Category Archives: books

Checking in…..So much for weekly write ups!

Not even one post! and it is half way through the school year, SO it is only fair to summarize our experience so far. It has been hard, really hard. There are days when I think that we are falling so far behind that she will never catch up, ever and be so far behind, and it is all my fault, and then there are days when i flip through her binders and take a deep breath realizing that we are squeaking by!

My girl has changed so much this year! Last years crazy foot growth was the beginning, growing a foot size a month for almost 3 months!. She is no longer a little happy go lucky country girl! but a tall, strong preteen, experiencing life to its fullest! What a ride!


Her love of music has also grown deep. Picking up her guitar several times a day to sing a song, practice her bar chords, or unwind. or sometimes a quick break downstairs to bang out a new rhythmn on the drums, or create a rhythm when memorizing a poem or speech. And in her spare time she mixes music on her expanding Dj set up. Yes the little girl who I tried to keep of electronics and pop media away  as long as I could! Now she has fully immersed in the pop music scene!  and I embrace it as i see her grow…in the past few months her musical taste has expanded (as has her physical taste she eats salami now!) Recently she developed an interest in playing cello and has started taking weekly lessons. Lucky for us out here in the boonies there is no shortage of really talented cello teachers.

We are both totally smitten with the cellist Zoe Keating, her CD “into the trees” is hauntingly gorgeous! We hope she makes it back to NY soon as we missed her this time around.

As well as her usual summer plans at the IMA PreTeen Rock and Roll Camp she has decided to try out the Village Harmony Program a teenage chorus/choir camp, in preparation for this she joined a weekly chorus in Northampton.


I have taken advantage of her love of music and used it as a jump off point for History of Music. We are presently doing a short unit on the History of Hip Hop, and The Roaring 20’s and Harlem Rennaissance as part of music and Black History Month. We have also tied in some Poetry specifically that of Langston Hughes. (I would like to keep going through the depression as some of my fav music styles came from that period but I know as soon as I mention Woody Guthrie I have lost her- unless i get creative! (wink wink)


Before this unit is over she will write a rap song, complete a unit on Song Writing with GarageBand too. The book she is presently reading for fun is  The Young Musician’s Guide to Songwriting: How to Create Music & Lyrics which in my opinion is written well for this age group.


In terms of Visual Arts we began the year studying Chuck Close the artist who has overcome such adversity. We recently saw The Theory of Everything about the life of Stephen Hawking and compared his life with that of Chuck Close. By the end of the year we will also study the Art and Life of Frida Kahlo another artist who overcame physical adversity.MV5BMTAwMTU4MDA3NDNeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDk4NTMxNTIx._V1_SX214_AL_

So far we have also studies Andy Warhol and the Pop Art movement. Zoe made her own pop art version of Taylor Swift! Presently we are studying Georgia O Keefe and she is working on a cow skull piece.


We are linking our somewhat abstract topics together by creating a master timeline! I hope to introduce a few photographers to her before the end of the year namely Vivian Maier, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, Steve McCurry and a new to me but instant fav. Imogen Cunningham (which we will tie in back to Friday Kahlo)


The other big area we have focussed on so far and almost completed is Ancient Egypt, as planned we mostly followed Pandia Press Ancient History Odyssey- but I must admit to have hated the History Pockets book it recommended exactly what kills me about school all busy work no substance. I guess, if you have a detail oriented child it may work but it’s not for mine! We watched several Smithsian and National Geographic, History Channel Documentaries , the one on finding the mummy of  King Queen Hatshepsut was definitely a fav! as was the research project on her! Zoe has read The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, The Egypt Game byby Zilpha Keatley Snyder (def her least favorite) and Tales of Ancient Egypt by by Roger Lancelyn Green. She may still read Mara Daughter of the Nile also



She looks like she is reading but this fuzzy little trouble maker keeps her from focussing time and time again. Don’t let either of them fool you!


In math we have been moving slowly along with kumon workbooks, and more recently some of the Math Mammouth Make it Real series, it seems to be working well for her. I still would like to return to some compass art and History of math. We will see!

English has been less inspiring that I had hoped and other than some creative writing  (642 Things to Write About: Young Writer’s Edition, songwriting (more on this in another post) and book reports and biographies) we are relying on the workbook MegaWords. She seems comfortable with it as it is what they used in school last year. She is reading ” The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again ” by J. R. R. Tolkien (book report and author bio) and listening to the “Lord Of The Flies” by William Golding on Audible (book report and author bio as well as a short paper on Dystopian Fiction as she has read “The Giver “and the “Hunger Games Trilogy” and “Divergent”, for fun)

We are way behind on the Geography mapping program I was so excited about! She finds it quite dull :-( We will plod along and through Geography lessons in whenever I can. We also have abandoned Latin and Spanish

For current affairs/science she has been reading Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands Kaye M.A., Cathryn Berger and The Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming – by Laurie David which I hope to end with a photo essay on the environment to integrate her passion for photograhy. I am toying with the idea of introducing Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, but I am learning to get go of my attachments! 

Here are two of her photographs that she is pretty proud of

IMG_8067 IMG_8096

Also for current affairs she has chosen to memorize the Emma Watson HeForShe Speech at the United Nations | UN Women 2014.


In terms of physical eduction she took a modern dance class this Fall with a local hero  Christina Gabriel who volunteer teaches fabulous dance classes in order to raise money for the Community Hall  in town (and she is juliard trained!) It was her first dance class in years! and looks forward to it again in the Spring. In the meantime she plays on the local 4-6 grade basketball team and an indoor soccer league which she also really enjoys.

Looking ahead, to next year while I feel like we are starting to find our groove, it’s not always graceful though! Zoe is eager to go back to school we have our fingers crossed that she will get into a regional local performing arts charter middle/high school- it seems like a good fit for this alternative young woman. And while I am up for the challenge on continuing on this path, I will be happy to have my days back again!

Maps, Mapping the World

It is better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times. – Asian Proverb

Lets go on an adventure

 ::Wanderlust:: Noun; Strong desire or urge to wander or travel and explore the world

I have always loved maps and globes. Vintage or new. Imaginary or real.  To me they represent open space, hope, adventure, freedom, art and education at its best. They feed my gypsy loving soul! In my 20’s I honored that wanderlust deep within and got to experience world travel (including an expedition to Southern Chile where we helped the park and rec department map an unexplored territory!) I’m so grateful that I chose the path of life long learner (that is another story for another day). Travel has shaped me as a human, seeing first hand how people live around the world, what people eat, how food is grown, how people learn, how people sit in council has taught be a lot, top of that list gratitude and compassion. Seeing how absolutely beautiful the world is, and seeing people all over the world smile has given me hope, deep down hope. Hope that we’ll (the greater we) will find our way again, that we will remember what it is like to treat our fellow citizens with love and respect , that we will rediscover what it means to be human.  I believe that Travel is a vital part of education led me to experience travel.

I am always up for an adventure! Up until fairly recently this was 100% truth. In many ways I still am though recently I feel like I’n not being completely honest as I seem to have settled into home routine more than ever. That scares me, it seems I have let some of my day to day responsibilities, stresses and feelings of exhaustion take over. I have been observing this over the past year or so, is not good for me or Zoe so I repeat and will own it “I am always up for an adventure!”

Zoe has inherited this love of adventure, travel and globes (not so much maps, yet!). As we navigate these middle years where apathy seems so prevalent one of my parenting goals is to travel as much as we can, see pockets of the world, meet people.  She has always been a great little traveler, and this past Winter in Ecuador she proved that she is not so much a little traveler, as a traveler now!

“Once a year go someplace you have NEVER BEEN BEFORE” Dalai Lama

My favorite subject in school was always geography, cultural geography. Whether at Channing School in Highgate England or at Campion in Athens Greece , I was in awe of those Geography teachers who knew so much about the world. I thank them for inspiring me. Its been such a disappointment seeing how little Geography is taught in the early grades, here in the US (it was so obvious when some British friends of mine visited with two young girls age 5-7 they looked at our world map and had so much to say!)  so when picking a curriculum for our 6th Grade homeschool year, geography was a priority for me! My secret homeschool agenda  (i know, I know agendas when homeschooling a 6th grader are a set up for disappointment- still can a girl have a fantasy!) was that Zoe will have a good understanding of the countries of the world and know where to located them on a map globe and know general facts about them like language spoken, major geographic features, cities and major world events. I looked hard for a curriculum we could follow to help me meet this goal (you’ll see what I chose in the previous post where I outline our 2014/15 academic plan) They’ll be plenty of cartology and map art. If any of you have old globes or maps you are not using please send them our way….They’ll be put to good use.

As I perused and previewed our resources I came across, this book, which I promptly got from our local library. I have been enjoying it for days, boy it will be hard to return. It is a map lovers delight! A visual feast! It is artsy take on Geography, so much info here…I recommend it to any map loving family.

Mapsby Aleksandra Mizielinska

It’s all illustrated, every page is filled with images of people, plants, buildings, geographical features you’ll find in a given country/region. Many games can be invented and played on each page depending on the ages of your little one(s).


If you are looking for books on world Geography/Travel, I have done several book posts previously here and here .

And just because it is thursday here is a #TBT photo!


For the love of learning. . .


IMG_0305It’s been a Summer of planning.

(the back story)

This time last year we decided that we would return to homeschooling this school year, the decision was initially based on the fact that  charter school Zoe was attending was moving a little too far for our daily commute. She’s been there since 2nd grade and up until this past year it was a good experience for her,  but as this year progressed things took a turn for the worse and to be honest I wish I had pulled her at Christmas. I kept talking myself out of it, she needs closure, I’m not ready to take her on…i need to plan better, all valid, but as a result over a period of 5 months her self confidence lowered steadily and she lost her love of learning and apathy set it. Of course part of this is age, at almost 11 hormones are raging, as it attitude. . .

So as we embark on this homeschooling journey I have my hands full….My main goals for this  academic year are simple

1. To build self confidence

2. To (re-)install a love of learning


(the academic plan)

We plan to integrate language arts, math and art into our social studies as much as possible.

We are beginning the Fall using Pandia Press History Odyssey Ancients Level 2 to supplement this History/Geography Program we will be using Mapping The World With Art by Ellen McHenry which includes a lot of map making and atlas work.

Related literature will include:

Tales of Ancient Egypt (Puffin Classics)
  by Roger Lancelyn Green

Mara, Daughter of the Nile (Puffin Story Books)

by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

The Golden Goblet (Newbery Library, Puffin)
 by Eloise Jarvis McGraw


And for integrated Math she will be reading

String, Straight-edge & Shadow the Story of Geometry
by Julia E. Diggins

As well as doing some Compass Drawings: Construction designs using a compass and a ruler (Grades 4-6)
, and some Geometry & Measurement Grade 6 (Kumon Math Workbooks)
for practice starting with Grade 5 and onto Grade 6

She is also signed up for a Minecraft Homeschool class, this was mostly out of curiosity, she likes minecraft but is not crazy into it, it sounded interesting, a different way of learning so we’ll see how it goes!  7 Wonders of the Ancient World

Also for language arts:

We will work with the “Mega Words” work book (as this is a continuation on what she has already been doing)  and the “Wordsmith Apprentice” for extra writing practice. As well as a unit study on The Giver Movie Tie-In Edition (Giver Quartet)

They’ll be Latin, and Spanish (hoping to use Rosetta Stone Homeschool Latin American Spanish when the budget allows)

They’ll be Art projects, Photography and Music (Guitar, Ukulele and Drums, songwriting too!)

And of course anyone who knows Zoe knows they’ll be athletics, Soccer in the Fall, Basketball in the Winter and Baseball in the Spring…and plenty of adventures in between I am sure!


(full enclosure)

We are not sure what comes next academically whether we will continue to homeschool beyond 6th grade or whether we will apply to  The Academy at Charlemont and pray that somehow we can pull it off, or whether The North Star Self Directed Learning will be a better fit for us, she has expressed interest in both options or whether we will settle in at home. We will  wait and see how this year pans out

How to build your own country 1, 2, 3…

A alternative and fun July 4th activity!

I have mentioned before how much I love the “Kid Citizen Book Collection”  read about them here, a collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens. How bad can that be?

Recently I picked up “How to Build Your Own Country” by Valerie Wyatt from the library and again we were not disappointed.

Use the book as a guide and your off creating your very own personal country!

Step 1: Stake out your identity by creating a flag, writing a national anthem, putting your name on a map

Step 2: Run the country by holding elections, forming a governement, and laying down the law

Step 3: Meet the neighbors by joining international organizations and finding allies who will help you face the big issues of the world.

Next week I’ll share our country!


Thank- You Jean Craighead George!

You have read her books did you know what she looks like? I grabbed this photo from her website.

Jean Craighead George has written over 100 books. In 1973 her book, Julie of the Wolves won the prestigious Newbery Medal. This weekend on our 4 hour drive to NJ, Zoe and I listened to My Side of the Mountain,  a Newbery Honor Book in 1960.

To say we were both engrossed would be an understatement! The drive seemed like minutes and once there we didn’t want to get out of the truck until we knew the fate of young Sam Gribely. Most kids dream about running away, most don’t get to the end of their street, this is not the case with Sam. His desire for independence, and adventure lead him to the Catskills. For a year he lives in a hollowed-out hemlock tree, befriending animals, and hunting and gathering for his survival.  Sam seems to appreciate a healthy balance of adventure and solitude. I especially enjoyed the wild food chapters! sometimes detailed descriptions of what was served up in his turtle shell bowls! Zoe enjoyed the chapters on raising his falcon companion Frightful best. And now she wants to learn how to fish. Fishing is something I have never done maybe it is something we learn together in the years to come.

The book is written from Sams point of view in the past tense, it is so well written that as a reader you come believe that Sam did write this book. I think it is a book for all ages, I enjoyed it the second time around as much as I need the first, maybe more as I now have an understanding of wild foods and plants of the Northeast. As soon as Zoe got to school today she found the sequel and sent me home with it! ready to learn more about Sam this evening. So if you are looking for a good book for family enjoyment, reach for this one, you won’t want to put it down!

Mini Mags. . .

I’ve been really impressed with two new mini mags we recently downloaded

First up was Whip Action Pack March 11

A printable PDF form mini mag for kids aged 7+ filled with fun craft projects, outdoor activities, cooking, drawing and more. The paper and beeswax theme lended itself to great activities such as lip balms and lotions to beeswax candles, origami boats and even some fabulous cooking projects! a Honey Cinnamon Cake! The instructions and details are fabulous for children. Zoe was especially impressed with the printable labels which we printed on sticker paper. And the price a very fair $5!

Today in honor of our “April Fools Day” Snow Day downloaded Action pack: April 2011

With a 20% discount cost a mere $4 (check their website for discount coupons!! 2 days only) Can’t wait to make those seed bombs and beaded dragon flies!! WOW this is a great resource, beautifully done.

The other

Alphabet Glue from Annie of “Bird and Little Bird”

a reading list for spring
do-it-yourself library catalog cards
mix and match story cards
a printable reading record
a library scavenger hunt
tiny box accordion book tutorial
felt bracelet book tutorial
paper story character houses
wildflower seed pods

A quarterly downloadable magazine for families who love books! twenty-eight pages of projects, activities and printables. I loved the “Library” theme! It was perfect for my little book collector! the accordion book tutorial and the book bracelet the is on our list for this week-end! I loved some of the kid art in this publication. I would say that this one can be used with younger children also.

Both of these mini mags are FAB! and I highly recommend them.

Zoe’s book post for 7 1/2 year olds!

Since writing the previous book post for 7 year olds we have a new slew of books which we have enjoyed either reading or on book-on-tape. We listed to books on tape on our daily commute… All the following books we read or listened to together most would be too hard for independent reading.

Here you see Zoe’s pure joy when Gina gave her her old copies on the Anne Of Green Gables Series…She is already a collector of books and would rather an old used copy that a new one!

So lets start here

Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery

I still remember 1981, my teacher in Upper 3, Mrs (Louise) Hayes Headmistress of Fairseat, fresh in from Canada reading us this book…It is one of my fondest memories of the time and I read Zoe that same copy. At first I thought that I began too soon and it would loose the magic by going over her head but in no time she had fallen for Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe!

“I like that Anne is always in trouble, doing silly things like dying her hair green. I also like that she thinks so much about her nose! I really like Paul Irving best…he is one of the boys that Anne teaches when she is a school teacher in Avonlea, he seems like a really fun kid!’

Black Beauty By Anna SewellEvery girl loves a story about a horse right! We are deep in our horse love at present! Set in Victorian London, Historical Fiction.

“This is a sad book but I like that there is a happy ending, that the end of his life is calm. I also liked learning about the life of a horse long ago but this was too sad!”

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

“My favorite part of this book is the selflessness of Minli” (I changed her words here as it was too much of a spoiler! Chinese folk tales meet land of Oz adventures…Great new book! Excitement, danger, magic, greed, kindness..

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone By J. K. Rowlings. Has it been 10 years already! Of course this magical story was an instant hit and she wanted to race through the series. After some negotiating we decided to read one every 6 months! so the next book awaits us as soon as school is done for the summer. The story of Harry Potter has led to much magical play and even some lego excitement and play, naturally she is dying to get the Hogwarts Express set!

“I liked Dumbledore as I imagine him to be short and plump. I like everything about the invisibility cloak! and the owl mail. It was a great adventure…I wish I went to Hogwarts!”

Kaya by Janet Shaw. Kaya is one of the Historical Fiction American Girl Dolls, A Nez Perce girl in 1764. Another great choice for the horse lover!

“I like that Kaya always learns the lesson. Sometimes she makes a mistake but always learns from it. I also like how she lives and that she has a horse. She is also a good friend”

The Midwives Apprentice by Karen Cushman

Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan

The Chronicals of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, so far we have read the Magicians Nephew, The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy. We are about to start on Prince Caspian

At school her teacher Dan is reading aloud another all time favorite of mine, The Birch Bark House by Louise Erdrich. We listened to this one on tape last december as we were driving to Arizona and I thought to myself that it needs to be read again so that she gets a chance to pick up all that she missed little did I know that it would be read in class! It is a must read for all in the category of historical fiction, the daily life of 7-year-old Ojibwa girl Omakayas, or Little Frog, in 1847 on an island on Lake Superior. Great intro to understanding native life.