History Series My Children Love

My children have learned more history from their own free reading time than anything we have done together.  The memory pegs my kids have from Classical Conversations helps them to get even more out of reading these books.

I want to share a number of our favorite series for history in the elementary years.  In no particular order:

 You Wouldn’t Want to Be books.

The You Wouldn’t Want to Be series has a quirky way to catching my kids’ attention with their silly subtitles (like You Wouldn’t Want to Be Mary Queen of Scots:  A Ruler Who Really Lost Her Head).  These are amazing, covering topics from Ancient times to U.S. history. I wrote about them a few years ago here where you can see Foundations Cycle match-ups.  My kids have re-read these many times over the years.  These are the shortest and easiest reading level of books on this list.  When we get these at the library, even the librarians comment on the fun titles of the books.

Interactive History Adventures.

The Interactive History Adventures also cover many time periods.  We love to get these at the library also.  They are choose-your-path type books except with historical themes.  The U.S. history ones are my favorites, but we really enjoy most of them.  I included Foundations match ups here.  (The one on The Underground Railroad has a path where you pretend to be slave catchers, and we just couldn’t even read that path in the book.)

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales

These graphic novels are always about dangerous and challenging bits of history.  The first in the series, One Dead Spy, is about Nathan Hale’s namesake.  The World War 1 book, Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood, gives an amazing overview to World War I.  My kids are already anticipating the fall release of one about World War II (Raid of No Return).

Ken Jenning’s Junior Genius Guides

The Junior Genius Guides include other topics than history, but we love the U.S. Presidents and Maps and Geography for studying history.  These books are packed with information but told in a way that grabs kids’ attention.  These books are set up like a “school day” with class periods instead of chapters.  (The non-history ones we are love are: The Human Body, Outer Space, and Greek Mythology.)  If you decide to buy any of these books, this 3-book set is a far better deal than the 3 books individually.

The Complete Middle School Study Guide series

These “Big Fat Notebook” books have packed with wonderful overviews of American History and World History.  Any piece of CC memory work can be found in these as well as lots of other history tidbits.  I actually think the U.S. History one is going to be an excellent resource for me as a Challenge 1 Director next year.  After each section, there are “Check Your Knowledge” quizzes complete with “Check Your Answers” so you don’t have to wonder if they are right.  My kids don’t really get the “Everything you need to Ace” each class title for the books in this series since we homeschool and don’t teach to a test, but these are a wonderful resource.  (Other books in the series include non-history topics:  English Language Arts, Math, and Science.  The English one does include topics not covered in the CC Essentials program – like theme, plot, etc.)

Note:  These books are secular so they include evolutionary human origins.  They are also very current in their publication dates so the U.S. one include the Supreme Court ruling on marriage (in a very matter-of-fact way).

As I made this list, I’m sure I forgot some of my kids’ favorites.  What history series do your kids enjoy?

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Gift Ideas that are Fun and Educational

gift ideas that are fun and educational

Today, I sat around a table with some great friends of mine.  As our children all ran through the house and yard, we started sharing a few gift ideas with each other.  A few of the moms even ordered items I suggested on their phones as we chatted.

Even though most of you are probably already done with your Christmas shopping, I thought I’d take a minute to share a few ideas with you anyway.  These are items my children are getting for Christmas (or already received at a recent family gathering).

Most of these items come with a low price tag.  Other than the lego set, we paid less than $20 for each of these.  If they are higher priced than that, I would wait to buy them.  The high prices may be due to low stock.

In no particular order:

Kutz LEGO Chain Reaction Craft Kit.  This kit includes a fun book showing how to set up lego chain reactions as well as including lego pieces to do this.  Since I have a son who loves Rube Goldberg machines, I hope this kit sparks much more creativity in our lego building.

Awesome Lego Creations with Bricks You Already Have.  I’m excited about this book that finally just arrived at our house.  (Amazon was out of it for a week or two.)  There are step-by-step instructions to build all sorts of lego creations (animals, robots, etc) as well as “creative challenges” where they give you key lego pieces to collect but don’t spell out the directions.  I love the detailed supply lists for the projects and that we can use the legos we already own.

Klutz Star Wars Thumb Doodles Book Kit.  I was searching on Amazon for a craft book for my youngest.  This is the same style of book as this Sweet and Sparkly Fingerprint Kit Ruthie had years ago but with a Star Wars theme.  I know he is going to love it.  I remember Ruthie really getting into creative little art projects with her book, and I hope this one does the same for Gideon.

Mini Pom-Pom Pets craft kit. My daughter could use craft kits every day of the week.  I thought this one looked fun and had a few new skills in it. She has already been given Sew Mini Treats this week.

Lego Birds Model Kit.  These are display-worthy realistic birds, complete with Latin name plaques. Ruthie received these as a gift at a family gathering, and they are wonderful.  I was really impressed with this kit.  It’s apparently been discontinued by Lego but is still available for purchase.  I hope Lego makes more kits like this in the future.


And, there you have it.  Just a few educational but fun gift ideas.

Do you have gifts you are looking forward to giving this Christmas that are fun and educational?


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17th Anniversary is the dinosaur one, right?

Seth and I were greeted this morning to a display of plastic dinosaurs “making” an anniversary poster for us and drawings of pictures from our wedding as well as dinosaurs reenacting us canoeing on our honeymoon.  While today isn’t our actual anniversary, the kids knew we were going out on a date tonight to celebrate so they decided to make today their celebration day too.

17th anniversary


Elijah and Ruth were awake before us and cooked us breakfast as well as setting up the dinosaur display.  (We sometimes have the dinosaurs visit – helping the tooth fairy, eating leftover food, getting ready for the Super Bowl to name a few.  This idea isn’t original to us.  We first saw the idea of using dinosaurs from Dinovember.  Our dinosaurs just come year round – not just during November.)

Dinosaur breakfast

A number of our anniversaries have been celebrated with my children doing something special for Seth and me.  Some years stand out to me less than others, but here are a few I remembered.

Our 13th anniversary was the Lego anniversary.  My children had a special brownie decorated for us and made a lego reenactment of our wedding ceremony.  (This was before our house was gluten-free when we could do easy things like buy brownies pre-made at the local grocery store).

lego wedding

On our 16th anniversary, we had early morning chefs who cooked heart-shaped bacon for breakfast before Seth left for work.  These chefs also made heart-shaped gluten-free pizza for dinner.

heart shaped anniversary

I have been blessed with (almost) 17 years of marriage to my best friend as well as precious children who are growing up so quickly.  God has brought our family this far, and I look forward to seeing what He has in store for us in the years to come.

Draw Write Now Series

I have children who love to draw and a few who don´t.  Draw Write Now was the first drawing series we purchased, and it has really helped my children´s drawing skills (as well as their writing skills).  (If you head down to the bottom of this article, you will see a few sample from my kids.)


What do I love about the Draw Write Now series?

  • My children can follow the instructions on their own.
  • We are practicing copywork as well as drawing.  (The copywork is manuscript.)
  • There is an amazing variety of drawings in this series:  animals, geography, vehicles, people, and so on.
  • These books have actually encouraged my kids to write their own sentences about different animals than the ones found in the series.
  • My kids are better at drawing because of these books.
  • The drawing and copywork get increasingly difficult as the books progress.
  • The series is also great to have as a tutor at Classical Conversations since we focus on drawing for the first 6 weeks of Fine Arts.
  • We even pull out the stack of drawing books when we have a number of children visiting for a few hours (for small group or just friends over to play).

Now, let me tell you more about the specific books.

Book 1:  It´s definitely the easiest with mostly animals and storybook characters.  The sentences are very simple to copy.

Book 2:  This book includes Christopher Columbus (Cycle 3 history), types of trees and parts of trees (Cycle 1 and 2 science), more animals, and even a simple globe.
Book 3:  This book´s focus includes Native Americans (which could fit in Cycle 1, 2, and 3´s history), Pilgrims (Cycle 3 history), and different biomes in North America (Cycle 2 science, Cycle 3 geography).

Book 4:  Book 4 is full of animals from the Polar regions.  Some of my kids’ favorite animals to draw are in this book.
Book 5:  This one´s packed with U.S. history (the flag, Washington, Statue of Liberty, Alamo, Neil Armstrong, and many more Cycle 3 connections) as well as a lesson on drawing the United States (and showing when regions were added to our country).
Book 6:  Book 6 covers animals and habitats.  This ties in nicely with the biomes at the beginning of Cycle 2´s science.  I like the variety of animals drawn since it gives my kids many more drawing techniques.
Book 7:  This book (and book 8) specifically work through animals of the world.  This one includes creatures from tropical, Northern, and down under forests.

Book 8:  As the last in the Draw Write Now series, this book includes animals from the savannas, grasslands, mountains, and deserts.  (Cycle 2 Science week 1 keeps running through my head as I type this.)  I really like the tips this book includes for drawing the continents as well.


Here are a few samples of my children´s work.  Obviously we all aren´t at the same level of drawing.



(Note:  My children sometimes write Bible verses with the illustrations instead of the book´s copywork.  These books themselves do not have Bible verses in them.)

We bought this series as a Christmas present a few years ago (if bought as a series, it does cost a little less per book).  It has honestly been one of the most used Christmas gifts in our home.  We love the Draw Write Now series.

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CC Blog Carnival: May 2016

Welcome to the May addition of the CC blog carnival.  If you are new to Classical Conversations or to this page, the CC Blog Carnival includes submissions from CC bloggers in all stages of CC.

I group articles by Foundations (age 4-grade 6), Essentials (grades 4-6), and Challenge (age 14 and up).  Also this month, I am including some general articles about Classical Conversations and homeschooling from bloggers in case you are new to CC and/or homeschooling.

If you are unfamiliar with Classical Conversations:  Beth from Pockets Full of Rock put together a great resource called What is CC?  This might be a great place for you to start.



My son wrote (with my typing skills) about Doing Hard Things after he completed Memory Master this year.  I would not have thought that teaching my kids to do hard things was on my “reasons to homeschool” list, but after watching how much he learned through this process, it is quickly becoming a top reason.

I shared about how our family uses Mystery of History to further our history learning.  History is definitely a favorite subject here.

In the upcoming Cycle 2, the Bible passage is Ephesians 6.  Mary from Homegrown Learners put together free copywork for this last time her family went through Cycle 2.  If your family is looking for copywork to go along with the Bible passage, you might enjoy this resource.

This is such a simple idea for having a map sketchbook and yet brilliant.  I’m glad Annie shared this with me.

Here is a Cycle 2 weekly planner from Brandy at HHAW.

If you are looking for books for teaching biblical truth to your Foundations-age kids, Beth at Pockets Full of Rocks shared her family’s favorites.

If you read lots of blogs or talk to lots of CC moms, you’ll find lots of people implement CC in different ways at home.  Here is Betsy’s encouragement to moms of young ones to keep things simple.

I enjoyed what Annie of 101 Days of Homeschooling shared about learning to love Shakespeare and teach it to her children.  I think I’m going to add the book she recommended to my summer reading list (which is probably long enough to last 2 years!  Anyone else make really long summer reading lists?).

If you enjoy seeing others’ book lists, here is Betsy’s Cycle 2 resource list.

Another book list is available at Half a Hundred Acre Wood by Brandy.  She calls this her unofficial CC Cycle 2 booklist.

Seeing patterns in math works well with multiplication circles.  Here is an idea to add in “extra” skip counting practice where (at least my) kids might not even realize they are practicing their skip counting.


Mary from Homegrown Learners shared about this year’s Faces of History on her campus.  Not all (but many) Essentials programs include FOH as part of their class.  My kids always look forward to this end-of-the-year project.



I appreciate this mom sharing her story of how she left CC at the Challenge years in search of “something else” only to realize that Challenge was exactly what her daughter needed.  They started into Challenge mid-year after changing back.

Here are some ideas for preparing for Challenge A.  We aren’t that far away from Challenge A so I want to read over this again.

Christy from Recipes for Family Life shares about how she made Henle Latin work for her Challenge A student.  It’s such an important part of CC to remember that the parent is still the teacher.

Betsy at Family Style Schooling shared a great way to memorize the Periodic Table.  She thought this would be great for Challenge B students.  (Since I have a son who asked for a periodic table poster for his bedroom, I am guessing he would like this too.)

I enjoyed reading Betsy’s article on using a topic wheel to discuss music.  Isn’t it exciting to see how subjects are interconnected?

General Classical Conversations and Homeschooling Links:

If you are like me and aren’t able to get to a homeschool convention this year, you might enjoy reading the list of book recommendations that Betsy put together from the convention she attended.

Brandy shared (in a video) about why her family chooses Classical Conversations.

In this article, there is an example of how the trivium relates to learning to play the guitar.  I love how learning classically applies to all of our learning.

Even though this family wouldn’t describe themselves as “classical” in their educational philosophy, they share why they still love CC.  It speaks to the CC program that it appeals to and works for various types of families.  (Our family shared why we love CC last year.)

Here is one daily lesson planner that you can download if you are interested.


I hope this CC blog carnival is an encouragement to you as you look forward to the end of this school year or the beginning of the next year!


Note:  If you are a CC blogger, check out the information here on how to submit to future CC blog carnivals.  If you go ahead and contact me, I can add you to my email list.