Got Hobbies?

Art. Writing. Photography. Reading. Research. Scrapbooking/journaling. Music.

Borrowing a line from a song in The Sound of Music, cheerfully sung by Julie Andrews, “these are a few of my favorite things.” Among many others, of course. 🙂 I have many enjoyable hobbies, but it seems like there is never enough time to do everything.

How about you? Do you have things you love doing, but hardly seem to find any time for as a wife and mommy?

Not long ago my own mother, who homeschooled my four siblings and I, gave me a little piece of wisdom. She told me that during the years she was schooling us, she put all her own hobbies and interests aside. Almost completely.

But she was wrong, she said.

Today she regrets that she did not carve out a little time for doing the things she took an interest in. Her advice was to make time for some of those things, even as we take care of our children, our husbands, and our household duties.

But how do we do that?

It will look different for every person and every household. For me, I have found that an afternoon “siesta” works beautifully. Every day at 1:30 in the afternoon, the house practices “quiet time” for awhile. During this time, the children can play, read, or do homework quietly in their own rooms. This is the time I use to work on my projects and hobbies.

This is not merely beneficial to me. Studies show that having a silent, disengaged period of time actually helps build brain cells (okay, we’re talking kids here so achieving “silence” may be a stretch). But at least by having a quieter period during the afternoon the children have time to disengage from all the noise and excitement of life, relax while they engage in quiet, productive activities, and then return, rested and refreshed, to the bustle of life later in the afternoon.

Everyone wins.

It’s also possible that we could include our children in some of our interests. Do you love preparing gourmet meals or baking fancy desserts? Maybe the kids could help. Do you love reading? Share that love with them.

When I started a travel journal I gave both my older two kids their own book to record stuff in. When I sat at the table working in mine, Brianna sat with me, using my stickers and decorations as she drew and worked in hers. It even became an educational project, as we researched facts about the state and drew pictures of state symbols.

One of the best ways to encourage our children to develop skills and creativity is to model an interest in and love for these things ourselves. When we love learning and doing new things and we share that excitement with them they will love learning and doing new things, too.

Everyone wins.

We certainly do not want to neglect our household duties or the care of our family. Then everyone loses. Priorities must be examined and time managed well. But perhaps there are still ways to work in time for gaining and developing Christ-honoring skills, knowledge, and creativity as we practice good stewardship with the life He has given us.

How would this look for you and your family?

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

“Art of Homeschooling” Part 2

This is the second post in a two-part series “Art of Homeschooling.” These notes represent ideas I had for implementing the principles taught in Mystie Winckler’s e-course. You can read the first part here.

Connecting with my Children/Starting the Day Off Right

Our daily schedule looks something like this: We get up, we eat, we do chores, then if I am still busy with chores the kids play or do other activities till it’s time for school. After school they may play. In the afternoons they have quiet time and work on school assignments; after supper in the evening they
play, we read together, etc.

GOALS:

I think I need to stay on top of their time between eating breakfast and starting school; they could be more productive and efficient except that I am distracted and not doing as much directing.

Make sure they are staying busy with chores and not piddling.

If they have free time, channel it properly (suggest exercise outdoors, take a nature walk, or give them an assignment indoors—puzzle, coloring, art, reading, etc.). Help them to see that this time in the morning is already planned and we are just to work through it steadily together.

Teach them to come to me after they complete each assignment. Their day is not their own till after school.

The daily habit I can practice in order to affectionately connect with my children each day is to greet them warmly in the morning with a smile and a hug, and (if I have time the evening before) to write them a “love letter” in their journal.

Laughter throughout the day is another good connection. And when there is time for it, extra fun, games, crafts, and reading. School should not be the only time I spend with them intentionally and meaningfully.

In order to help us be on the same team, working toward the same goals, we can start our day by hugging, holding hands, discussing the plan, and cheerfully encouraging one another to complete it
well. Make eye contact and commend them for something. Notice when they are working together and working well and commend them.

Motivation and Responsibility

I discourage the children’s responsibility by not staying on top of what is happening. If it’s okay for them to just putter out and off and do their own thing while I am busy, I am not requiring responsibility. I’m making it too easy for them to be irresponsible.

The kids are most prone to dawdling in the morning before school, and then sometimes during school (if distracted by something else going on). I don’t detect any specific motivation other than wanting to do whatever is “fun” or “interesting” at the moment.

I am most prone to dawdling in the morning before chores, and in the evening after supper (when I should be doing chores or could be spending time with the kids).

GOALS:

For me, first steps in our home will mean I must have them give an accounting regularly. If I give a directive, I must come back and see that it is followed. I must check their progress and their work. There will have to be a lot of hand-holding at the beginning.

If there is something to do that can be done by one of them, rather than shouldering the brunt of the work myself I should mete out more to to them in age-appropriate segments. I should not clean up after them, or let responsibilities I have assigned to them “slide.”

I tell them being an adult is a lot of work and responsibility. I should also express to them that there is joy/reward attached to that responsibility when carried out well.

I “check out” too often with Facebook or something else I can use as a distraction when I’m feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed. Rather than catch me doing this, they should see me cheerfully plugging along with a song, fulfilling my responsibilities without complaint or irritation. Limit internet
time in morning to a few minutes. NO internet in evening till kids are in their room.

When Cliff asks me to do something I need to be sure I fulfill it right away, setting an example for those under my authority.

Talk about the results of dawdling versus diligence. The natural consequences that result from
dawdling include not getting to have time later to do things we enjoy doing because our tardiness put us
behind and wasted our time that could have later been spent at (guilt-free) leisure. Dawdling goes against what we know is right, and so we sin against our conscience. It steals our leisure time, makes our chores and responsibilities more difficult, and makes us less appreciative of our free time.

Dawdling/laziness does not glorify God. Diligence gives us a good conscience. It permits us to have leisure time when the work is done. And that time can be fully enjoyed, guilt-free.

Persistence and Faithfulness

The feelings most likely to drive me off course are feelings of frustration with how the day is going, and anger and irritability when the kids (or circumstances) aren’t cooperating. Bickering kids, unexpected interruptions, extra work, etc. trigger these feelings.

I am most critical of myself when I am lazy or angry. I am most critical of my children when they are lazy, angry, or rowdy.

GOALS:

How can I respond? Remind myself of what a successful day really looks like: faithfulness. Fruitfulness, rather than perfection.

Attending to the needs of my children in all areas—physical, spiritual, in admonition, discipline, love, training, laughter and good will—is more important than completing a to-do checklist like math, spelling, and laundry. Seeking to worship Christ when a curveball is thrown in my day is worth more than dusted furniture and completed math pages.

I need persistence when the day doesn’t go as planned and I get thrown a lot of extra stuff. Then I’m tempted to give up because I’ve been set back. It was like having the goal in sight and then having someone move the marker while you’re running on the track. I can choose a calm, intentional response by examining my list to see if everything really must be done or if I’m being a perfectionist, then choosing to do the things that are truly a priority with a good attitude—even if it cuts into my “free time.”

I need to learn to have greater flexibility—and that comes by relinquishing control to God rather
than trying to keep a tight fist on it myself.

The feelings most likely to disturb Brianna and Marcus: anger, boredom, frustration. Anger, when they have a conflict together, or when they have been disobedient and require correction. Boredom, when they are confronted with the daily grind of school and chores. Frustration, when they feel overwhelmed by their work or feel like they can’t do a good job with it.

I can help them calm down and learn self-discipline by:

• Learning to stay calm, be cheerful, and be self-disciplined myself

• Teaching them truths about God, themselves, and life (motivate in proper ways; teach Scripture and life truths; give admonition and correction when needed)

• Doing what I can to help them avoid/redirect them from unnecessarily tense and frustrating situations (oversee their work together instead of leaving them alone; designate responsibilities when I am busy and cannot help them; give the right amount of help and encouragement at the right time)

I can trade harshness for humor by bringing the kids to the couch for a talk, ending with tickling/joking so we may leave in good humor.

One specific area the kids and I can practice persistence in together is Bible time. We will start there. We will try to be faithful with devotions every day, not just school days.

*   *   *

What habits have helped you motivate yourself and children, Mamas?

“Art of Homeschooling” Part 1

I stumbled across some notes I had made from Mystie Winckler’s “Art of Homeschooling” course last year while searching for something else the other day. I read them again, and was again reminded of areas of personal growth that I need to persevere in.

Mystie’s course helped me pinpoint and troubleshoot “problem” areas in my life and our school/family life. Her questions were penetrating and her insights illuminating. I would definitely recommend her course! (She conducts the online 5-week course periodically.)

Presented here as abbreviated, edited, reorganized, and otherwise condensed notes, I made these for myself during my brainstorm sessions while working through Mystie’s assignments/reading material. The goals I identified are still that—worthy goals I want to work on, but am far from having consistently attained. 🙂

* * *

Fostering a Love of Learning

I love to learn. I am curious about many things. I spend hours reading, researching, and trying new skills and projects. While teaching school I will sometimes get curious and interested in something and pursue rabbit trails trying to learn more about it. After hours I work on new skills and gaining new knowledge.

My problem is not that I do not model a love of learning. My problem is that I become impatient and ignore the kids when I’m wanting to get my work done precisely so I may pursue my many interests. In such times I selfishly fail to foster their curiosity, questioning, and interest because it’s not convenient for me.

GOALS:

When I notice that they are taking a delight and interest in something, I need to encourage it. To get excited with them. To ask questions together.
When they ask me all their “why?” questions, I will try not to shut them down, but instead listen, engage, and encourage further independent research. I don’t need to have all the answers to their questions. I do need to encourage them to keep looking for answers, and not throw water on their fire of curiosity with hasty, blank dismissals.

If I am truly busy and truly cannot help, I can either suggest we talk about it at a more opportune time, or give them some materials they can use to start researching independently. If I am busy but simply not wanting to be helpful because I’m in a hurry, I need to repent, give a thoughtful reply and/or encourage them to research.

I need to take the time to teach them skills. When Marcus wants to crack an egg. When Bri wants to tie her shoe. When Marcus wants to know how to spell a word. When Bri wants to help cook dinner.

When we go places and as we go about our work for the day, I try to notice more and help them notice more and tie it into whatever we are learning. We wonder. We ask questions.

When possible/appropriate I should include them in my interests and let them help/watch me.

Modeling (and Requiring) Diligence

My biggest temptation toward laziness during the day is to “cop out” for awhile and browse social media. The kids’ biggest temptation during our mornings is to grumble and complain about their schoolwork and chores.

GOALS:

Limit my time on social media and the internet in general. Do not look at my phone when the children are up/around except for necessary uses or quick checks (responding to certain texts, phone calls, calculator/bills, library orders, other orders, etc.). Spend more of my time in the afternoon on profitable things like reading and writing rather than internet browsing.

Guide the children into paths of faithfulness:

• Scriptural admonition (obedience/diligence/doing all we do for the glory of God)

• Common sense reasoning/big picture perspective (sound mind)

• Teach them to learn to enjoy work

• Fun has its place, but cannot usurp more important things

• Helping them recognize there are rewards to work (reaping and sowing)

• Delayed gratification

• Community/Family/Household dynamics (everyone is needed; we must all work together)

• Projects to encourage them to see and believe truth. Eventually they can keep Heart Journals, do word/Bible studies, etc.

• Discipline/Correction for whining, complaining, and laziness when appropriate

• Modeling faithfulness myself by not grumbling about my own responsibilities, and seeking repentance before God and them when I do.

• Being a present and loving mom. I need to give them my full attention when they are speaking to me or we are doing something together, to communicate that I love each one, to show no favoritism or partiality, and to spend time with them beyond school and chores.

Dealing with Irritations and Bad Attitudes

I am most likely to get irritable or shut down when I feel like my responsibilities just keep piling on me and I can’t complete them in my goal time. This is even more pronounced when the kids are whiny, rowdy, or needy simultaneously. Sometimes I complain when I’m tired.

GOALS:

When tempted to be irritable or complain I need to step back and assess things:

• Am I doing what I need to be doing RIGHT now?

• Can some things wait?

• Do other things need priority?

• Is everything on my agenda for the day even necessary?

• Is it possible to multi-task on some hings, get the kids’ help, etc.? (Work smarter and not harder?)

• Am I practicing good stewardship of my body? (Getting enough sleep and eating well so I don’t become moody/emotional?)

If everything absolutely must be done and I am still overwhelmed at the moment, I can back off, go into the bedroom for a few moments, pray, realign my focus, ask for grace, and consider the big picture.

When I feel the conviction of the Spirit, I can turn my heart to obedience rather than stubborness by taking a moment away. Acknowledge the struggle. Seek repentance before the Lord if I have complained or become irritable/angry (and before my children if needed). Go outside. Take a few moments for giving thanks.

If the kids’ attitudes and behaviors need tending to, I can first readjust mine, then help them with theirs. If I am unable to do that immediately I can send them off to do something for a little bit so I can regain composure and good attitude before trying to deal with theirs. It would be better to deal with their issues “late” than to deal with them in the heat of the moment while angry. Send them to complete a responsibility or to room but do not try to address the issues while I am angry.

I can help my children when they feel stubborn and want their own way by helping them to stop and see the big picture. By reminding them of truth. By helping them see that the good is desirable and right, and evil comes with consequences. I can give them time and space to think. To freely make a choice of obedience. When they fail to I can administer discipline if it is truly required.

Remember to determine if there may be underlying causes to the complaining that may need addressed first: Are they tired? Hungry? Not feeling well? Truly overwhelmed? Deal with each of these issues first.

Continued here

2018 Book List

Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to the books we’ll get to read in 2019! Here’s my annual recap of books read this last year (I split the post into two sections: the books I read on my own, and the books I read aloud to the kids).

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Orwell was a socialist in the 1930’s who grew disillusioned with communism after he saw its effects when implemented. He wrote Animal Farm as a sort of dark satire of Russia’s embrace of collectivism: animals on a farm decide they don’t need Farmer Jones anymore and they run him off, determined to survive together as a socialist collective. When Napoleon the pig sets himself as the leader of the collective, things begin to take a sinister turn.

The copy I borrowed from the library also included related readings (short stories, poems, and essays): “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; “The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union,” by Michael Kort; “The Birds,” by Daphne du Maurier, etc. (I admit that for a book with readings related to socialism/collectivism I did not see the connection between this theme and “The Birds.”)

And so the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet and the air was heavy with the smell of blood, which had been unknown there since the expulsion of Jones.

Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. One of the best books I’ve read. Bridges traces the goodness, wisdom, and sovereignty of God through the pages of Scripture, applying the comfort found in these truths to circumstances in the life of the believer—from sickness and adversity to everyday decision-making. Very heartening and encouraging. Highly recommend!

God’s infinite wisdom then is displayed in bringing good out of evil, beauty out of ashes. It is displayed in turning all the forces of evil that rage against His children into good for them. But the good that He brings about is often different from the good we envision.

The Food Babe Way by Vani Hari. This book was gifted to me from a family member. Hari is a food activist who has diligently researched foods and food additives, and successfully petitioned many different food companies and restaurants to change the unhealthy ingredients in their foods. She breaks down the labeling on foods, explaining each questionable ingredient, what it is, where it comes from, and the potential health risks associated with it, and outlines a plan for changing one’s diet to avoid all the junk and poisons in the typical American diet. She also discusses a number of different popular diets (Atkins, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Vegan, etc.), highlighting the pros and cons of each and concluding that the best diet is one which includes all of the food groups (if possible), in proper balance and from clean, quality sources. Very informative.

My own chronic health problems led me to make the connection to food, a link that made sense once I started researching the effects of certain chemicals on the body. I learned how to detoxify my very poisoned body, and when I did, all my health problems started to vanish. I lost thirty pounds. My so-called incurable eczema totally healed, and my skin glowed. My asthma and allergies became ancient history. My stomach issues vanished. My anxiety was gone; I no longer had to take any drugs, prescription or over-the-counter.

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. Standing as (possibly) the oldest surviving long poem in Old English, Beowulf recounts the story of a brave Scandinavian warrior who battles monsters and a dragon. Little is known about the background of this story, or even who wrote it or why. The interweaving of Christian and pagan influences adds further curious layers to this mysterious drama.

In off the moors, down through the mist bands

God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.

The bane of the race of men roamed forth,

hunting for prey in the high hall.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. Years ago I had read Babywise before my first child was born. While implementing the ideas found in that book did seem to help both my first two kids sleep through the night (5+ hours) at an early age (at six to eight weeks or so), I wondered if a somewhat more moderate and less extreme approach than rigid schedules and lengthy, stressful, cry-it-out sessions was out there (besides being told to just live without sleep for the next couple of years!). I found Pantley’s book at a library sale and bought it for a few cents before Rachelle was born. While I don’t think any one method has all the answers (I pick and choose what I find helpful in books) I did plan to use her store of tips and techniques to help Rachelle learn to sleep through the night…as peacefully as possible for both of us.

But as it turns out, this baby started (mostly) sleeping through the night on her own very quickly. I hardly had the chance to try any of Pantley’s sleep solutions. So I can’t tell you whether or not they work.

And that’s okay with me, lol.

[This book] will explain the exact steps you can take to gently help your baby sleep through the night. So, prop your eyelids open, grab a cup of coffee, and let me explain how you can help your baby sleep—so that you can get some sleep, too.

In Quest of Gold: The Jim Ryun Story by Jim Ryun with Mike Phillips. Rummaging through an old antiques store in Wichita one day, I came across an autographed copy of this book and purchased it for my husband who, as a runner himself, had always been a fan of Jim Ryun’s (a Kansan himself). This autobiography is an up-close and personal look at this world record-setting champion’s life, from his exciting achievements on the track to the way God used the disappointments and frustrations of his running career to ultimately bring Ryun to Christ. 

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Since running had been my one and only god, in order to give me something far better and more enduring, [Christ] had to take my substitute god away. Thus I grew to a point of genuine thankfulness for what happened that day on the Munich track in 1972. For out of the dust of defeat blossomed the new life that came to flourish in my heart.

Physician Assistant’s Guide to Research and Medical Literature by J. Dennis Blessing. Written to PA’s, this book discusses study methods, study designs, threats to validity, limitations, presentation, analysis and interpretation, ethics considerations, etc. Even as a lay-person I found the information helpful, since I research and read a good bit of medical literature. I made many pages of notes from the book.

The only way health care can advance is by research and application of the results. Even if we are not actively involved in research, we must possess a basic understanding of the process and what it means.

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The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. This is the children’s Newberry Award-winning fantasy story about a chivalrous little mouse named Despereaux. I read it in one sitting in the car while traveling to see family for Christmas (previewing it for Brianna). Loved it (and so did Bri). 20190103_132236

Picture a kingdom where soup is outlawed. Where mice may never speak to men, and rats may never embrace light. Where kings suffer from broken hearts and servant girls dream of being princesses. A kingdom where perfidy stands out in stark contrast to empathy and honor, as revenge to forgiveness, darkness to light, and despair to hope.

This is The Tale of Despereaux.

Have I mentioned that beneath the castle there was a dungeon? In the dungeon, there were rats. Large rats. Mean rats.

Despereaux was destined to meet those rats.

Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.

True Grit by Charles Portis.

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen everyday. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and one hundred and fifty dollars in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.

Thus begins the story of Mattie Ross, the plucky young girl from Arkansas who teams up with a couple of lawmen with rough-as-40-grit-sandpaper personalities and equally gritty courage to track down her father’s murderer and bring him to justice. (Some language.) 

READ-ALOUDS WITH THE KIDS:

Godliness is Great Gain by unknown authors. This is a collection of stories from the 19th century. Most are fictional stories of faithfulness and obedience in the lives of ordinary people and the rewards that come with righteousness. (This book and The Little Medicine Carrier are part of a series of books for children from the 19th century—a set I read as a child. I’ve since found this collection—and more in the series—at Grace and Truth Books. Dennis Gunderson has also written a study guide to accompany this series).

When used properly, expectations are good and valuable. When they cause a person to throw away dependability, faithfulness and humility, they are ill-used…Only those who “set their affections on things above,” can be truly happy. True happiness can only be found through true repentance, and forgiveness by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Little Medicine Carrier. A little boy named “George” is hired by a doctor to deliver medicine for him. Though he faces many temptations, George learns to be faithful, honest, and kind. When he befriends a young girl who is very ill, he witnesses her faith in Jesus as she nears death.

“Miss Beatrice must be very good not to mind dying.”

“No, George. The dear, young lady knows that she is a sinner. She has learned to trust her Savior who died so she could live. She knows she can do nothing for herself and that Jesus has done everything for her. As a result of this, she holds on to Him with so much joy and peace.”

Untold Secrets of Planet Earth: Dire Dragons by Vance Nelson. This is a stunningly gorgeous book about dinosaurs from a young earth, creationist perspective. In this unique work, Nelson explores findings and artifacts from all over the world that give evidence for the co-existence of man and dragons/dinosaurs. The information is organized by country, the findings from the United States, Mexico, Peru, England, Wales, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Mali, Ethiopia, and China explored. I’m including this here as a book the kids listened to, but in this case I didn’t read it to them—Daddy did. 🙂

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If dinosaurs lived alongside people, then surely somewhere on planet earth the evidence of such an extraordinary coexistence would be found…The evidence presented in this book has become the answer to that question.

Dragons: Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs by Bodie Hodge and Laura Welch. If you were to guess that we really enjoy dinosaur/dragon books, you’d be right. 😉 I picked this fun book up at a homeschool conference. Every page contains new delights to discover: pockets to open, minibooks to flip through, papers to pull out. With much the same theme as Dire Dragons, the book focuses on ancient stories, tales, and writings that support the evidence that man and dragon (dinosaur) once lived together.

Since the mid-1930s, speculation has run rampant over a sea monster purported to live in Loch Ness, known simply as Nessie. Debate has raged while numerous expeditions have sought to solve this modern mystery. But it may not be as modern as some think. There are written reports of a mysterious creature in the loch, able to kill swimmers, back to the 6th century.

I Heard Good News Today by Cornelia Lehn. This book was included in the Adventures in Obedience course (which I had previously mentioned in this post). It recounts 92 stories of virtue and missionary endeavor, the stories being sorted by country/continent. A few of these missionaries were quite familiar (Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, etc.); most were new to us.

Far away in a village in the rugged mountains of Taiwan there lived a little girl called Gau Fu-Mei. One night Fu-Mei had a strange dream. It was so clear and so real that when she woke up she knew exactly what she had dreamed. In her dream she was told that there was a God who loved her.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is the third book in the series that we’ve read and it tells the story of the Ingalls’ brief time in Kansas, when they homesteaded near Independence. After we finished this book we got to actually go see the homestead where Laura had lived. The original house did not survive, so a replica was constructed on site. But the old well that Pa and his friend dug is there, and other old buildings (like a post office and school, etc.) have been moved to or constructed on the site. Since we visited during Prairie Days the kids got to do hands-on activities, listen to a history lesson in the one-room school-house, participate in a costume contest, and meet Wendi Lee (who played “Baby Grace” on the Little House on the Prairie TV series), and several descendants of people (or relatives of people) who were mentioned in Laura’s books, including a Mr. Wilder.

Laura was very happy. The wind sang a low, rustling song in the grass. Grasshoppers’ rasping quivered up from the immense prairie. A buzzing came faintly from all the trees in the creek bottoms. But all these sounds made a great, warm, happy silence. Laura had never seen a place she liked so much as this place.

The Tuttle Twins Series by Connor Boyack. This series has grown since the time I purchased it, but we’ve read six of these books for kids on Austrian economics, free market principles, and classical liberalism. It’s a great series! I wrote about these books in a post on homeschooling books/materials last year.

“True laws protect people and their property from plunder,” Fred explained. “When true laws exist and are respected, people work hard to improve their lives and they work peacefully with others. Everyone prospers together and is happier.”

“…But when the law lets people plunder, it turns everyone against each other,” Fred said.

Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz. This short, generously illustrated biography of Columbus by a Newbery Honor-winning author gave us a glimpse into the life and achievements (as well as the failures) of this famous man. In tongue-in-cheek style both his strengths and his weaknesses were portrayed. (We read this one for school since we were studying Columbus in our history lessons.)

It was lucky that Christopher Columbus was born where he was, or he might never have gone to sea.

Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd. I had always thought of Leonardo as an amazing genius, but I didn’t know the breadth and depth of his curiosity and creativity in so many different areas! This book shared many little known facts about Leonardo and his ideas and inventions. Did you know he liked to create an upbeat atmosphere while he worked, so he would employ musicians, singers, and entertainers to perform while he was painting? Or that he had a predilection for playing practical jokes? In one instance he attached a sheep’s intestine to large bellows, hid from sight, then pumped the bellows, inflating the intestine till it filled the room and flattened people against the walls! Did you know he invented an alarm clock that jerked the sleeper’s feet out of bed at a set time? You will find these and many other interesting stories in this lavishly illustrated book.

Leonardo was said to be tall and handsome, charming and fashionably dressed, and so strong he could impress people with seemingly superhuman feats, like bending iron horseshoes with his bare hands.

Renegade: Martin Luther (The Graphic Biography) by Andrea Grosso Ciponte and Dacia Palmerino. The artwork in this book is gorgeous. It represents a brief look at the highlights of this Reformer’s life—graphic novel style. This book is targeted more towards young adults than children but I read it aloud to the kids. Be forewarned there are a couple of swear/cuss words (which I “edited” out as I read aloud), and as this is a graphic novel some of the illustrations were just that: graphic (a few were a bit on the gory side).

By the way, the most excellent documentary (docu-drama actually) I’ve seen on his life was done by PBS: Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World. Borrowed it from the library, watched it with the kids for school and loved it. Highly recommend! (Watch the trailer for it here; also note that this is the 2017 documentary, not the older PBS documentary.)

“So, Martinus! Do you retract your writings? Yes or no.”

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scipture or clear reason, I am bound by the biblical texts I have quoted. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Therefore, I cannot and I will not recant anything. I cannot act contrary to my conscience. So help me God! Amen!”

A Dragon in the Sky: The Story of a Green Darner Dragonfly by Laurence Pringle. Lovely paintings by Bob Marstall illustrate this story of the life cycle of a dragonfly named “Anax.” In style and content it reminds me a bit of Holling Clancy Holling books; it was an enjoyable living book read.

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Wait…wait…wait…Now! Anax unleashed his deadly lower lip. It shot out and seized the damselfly nymph with sharp grasping claws. Then the lip swiftly folded partway, bringing the nymph into Anax’s waiting jaws.

Morning Star of the Reformation by Andy Thomson. This work of historical fiction revolves around the life of John Wycliffe and his “Lollards.” Wycliffe wanted every man and woman to be able to read the Bible in his or her own language. He challenged the teachings of the Roman Catholic church, and was an inspiration to Luther and others of the Reformation who followed in his steps a century later. (The book is a little mature reading for the age of my kids, delving into theological disscusions and being more targeted for young teens, but I read it to them anyway since we had studied Wycliffe in history this school year.)

John said softly, “Why do we fear death, Giles? You in your heart and I in mine believe the same thing.”

Giles glanced up. “What is that?”

“Come. You have read St. Paul. The saving of the soul comes from God, not the Church. Indeed, He foreknew His people before they were born, Giles. It is a matter between man and God. The Church has no say in it.”

What have you read this last year? What was your favorite read of 2018?

Books and Resources Part 2: FREEBIES!

In Part 1 of this two-part post, I listed websites and resources for purchasing used and new books and curriculum. In this Part 2, every resource listed here is free! I’ve organized it into:

Books/Texts

Full Curriculum

Informational/Partial curriculum or full curriculum (organized by subject)

Games/Interactive (organized by subject)

Videos

This list is by no means comprehensive; it merely scratches the surface of the vast amount of free resources currently available online.  Also, please note that I cannot verify the appropriateness of the content of each of these sites. Some are secular, some are Christian. Use your own judgment.

Sites with Free Books/Texts

LibriVox. You can download and listen to free audio readings of books in the public domain; a good source for classics.

ICDL (International Children’s Digital Library). Free children’s books from around the world; choose your language then you can filter results from there.

Many Books offers more than 33,000 free ebooks, including titles that are not in the public domain.

Open Library has over 1.7 million free ebooks, including high school and college textbooks; available in a number of formats.

Authorama offers more free ebooks of the classics/public domain literature in HTML and XHTML format.

Read Print. Lots of classics; lets you keep track of what you’ve read in a user-friendly way and provides the opportunity to discuss books and join online book clubs and groups.

Questia has 5,000 free classics, rare books, and textbooks.  

Project Gutenberg. For the older texts and classics; over 50,000 free books.  Also good for research purposes when looking for original source material; along those lines, see also texts from  Wikisource and Google Books.

Internet Archive boasts a rich collection of over 16 million free downloadable books, plus movies, music, software, etc.

Wikibooks. Free educational books/textbooks; note that these are open content and anyone can edit them.

FreeComputerBooks. For the geeks, a site with tons of free computer programming/coding books; see also FreeTechBooks for free computer science books/textbooks—over 1,200 available.

Local library. When you’re looking for a particular title you need for a school assignment, don’t forget this resource! And many times even if you’re local library doesn’t have it, you may be able to procure it through inter-library loan.

Free Full Curriculum Sites

The sites listed here offer lessons in all academic subjects, for free.

Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. This is a laid-back, Christian curriculum with a bit of an “unschooling” flavor. It teaches preschool through 8th grade, with a separate site offering high school curriculum. It covers reading, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, math, history/social studies/geography, science, Spanish, Bible, computer, music, art, PE/health, and logic.

Kahn Academy. Spanning kindergarten through high school, Kahn Academy has millions of students the world over, while their resources are being translated into 36 different languages. Their mission is “to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” The bulk of the course relies on instructional videos and practice exercises. (I even signed up for its math instruction to fill in some of my own gaps!)

Ambleside Online offers a classical/Charlotte Mason-style homeschool curriculum. It relies heavily on living books—real-world literature, as opposed to textbooks. Thirty-six week schedules are outlined in detail for each grade. (This would be one of my top picks.)

Free World U is a pre-K through 12 academy that teaches the subjects through electronic flashcards; a $19.95/month upgrade to the free version provides exams, an exam portal, a feedback function, a year plan, and progress bars; several other upgrades/extensions are also available.

See a list of more full, free online programs here

Informational/Partial or Full Curriculum (remember that these subjects can also be found at the “full curriculum” sites listed above)

Science

Teach Preschool Science. Complete, free science curriculum for ages 3 through kindergarten; lesson plans, learning experiences involving various projects, and related books, websites, and resources are included.

Science Sparks. All kinds of fun, hands-on projects, activities, and sensory/messy play for little tikes—looks like a very fun site!

Magic School Bus science curriculum (for elementary grades). This includes free lesson plans, worksheets, and experiments to go along with the episodes—which you will need to purchase or borrow.

Classic Science Life. Free downloadable science ebooks for children of all ages.

Guest Hollow . Science of Seasons is a free literature and activity-based science curriculum for a younger grade (this one is more classical/Charlotte Mason style). This site also offers other science courses for elementary, upper elementary and even high school students, relying on living books and hands-on activities (while some are free, some require the purchase of a curriculum schedule, $25). Check them out—they’re pretty awesome!

Try Engineering. Lesson plans for 141 cool projects can be found here as downloadable pdf files; ages 8 and up.

Micropolitan Museum. This science site features image galleries of microscopic specimens.

Zooborns features “the newest, cutest animals from the world’s zoos and aquariums.”

Math

Do the kids need a little extra math practice in a certain area, or maybe just need a worksheet here and there over the summer to help them keep up what they’ve already learned? The following sites offer free math activities and printable worksheets for many different grades: K5 LearningHomeschool MathEducation, Math Aids, and SoftSchools.

History and Geography

Bringing Up Learners. Free, full year history curriculum: lesson plans, guides, and resource suggestions.

Guest Hollow also has free American history curriculum (grades 2-6)!

Timeline Index. Everything is organized by “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when.”

Check out this LONG list of free geography curriculum, resources, and supplements.

Language Arts

Scott Foresman grammar and writing curriculum. Free online grammar and writing handbooks for grades 1-6.

National Treasures Workbooks. Downloadable spelling and grammar practice books for grades K-6.

KISS Grammar . Instructional materials and workbooks for grade 2 through high school.

Spelling Words Curriculum. Complete spelling curriculum for grades 1-5.

Bible Based Spelling Lessons. Spelling lessons for lower elementary grades.

Art

Hodgepodge .  Over 100 free art lessons for many ages.

Kinder Art. Preschool through high school arts and crafts projects.

Music

This find made me so excited! Years ago when I taught piano I used the Mayron Cole music curriculum. This complete course begins as young as kindergarten or pre-K and spans through high school. Lessons, music theory, performance music—everything is here; this course is good for both group and private lessons. The books were always a little pricey, but I felt they were worth the cost: they’re fun, heavy on theory (no, those two things are not mutually exclusive 😉 ), and encourage mastery.

Then a few weeks ago I received an email that made my day: Mayron Cole was retiring and she had decided to gift her music curriculum to the world…for free. More than 3,600 pages, 525 solos, 1,000 worksheets, 60 ensembles, 650 midi and mp3 fully orchestrated accompaniments, and several games are available as free downloads—every product and book she ever created! I’ve already started downloading the books and accompaniments—it’s like Christmas, people! So check this incredible offer out here. Screenshot_20180515-141026 

Miscellaneous/Multi-subject

Rudiments of Wisdom Encyclopedia . Informative and entertaining, this online encyclopaedia is written up in the form of cartoonish drawings with text.

Virtual Homeschool Group . This site offers free, online courses for IEW, Fix it Grammar, Saxon Math, Spanish, Photography, Mystery of History, Apologia science, and more! Video lessons and computer-scored quizzes and tests included!

Games/Interactive

Science

Science Kids offers interactive science games, as well as projects, lessons and more.

Math

Johnnie’s Math Page. Math practice and games for ages 5-15.

Math Game Time. Free math games, videos, and worksheets.

Math Goodies. Free math games, interactive lessons, and downloadable worksheets.

History and Geography

History Mystery. Search for clues and enter the answers as you read.

Mission US. For grades 5-8. These role-playing mission games help students explore historical time periods and events. “Each mission consists of an interactive game and a set of curriculum materials that are aligned to national standards and feature document-based activities.”

DOCSTeach is a free tool for teaching from original documents; it provides primary source materials, then allows you as the parent to create your own interactive learning activities with these sources.

Ducksters Geography. I’ve played some games from this site with the kids.

National Geographic Kids. Lots of videos, games, and information for kids. It covers more than geography, of course; science and history are also touched on.

Language Arts

Grammar Practice Park. Grammar games organized by grade.

BBC grammar games. Alphabet, spelling, and grammar games.

Education Spelling Games. Spelling, letter knowledge, reading, and word games.

Home Spelling Words. Lists, games, tests and practice.

Spelling City targets spelling, writing, phonics, and vocabulary.

Art

NGAkids Art Zone. Interactive art activities at the National Gallery of Art.

Miscellaneous/Multi-subject

Starfall covers a variety of topics. There is a free version and an upgraded version which you can pay for. I have only used the free version with the kids and this has allowed them to practice reading and math skills. I noticed a difference, that they had gained ground in their phonics skills, when they started using this.

Apples4theTeacher. Interactive site with lots of games covering a vast array of educational subjects.

Sheppard Software has a variety of games, videos and quizzes on a variety of subjects.

Apps—there are many free educational games you can download. 

Videos

There are so many educational videos on every subject under the sun available on YouTube and elsewhere that there’s no way I could even begin to scratch the surface. But for history and art, here are several compilations others have made of these offerings:

History Videos for Kids from Brookdale House is a great educational resource as it gives extensive lists/collections of YouTube videos for different periods/subjects of history (was having trouble with the link this morning so I don’t currently have one in this post, but you should be able to google it).

YouTube Art Lessons for Kids. List of art channels for kids.

A Big List of Free Art Lessons on YouTube. A lengthy list of YouTube channels that teach art, sorted by style/subject; many are probably geared toward older students.

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Do you have some favorite free resources you use? Share in the comments!

Books and Resources Part 1: Budget Hacks for Incorrigible Victims of Abibliophobia (Homeschooling Mom’s Edition)

We’ve nearly reached the end of the school year! Many of us will be (or already are) taking some sort of a summer break (including this Mama!). And it’s early on (sometimes even before our break begins) that I start searching for and purchasing next year’s curriculum. In this two-part series I’m compiling a list of tips and resources for purchasing, borrowing, or even finding free curriculum/books/resources!

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Ahhh, books. Anyone else relate? And for me, having children has only made the “bug” worse. Fortunately there are a vast amount of both free and affordable resources out there. (In this first post I’m focusing on purchasing curriculum/books; the second post will give links to a vast amount of completely free resources.) So whether you’re looking for a new novel or trying to find a specific, elementary academic textbook, here are some ideas, tips, and sites for finding great deals. 🙂

When to Order

It probably goes without saying, but if you know what you want before you start shopping, you can save yourself a lot of money. I often do my research on the specific curriculum I want months before I actually start shopping. I make my list, then familiarize myself on what the typical “going price” is for each book/item so that I can objectively compare prices and know whether I’m really getting a good deal. I note this price next to each item.

Then I start looking early, searching for one item at a time. This way I have time to find things, compare prices, make bids (on ebay for instance), etc. (If I visit my favorite sites and can’t find what I’m looking for, I have to time to wait a month or two and come back to look again.) Screenshot_20180507-161551

What to Order

Should you buy the item new or used? Sometimes you’ll be better off buying the item new, and other times it really doesn’t matter if it’s used. As a general rule of thumb, I would categorize it this way:

Best things to buy used:

Teacher’s manuals

Non-consumable books/textbooks

Living books, classics, other novels and miscellaneous books

Best things to buy new:

Consumable workbooks

DVDs/CDs/CD-ROMs

Games (educational board games, logic puzzles, etc.)

If you purchase used consumable workbooks, they may be partially used. This isn’t always the case and I have been able to buy “used” consumable workbooks that had never been written in, or perhaps only had a handful of lessons completed. Check descriptions carefully and when in doubt ask the seller, if possible. When purchasing used media (DVDs, etc.) it’s hard to tell what shape it may be in. Even slight scratches on the discs may cause problems. I ordered a used set of history CDs last year, and while most of them played well, several lessons had to be skipped because the discs were scratched.Screenshot_20180507-161338  

A tip for using consumable workbooks: tear the pages out and slip them into plastic sheet protectors; keep these in a 3-ring binder. Now they can be used repeatedly with an unlimited number of children by using dry erase markers and an erasor. Alternatively, take a sheet protector, cut a slit down the side and slip it over a new page each day. If you feel you need documentation that your child completed the workbook, simply snap a photo of each page before it is erased and keep these pictures in a file on your phone or computer. Now you will never need to buy more than one workbook, regardless of the number of children who will use it! Even if you only have one child, you will be able to resell the book in “like new” condition when you are finished with it (provided you use the second option of slipping a protector over the page each day rather than tearing the pages out).

Before you finalize your list, see if any of the books you need could be borrowed or found for free online (I’ll list resources that can be checked for this in Part 2). Screenshot_20180507-161302 

Where to Order

When you have your list, you know what each item costs new, and you’ve decided what things you can buy used and what you want to purchase new, it’s time to start comparing prices! If you’re looking for…

New and/or used:

Amazon and Ebay. I’ve been able to find some really good deals on both these sites. (And of course another reason I like to start shopping early is because I may or may not win bids I place on items on ebay. I don’t want to shop two weeks before I need the curriculum, lose the bid, and then not have the book or resource when it’s time to start school. This way if I lose I still have time to find it later or somewhere else.) Screenshot_20180508-144138

Homeschool conferences. The conference I attended in Wichita last year included a number of vendors selling used curriculum as well as new. I was able to find some unusually good deals.

(Mostly) used:

While there may be a few new items here and there, most of the items purchased from these sources will be used.

Local homeschool swap n’ sales. Many local homeschool groups will hold these once a year. Many of these used items are greatly marked down; some are often even free.

Library book sales. Two weeks ago I purchased almost $300 worth of health and medical textbooks in like new condition (original prices still marked on them)…for $3.50. A few days later I visited another library’s book sale and came away with a whole box of books for $3.30. It pays to stop and take a look. Screenshot_20180507-161806  

Facebook groups. There are a number of pages on which to buy or sell used curriculum and books. Homeschool Curriculum Sale or Trade is my favorite. With over 6,600 members, there’s plenty of good pickin’s here. I’ve found some awesome deals and been able to save a lot of money. Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace is another site with over 11,000 members.

Used Curriculum WebsitesHomeschool Classifieds: this site won’t win the prize for clearest design and friendliest user experience, but they’re still worth checking out as they have a lot of good deals.  Homeschool Trader: this site doesn’t have the same number of offerings as Homeschool Classifieds, but it has a much friendlier user interface.  Homeschool Books for Less: to shop on this site, choose a grade, then a subject, then a publisher; what is available will then be shown to you. Screenshot_20180508-144346

Used book sites (these will not necessarily carry many textbooks—though they’ll have some; but for filling in with classics, novels, living books, etc., these are great places to shop). Thriftbooks is probably one of my favorites. The prices are amazing (many books are under $4!), plus a purchase of $10 or more will snag you free shipping. AbeBooks and Goodwill Books are two more good sites. Better World Books carries an array of new and used books–with free shipping!

 Book Finder. This site simply helps you find the book you want at the best price—new or used—by searching a number of different sites for you. Save yourself some time!

What if you don’t have extra cash on hand but do happen to have some old paperbacks you don’t want? You can trade them for books you do want on Paperback Swap! Swap your book out for your choice of over 1,600,000 books. Screenshot_20180508-144414

…New:

Finally, when I have crossed everything off my list that I can possibly buy used (or new at a bargain price), I shop for my remaining educational “ingredients” at Christian Book Distributors and/or Rainbow Resource. The latter usually offers the most competitive prices, free shipping with orders over $49, and the largest collection of curriculum to be found anywhere (over 40,000 homeschooling and educational products!). For (new) purchases they have been my go-to over the past few years.

…And if you can’t make up your mind:

So what if you’re not sure you actually want to invest in a certain curriculum or textbook because you don’t know if you’ll like it or if it will be a good fit for your kids? Screenshot_20180508-144532

Have no fear, Yellow House Book Rental is here! Yes, this actually gives you the option of renting the curriculum for a semester or a year, for perhaps half the cost of purchasing it new.

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I have used many—though not all—of these sites in my own shopping. Over time they have saved me hundreds of dollars on books and various curricula (each year I add up the cost of the books new, and then compare it to the total I actually paid for them).

So if you’re planning out next year’s curriculum, or just have an abibliophobia and happen to be on a budget  😉 , you might check some of these websites out. Have fun! 

School Curriculum Part 6: The Odds and Ends–from Art to Government

And here’s a wrap-up to the series of posts on school curriculum for this year, touching on the miscellany not previously covered. 🙂

Art

I debated on many different things for art lessons this year. There are so many neat programs out there! Unfortunately many of them are also quite pricey. So this year I stuck to something more modest and within budget: Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes. Essentially what a homeschooling philosophy is to homeschooling, this book is to one’s approach to art, laying a foundation for all art study and practice. It is, first and foremost, a philosophy of art. In fact, the first 45 pages of the book simply explain the reasoning behind the methodology presented. 20180428_110731

Brookes emphasizes the parts to the whole. In other words, she helps the student learn to “see” that all art is made up of just a few basic sorts of lines and shapes—five, to be exact: the dot family, the circle family, the straight line family, the curved line family, and the angle line family. The student is trained to look for and identify these as they draw their images, first from paper graphics, and eventually still life.

This is not something you go through and “complete” in a year (there are actually only a handful of actual lessons). It’s a philosophy of art methodology, and so something you can practice and incorporate through many years of art study. I found it very interesting, and while we worked on some introductory exercises this year, I’m looking forward to using this in the years to come. 20180428_110754

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We also used step-by-step drawing exercises from books we borrowed at the library, and from videos on YouTube (lots of great channels for kids!).

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Marcus drew Olaf, and Bri the cake from YouTube videos. 🙂

Bible and Bible/Character Curriculum

Bible reading, Scripture memory, prayer, and singing are all part of Bible time each morning. Then we delve into our Bible and/or character curriculum. I’ve used different things: one year we went through The Young Peacemaker by Corlette Sande. Another year we we studied through the first 10 chapters of Proverbs verse by verse. Last school year we read The Ology Book by Marty Machowski. This year we used Adventures in Obedience from the Cat and Dog Theology series by Bob Sjogren.

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The course includes two coloring books, a book of missionary stories, a CD with more missionary stories, and a parent’s guide. Each morning the kids color (and we discuss) a picture of a dog and a cat reacting to a real-life situation that children often encounter; the “cat” reacts to please himself, while the “dog” seeks to glorify God—to “make Him famous.” A missionary story (from the book or CD) is read (or listened to) each day as well. This character curriculum emphasizes growth in character and obedience from a place of pursuing the glory of God rather than from a mere moralistic, self-improvement standpoint, which I appreciate. I have few complaints, though I might share a minor caveat or two.

There were a couple of coloring pages, the message of which I disagreed with somewhat, as far as how it was presented. Most of the missionary stories are pretty neat, although a little heavy on the tales of Mennonites (this book was not written by Sjogren but is a book formerly published by the Mennonites, which Sjogren added into the curriculum). There were a small handful of stories where I thought the story choice a little strange, too. Nevertheless, there was lots of good stuff here, and the kids enjoyed coloring the pictures, discussing the attitudes and actions presented, and listening to tales of men and women who shared the gospel of Jesus.

Thinking Skills 20180428_110439

Brianna: This year we used Building Thinking Skills Level 1 from The Critical Thinking Co. (Click link, check under “special offers,” and follow the instructions to get a free printable puzzle delivered to your inbox each week!)  It’s marked for grades 2-3 so we completed half of it this year and we’ll complete the other half next year (Level 2 spans grades 4-6). The first half of the book focuses on spatial reasoning: figural similarities and differences, sequences, classifications, analogies, etc., and the second half deals with verbal reasoning (describing things, similarities and differences, sequences, classifications, and analogies). It’s a good supplement to math and language studies and only takes a few minutes a day to complete. 

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Marcus: He worked through the entire Developing the Early Learner series of 4 books. This tracks and develops fine motor, visual, auditory, and comprehension skills through fun daily exercises. 20180428_111516 

Law and Government (afflink below)

Another homeschooling family introduced us to the Tuttle Twins—and we love them! With six titles in the series (when I purchased them; I believe there are more now), this is a pretty unique set of books, as it introduces young children to the principles of freedom, Austrian economics, and classical liberalism. Connor Boyack breaks down the ideas and vocabulary of political and economic concepts, making them accessible for even the youngest kids.

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The Golden Rule introduces kids to the non-aggression principle, based on Ron Paul’s book, A Foreign Policy of Freedom. In Food Truck Fiasco, the dangers of protectionism are presented, while kids learn about business and economics (this book is based on Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson). The Miraculous Pencil explores the way the free market works and is based on Leonard Reed’s essay, I, Pencil. In The Creature from Jekyll Island, kids learn about the Federal Reserve and the meaning of terms like “fiat currency,” “inflation,” and “medium of exchange.” Road to Surfdom is a play on words, being based on F. A. Hayek’s book, Road to Serfdom. This tale underscores the unintended consequences of central planning. The Law explores the role of government, and challenges the idea that plundering personal property can be justified in the name of a “good cause.” Based on Frederic Bastiat’s book, The Law.

Bonus: each book includes a free download of worksheets to go along with it!

Ron Paul approved! 😉