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If you're like most of my readers, you're committed to your family and creating the best home life possible. But the truth is, if you've given up one income to homeschool your kids, you may be struggling to make ends meet. That's why I wrote this special report, The 9 Best Business Ideas for Homeschool Moms, in which I help you design the best business to complement your family's goals. There's only one way to get it—by subscribing to my weekly blog updates here:
 
 

Homeschooling

Launch Your Homeschool To A New Level Facebook Party

We are so excited for the HUGE Facebook party that is coming up Thursday night, May 29th, at 9 pm Eastern. In addition to fun, insightful, and somewhat frantic conversation, our partners are joining us in offering over $1,200 worth of prizes!! This is DEFINITELY one party you do not want to miss!

How do I Facebook Party?

If you have never participated in a Facebook party before, don’t worry! It’s easy to do! First, like the Teach Them Diligently Convention Facebook page. Next, show up a little before 9 pm EDT on Thursday night with some ice cream or other fun snack. (Ok, that’s not ABSOLUTELY necessary, but I like to do it anyway!) Once the party starts, we’ll be posting questions or prizes about every 2 minutes, so make sure you refresh your page often. The party will move FAST. You are free to chat in the threads, answer the questions, register for the prizes, and just enjoy the evening. After the party, we’ll give you plenty of time to make sure you’ve registered before the giveaways close. We’ll pick our winners and announce them all on our FB page after the party. It will be a perfect end to a very fun evening!

Facebook Party Scavenger Hunt

Just for fun, we are adding an extra element to our Facebook party this time. We will be taking some “field trips” to other Facebook pages to enter to win a series of prizes worth over $100 each! Thanks to Ali Dent, Doorposts, The Teach Them Diligently Planner (Powered by My Homeschool Grades,) Dual Credit at Home, Shiller Math, Knowledge Quest, Raising Real Men, and APlus TutorSoft Math for making the Launch Your Homeschool to a New Level Facebook Party so special! Each of these companies certainly play a major role in helping homeschool families launch their homeschool to that new level, too! Make sure you check them out and learn how they can help your family!

What Prizes Can Be Won?

Win These Prizes With Launch Your Homeschool Facebook Party

That doesn’t even mention all the door prizes and freebies that will be offered!!

Pre-Party Prize Pack And RSVP

RSVP early to register to win a Pre-Party Prize Pack, consisting of a Teach Them Diligently Prize Pack (Travel mug, tote bag, AND free registration to your choice of Teach Them Diligently Events in 2014 or 2015!) as well as a lifetime membership to the Teach Them Diligently Planner, powered by My Homeschool Grades. Pre-party prize pack is worth more than $225!! Follow the instructions below to RSVP and enter to win!

Make your plans NOW to join us at our next Facebook Party on May 29th! And don’t forget to register for Dallas before it’s too late to save an extra $10 with early online registration the deadline to save an extra $10 is TOMORROW!! Act now.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Heads up, homeschool bloggers!

If you find great satisfaction in reviewing and promoting the best, top-notch products in the homeschool marketplace, then you will love what I am about to share with you.

If you blog as a hobby, but also to contribute to your family’s income, even if just for little extras that make the kids (and your husband) smile, then you will really be excited about this.

I want to tell you about a brand new affiliate opportunity that you will not want to miss out on. If you like promoting quality homeschool materials and receiving a hefty commission sum, then you will like this!

Have you heard about the Build Your Bundle sale coming up this summer? It is a unique sale that allows customers to bundle only the items that they really want. The prices are great without being ridiculous. The items included are quality, top-notch, award-winning products. We are thrilled that several of our products are included.

Would you like to get in on the action? While you cannot promote the sale just yet, you can do two EASY things to get ready:

  1. 1. Sign up to become an affiliate, so that you can receive 30% commissions in the summer when you probably need the money the most (for vacations, for next year’s curriculum, for camps, etc.)
  2. 2. Recruit your friends to sign up as an affiliate too. Why would you want to do this? Because you get a 10% commission for every bundle they sell too. SWEET!

Click the image below to get started!

Psst… Jump in now BEFORE everyone knows about this!

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Are you wrapping up your school year or homeschooling through the summer? Because we live in the Pacific Northwest, we take a summer break to enjoy the glorious weather. There is no place lovelier than Oregon in summer. Well, that’s what we think anyway.

As an aside, when we lived in Texas, we schooled though the summer and took longer breaks during the spring and fall when it was more fun to go outside.

Anyway, we are thinking through our summer plans and the trips that we will take. We’ve got two trips up to Washington and a trip down to California planned. Plus, we’ll go camping at least once or twice.

In any case, it looks like we’ll be spending some time in the car. We don’t mind the kids watching a movie or two, but prefer that they spend the majority of their time in the car reading good books or playing games.

How about you? Do you have any road trips planned?

You may just need some great books and activities for all that time that you will be trapped (I mean, blessed!) with your kids in the car. Even a 2-3 hour car ride can get awfully long if you do not plan some activities or bring some good books for the trip. We have hand-picked our favorite KQ resources to make the time you spend in a small, crowded space for long periods of time… well, bearable!

In fact, there are only a couple days left to get some great resources for up to 50% off. You can check it all out here:

road-trip-sale

Perhaps you are planning now for the 2014/2015 school year already? Good for you! You can never plan too early. If you are planning / hoping to include any of these resources – What Really Happened, A Child’s Geography, Presidential Scrapbook, Star-Spangled State Book and more – this is the time to stock up! Many of these titles will not be discounted below retail prices again this year. Prices discounted from 25-50% off. Enough said… the prudent shopper will know what to do.

Here is the link to the sale again:

http://www.knowledgequestmaps.com/Road-Trip-Sale.html

Sale continues through Monday, May 19th at midnight. If you have any questions or need any assistance, write to helpdesk@knowledgequestmaps.com.

Bon voyage and may the wind be ever at your back!

Question: What are your best tips for making family memories on a road trip?

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We’re nearly there! Pat yourself on the back for reaching the finish line! You are a superstar – a champ! Most homeschooling parents like to take a summer break of some length even if it does not last a full 3 months. And we’re so close, we can almost touch it. But with the sun shining brightly outside and the weather warming up, it can be difficult to stay focused and finish the school year strong.

finish-race2

Here are 3 ideas to add some “kick” as you approach the finish line:

1. Change it up! Do something new to keep interest high as you compete for your kids’ attention. We asked our friends on Facebook what they do to regain their children’s attention or to stop fighting for it. Here are their ideas:

  • Go outside and run!
  • Turn up the music and dance!
  • Read aloud a chapter from an engrossing book
  • Do a unit study (like the free New Zealand one here)
  • Take a hike in the woods and collect something
  • Do push-ups or laps
  • Go to the park
  • Go to the library
  • 10 minutes on the trampoline
  • Play a board game
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Do an art project
  • Watch educational videos
  • Play educational computer games
  • Play Globalmania

2. Look Up! If you have been homeschooling your kids since August or September, then you might have your head down with your shoulder to the wheel. Sometimes we are just putting one foot in front of the other, homeschooling by rote, just to get by. Sometimes that is all we can do. But I encourage you to take a deep breath and look up!

Look into the faces of your children and truly see them. Take a hard look at your schedule and determine if it needs tweaking for your final weeks of school to make it work better for you (it’s okay to lighten it up). Open your eyes to the opportunities around you and make the most of them. Sometimes we are in so much of a hurry or so determined to accomplish something, that we lose the joy. Don’t lose the joy!

3. Throw an End-of-the-Year Party! We like to throw historical feasts 2-3 times a year, with one to finish up the school year. We dress in costume, cook period appropriate dishes and follow the social customs of the day. On our final day of school, we will also give out evaluations for our students up through 8th grade and updated transcripts with grades for our high school students. It is a fun night of recognition and makes for very fond memories. These memories last throughout the summer so that the idea of starting back to school is pleasant and doesn’t produce groans from the kids.

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feasts_collage

Question: What are you doing to finish this year strong?

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rain2It’s Springtime! And while I would rather have my kids out playing under the apple blossoms or even in the Oregon rain puddles, we often find ourselves trapped in the house or the car and need to accomplish something educational (well, the outdoors is loaded with great educational opportunities, but there are times when we need something more measurable). We are trying to hold onto some semblance of school around the Johnson household through the end of May at least, but we are needing to change things up a bit in order to keep everyone’s attention.

I’m excited to share some of the fun things we are doing to keep school interesting, but first, I promised that I would share our favorite educational mobile apps as Part III of the Teaching With Tech series. So, you’ll have to wait until next week’s blog post for ideas that do not involved anything technical (of which, there are many!).

Teaching with Tech, Part I – Favorite Educational Youtube Videos

Teaching with Tech, Part II – Mobile App Best Practices

These are the apps that we use on a daily, weekly or regular basis. They are listed in no particular order, except that we listen, read and memorize the Bible first. Oh, one other thing… these links are all apple because we have an ipad, but if you have an android, just search through the Google Play store.

Our Top 12 Mobile App List:

 

1. Bible.Is or YouVersion for Bible memorization and Bible read-through.

2. Classical Conversations for Cycle 2 memory work

3. BrainPop for general (random) educational information.

4. StarWalk for finding/learning about stars and planets in the night sky

5. Frog Dissection for odor-free and gross-out free frog dissection for high school Biology class

6. Spelling City for weekly spelling lists

7. Letter School and Wet-Dry-Try for handwriting and letter practice

8. World Book for events that happened on this day in history.

9. Helpful aids such as Dictionary and Calculator

10. Kindle and iBooks for reading fiction and nonfiction

11. Quest Magazine for learning fun things from history

12. Timeline Builder for assembling our history timeline.

 

Great news! Timeline Builder has just finished undergoing a major revision and will be updated in the app store by May 1st. To celebrate, we are reducing the price to $3.99 until April 29th. Get version 2.0 now and then receive the upgrade (version 3.0) free when it becomes available around the end of April or beginning of May. Here are some of the fantastic upgrades that you will appreciate:

Font selection – choose from a large selection of fonts for timeline titles, events and descriptions.

Color selection – choose from a large selection of font colors for all of the above too.

Event title wrapping – add as much information to the title now as you want as the text will wrap rather than expand to the sides of the screen.

Higher resolution retina graphics for today’s crystal clear, ultra-sharp retina devices.

Better control over box closure, so that it doesn’t happen by accident when typing in a description.

More date format choices.

Updated for iOS 7.1

 

Question: What are your favorite apps, either Apple or Android?

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Part II of Tech Series

(Read Part I on Favorite Youtube Videos here)

I am probably a lot like you. I have a love/hate relationship with technology! I’m the gal who has oodles of bookshelves with books that I cannot bear to give away. I love the smell of books, both new and old! My school cabinet is loaded with curricula in all subjects and blank spiral notebooks ready to be filled in with freshly sharpened pencils.

I would rather hear the squeals of children jumping on the trampoline or sliding down the zip line in the backyard, than the cacophony of sounds emitting from the computer speakers.

I feel greater joy when I find my children reading to each other or listening to an audiobook together than I do when I find them playing a video game on the computer in the living room.

But I have to admit that I love my tablet and the educational apps we use for homeschooling. They make my life simpler and the kids think they are extremely fun. Mobile apps are also exceedingly affordable. A couple dollars spent in the app store can deliver a boatload of information for the kids and a quiet 15 minutes a day for mom.

ipad-checklist

Here is how we use mobile apps in our homeschool. These are my best practices learned over 4 years of iPad use:

  1. 1. Password-protect the tablet or smart phone. I don’t want my children on a mobile device without my knowledge. Password-protecting the device allows me to keep track of who is using it and for what purpose. Another family practice is that any device that can access the internet stays in family rooms.
  2. 2. Use the built-in timer function, if necessary. If the app is game-like, then your child might get carried away and spend more time on the tablet than you would prefer. Set a timer for 30 minutes to alert you both to the lapse of time.
  3. 3. Organize your device for educational success. Place your favorite educational apps on the front page and file games and other “fluff” in folders on successive pages. Folders both condense and tuck away apps that you would rather not draw your kids’ attention away from the apps that you believe have greater educational value.
  4. 4. Use apps strategically. We always work on our Bible and other memory work on the iPad before watching videos, for example. We also get all bookwork completed before pulling out the ipad.

A little thought and organization goes a long way toward using mobile apps successfully for school. Ask your friends what their favorite educational apps are and don’t be afraid to spend a few dollars on a highly recommended 4 or 5 star app. But the great news is that there are many free ones of great value to choose from as well. Apps can help make school fun, but should only be part of the whole school experience.

Question: What are your best practices for mobile app use? How do you use them most effectively in your home?

Watch for Part III where I share the apps we use in our home on a daily or weekly basis.

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My family is really loving my preparation for a session that I will be presenting at a few upcoming conferences, specifically Teach Them Diligently in Nashville, TN; Christian Heritage in Bellevue, WA; WHO in Puyallup, WA and OCEAN in Portland, OR. This is why my family is having so much fun…

I am watching recent uploads to some of my favorite educational YouTube channels. Ya, you heard that right… YouTube… the website that I have a love/hate relationship with. Truly, you can find some amazing stuff on YouTube, but you can also find seriously atrocious stuff and navigating your way around it can be challenging. To help my family navigate, I subscribe to my favorite channels; “favorite” videos that I want my kids to watch and turn safety mode “on.” While none of these things truly safeguard your kids from harmful videos on YouTube, my presence does. So we enjoy these videos together.

Would you like to know about some of my favorite YouTube channels? Here are a few… (And be sure to subscribe to my blog updates to the right, if you haven’t already done so.)

1. Spangler Effect – Steve Spangler Science videos are appropriate for all ages. Big science is great fun for everyone. Occasional swear words are bleeped out. Some favorites are…

Water Rockets

Hydrogen Peroxide

2. Mr. Zoller – These social study themed videos are appropriate for kids of all ages. Very informative, but interesting and keep kids’ attention.

Geography of China

Thirteen Colonies

3. Crash Course – These videos are for kids who are a little older, say junior high and high school. A very captivating and fun way to learn some more difficult subjects, such as science and literature.

Hamlet

The Odyssey

4. HistoryTeachers – These are music videos using popular music with new lyrics that teach on topics in history. Very fun, but some have mature(ish) themes, such as beheadings, affairs, etc.

French Revolution

King Henry VIII

5. History Supersizers – Learn about the food and lifestyles of people who lived in a different time. Occasional swearing is bleeped out.

Edwardian

Wartime

6. Nerdy Nummies – While not educational in the same way as the above, many of these baking ideas are taken from school subjects, such as…

Pi Pie Pops

Science Beaker Cake

7. Kahn Academy – Not a YouTube channel perse, but a great resource for learning a whole spectrum of subjects, from Ancient Rome to Genetics.

Tour of Ancient Rome

Punnett Squares

I hope that you have fun with these. Please list your favorite Youtube channels below in the comments box. Who knows, maybe they will make it into my recommendations during my live (and recorded) presentations. And be sure to subscribe to your right for blog updates in the future.) Thanks!

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If your home life is anything like mine, then you deal with chores and messes around the house on a constant basis. This is a fact of life for everyone, but for the homeschooling family, a messy and loud household with many opportunities for cleaning up is an ever-present reality.

How can we best manage our homes and maintain our sanity?

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Here are my 5 Best Tips for Keeping Your Home and Your Sanity:

1. Remember that this is a season!

I know that you hear it all the time, words like… “Oh, they grow up so fast!” and “This too shall pass,” and “It’s just a season.” It’s easy to just stop hearing these wise words and not really believe them anyway. As someone who has been raising kids for 20 years, I have now reached that place where I can say with emphasis, “Oh, they do grow up so fast!” But I am still raising little ones too, so I also know that 18-20 years of raising kids and helping them manage their life and messes is a long, LONG process!

Here is where I have landed on this issue… I like a clean house. I just do! But I also realize that living with children means that I will live with a little bit of a mess, sometimes a lot of big messes. My husband and I find ourselves looking forward to a home with less stuff, where everything is almost always in its place, but know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will miss the squeals and the fingerprints when we get there. So, we have resigned ourselves to a “lived in” look in our home, cherishing these years with all the mess and work that they bring with them.

But that doesn’t mean that we give up and decide that all is lost when it comes to keeping an orderly home. We have daily and weekly chores that must be done in our home both by us and by the children. Here’s how we tackle them and the big question that we ask ourselves when faced with an untidy or even downright messy house:

2. What Can You Do in 5 Minutes?

When I look around the house and I find it not up to my standards of clean and tidy, I try to ask myself this simple question… what can I do that would make a difference in the next 5 minutes? Sometimes, it’s doing a load of dishes or a load of laundry. Sometimes, it is clearing off the dining room table or the bathroom counter. Sometimes, it’s interrupting the kids and doing a quick 5 minute pick-up of the living room. If all you have is 5 minutes, you can make a measurable difference in one small portion of your home. Will your house be spotless in such a small amount of time? No, but you’ve made a difference.

When the children and I work together, we place bets on how long it will take us to accomplish a certain job. I usually hear the kids shout out anything between 2 and 10 minutes. We then work as quickly as we can, timing ourselves by the clock and see whose guess came the closest. We are always surprised by how quickly we can get a job done when we work together.

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This shot was candid and not staged!

3. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

You are not the housekeeper of your home, you are the homemaker. Big difference! Teaching our kids how to work is one of our primary jobs as “homemaker” and “parent”. In our home, our children have pets that they care for, daily chores to accomplish and weekly cleaning that usually gets tackled on Saturday. They also have to clean their rooms on a regular basis, but are encouraged to keep it tidy all the time (some children do a better job at this than others, that’s for sure!).

Draw up a chore chart so your children know what chores they are responsible for on a daily and weekly basis. This will make your job so much easier as you can just check the chart if kids need reminders. Better yet, they can check the chart and not even need reminders. It seems to take maturity and diligence to get them to this point of responsibility though.

4. Shoes Make You Feel More Energetic

I learned a long time ago from the Flylady (is she still around?) that wearing shoes make you feel more ready to do work. You feel more like you are “on task” with shoes on your feet. I don’t always obey this rule. I find myself wearing slippers quite often during the winter months. But I do keep this in mind if I have some significant house work to accomplish in a given hour of my day. If my husband takes the kids on a field trip or out for a hike, I will get jazzed up by the idea of an empty house, lace up my shoes, tackle extra housework in record time and then enjoy some much deserved R&R in the solitude of my empty home.

5. Get Help

After 24 years of cleaning my own home with the help of my husband and children, I did something radical (for me!). I asked my husband if I could hire a teenager to come over every other week to clean the house. We actually argued over this one because Todd felt like we were “giving up” or not managing our home well enough by employing help. He also felt that it would make life too easy for our children if someone else did so much of the heavy cleaning. After I pleaded with him for a few weeks, he gave in and allowed me to give it a try.

We now have a young lady come over twice a month to deep clean our house. I must admit that I love it! We still clean thoroughly on the off weeks that she doesn’t come, but it gives me the breathing room that I need to focus on some other things, like school and our business.

Many people cannot or would rather not hire a maid, but it is working really well for us in this “season” of my life. She does a fantastic job and she works for a smaller fee than the large housecleaning services available. So, if you find yourself drowning in housework, employ some of the tips above. I’d rather give up some of my housekeeping duties and focus more on other things that seem more important right now. Besides let’s face it, a family of 8 will always keep me plenty busy with cooking, teaching, driving, piano practicing, and listening.

Question: What are your best tips for maintaining your home and your sanity?

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Why and How You Should Use Living Books

As I write this, we are halfway through the school year. We are definitely in our groove when it comes to school and have a solid routine. Eventually though, the comfort of routine wears off and monotony settles in. How can you keep your children excited about learning? The answer is to supply them with “living books.”

So, what are “living books” and why should you use them for teaching your children? Here are some definitions of a living book:

A living book is written by a single person, a real and knowable person.

A living book is a literary expression of the author’s own ideas and love of the subject.

A living book is personal in tone and feel. It touches the heart and emotions, and the intellect.

The author of a living book addresses the reader as an intelligent and capable thinker.

In a living book, ideas are presented creatively in a way that stimulates the imagination.

child-reading-book

This idea of a living book stands in stark contrast to a textbook. So what then is a textbook? Read on:

A textbook is a non-literary expression of collected facts and information.

A textbook is impersonal in tone and feel. It touches only the intellect.

In a textbook, facts are presented without creativity in a way that deadens the imagination.

[Excerpted from Educating the WholeHearted Child (copyright 1994, 1996 Clay Clarkson). Used by permission. For more information, contact Whole Heart Ministries (P.O. Box 3445, Monument, CO 80132, 719-488-4466) or visit their website at www.wholeheart.org.]

Charlotte Mason, a British educator from England in the previous century, whose ideas are currently experiencing a rebirth among American home schools, wrote this in her volume 1 of The Original Homeschooling Series, “The fatal mistake is in the notion that he (the student) must learn ‘outlines’ of the whole history… just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”

Have you ever experienced this in your home schooling adventures? You set out to cover a certain amount of history in a particular year, just to find out that your child becomes fascinated by a single character or time in history. This happened to us a couple of years ago. We were studying modern history with the goal of getting through the years 1850 to the present. I had allotted 4-5 weeks for studying the Civil War, which I thought was plenty. What I didn’t realize was how fascinated my children were to become with not only this event in history, but the general time period as well.

After 6 weeks of reading the books I had planned to read and doing the activities I had planned to do, my children were begging for more. I reluctantly gave in and let them guide their own education for a while. They chose more library books from the time period. My daughter sewed some period clothing, complete with snood and gloves. My son converted some cast-off clothing we found at Goodwill into a union soldier’s uniform. We went to a Civil War reenactment, made a soldier’s meal of hard tack and goober peas, and talked Dad into crafting some wooden rifles in the shop.

We stayed on this topic for probably a total of 9-10 weeks. Since that time, I have realized that learning does not follow a set pattern. In fact, more learning often takes place when allowed to progress naturally rather than on a set schedule. Last year, we studied the medieval time period. We were supposed to get to the year 1600, but only studied through a portion of the 15th century. And we did not get to all of the historical figures that I would have liked. But those events and people that my children gravitated toward allowed them to soak in the particular time period in history and gain more depth than if I had pushed them through on my schedule.

I am not saying that a schedule is bad. A schedule is a wonderful and necessary tool, but let it be your servant and not your master. Take the time to slow down and read “living books”. Read the first part of this article once again to remind yourself what a “living book” is and learn to identify them when browsing your library’s shelves.

I would like to conclude with a couple more quotes. Karen Andreola, author of A Charlotte Mason Companion, writes, “If we want the mind of a child to come alive, we feed him living ideas. Ideas reside in living books,…”

I am a rather eclectic homeschooling mom and do not follow the Charlotte Mason method completely. Still, I would like to end with a final word from Charlotte Mason herself:

“…the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.” ~Charlotte Mason

For a list of great books to read, I would recommend that you check out these books from your library:

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson

Valerie of Valerie’s Living Books writes, “I have chosen Living Books as my primary curriculum because I want to see my children loving learning rather than enduring an education! In this, my interest has never been in books and resources designed to entice reluctant kids with short attention spans, but rather in materials carefully written with an evident passion to challenge children, encouraging them to reason carefully and respond wholeheartedly.”

And finally, if you are studying the Ancient, Medieval, or the Colonial time period this year, do check out our book series entitled, “What Really Happened…” The authors who contributed to these books are passionate about their subject and this delight gets transferred to the student. This is a great way to introduce your children to amazing individuals from these time periods who changed the course of our world. For more details, go to: Historical Biographies.

Question: What “living” book are you engrossed in?

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