2020 Favorites


Terms 1 and 2 Favorites

  January-August 2020

As we near the end of Term 2, we have chosen our favorite books, curriculum, supplies and games. Some are their favorites, some are mine, but we all loved each of them. Some are serious, some are silly. Some are new, some are re-reads. Some we will use time and time again. Some we have been using for what seems like a lifetime. From poetry to picture books, and everything in between, these are the books that we have loved the most for this school year thus far, and all of the games and supplies that we are SO glad that we purchased. Every subject and lesson isn't represented here, but the wide feast of our days certainly is. These are the books that come to mind immediately when we are asked the question "What have you LOVED this school year?"



First Up, Books! 
Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes
We read Tiny Creatures as part of our Special Studies. For each Habitat, we talk about the microscopic creatures that live in that particular Habitat, and I wanted to find a book that explained what Microbes are. Tiny Creatures was a fun and thorough explanation with illustrations that both kept my children's attention and also aided the explanation of what microbes are. 

Cool Tessellations
Cool Tessellations contains short explanations about tessellations along with simple activities that can be done to practice what is learned. I am always searching for creative Math resources that promote mathematical reasoning, and this book was perfect for that! I used it for several math lessons for my 5th grader, reading one short explanation and assigning the corresponding activity. 

Heroes, Horses, and Harvest Moons
This is a repeat favorite. We read this poetry collection each autumn, and we never tire of it. It contains a wide variety of nursery rhymes and poetry that are perfect for fall, but not necessarily specific to solely fall. There are short bits of information about various poets and some of the poems. 

We LOVE the Ology books, and this year we are using Dragonology and Knightology in our lessons. Our Myth lessons this year are all about Dragons, and we have several books that we have enjoyed, but Dragonology is our favorite. One of our Biography lessons each week for the entire year is about Knights (we are in the Middle Ages for history) and again, Knightology is the favorite of the books we've read. We just read one two-page spread at a time. The boys picked up Oceanology at the library, so we are reading that in our Evening Basket. These books are all worth every penny!!

What in the Wild
What in the Wild is a book of Nature Riddles. Each two-page spread contains a close up photograph of something in nature, a riddle in the form of a poem, and a fold-out page revealing the answer for the riddle and giving a detailed explanation of that element of nature. It is fun, informative, and has a good variety of nature information that we haven't encountered in many other nature reads. 

50 Wacky Things Animals Do
We always have an animal book with short entries in our Evening Basket. Our current book is 50 Wacky Things Animals Do, and we LOVE it. It's so much fun, and contains unique animal information, which my children can't get enough of. 

All Aboard the Voyage of Discovery
This is also in our Evening Basket, so we also read one spread at a time, and my boys BEG me to read it more often. The book takes a journey through time chronologically looking at different elements of history in each time period, particularly through the lens of inventions and various tools. It's a lovely read, and we all enjoy it immensely. 


Next up, a few curriculum favorites! 

This is what we use for my 5th grader's weekly Coding lessons, and he absolutely loves it. I am making him go slowly, but he would do it for hours if I would allow him to. It is fun and witty, but is also easy to use and he's learning from it. He is able to progress without getting frustrated because there are tests, troubleshooting, prompts to save your work, and room for failure. The book and an internet connection is all that is needed, and it gives detailed instructions for everything. 

Draw Write Now  and Draw and Write Through History
Both of these series have worked perfectly for Drawing Lessons. Each boy works on his own with help from me as needed, so they can work on their lessons simultaneously. The books in both series contain Copywork along with the drawing lessons, but we mostly just use the drawing lessons. Both have thorough, easy to follow explanations and both allow the natural acquisition of actual useful drawing skills, rather than just being a prompt that takes up momentary space in our day. My 1st Grader is using the Farm book from the Draw Write Now series this year, and will be using the USA book from the series in 2nd grade. My 5th Grader is is using the Vikings and Middle Ages book from the Draw and Write Through History series this year, and will be using the Pilgrims, Pirates, and Patriots book from the series next year. 

Gentle Grammar
I use a variety of gentle grammar resources for my 5th grader, taking a slow and thorough approach to understanding the parts of speech and how they function together, as CM prescribed. Gentle Grammar is a free program from Mom Delights that is an updated version of C.C. Long's grammar books. I love several grammar resources, and I am still using grammar resources that I have shown and featured before. But, I have really loved adding in weekly lessons from Gentle Grammar. 

Draw the USA
Last year, we used Draw Asia, and this year we are using Draw the USA, and next year we will be using Draw Africa. I LOVE this series of mapping books. We are taking all year to draw the US, step-by-step, and these books make drawing maps accessible for all ages and all abilities. We use this book weekly for our Mapping lesson, and I enjoy pulling it out every single week. 

A Castle With Many Rooms
A Castle With Many Rooms is the most engaging and living history spine for the Middle Ages that I have ever read. We use it for my 5th Grader's history lesson, but I wish that I would have chosen it for our Family History Spine for our study of the Middle Ages this year. It is SUCH a lovely book, and I am learning so much as I read it aloud. The chapters are short enough to leave room for narration, discussion, and pondering but they are also packed full of ideas and descriptions that allow me to understand the Middle Ages in a way that I never have before. 

I have featured Cheryl Harness' books before, and I can never get enough of them. This one is no exception. Her use of language and understanding of the heart of people draw us into the story, and ALL of us can't take our ears or our eyes off of these readings. I have adored every book I have read of hers, and we really enjoyed her portrayal of Teddy Roosevelt. 

Delighting in Habitats: Desert and Delighting in Scouting Volume 2
I am not sure if it's "proper" to put your own curriculum in a Favorites post, but I am doing it anyway. ;) I am doing it because both I and my boys absolutely LOVE these units. I am also doing it because I can say without hesitation that I would purchase these materials from someone else. Both Special Studies and Scouting have become the absolute HIGHLIGHTS of our homeschool week. We have had both Special Studies and Scouting in our homeschool schedule for years, and we have enjoyed many resources and books...but these units are our favorite resource for both of these subjects that we have ever used. Both boys love every single element of the curriculum, are diligently and thoroughly filling our their Student Journals, are engaged in every word of every reading, are making what they have learned a part of their play and their every day conversations, and can't wait for the next lesson every time we finish one. I can't possibly NOT feature these units as favorites, because they truly are. 


Games are important to our homeschool. We play a Logic Game and a Math Game weekly as an official part of our lessons, but we also enjoy science games and language games regularly. These are our favorites for this year so far! 

Mental Blox
This is the most requested Logic Game when I ask the boys for input while planning our week. It contains two sets of shape blocks and a large amount of 3-D Puzzle challenge cards. There are a few ways to play, and the game is versatile and gives you mileage for your money! 

Logic Links
Logic Links is another simple, effective logic game that we love. It can be used by all ages, with varying degrees of difficulty included on the challenge cards. This game is perfect choice during busy weeks, because it doesn't take long, but packs a punch in effectiveness. 

National Parks Opoly Jr.
We LOVE this game. I purchased it for our next round of studying the National Parks next year, but of course, we couldn't wait until next year to play it. I bought the Jr. Version because while my 6 year old can (and does) play monopoly, I wanted the play of this game to be focused on the Parks themselves and on the natural history element of gameplay, rather than on building his math skills. I am so glad that I did. This version enables games to go much faster, for everyone of all ages to enjoy the game equally, and for us to have time to read about the parks as we collect them. This will be played for years to come, even as my children get older. 

Chickapig is our most recent Logic Games purchase, and since we played it during lessons, the boys have ceased to put it away. They always have a game going between them, and they have even figured out how to enjoy it alone, strategizing and planning moves with the pieces. 
*Note, part of gameplay is to avoid the cow poop while moving your chickapig toward your gate. If that bothers you, don't purchase the game. ;) 

Circuit Cubes
Both boys have gravitated back to their Circuit Cubes this year, and have spent hours experimenting with them, both together and independently. They have engaged with these so often that I have added more sets to my list for Christmas this year. 


Next...several Usborne favorites! 

For a long time, I avoided Usborne. I knew that they publish a lot of twaddle, and while I enjoyed their Reference books, I always purchased them used at a lower price. I have recently discovered several items that we LOVE and that have been a huge benefit to our homeschool. I purchased a few things to support a friend, and was pleasantly shocked at how very useful several items have been for us...and enjoyable! I won't link each item individually, but here is a list of a few of the items that we have absolutely loved: 
1. Architect Academy 
I bought this for my 5th Grader, and in doing so I discovered a treasure! We love this book so much that I have already purchased 3 more books from the series (Vet Academy, Engineer Academy, and Chef Academy) for next year. We are utilizing these in my 5th grader's Career Craft lessons, and the books are thoroughly engaging while also being practical. The activities are not "busy work", but have actually benefited him with understanding and practical skill. 
2. Architecture Scribble Book 
My 5th Grader has this in his Independent Morning Basket and he chooses it every single day. It supplements his lessons in Architecture Academy, but it is thorough and useful enough that it could be used for lessons as well. 
3. Number Puzzles and Games and Logic Puzzles 
Both of these are in my 5th Grader's Independent Morning Basket as well, and they both contain puzzles that are both fun and also promote reasoning. Neither contain mindless busy work, and both have challenged him in a fun way! 
4. Pencil and Paper Games 
We use this sometimes for our weekly Logic Game, and we have enjoyed every game we have played so far. Each game contains several sheets so that you can play many times. Each game is for 2 players, and only requires a pencil to play. All of the games that we have played so far have been accessible and enjoyable for both boys. 
5. Bear Grylls Animal Activity Books 
These are in both boys' Independent Morning Baskets and they both adore them. They work for both ages, because although some of the actual activities/puzzles are a bit challenging for my 6 year old and a bit too easy for my 10 year old, the variety provides plenty for them to enjoy, and the information contained (especially in the "Bear's Tips" notes) are what both boys really enjoy. At such an affordable price, I have purchased every book in the series, and both boys say they want to complete the books that the other has, so I will be purchasing second copies of every book. 
6. Young Puzzle Series 
The price of these Puzzle Books is unbeatable, and they are perfect for my 6 year old. They are challenging, but accessible, and they are lovely while also being FUN!. 

If you'd like to purchase any of these resources, here is the shopping link for my personal Usborne representative (and my dear friend). 


Lastly, a few supplies and assorted items. 

I needed a few storage carts for different areas in our homeschool spaces, and the two pictured above were my favorite purchases, and have proved useful in exactly the ways I intended and hoped for. 

3-Tier Rolling Cart  
I purchased this cart for Math Manipulatives and other various items that didn't really have a proper storage space, and it is functioning perfectly for that. I chose it because the top tier is deep enough to store items but not so deep that it couldn't also function as a shelf for a bit of decor/ letter board. It stores a supply caddy, a seasonal decor piece, and my letter board perfectly. The quality is sufficient for the price, and the peg board/hooks/baskets on the side is an extremely useful feature! 

15- Drawer Cart
I purchased this cart for all of our Treasure Time books and resources. It is serving its purpose perfectly. The quality is about the same as every other rolling cart of similar design, and it won't last forever, but I will certainly get my money's worth of use. I chose it because of the two sizes of drawers, and because the shelf on top would hold my binders. This holds everything used for Treasure Time as I intended for it to, and it has plenty of space, with a couple of drawers to spare. 

Paper Mate Comfortmate Ultra Pencils
My 5th grader has recently invested in more quality mechanical pencils than the basic ones that I provided. He has considered all options carefully, and even researched so that he could invest the money required and get a quality pencil in return. He is loving these Comfortmate pencils so far, and says that he thinks it was money well spent. I used it briefly and I have to agree. I am including it because it is a favorite of his, and also because I am planning to invest in some for myself! 

Bic Intensity Dry Erase Markers
My personal favorite supply item this year has been the Bic Intensity dry erase markers. I am constantly trying and buying different dry erase markers, and I am not attached to any of them. I like some, love some, hate some, but always rotate through many kinds. But, I will be keeping the Bic Intensity markers in stock constantly. They are perfect for writing on my dry erase calendar, and for writing the date and week number in the corner of my board. They are also great for drawn narrations, because they are finer than a regular marker, but not as fine as a wet erase or a fine-point marker. I plan to purchase each boy a pack on my next trip to the store to keep for doing narrations. 

There you have it....our favorite books and resources of this year so far. Spreading a wide feast is such a joy, and hearing what everyone loves the most reminds me that children TRULY are born persons, that ideas TRULY are living sustenance, and that the feast TRULY is worth my effort to spread before them. 

I would love to hear what you are loving most right now, or what you have loved most in your most recent term. What are you favorites, and why?

May all your days be spent....Delightfully Feasting 

Crystin <3

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