelope open on what women were allowed to do. The freedom that women have today began in those days, as women stepped forward to fill in the shoes left vacant by men fighting the war. I loved that this book didn’t try to diminish what the men did at all, but just focused on the ways women fulfilled different roles than they ever had before. It’s really amazing to me how far we came in terms of equality in the 76 years since Pearl Harbor. In some ways, I think we’ve gone so far in the other direction that we’ve created a new kind of inequality, but that’s a story for another post. Long story short, this book was fantastic. Highly recommend it. (If you’re considering for a younger reader, please be warned that there is a chapter with inappropriate (sex-related) content)

Give Your Child the World by Jamie Martin

This book was so, so, so good! I’ve had a hold request on it for the last month or so and only just got it. It was worth the wait! If you ever wanted to introduce your children to the countries of the world in a more memorable way than just memorizing lists and facts, this book is an excellent resource. There is a chapter for each of the continents. Each chapter contains booklists for every age group that compile some of the best books to read about the countries within the continent. This book is a danger only to your library hold list. I am so excited to use the books to make our geography come alive, and hopefully give my kids as much of a desire to travel the world as Josh and I have!

Kings Cage by Victoria Ayevard

This is the 3rd book in the Red Queen series. For some reason I was thinking it would be a trilogy, and it is definitely not. I think it could have been though. The ending just seemed kind of out-of-the-blue and a random way to keep the series going. I have a good guess at what she’s going for in the series conclusion (whenever that might happen) and I’m just not feeling it. Also, I have a real problem with how “normal” it is to have sexually active teenagers in YA fiction these days. Yes, we need to have conversations with our kids about these subjects. No, it doesn’t have to be glorified in the fiction they’re probably reading. That is definitely not an issue unique to this series, but it needs saying. Anyways, I’m kind of ‘off’ this series now. I don’t know if I’ll be curious enough to read the next book whenever it comes out.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I reread the Harry Potter series every summer. Well, technically I relisten because the audiobooks by Jim Dale are one of my favorite things ever. Every summer. Obviously, I love it.

So, that concludes our summer reading update! How is your summer reading going?

Homeschool Planning: 5 Steps to Your First Homeschool Year


First year of homeschool planning is happening now!

Probably for homeschoolers all over the world, but definitely here in our house. I’m surrounded by books, and at least 5 homeschool-related tabs are open in my browser–I’m so excited about this!

Who am I planning for?

Well, Sophia is reading well and ready for a (slightly) more structured day, even though she’s only five. So I’m planning for a first grade year, and also to keep my 3yo son and 1yo daughter pleasantly occupied in our learning times.
Our homeschool method looks like a heavily literature based cross between Charlotte Mason and a Classical Education.
Charlotte Mason and Classical are very similar in some ways, but they do bring different elements to the table. Charlotte Mason focuses much more on learning through experience and observation in the lower grades. A Classical Education provides a much more structured approach with specific cognitive development goals. As the child develops under the different stages of the trivium, the scope of the lessons change. My intention is to find some sort of balance between those two methods.
No matter how much you love a method, I think it’s important to keep the door open to change. The point of homeschooling (for me) is mainly to provide an education that works well with my children–capitalizing on their strengths, and helping them to overcome weaknesses. I don’t really expect that we’ll have to change our method. I picked it because it meshes well with our lifestyle and personalities. However, I will always leave the option there.

5 Steps to Planning Your Homeschool

1. Do your research on homeschool methods.

Are you a Charlotte Mason girl, Classical, Waldorf, or Eclectic? There is a great overview of the most common homeschool methods, and what they might look like in your home at There really is something for every one. There have never been more accessible, quality resources easily available for home-educating families.

2. Once you’ve settled on a style, you need to get a baseline idea of grade level knowledge goals.

Are you starting off in 1st grade? Are you jumping in at a different level? Research those grades and see what general knowledge is expected and achieved (generally) within a year. I highly recommend Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp and the series “What Your ____ Grader Needs to Know” by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
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OF COURSE, these are only general guidelines. Your child may be farther ahead in some areas, behind in others, and par for the course in still others. That’s the beauty of homeschool! You get to meet your child where they are; encouraging them to excel in the things they’re great at and helping them through difficult subjects. Nonetheless, the guidelines will give you a good idea of where you may need to start.

3. You know your big picture goals for the year, now for the fun part–curriculum ideas!

Check out those curriculum catalogs, find some blogging homeschool mamas and see how they’re putting it all together, make a wishlist. Go ahead and be unrealistic. Add everything that looks amazing and get excited about all the incredible things you’re going to do with your kids! We’ll pare it down in the next step.

4. Now for the budget…

Take that beautiful wishlist of yours and pare it down to what you think is achieveable for a year. Then, take that list and start doing some math. This year I made three lists–one with just the baseline Things-We-Must-Have, one with a few extra “fun” things, and one with my ultimate wishlist. Josh and I discussed the three budgets and settled on our budget for this year.

5. Technically, you could be done at this point. You have your list, you know your budget–you could just start buying books. But, I’m a budgeting-the-budget kind of girl which means I’m shopping around.

I’m checking out our local book stores, and seeing what I can get locally before I go ahead and make the big purchase. That’s just me though. I may not do it this way again–but it’s what’s happening this year. I’ll do a post in a couple weeks about what I’ve chosen and where I got it!

Hopefully this will be helpful to somebody! Are you planning your homeschool year or considering homeschooling? Let me know in the comments! I am SO excited to be planning our first year of homeschool. Also, I’m a little bit nervous-excited about actually starting, but who isn’t?! Here’s to a great year of homeschooling!

Raising Readers


Raising Readers

And an update on Week 4 of our summer reading program

Sometimes I think I might actually be raising readers. When I begin reading aloud, they swarm like little bumblebees, jostling for their seats. When we go to the library, the librarians know us by name. I’m even passing on my book-hoarding qualities. Yesterday at the library, Sophia had a stack of books so tall she could barely carry it. She never complained. (Though she did ask me to carry a few of the last acquisitions that she couldn’t manage).

Klaus is heavily in the favorite books stage. He picks a few that are his FAVORITES out of each library haul and requests them over… and over… and over…

These were some of his favorites this week. Do you see a theme?

For our read aloud we’re reading The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I find it delightful, and the kids think it’s okay too. Although Sophia recently got her hands on a Great Illustrated Classics copy of Heidi, and she’s been reading that while I read The Borrowers. Not sure whether to be proud of that or not, but it is what it is!


Even Eva gets in on the reading action these days.

It is not uncommon for her to drop a book or five down beside you and then clamber into your lap with a purposeful glint in her eyes. She sits and “reads” on her own too–picture book open on her lap, paging through it and jabbering contentedly in her singsong baby voice.

I’ve been reading too, pretty consistently. So far, I’m listening to the Harry Potter series (always). It makes it downright fun to clean the kitchen up in the evening. I catch myself dragging my feet and puttering about jobs that I would probably just skip, for “just one more chapter…” (The audio books with Jim Dale narrating are superb!) I’ve also read The Other Einstein, Their Finest, and Small Town Girl. I’m currently reading Our Mother’s War. I have a whole stack that I’m hoping (probably unrealistically) to dive into this holiday weekend.


My Top Three

1. The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict is fantastic. I highly recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction and/or learning about the things women accomplished even when recognition of their work was limited. It is heavily based in fact, but it is historical fiction. It’s all about Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Maric, who was a brilliant scientist and mathematician. I don’t know how much of the emotional drama depicted is accurate, but based on the facts of her relationship with Einstein, it seems plausible. In any case, even if the emotional drama is completely fictional, it makes a fantastic story. After I read the book I did a little research on her, just curious to see whether the facts of her life were accurately portrayed. Overwhelmingly, they were. Read it. On the other hand, if you want to keep feeling like women in the US today are really treated unfairly, this might disillusion you.

2. Their Finest by Lissa Evans was okay. I wanted to love it, but I just didn’t. I think I would have liked it better if I’d been able to read it in chunks, rather than 15 minute spurts. Partially because the storyline follows a handful of different characters, and partly because of the sporadic way I read it (thanks, kids) it just seemed very fragmented and difficult to follow. Really though, I think the best books stay with you, even if you have to read them sporadically.

3. Our Mother’s War by Emily Yellin is superb. Nonfiction and very informative regarding the roles women filled during the second world war, but it reads so easily. It’s riveting. (Oh, I’m so punny it hurts. :D) I’m reading it partly because the subject fascinates me, and partly as preliminary research for my next hopeful writing project. So, double exciting!

That’s it for this week! How is your summer reading going? Favorite book so far? Let us know in the comments!