Friday, October 19, 2012

Fairy Tales Unit Study

Fairy Tales

We've been doing a fun lit unit on fairy tales at home.  There are so many wonderful books out there that it's hard to narrow the list, but these are the ones that we've enjoyed most recently.  Also, I've easily found printable activities online that fit this unit nicely.  It can be adapted to many grade levels without much work - and it's a great multilevel unit if you're looking for a way to simplify.

This list is for elementary grades... stay tuned for my upcoming list of teen resources.

Collections (a great jumping off point)
The Random House Book of Fairy Tales (my favorite) by Ehrlich/Goode
Classic Fairy Tales by Scott Gustafson
The Kingfisher Book of Fairy Tales by Vivian French (hard to find, but I love the illustrations)

Activities and Study Guides
Literature Pockets: Folk and Fairy Tales (K-1)
Literature Pockets: Folk and Fairy Tales (2-3)
Fables, Myths and Fairy Tales Writing Lessons by IEW
Fairy Tales Comprehension Guide by Veritas Press
Imitation in Writing - Fairy Tales by Logos Press

Websites and Printables
Cinderella Stories (K-2)
Cinderella Stories from Around the World - extensive list!
Graphic Organizers - great for comparing stories, story maps, etc.
Fairy Tale Unit Guide
K-2 fairy tale lessons and printables
Unit for grades 3-5
Scholastic site - nice background information. Click on the Teacher's Guide icon.

We're doing a 6-week unit, and studying a different story every week.  We're reading multiple versions of the same story, and doing some compare/contrast activities using the printables I linked above.  One week is all about Fractured Fairy Tales (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka is a fun collection), and one week is dedicated to reading the original story contrasted with one told from a different narrator's point of view (I highly recommend The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, also by Scieszka).  In the final week we'll use a blank story map to plan out our own version of a standard fairy tale, and spend the week drafting and polishing our story.

Here's a list of some of my favorite picture books in this category (not linked for purchase - they are readily available at most libraries):

The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin & David Shannon
The Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo & Robert Florczak
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China retold by Ai-Ling Louie, illustrated by Ed Young
Cinderella by Barbara McClintock
Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young (Caldecott Medal winner)
Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky (Caldecott Medal winner)
Rapunzel by Alix Berenzy
Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney
Honestly! Red Riding Hood Was Rotten!... by Trisha Speed Shaskin and Gerald Guerlais
Beauty and the Beast by Marianna Mayer and Mercer Mayer
Beauty and the Beast by Jan Brett

Series books for kids who love fairy tales:
The Sisters Grimm
Tales of the Frog Princess by E.D. Baker
Princess Academy books by Shannon Hale

Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Curriculum Review: Foundations in Personal Finance

One of our summer goals was to complete the Foundations in Personal Finance homeschool curriculum by Dave Ramsey.  We finished the last chapter today and I can honestly say that we both learned so much!

At $89.95, it's an excellent deal, as it will no doubt save you thousands of dollars down the road if you actually apply the principles learned in the lessons.  It's also priced in the same range as many other DVD-based courses, and much cheaper than most online classes for high schoolers.  The kit comes with the DVD set (14+ hours of instruction) and a consumable workbook.  Dave's style is light and accessible, with a "good ol' boy" delivery, but the message is direct.  The aim of the course is to help the student make smart money decisions from the beginning by understanding the way money works.  He drills the anti-debt message throughout each lesson, but does so in an engaging way and makes the sometimes difficult concepts easy to understand.

I highly recommend this course as an elective for high schoolers (1/2 credit).  Buy an extra workbook so Mom can participate, too!

Book reviews: more on homeschooling high school

The last time I posted about homeschooling high school was a year ago - my older daughter was 13 and getting ready for 8th grade.  We were in the "exploratory phase"... trying to figure out if we could pull off high school at home.  Fast forward one year, and our high school journey is days away from officially beginning.  Not panicking.

Two books have rocked my world this spring.  First, I read, What Colleges Don't Tell You (And Other Parents Don't Want You To Know) by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross.  While the book is written for older high schoolers and their parents - those closer to the college acceptance maze - most of the advice is geared to those who got themselves in gear much earlier on.  I was so glad to be reading this book before high school even started.  Wissner-Gross's advice is amazing.  She's a professional "packager" of high school students, and shares her extensive experience with her readers.  It's practical, logical, and although lofty at times, completely do-able.  You must read this book if you are serious about getting your child into the college of their choice.

The second book, What High Schools Don't Tell You (And Other Parents Don't Want You To Know) was written in response to the first book.  The subtitle of the books is "Create a Long-Term Plan for Your 7th to 10th Grader for Getting into the Top Colleges" and, as promised, it gives the reader baby steps to follow in order to set your student up for a top-shelf admission package.  Don't be dismayed by the title; you don't have to have set your eyes on the Ivy League for this book to be meaningful.  Following the steps proposed by Wissner-Gross will make any student with good grades (not perfect - good) and decent test scores more appealing to selective schools.

While these books were not written specifically for homeschoolers (in fact, she doesn't even mention homeschooling anywhere within either book) they will be invaluable to you as a homeschooling parent.  We play the roles of teacher, coach, guidance counselor and parent (plus many others too diverse to name!) so we must be informed of the rigors of the college admission process.  It's our job.  What High Schools Don't Tell You will be $15 well spent.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The HSL is back, ya'll!

I'm revamping the blog... and switching the focus (and moving South... see "ya'll" reference above).

Are we still all about books?  YES.
Am I still dedicated to helping friends (both live and virtual) homeschool their people?  YES.

So, whatup?

As I lamented in an earlier post, I no longer work at a big-box book retailer in all my spare time (RIP, Borders).  Not having access to the pre-pub copies of new books and the latest releases makes it hard to talk about the up-and-coming books in children's and YA.  So, this blog is going to be all about lists.  Subject lists.  Really good, tried and true, sometimes new, always high-quality books that fit into your homeschool.  I'm really, really good at lists.  Trust me.

My goal is to publish a new book list once a week.  Some will be general, some will be subject specific, or cover a unique time period.  If you need reading advice for your homeschooler, contact me.  Reply here, shoot me an email, tweet me.  I'll get on it as quickly as I can.  This is my favorite part of being a librarian.

Happy reading!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Homeschooling Through High School

Back from hiatus!

Since leaving my job at the big-box bookstore, I’ve found that I have less access to all the new releases in the book world.  But that’s okay!  I’ve decided to focus on more curriculum related materials (print, web, and other) as well as other homeschool related publications.  My hope is that you find my reviews helpful, that I might introduce you to something you hadn’t considered before, and that we both learn a little along the way. 

Homeschooling the high school years

My oldest is about to have a birthday.  13.  A teenager (teenager!).  And while we still have a year to get our acts together before officially beginning the high school years, we’re taking this next school year as our “trial run”.  So we’re buckling down, hitting the books, counting hours and calculating grades… all while it doesn’t matter.  This will allow us to get into the groove and make as many mistakes as we need to before things really count.  I’m a sucker for over-preparedness.

I’ve been checking out a lot of books lately on homeschooling through high school.  Here are my reviews of a couple of popular ones:

I loved this book.  Loved.  I wouldn’t say that it’s the most comprehensive book out there, but the areas that it does tackle are done impeccably, and leave the reader feeling confident about their ability to see their homeschooler through to graduation and beyond.  This book doesn’t try to be all things to all people; it focuses on documentation and transcript writing and does it well.  Lee Binz (the Homescholar) uses the transcripts and documents from her own children’s records as examples, as well as those of numerous other students.  It’s helpful to see exactly what a good transcript looks like, especially one that doesn’t require an umbrella school or an expensive computer program (she uses Microsoft Word for all her documents).  Her writing is engaging (lots of exclamation points, which made me laugh) and she drives her point home:  you can do this!  If you’ve made the decision to homeschool through high school, this book will give you the tools you need to document it properly.  If you’re on the fence, Setting the Records Straight may give you the confidence you need to take the leap with your student.

This is a book that came highly recommended to me from several people, so I was anxious to check it out.  It’s harder to find (not available new from Amazon or from any of the brick-and-mortar bookstores I checked) but is available at a discounted price from  I have to say that I was sorely disappointed.  Some readers may be drawn to Ms. Shelton’s conversational style (she likens her book to having coffee at her kitchen table with a friend) I found it to be unprofessional and a bit haphazard.  The book focuses more on Bible verses and finding God’s will for your student’s life than anything academic.  Again, that may be the approach that some parents wish to take when embarking on this journey, but I found the content to be lacking in terms of practical advice or direction.

I also found this book to be somewhat anti-college.  The author gave numerous reasons why students should stay away from college, then almost as an aside, presented some information that parents might need to prep their kids for college if they were positive this was the correct direction for their student.  Perhaps if you already know that your student will not attend college (or join the military, or any other path that requires specific academic requirements) this book will speak to you and encourage you on your journey.  As a parent who is unsure of their children’s paths, I would like them to be prepared for whatever direction they choose, and that means college prep courses and record keeping.


This is another book that I’ve found extremely helpful.  Dr. Byers is a college professor and homeschool parent, and writes as one experienced on both sides of the diploma.  College-Prep Homeschooling covers a wide variety of subjects, from encouraging study skills and critical thinking skills to creating schedules, syllabi and transcripts.  While the book is titled College-Prep Homeschooling, Dr. Byers makes clear that the skills covered within will benefit any high school student, regardless of their plans after graduation.  That said, if your student is college bound, this is a book you will find invaluable in terms of preparation for college level study.

Aside from the stack of books I've read about high school record keeping, I couldn't miss giving a plug to Donna Young and her amazing collection of homeschool forms.  If you haven't visited her site yet, sit yourself down with a cup o' joe and just click away.  Every year when I sit down to plan, I hit her site and download a folder full of marvelous freebies.  She has a full section on high school forms, where you'll find blank schedules, curriculum planners, grade sheets, etc.

I hope this gets you motivated!  Happy homeschooling!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bargain alert - Scholastic sale!

Scholastic is repeating their $1 download sale!  Click here to enter.

The sale includes over 500 instructional items, many that are normally priced from $11.99 - $18.99.  They have a wonderful selection of literature guides, fun writing activities, and hands-on projects for all ages.  My favorite part is that they are PDF downloads, so you can just print the pages you need as you need them.  I'm putting the lit guides on my Kindle. 

Sale prices are good through February 25.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Educator Appreciation Week at Borders 10/6 - 10/10

It's Educator Appreciation Week at Borders stores!  That means 25% off nearly all your purchases.  While they do give an educator discount throughout the year, during EAW the discount applies not only to educational/classroom items but anything for personal use as well (and Borders has really good chocolate).

There are some exclusions... Rosetta Stone, electronics, and a few other items.  See the Borders Teaching and Learning page for full details.