Summer Goals

Summer Reading | Book It

  • Lots of Splash Pads
  • Lots of Swimming Pools
  • Keep some structure
  • Catch up on a few school-ish items
  • Book-it Free Pizza


The lovely thing about the summer, for public school kids, is they are home! So you can do more to incorporate the family culture you desire because you have your kids with you more.


Some recommendations: 

Pick one composer and listen to their music for a little bit every time you’re in the car, in the evenings when you’re making dinner, or when everyone is getting ready for bed. Every once in a while, mention the name of the composer and what song is playing. Don’t overdo it! Just make this composer that you like part of your culture. 

Pick three great classic movies that you want your kids to watch. Plan one movie night per month to introduce them to your favorite films.

Pick a classic book to read in the mornings or evenings. 

Let your kids pick a country on the map. Learn about what the people there eat, how they dress, what music they like – let the kids prepare a meal from that country. 

Summer Plans

We do not do official school year-round. Some families do, and that’s fine. But we need an extended break and we do that in the summer time. 

However, we need structure and a schedule or else we feel crazy. So our summer days include a “morning time” that is a bit less intense than our normal “morning time.” It’s time for Summer Homeschool Plans….

In the summer, we will:

  1. Read Proverbs
  2. Read scheduled Bible passages from Ambleside Online.
  3. Read Animal Farm and Watership Down.
  4. Finish Robin Hood.
  5. Finish Lord of the Rings.

I pick these books because they are coming up quick on my kids’ curriculum and if we read them in the summer, it frees up time during the school year.

We will also work on little skills that need work…(I’m looking at you, copywork.)

Every homeschool family I know does summer a little differently. We need lots of time for my full work schedule and the kids need a break from some things (like math and Latin). 

“You have to do what works for your family.”

Summer Reading

Book It

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Science, Nature Study, and Charlotte Mason

Maybe the most common question I get after “What curriculum do you use?” is “What about science?” There’s a bit of a misconception out there about Charlotte Mason and her approach to science. People think she was light on science, maybe because she was so heavy on literature. 

The thing to keep in mind is: the Charlotte Mason method says that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. Just because we aren’t pulling our hair out trying to make random science experiments work or buying expensive science curriculum does not mean we are not learning biology, chemistry, physics and more.

There are several ways we incorporate science in our lives:

Nature Study

Charlotte recommended hours and hours of outdoor time in the afternoons after lessons are completed.

This is so special and also impossible for our family (and I suspect yours, too.) We do school in the mornings and our afternoons are full of dance lessons, church, and work commitments. 

But one morning a week, we meetup with a small group and visit a local park. We are fortunate to have a one nearby park that is entirely nature-focused. There’s a creek to play in, paths to hike, a few fishing ponds. It’s really great.

12-week Focus

If we just took nature in as we found it, we would find a great deal: trees, birds, bugs…But there are so many things out there so:

12 weeks at a time, we pick a nature topic from Anna Cromstock’s Book of Nature Study. Usually we follow along with the plan at

During that 12 weeks, we seek out opportunities to learn about our topic. For example, last term, we learned about Rocks and Minerals so we reached out to a local Gem and Mineral Club and discovered they offer a free kid’s class on Geology. Next term, we will learn about fish, so we will visit an aquarium and go fishing. 


One educational investment we make is memberships to our local museums and zoos – but a membership to all of them at the same time is not financially feasible – so if there happens to be a location that is specific to our 12-week focus, we will pick up a membership for that location.

For example, mammals and reptiles were both on our nature study list for last year, so we made sure to get a membership to our zoo. This year, since one focus is fish, we will get a membership to our state park so we can fish/camp easily.

When it’s time to learn about flowers, head to the arboretum or invest in some new flowers for your own garden. Let the kids pick them out and help plant them.

Science experiments

In my experience, when we’re doing a mom’s-idea science experiment, mom is the one doing all the work, the kids are not very interested, and half the time, the experiment doesn’t work anyway. However, the times my kids got an idea and wanted to try something out, the whole situation turned around. They were the ones searching for experiment ideas. They were the ones gathering supplies. They were the ones excited about seeing the results. And if it failed, they were the ones trying to figure out what went wrong and trying again.

Whoever does the work, learns. This is not child-led education. There are plenty of ways to get a kid wondering about a science topic to the extent that they ask a question that requires an experiment. And those are the science moments they will remember.


In Summary

It may sometimes look like science learning is not happening, but that’s just because there are no worksheets and vinegar volcanos (although, we did make a vinegar volcano once…). When nature and all the science that comes with it is a normal part of your life, the learning comes naturally.

Composer Study

Composer Study in our school is, like most things, low stress. We pick a composer, usually from the list at Ambleside Online, make a Spotify playlist, and listen to the music on our way to the park. In the evenings, we might listen to/watch a symphony on YouTube. If there is a decent biography on the composer, we will read it during morning time. We do not stress about classical music. We just enjoy it.

If for some reason we pick a composer that we don’t particularly enjoy, no big deal. We only listen for about 12 weeks.

J.S. Bach

Here’s an affiliate link for the book we read about Bach. It’s meant to come with a CD to listen to some of the music mentioned in the book. We didn’t get the CD, but most of the music is available on Spotify, so we listened along there. It was a nice overview of Bach’s life.

Radio Program about Bach here.

Frank Liszt

We haven’t read this book on Frank Liszt yet, but it’s free! I’m excited to read it with the kids in the next few weeks. Some of his music was used in cartoons, so we will also enjoy some Bugs Bunny this term to appreciate Liszt’s music.

This radio program about composers did a program about Liszt that you can find here.


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Read the Play

This term, we are reading Romeo and Juliet. It’s a re-read for us – but that’s good. We love re-reading Shakespeare plays. Every time we notice new themes and have more to talk about – new ways to dig in.

Folger Shakespeare Library Mass Market editions are quickly becoming my favorite editions. They have lots of notes and always start with insightful commentary.

Don’t get a kindle version. You need a print copy. In fact, each student needs a print copy.

Watch a Movie

Romeo and Juliet is the best for movie watching. There are so many great options. The Baz Luhrmann version is our favorite, but if you want something not so loud, try this version. But pre-screen if you have young children.

It’s also easy to find colleges who recorded their Shakespeare plays and put them online. Those are free and easy to find.

Build Community

Romeo and Juliet is a popular play and it’s likely that other people in your homeschool community may be reading it, or willing to read it, and then come over for some Shakespeare fun. 

We once hosted a Romeo and Juliet fun day. We read portions of the play, had a soccer game (Capulets vs. Montagues), and ate Italian food. Everything is better with food. 

So reach out to your homeschool friends and see how you can interact with this play together.


Another great resource for parents teaching Romeo and Juliet is The Play’s the Thing. In 2021, they read the play act by act and discussed it. We read it that semester and listened along. My high school student, in particular, got into the discussions about Romeo and Juliet’s love – is it transcendent? Or just immature teenagers choosing desire over duty? Listen along and discuss with your students.


This term we are reading Robert Frost for my older student and Christina Rossetti for my younger student.

We will read a new poem each day and I’ll encourage them to memorize one poem each by offering tangible incentives (I’m looking at you, FiveBelow…).

The content below contains affiliate links.

Robert Frost

We will be reading from this Robert Frost book, just as soon as I find it! In the meantime, Robert Frost poems are available for free here. Plus a quick YouTube search will show you lots and lots of people reading Frost poetry.

Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti has been a favorite here for a while. We have a physical copy of one of her books that we will be reading from daily. Like Robert Frost, you can find many YouTube videos of her poems being read aloud. 



Spring Free Reads

This posts contains affiliate links to Amazon and

The Wheel on the School

Wheel on the School is a memorable story. We are part-way through it and can’t wait to finish. Even my 12-year-old, who was skeptical, has come around to enjoy this book. For budgeting purposes, we found this classic at our library, but if you’d like to purchase, see my affiliate link above.


The Hiding Place

My Year 6 student is learning about World War II, so it seemed like a good time to read The Hiding Place. I’ve only skimmed it – I have never read the whole thing and I’m very much looking forward to it.

If you like, find it at


The Phantom Tollbooth

The kids follow an online bookcclub – Withywindle. Withywindle is reading Phantom Tollbooth this spring. We will read along so we can keep up with the podcast hijinks.

Find it at


Top Ten Family Read-Alouds

These books have been a blessing to our homeschool. Enjoy one today!

This post include links to my storefront at and Amazon, where I am an affiliate.

small kids reshape a small town in a big way

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong

I have great memories of reading this book as a kid, so it was natural to pick it up for my kids this year. It starts a little slow – but seeing the pieces come together is a delight. The children in this sleepy seaside town wake it up and it all starts with a simple idea and a great teacher.

I couldn’t find a kindle copy, but this print copy is lovely.

Recommended Ages: 8-12


an adventure with Mr Toad

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

My 8-year-old boy adored this book. These four animal friends go on little adventures. For older kids, there are plenty of conversations to have about addiction and how to be a good friend. 

Fun Story: At church, we had a short lesson on St. Patrick. We talked about his early life, when he wanted revenge on his captors. My son piped up, “He wanted revenge? Just like Mr. Toad.” Luckily, I was his Sunday school teacher that day!

Available on Kindle

Better in Print

Recommended Ages: 6-10 (but older kids will like to listen along, too.)


Classic Orphan Story


Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Hear me out. This book is old and long and it may take time for your kids to get used to the language. But as a read-aloud, it’s worth the work. We spent a whole school year slowly reading this book and, in the end, my oldest was able to tell back the whole thing – almost scene for scene. The story sticks with you and is a beautiful tale of beauty from ashes, grace, and forgiveness.

Available on Kindle

Better in Print

Recommended Ages: 8-18

Make Geography/History Fun


The Tree in the Trail

Simple concept: Follow the life of tree along the Santa Fe trail. Watch native Americans come and go, the wagon trains travel, and the American frontier change.

We read this slowly over 12 weeks, checking the map as we read, to learn about the American southwest.

You need the print copy of this book.

Recommended Ages: 7-10

Peril on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

My daughter absolutely loved the Little House books. Following Laura and her family was a joy. Start with the Little House in the Big Woods, then read the Prairie. If you read them slow enough, your children will enjoy the later books when they are older – which is good – because the later books explore more difficult themes.

Buy the hardcopy because you’ll want to pass them onto your grandkids.

Recommended Ages: 6-12


World War II Classic

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Here’s another book that I read as a kid – and it found a place in the bookshelf of my mind. Little images and sentences stuck with me. I didn’t even remember where some of these thoughts came from until I re-read this book with my kids. 

A family risks their lives to hide their Jewish neighbors during the early days of World War II. The main character, a young girl, has to grow up quickly to save her friend. Highly Recommend and you may cry. 

Read on the Kindle

Better in Print

Recommended Ages: 8-12


Cry with me about a spider


Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

If this list were in any sort of order, this book would be number 1. We have used it as a read-aloud at home at least three times. I’ve read it aloud to my weekday class at church. It’s about true friendship and good writing and you can’t miss it.

Do not buy the kindle version. Get a good print copy and pass it on.

Recommended Ages: 5-12

Girl grows up Quick with Putney Cousins

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

After being treated with kid gloves in her Mid-west home, Betsy has to move in with the dreaded Putney Cousins. Will she recover from culture shock and learn the strange Putney ways?

My kids really loved this book. You will, too.

Read it on Kindle.

Better in Print.

Recommended Ages: 7-10

There and Back Again…

The Hobbit

I did not grow up reading the Tolkien books so reading them for the first time with my kids has been great. Follow Bilbo on his journey with the dwarves. The book is better than the movies! But it can be fun to watch the movie afterwards as a treat.

Buy it in print.

Recommended Ages: 7-18


Sweet Country Vet


James Herriot’s Treasury for Children

This book is a memoir-type book about a vet in the English countryside. It captured the imagination of my own children and the children at our weekday church program. The stories are short and the illustrations are beautiful.

Buy it in print.

Recommended Ages: 5-10


Book of Marvels

Richard Halliburton’s

Book of Marvels

I still remember where I was when I snagged The Book of Marvels for $40 on Ebay. New moms will never know the struggle to find this book for an affordable price! It was out-of-print for ages so your best bet was to find someone on Ebay willing to make a deal.

In 2018, I remember walking into the Half-Priced Books in San Antonio, Tx and during a quick glance of the clearance section, I found Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels for $2. I’m pretty sure I screamed. I bought the book and sold it the next week for $40 and nearly started a new job peddling rare books.

Why is this book so great?

Richard Halliburton travelled and wrote about his journey back before travel easy and before the internet made “visiting” these Marvels so accessible by computer and Google Earth. He does much more than describe the locations – he always has a story to go along with his visit to make the whole book a memorable delight.

How can I use this book?

We added this book to our Morning Time Routine because my daughter was not enjoying reading it alone. We read the book as a family and usually find a You Tube Video to get a little update on the location and see how it looks in color.  Regardless, we find the location of the Marvel on the map and narrate what we’ve learned.

What other resources are available?

This website has updates to the marvels and more information about Richard Halliburton’s book. It’s now available to purchase through Living Book Press, which is much more convenient, but not nearly as much fun as stumbling on a copy in a used bookstore or garage sale. 


Free Reads

“Free Reads” in our home come from the Ambleside Online list for whatever year my kids are in.

In the Ambleside Online community, families handle the Free Read section in different ways. The way I do it is not the only way, although it does work well for us.

For the younger years, I pick a selection from “Free Reads” and add it to our morning time. We read about 15 minutes per day. I alternate from the list of each kid.

I started doing it this way because my oldest started at AO4 and missed the younger year free reads. By doing them as a family, he got to hear those stories while my daughter did. 

Sometimes we do a free read because it fits with the season or topic. For example, we visited the fair recently, and my youngest fell in love with the little piglets PLUS our nature study topic was spiders – so we had to read Charlotte’s Web. Also, every November/December, we read The Christmas Carol because it’s such a great story.

The other way we sometimes handle Free Reads is audiobooks from the library. I’ve written before about my captive car audience, and one way I take advantage of this time is audiobooks. We can’t swing a monthly audible subscription, but the occasional library fee is worth it.

Article on Free Reads from Ambleside Online



We love Shakespeare.

Shakespeare can be an intimidating addition to your homeschool journey – but it does not have to be! By biting off small chucks and going slowly, you can dig in and the Bard can enrich your home. Here are tips to get started:

The Play’s the Thing.



Pick a Play You Love


Shakespeare wrote 39ish plays and it can be hard to decide where to start. Your feelings for the work will spill over to your kids and influence their reactions, so it’s important to pick a play that you like.

Do you have fond memories of Baz Lehrman’s Romeo + Juliet? Read Romeo and Juliet! Do you have strong feeling about Brutus and Julius Caesar? Start there.

Does the thought of Shakespeare only fill you with boredom and fear? Don’t worry! You can still pick a play and have fun reading it with your children.

If you don’t love a play, it may help to pick a play that you already know a bit. If you’re worried your kids will ask you questions and you won’t be able to answer, buy yourself a copy of the “No Fear Shakespeare” version. It has a modern translation on the opposite page from the original text and can help you interpret on the fly. (Although I do not recommend No Fear versions for kids. More on that below.)

Another way to decide what play to read is to check with your local theaters to see if anyone is doing any Shakespeare in the Park. Pick a play that you can see in person as a treat.

Which Version to Purchase

Half-Priced Books is my best friend when it comes to buying Shakespeare plays. They almost always have three copies of what I’m looking for and I can touch the books in person to see what’s between the covers.

  1. Some versions have annotations on the left-hand page. These are so helpful when you come across a word that has changed meaning or a mythology reference that you just don’t remember.
  2. No Fear Shakespeare looks appealing and it may work for your family. It includes the original text plus a modern translation. The Modern version will not have the same ring as Shakespeare (Shakespeare was a great writing and chose his words for a reason.). Also, if there are any objectionable jokes (I’m looking at you, Mercutio) that would otherwise fly over your children’s heads, they may be plainly spelled out in the modern version and lead to conversations you weren’t expecting to have.
  3. Folger’s Library versions will often have notes at the beginning of the play to help with context, themes, etc. I really appreciate those for my own education although I do not burden my younger children with all these ideas. With younger kids I prefer to let the text talk for itself and save the themes/motif talk for when they are older and notice these things on their own.


Will they get it?

Not at first. The language is different and it will take time – but it’s worth stumbling through a few plays so they can reap rewards later.

As an example, the second play we did was MacBeth with my oldest in grade 5. On his own, he connected the knocking that MacBeth and his wife hear after the murder with the drumming sound in Tell-Tale Heart. ON HIS OWN. Any theme or idea I pointed out to him I’m sure he’s already forgotten, but his own brain working out that connection will be with him forever. Any child can make these connections when presented with good literature and it’s worth the hard reading work to get there.

But they do bad things…

There are people in Shakespeare’s plays that do ugly things. They sin. It’s true. They make poor choices, get angry, murder, and more. But on the whole, their poor choices have terrible consequences and the basic world-view of most of the plays is Christian. 

The good that can come from reading Shakespeare outweighs the bad and it’s worth digging in a having discussions about what the characters do and what happens to them. (not in a moralizing way…but that’s a talk for another day.)

Can we do the same play twice?

Yes! We’ve read Much Ado About Nothing, like, three times over the years and every time we see something new. When you are already familiar with the plot, you can catch more jokes and tropes.

Some families start by reading a summary, like Lamb’s Shakespeare, before they read the real play for that very reason – so they don’t have to focus on plot and can just have fun reading. That’s a fine idea. Our family has always had at least one kid old enough to read the real play, so we just read the play and follow up with a film or live version if we can find a good one.

Go Slow – just reading a scene a day, you can read at least three Shakespeare Plays easily. Let everyone pick a character or two and act it out in your own living room. Not enough family members? Make simple peg dolls to be your actors.

Film Adaptations

It can be fun to have a movie night and watch a good Kenneth Branagh version of a play. A subscription to your local PBS station can be a cost effective way to find some Shakespeare on TV.

After you have a few plays under your belt, check out Shakespeare Live! from the RSC. It was a celebration at the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and features lots of actors you family may appreciate.




Another great resource I have found is The Play’s the Thing  – a podcast by Circe Institute. They pick a play and talk about it one act at a time. Very helpful for parents and older students to find another level of understanding Shakespeare and his work.