Great! Illustrated Classics

I discovered these a couple of years ago and started stocking up slowly.  We have maybe ten of them, but not all of them have been read yet.  That’s because there is so much GREAT stuff out there to read!  These books are perfect on many levels because they retain the essence of the story being told, but the print is larger, the story is shorter, and the text is broken up with illustrations every now and then.  If you read these aloud, you’ll get the benefit of going back to revisit some stories from your childhood, or maybe introducing yourself to a classic story for the first time.

If you spy a copy by this publisher at your library, pick it up and see what you think.  Click on the books to grab more information – these are just a few examples.  You can see the entire collection at   Oh – and it looks like you can read the first chapter of most, if not all, of the books as a .pdf by clicking on the link next to each book on their site.  The books on this site are running around $7-$8 each, can also be found used on Amazon or you’ve got a good chance of finding them at the library.

This will be used as part of our upcoming unit study on whales and dolphins.

I loved this book while growing up and lost myself in her story.  I could practically taste the cheese and bread Heidi’s grandfather made for her.

Read it.  Captain Nemo was a tormented man………


Math Games

Let the games begin!  Here are several math games and math game sources you might wish to take a look at.  Just click on the picture for more information!  Not sure if these will appeal to you, because sometimes computer or video games merely serve as a substitute for YOUR attention, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Board games, however, are interactive and let you participate in the learning process.   I’ll include a smattering of computer games and board games/card games:

A game for the PC or Mac and compliments the book by the same title.

  • Captivating story sheds new light on middle-school math concepts
  • Discover prime numbers; explore Fibonacci numbers
  • Learn about powers and square roots
  • Glossary with mathematicians, terms, and concepts
  • 11 challenging games for extra fun

For grades 3-6.

Ages 6-12.  A game of timing and basic math facts (strategy, memory and addition).

This would have been a great game to add to our unit study on Ancient Egypt!  Parent’s Choice and Dr. Toy Award recipient.  Combining basic math operations skills (addition, subtraction,
multiplication, and division) with order of operations practice,
players trek their way across the rows of the pyramid by using
numeral and operation triangles to correctly create and solve
math problems.  But beware, your opponent can steal or swap
your number triangle and complete his pyramid first!

This would be very easy to make – no need to purchase it.  Extra fun for families who are schooling more than one child, too.

Love this game.  Hate the loud noise the die make when they hit the center of the box, but that can be remedied by throwing them onto the carpet.

This might entice some kids to sit with their math facts.  However, I think it’s a bit pricey at $40 to $45??

Catch Zeus if you can!  The great Greek god has bolted and it’s up to you to nab this dashing deity.  Play cards strategically, adding numbers as you climb Mt. Olympus.  Grab Zeus when the total reaches a multiple of 10.  Better yet, summon the strength of Apollo, Poseidon, or all-powerful Hera to bring Zeus within your grasp.  Reach the top of Mt. Olympus with Zeus in hand and you’re a mortal among the gods.  To play is human.  To win, divine!

For those who haven’t spent summers at chess camp!  Finally, a simple, guided way to learn to play chess – The world’s greatest game – quickly and without stress! The secret? An innovative deck of action cards. Each card depicts a chess piece and how it moves. You move only this piece on your turn. This eliminates the need to memorize all the chess pieces and their moves in advance. And the great news is that after a few turns, you’ll instinctively know how to move and capture with your knights and bishops, rooks and pawns, king and queen!

The object of the game is to get your marbles into a row before the other players do the same. Roll 3 dice and add, subtract, multiply, or divide the dice numbers. Then pop your marble into the hole that corresponds with your answer. Many answers are possible for each roll of the dice. Young children will like using the standard dice. A 12-sided die makes it even more challenging for older players. Because chance enters in with the roll of the dice, even the youngest player, not just the smartest, can be the winner. Recommended for ages 9-adult.

Not really an ‘arithmetic’ game, per say, but a game of spatial reasoning.  It encourages you to look at things differently and train your brain to recognize what you didn’t see before.  This is a much-loved game by many, many families!

Tangrams can be fun.  Thinkfun makes many fun little games like this.

Family Math.  A lot of families have it!  It’s a homeschool standby with much useful variety.  There are other editions available for older children.

Logic and math facts.  Starts out easy, gets harder.  Max likes these.  If you’d like to try out a puzzle, go to

Recommended on  For ages 9-12.

Another version.  We’re working on fractions now, so this will probably end up in our library.

A game of sequencing.  You could up the ante by trying to arrange all even or odd numbers or multiples of a number.

Grade Levels: 2-6

Sports Math is a collection of games designed to let students practice their math skills under the enthusiastic direction of sports desk anchor Les Dynam and roving reporter Sam Mathews who introduce each game and comment on the action and progress. Kick a “fractioned” soccer ball through a goal post or measure your skill at the long jump in meters; it’s all about using math skills in everyday life until taught concepts are fully learned!

Also available for decimals, percentages and fractions, depending on what you might be working on.

Practice makes perfect in the world of math, but practice is more fun when it’s a game instead of homework. The rules of this board game resemble those in Scrabble, but Smath is played by creating math equations instead of words. The game includes a playing board and lots of tiny tiles with numbers, signs for math operations, and brackets to create more complex equations, which players can place on the board horizontally or vertically. The game can be played at different levels of difficulty, from simple addition problems to equations combining operations (for example, (2)(2 + 3) = 5 x 2). The game is for two to four players at different levels of math proficiency, making this an educational (but still entertaining) game for the entire family, the classroom, or for home schoolers.

Same concept, but may have some design flaws.  Read the first review on Amazon and decide if this game is worth your time or money.

Fatbrain Toys has the best pics and description of this game.

This multiple award-winning exciting multiplication game assists younger players in basic multiplication skills and challenges players proficient in multiplication. Roll ‘n Multiply teaches multiplication, encourages cooperative learning, and enhance strategic thinking. Simply roll the dice, multiply the numbers, check the answer against the multiplication table and plan your strategy. Sounds easy but what happens when your opponent blocks your space? You don’t want to be captured. Includes 2 10-sided dice, 44 playing pieces, multiplication table, playing board, game tray and instruction manual. Plan on 5 minutes to learn the game and 5 to 15 minutes to play the game. Two players. Ages 8 and up.

We’ve played this, but outgrew it very quickly.  Kids learn budgeting and making change.

Okay, that’s enough for now.

Marvel Heroes Help Save the Math Day

Still worksheets and sets of problems, but decorated with superheroes (which for some kids, might take the edge off twenty multiplication problems?)  Not generally the stuff that turns my light on, but thought these would be worth posting, just because they are a tad unusual and could appeal to the obsessions of some kids.  Are you familiar with the obsessions of some kids?  Wow – are they something!  Powerful stuff.  Sometimes it’s worth running with them.


Are fifth graders still enamoured with Batman?  Not sure about that one, but maybe so.  It seems like a younger age fixation.


Today, thanks to The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat, we took a closer look at tessellations as math and as art.  M.C. Escher was a world-renowned graphic artist who was Dutch-born but did much of his work in Rome.  (M.C. stands for Maurits Cornelis, by the way).  Mr. Escher was fascinated with impossible spaces and the division of planes in unique ways.  He was fond of using tessellations in his art.  If you have never seen any of his symmetry work, you should take a gander!  He certainly saw things differently.

We started with the lesson in Penrose the Mathematical Cat on tessellations and then tried our hand at making our own tessellations by warping rectangles, cutting them out and then arranging them into a design. Penrose gives a short and easy description of how to do this.  Then we moved to a website about M.C. Escher and spent some time looking at his amazing art!  By all means, go to his official website (Mr. Escher died in 1972, but his foundation maintains a website of his work) at:

His works of symmetry can be viewed by clicking ‘Picture Gallery’ and then ‘Symmetry’.

While searching for more information on tessellations we ran into this very fun website; it’s a treat for the eyes and you can download several Java applets to fool around with various designs (yes, long address, isn’t it?)  The shortened version or home page is – from there you can click on “Math Artwork”.

And finally, we happened to have a tessellation puzzle of bugs, so worked with that for a while at the kitchen table.  Max was better at fitting the pieces into clumps; I could only seem to get them into a long line.  He is definitely more spatially oriented than I am.  I would not have made for a very good dentist!  The Busy Beetle puzzle can be found here:

Here are some other fun tidbits that are tessellation-related:

A coloring book.


Slow Parenting

NOTE:  I’ve moved the entire High on Homeschool blog over to Blogger.  Here’s the link:  C’mon over and visit – lots of new material!

This morning over breakfast I read an article in this week’s Time Magazine titled ‘Can These Parents Be Saved?’  It’s a riveting romp through the past generation’s parenting habits and how some moms and dads have turned into anxious helicopters buzzing a continuous circle just over their children’s heads lest they fall down or make a mistake, or worse, eat something with partially hydrogenated soybean oil in it!  The author, Nancy Gibbs, did an outstanding job of compiling seemingly harmless events such as a school auctioning off the right to cut in front in line with the car and drop a child off directly in front of the school building, or the development of the leash and harness systems you’ve seen some toddlers wear, or groups of parents lobbying to get jungle gyms off of playgrounds, or worse yet, schools cutting out recess to use that time to improve test scores with parent approval, or some preschools offering Mandarin Chinese lessons – she compiled these into a much bigger picture of what is going on with us crazy parents.  Alone, these events seem rather benign, but put them together and they paint a rather startling picture.  She’s right!  She states, “we were so obsessed with our kids’ success that parenting turned into a form of product development”.  A child was something we could truly sink our teeth into – like a project!  She is also pointing out how our worries are sometimes getting the best of us and rendering us ridiculous.  She stitches words together more precisely than I can to convey the message and she’s good at it – read the article if you can here because I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job getting to the heart of her premise:,8599,1940395,00.html

It got me to thinking about those of us who homeschool and how we might or might not lean in this direction of over-parenting.  Of course we want our children to be successful in life, but what does that really mean?  Are we secretly aiming for CEO positions with multi-million dollar a year salaries for our kids?  Is that success?  In whose eyes?  Why are we homeschooling anyway?  Why are we pouring so much of ourselves into our kids and their educations at home?  Is this about them, or……could it possibly be about us?? 

Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying.  I’m not trying to be accusatory.  I’m just trying to encourage some thought about all of it, to help us all stay balanced and therefore raise balanced kids, because I think the slope is slippery and we can easily tumble down it and hit a rock at the bottom.  Ouch.  I’ve been thinking about it all morning – it’s a rather eye-opening subject.

She brings up the idea of s….l….o…..w……p….a….r….e…n….t….i….n…..g; some call it free-range parenting.  Loosening the grip, letting kids be.  Letting kids have ample time to play so they can tap their natural imaginations and learn to problem-solve.  How about dropping some of your children’s activities?  Slowing down the pace.  She points out that due to our national economic situation, many families have had to scale back all of the running around and much to their surprise, they are learning that they like it!  Their relationships with their children have even improved.  Less car time, more face-to-face time. 

We homeschoolers can benefit from some self-examination in this arena, too.  We are in a very unique situation, one where we spend an awful lot of time with our children (not time spent awfully, just a lot of it!)  Of course we want the best for our kids.  We pulled them out of school or we decided to homeschool them from birth, for deeply personally reasons.  We need to be aware, though, of how much of ourselves we are asking our kids to become in our hopes and dreams for them.  How much pressure are we applying on a daily basis for them to pull ahead, for them to learn everything about a subject we can possibly get our hands on?  I would wager that some parents might use the level to which their children excel as a direct measure of their success as parents – an affirmation of sorts.  Then it becomes an issue about us, and not the children and their best interests. 

I struggle with this concept internally as I put together materials for Max to learn from.  I have to be very, very careful that I stop to think about life from his perspective, not mine.  The last thing he needs is pressure from me, whether it’s real or imagined, for him to learn something or worse, my expectation that he needs to excel at it.  There is a fine line between a genuine interest in a subject on his part, and my excitement to teach him said subject. My excitement could easily overpower his desire to learn – and then I’ve blown it.   As a relatively new homeschooling mom, I am concerned about this for Max’s sake. 

We purposely opted to not sign up for classes or co-op events for a while so that we could feel our way through homeschooling.  I am so glad I resisted the urge to jump at the science class, the art class, the web-based opportunity that meets every Tuesday and Thursday at such and such a time, etc.  Our days have taken on a peaceful rhythm, one that I am reluctant to trade in for more activities.  We have lots of breathing room, many casual hours in which to read, draw or just hang out.  The only threat to Max’s well-being I would wager, is well……me!  And my desires for him.  I am so glad I picked up Ms. Gibbs’s article this morning and read it through.  Maybe it was just good timing – sometimes that happens.  You’ll be mulling over an issue in your head at various levels and then along comes a book or article that helps you sort it out.  This appears to be one of those times.  Please post your thoughts, even if you disagree.      


Covert Detectives in the Neighborhood

Originally we began tackling geography by learning the major mountain ranges, rivers, continents, deserts, oceans, etc. along with various geographical terms.  Necessary information in my mind, but it was dry and dull – working on blackline maps, working on the spellings, reviewing and then quizzing.  It was as good a place to start as any, but a very good thing happened a long the way:  I stopped to think about it!  Sometimes that’s the answer.  Stop.  Think.  Move forward, perhaps in a different direction.

As a grownup, I am learning that I’m making assumptions about Max’s knowledge base.  Well, doesn’t everybody know that north is that way?  And if you turn in this direction, you’ll be facing to the west, where the sun sets, right?  Basic information which when I stopped all the noise to think, is probably not a part of Max’s internal world.  So what’s the point of trying to cram in places in the world when he doesn’t understand some of the basic underlying concepts?

Brown Paper School to the rescue!  The Book of Where:  Or How to be Naturally Geographic by Neil Bell:


This book cuts to the chase with activities designed to help you figure out where you are in space, where you are in  your world.  No better place to start than in your own house!  We blindfolded ourselves and tried to find a pretend piece of hidden gum under the third couch cushion in the living room.  Next the ‘gum’ got moved across the house to the master bath’s top drawer on the left sort of scenario.  The point they were trying to teach is that we can use all of our senses to determine where we are at any given time.  With our sight taken away, we had to rely on photographic memory and a few bumps here and there to help us get where we needed to go.

Next we learned about the importance of drawing things to scale.  Max chose to measure his room and a few things in it (like the bed) and he drew a bird’s-eye view of that room on graph paper using a scale of 1″=2 feet.  Now we have a better understanding of distances on maps and the realization that even though Texas looks like it’s ‘right over there’, it takes forever and a day to drive there.  Bummer and wonderful!

Yesterday we went on a stroll about the neighborhood and pretended we were helping a private eye by the name of ‘Detective Oh No’ case the neighborhood.  We followed along with the story and in the process began learning our city’s numbering and naming system for streets.  We took a clipboard along and Max diagrammed out the streets and the house numbers, learning as he went.  After we safely avoided the 10-ton garbage masher with the meanest looking driver this side of Cleveland and a granny in a wheel chair wearing combat boots and a beard, we made it back to the ranch to look at the data.  I think Max has a better appreciation for our mail carrier now since finding all of those numbers and houses can be confusing! 

Next week we’ll be making our own compass and will take a look at how the earth and sun interact.  It’s going back to square one and building from there, which is, well……….brilliant!  And so much more applicable at this stage.

Assembling a New Unit Study

Tonight I started preliminary research for a new unit study on whales and dolphins.  Max informed me he is also interested in sting rays, manta rays and possibly creatures that are in the deeper parts of the ocean like the Lantern Fish.  This ought to be interesting!  I’m planning a three-week study with nice broad strokes, so maybe we can hit most of what he’s wanting to learn about.  A few days ago we went to the aquarium and saw the sting rays getting fed their crab rations – ick.  But they seemed to like it very much!  I was more tuned in to the two seagulls who have permanent wing damage – they were stationed on the fake rocks next to the sting ray pond.  They hang out there all day and don’t seem to realize they are hanging out on fake rocks near a fake ocean.  They even jump in and paddle around with the sting rays. 

So, am finding lots of neat stuff pertinent to the subject at hand.  We might even watch Free Willy!  Nova has a good film out about whales and dolphins and there is an IMAX movie available, too.  I usually use the week in between each six-week school block to catch my breath and put together the next six-week block, so that’s the process I’m starting now.  First I start off with an Internet search and try to find unusual, intriguing resources and ideas.  Next I’ll head to the library and see what’s available there.  Sometimes I forget to check what’s already on the bookshelves around here – this time I won’t forget.  If given enough time, we generally have more than enough items to pick from for the three to six week studies we’ve been doing. 

After looking at a bunch of resources and ideas, I try to take a step back and look at the big picture, trying to determine what aspects of the subject are the most important to offer.  In this particular study, I can think of a number of topics such as whaling and its history, what whaling has obviously done to the whale populations (interject my own agenda there, huh?), the properties of sound and echolocation (how whales and dolphins communicate), migratory patterns, cool facts, rescuing beached or stranded whales, which of these mammals are endangered, regions of the earth they inhabit (geography), marine biologists and what they do, mother/baby relationships, size comparisons, etc.  I’ll have to think about this some more.  It’s easy to see some science mixed in there, along with geography and history.  Pulling spelling and vocabulary words will be easier once I have some of the materials in-hand. 

Then I have to take a step even further back and remember that Max has a genuine interest in this subject, so I’d best not stomp on his interest and kill it.  Too much is too much.  Always searching for that balance in our learning so as not to overpower him or turn him off.  That’s not an easy thing to establish, believe me. 

So, making my way through the beginnings of another unit study, one which I’m looking forward to.  It’s a bit of a break from the history tangent we’ve been on thus far, but that’s okay.  Should you have any ideas about resources for this one, could you let me know?  Thanks!!!!!! 

I’m also searching for one or two good literature sources that incorporate whales or dolphins.  These are read-aloud books so we can both enjoy them.  An interesting coincidence this week – having spoken with two moms about reading aloud to their children, two moms who expressed their doubts.  I am a huge proponent of engaging in this activity for as long as you can, even if you have a fourteen-year old seated next to you!  Reading aloud to a child does magical things for vocabulary, for comprehension, for his/her imagination, not to mention it’s a wonderful way to nurture your child.  Who doesn’t love this kind of attention?  The best we have to offer our children is a gift of ourselves and reading aloud to them is where it is at.  Plus you often get caught up in the story, too!  And there are some awesome stories out there.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly your voice gets stronger.  At first I got hoarse.  Now I can read three or four chapters at a time without a problem.  Sometimes if we’re snacking and I’m eating, I’ll ask Max to take over and read for a while until I finish.  Somewhere that perfect book about a whale or a dolphin will pop up and we’ll stumble upon it.  One I can recommend that was read over the summer is Grayson by Lynn Cox:


It’s a heartwarmer about a girl who meets a lost baby Gray whale while out on her daily ocean swim; beautiful imagery!  You’ll get attached to all of the mammals……..

Back to the search!