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Read my review of Reading Horizons Here

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Elementary

Once upon a time before homeschool co-op and drama productions, before part-time jobs and working out at the gym with Dad, before essays and research assignments, before pick-up soccer and youth rallies, before a big screen TV and the PS4, we lived in the land of love of learning.

And in the land of love of learning nearly every weekday morning, after the table was cleared from breakfast, the kids and I would grab books from the large library stack, we'd sit on the couch and I would read to them. This was the most consistent practice in our school routine, and many, many days this alone was our "school routine".

Sometimes we did math and handwriting practice, especially in early fall and at the New Year, when I was gung-ho about such things. We went for walks, went to the library, attended community concerts and events. We went to the farm every week. But mostly we stayed home and the kids learned how to work around the house, they crafted (and made a holy mess of hot glue, cardboard, feathers, glitter and fabric), built couch forts and fairy gardens, read their own books, studied slugs and played together.

I love the independence of my teens. I love our conversations. I love that they can cook and clean and I can be gone for the day and life goes on at home without me. But, oh my goodness, do ever miss the pace of the love of learning years. In this moment, tired as I am from all the teenaged goodness that goes on in our house, I am completely nostalgic for the relaxed, easy pace of the early homeschooling years.

I digress.

My point is, over the years I've read a lot of books to the kids. Reading stories was my predominant method to this madness (smile) called homeschooling. And it was the chief springboard for learning history, geography, and world cultures, the three of which grouped together I called world study.

My goal was to introduce the kids to the wide world through "classics"; chapter books and picture books, both fiction and non-fiction, that are worth reading over and over again because you glean something new every time. (It should be noted, early childhood bedtime books aside, that rarely did we re-read books, especially chapter books, over and over again because there were so many other books I wanted to read. But great books are the stories you hate to see end and wish you could read over.)

My work then was to find these great books. As a homeschooling mother, I have never "lesson planned" but I have spent countless hours sourcing good books. Finding titles, reserving at the library, picking up from the library. And in more recent years, installing book apps on devices, searching digital databases and downloading.

In the early years, I used Honey For a Child's Heart, subscribed to the Sonlight catalogue, searched Yahoo homeschooling forums, asked the librarians, and used a new thing called "blogs", to find great books to read to the kids. It was a lot of effort, but reading good books mattered to me.

What I would have given to have owned Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids Once Book at a Time by Jamie Martin.

It would have saved me so much work!

As much as I love reading and place a high importance on reading in our homeschool we don't own a lot of books, at least not hardcopy ones. We use the library and have a growing collection of digital titles. But this is a book I would own, happily adding it to my most-used homeschool reference materials (other books about books, and books about learning).

I've had the privilege of knowing Jamie for years now. She was the one who directed my attention to Leadership Education, the homeschool philosophy and methodology I most resonate with.

Jamie's own book Give Your Child the World has just been published. And it is an excellent resource for homeschooling, or parenting in general.

Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids Once Book at a Time is a book of "inspiring stories, practical suggestions, and carefully curated reading lists of the best children’s literature for each area of the globe, arranged geographically and by reading level".

The curated reading lists, for ages 4 through 12, are the part of the book that would have saved me so much work back in the day when I was trying to source good books to read to the kids (or have them read themselves) about the different areas of the world.

This is how I would use Give Your Child the World

Interest-led learning scenario:

Kid: "Mom, I'm interested in giraffes."

Mom: "Let's get a book about giraffes this week on our library visit."

Mom thinks to herself, "hum... giraffes are found in Africa. It would be great to springboard off this interest and read a good book (or two, or three) about Africa. Thank goodness Jamie's book has an annotated Africa book list. I'll start my search there."

Parent-directed curriculum resource:

Another way I would use Give Your Child the World is to help me find books that I want to read to the kids as part of the overarching curriculum for the year.

My kids' interests were always the starting point for their early years world study. But as our children got older I would plan a theme, or a focus, for the school year or that school term. I would choose an area of the globe, or periods of history that had been neglected in the children's own interest-led learning paths. And then I looked for ways to incorporate that focus into our learning and life routine.

I don't think the kids were necessarily even aware of "the plan". I didn't sit them down and say, "this month we're learning about Mexico". I would just read more books about Mexico, for example, and find other resources - videos, community involvement, etc. to augment those stories. Or sometimes it was the other way around. The community involvement (museums, cultural events) came first and then the stories.

Homeschool History

The point of this post is to share what a great resource Jamie's book is and to explain how I would use this book with homeschooling elementary-aged children. Writing all of this makes me want to share how we've learned history in our homeschool, something I haven't written much about. So I'll take the opportunity to lay that out here.

My overall strategy for teaching world study (history, geography and world cultures) in the elementary years was to follow the kids' interests (through reading, hands-on participation and play) and then fill in "gaps" over the years with a curriculum of (more) good books, family discussions, curated videos, community participation, travel, etc. You can read all about that here.

The focus in the middle and high school years (transition to scholar and scholar) has been Canadian history, geography, and government, and 18th through 20th Century world history with references back to the ancient history, middle ages, and renaissance periods studied in the elementary years.

Wars and the ways in which humans have caused suffering for other humans, in the contexts of power, greed, and "advancement", are the pivotal points and events that are the backbone of history; empires and despots, conquering and colonization. It's not pretty, or child-friendly, in my opinion. However, marching alongside these events are the positive, life-affirming aspects and advancements in humanity. And ultimately, it is in the heartbreak and human-break of oppression that we say yes to a Messiah, a Redeemer and accept the teaching of a better way.

Even with that hope (and as much as it was in my power to do so) I wanted to give my children an early childhood without fear of war and violence or excessive exposure to the darkness of human nature, a theme that runs through the course of history, that is the course of history. There is only one time in your life for this type of innocence and I didn't see any need to cut that period short. It ends quick enough.

I let them explore their own interests in ancient Roman warfare and medieval knights, read the Usborne and Kingfisher reference books etc. And we read stories together with references to the dark heart of humankind (just open the Old Testament for a dose of this), but I wasn't going to deeply delve into slavery, revolutions, Holocaust etc. until they were older (obviously as topics came up I explained things in age-appropriate terms). This also means of course I was careful with the media influences in our home.

I have to say, writing those last three paragraphs has tripped me up, to the point of a delaying publishing this post. As I wrote this I felt shame for the privilege in my life, that I could preserve my children's innocence for a few years at least by virtue of where I was born, the color of my skin, my socio-economic standing. That age is gone now but I still work to shield my children from certain experiences in our society, bullying for example.

I don't have anything more to say about this except that this is a tension I feel, in myself and in my parenting. I want to raise loving, aware, and courageous children. I want to be loving, aware, and courageous but I don't want nor do I need to know of all the evil that happens in the world.

Looking back on our homeschool journey, there has been a general progression from ancient to modern history, from generalized to specific. I didn't plan it out that way, ahead of time, it just unfolded.

On the small scale, interests jump around, a wide variety of books are read, we discuss things happening all over the world. But the overall progression has been ancient to modern. The distant unrelated past to the near past. And the near past includes these-are-my-ancestors, these are the wars they fought, and the lands they immigrated from. This is who I am. This is my story.

One more thing, our kids' homeschooled world study is simply the introduction to a lifetime of learning about the world. My goal has been to lay a basic foundation: where things are in the world and the overarching historical themes. My own personal understanding of history and the world-at-large has deepened with age, travel, reading, media and personal awareness. I anticipate the same will happen for my kids and what I wanted to give them was the foundation on which to build their adult experience.

This is just the beginning for them, not the be-all-end-all.

Give Your Child the World is a fabulous addition to the interest-led model of education, as well as a more parent-directed approach.

Is your child interested in a particular area of the world? You can find age-appropriate engaging books (many books), to support that.

Are you interested in teaching your child about a particular area of the world through stories? You can find a book (many books) to help you.

Give Your Child the World is a book about books. A book to help you share the world with your child.

This is not a homeschooling book, though I've explained how I would use it in our homeschool because homeschool is our life. And because I consider everything we read as part of the kids' education.

You don't have to homeschool to use this book, this is a book for parents who want to share the world with their children (or grandchildren), through the wonderful world of story.

Stories about the unique beauty in different cultures. Stories about our common humanity. Stories to help you go places without having to literally go there. Stories that share, with age appropriate language and details the struggle and suffering of being human, no matter where you live, but the hope and healing we find in friendship, families, communities, and faith. This is the story of the world.

I love books. I love reading. I love learning about the world, different cultures and world views through reading.

I love this book.

Thank you Jamie for all your effort and labor of love in putting together such an excellent resource for families.

Just as I was about to publish this post I popped over to The Art of Simple. I was seeking a distraction actually for the tedium of editing. My bad, or good, in this case because I discovered that Jamie has put together a summer book club, together with Sarah Mackenzie (from Read-Aloud Revival - another great resource for good books). If you have young children and want to read them good books this summer you might want to check that out.

Also, you have a chance to win Jamie's book by leaving a comment on that post. Bonus.

Guest post by Amy Hood of Amy Hood Arts.

Making art with my kids means I get to make art, too. I’m not being selfless here. I’m not arranging things solely to benefit my kids, although they do benefit.

I need to mess about with paint and such just as much as they do, and while it’s easier for me to find time to do this on my own now that they’re older, it was impossible when I still had a toddler in the house. When I finally figured out that we could just all make art together, yes even the then-two-year-old, it was soul-saving.

Never mind that sometimes I only got ten minutes of drawing in. I got my hands into the charcoal, and it felt restorative.

Here is the thing about making art alongside children: they remind you that it’s play. It’s exploration.

If you have very young children in the room, you’ll notice it doesn’t even occur to them that they’re “not artistic.” A toddler doesn’t see paint as intimidating; she sees it as another interesting item in her world.

My kids and I sit down together to explore open-ended, process-based art.

What on earth does that mean?

It means we have no set end product in mind; our creations will all look different. And it means we are often learning or experimenting with a new process, technique, or material.

If you think about that - no set finished product, coupled with experimentation and learning - you might see that nobody has to be an expert.

We have no model of what our finished artwork “should” look like, and we are learning together. In a very sneaky way, so sneaky that I didn’t even realize it at first, this approach takes all the pressure off the adult. I don’t have to be a perfect, polished artist. If you don’t feel you are at all artistic, truly, this is an excellent approach. You don’t have to be.

But, I would argue, you should really sit down and make art alongside your kids anyway, even if you think it’s just something for them, not for you. I would suggest you give it a try, with no end goal in mind.

Get out some materials and play with them. Use what you have on hand - pencils for sketching, or scraps of paper for collage, nothing requiring a trip to a store - and experiment.

If you have children, I’m guessing there are many places they’ve taken you that you never thought you’d go. All my children, as toddlers, slowed me down, and that was a gift. I coached a soccer team of preschoolers; that was certainly a surprise. I’ve never even played soccer.

Making art with kids is the same. If you don’t consider it your thing, you might surprise yourself, and you just may discover a satisfying outlet for yourself as well.

And if you do have that urge, even if you have time to pursue it on your own time, something magical happens when parents and kids are fellow art adventurers.

Ideas zing. Creativity expands. Conversation wanders. It’s time spent together. And even when I’m in our art area working on my own after my youngest is in bed, often one of my older children will come in and sit with me, to read in my company or to watch and ask questions.

I like how comfortable we all are together there, how the art area is a busy, messy, used part of our home, and how the rest of the house is populated with art-making materials as well.

We’re not just creating art, we’re creating a shared life. We make art together, and we are all the better for it.


Renee here: A couple years ago I wrote a little ebook about nurturing creativity in our lives as busy moms. One of the things I believe in, strongly, is creating with our children.

And as a blogger with artistic children I field a lot of "how do you get children interested in art, what supplies, what materials did you use?" type questions.

For these reasons I am so happy to bring you today's guest post and resource.

Amy Hood is an artist, writer, and homeschooling mama living in coastal Rhode Island. She’s passionate about inspiring confidence and creativity in artists of all ages, and she believes we are all artists.

To that end, she has created Art Together, the e-zine of artistic inspiration for children and adults. Each issue is packed with activities, resources, supply lists, and more to explore fun, open-ended art-making alongside children.

The spring 2014 issue of Art Together is Printmaking. I've read it, it's inspiring and hands-on informational for making art together. I love the artist spotlight.

I think these magazines would provide all the inspiration and direction you'd need for planning an art component to your homeschool curriculum, or would be a great supplement to anything you're already using.

To get a copy for yourself use the code: FIMBY and get 20% off the $5.00 cover price.

This month I've been writing about winter inspiration. A couple weeks ago I did seven re-posts from previous years, the most re-publishing I've ever done on the blog.

In re-publishing those posts and publishing last week's two brand new posts, both on the subject of action and inspiration, I saw themes emerging.

It's fun to pull a bunch of writing together, that's been done over different years, in different situations of my life, to see the common threads and truths.

This post is the recap of these nine posts, a wrap-up of winter inspiration and action.

inspiration action FIMBY

Quotes

First, some quotes from those posts, which illustrate key points of inspiration and action, of having dreams and then making those happen.

Make time in your life to be inspired. This inspiration will give birth to dreams.

Imagine having time to unplug, time to dream, time to push your limits and boundaries.

All you feel is tired and cranky and maybe like this whole trip is just too much work. But then you hit the trail head. And your push yourself through that first mile and realize "I can do this".

Much of the weekend was spent talking and listening; dreaming and scheming. I came home from last weekend inspired to do something about it. To make changes on the small level that affect change on the big level.

Sure, I don't particularly love the work of getting ready, but you know what, life is work.

Hard work? Yes. But living the life you want is good work, life changing work, family building work. Kind of like backpacking.

I like to regularly remind myself that I am just passing through. Literally. When I die I don't take anything with me. None of us do. I want to live a life that brings me joy in the living, not in the acquiring and owning.

The beauty of winter (life) is all around, I just need to appreciate and celebrate it, not wish it away.

Enjoying winter (life) is a choice.

A strong, healthy family life provides the best structural framework for reaching our potential, for getting out the door, making ideas happen, getting things done, and doing the work.

Family life, when operating at its best, provides the unconditional love and accountability that humans need for personal growth and self actualization.

The process of writing clarifies goals and gives you a fixed point to work towards. This clarity, whether you are conscious of it or not, helps you sift through all the input coming your way. Helping you filter out that which is not helpful to your end cause or goal.

After you've been in nature for an extended period, say a few days or longer, you will start to see how your everyday patterns and quirks - maintaining a standard you thought was necessary - may not be so necessary after all.

And when you let go of controlling all these things, mentally and physically, you gift yourself and your family with more breathing room, more time, and more peace. You gift yourself with freedom.

I want this wrap up of inspiration and action to be very applicable to you, regardless of if you camp, hike, or ski. Regardless of if you live in the city or the woods, whether your "dream" is RVing around North America, homesteading, cycling from Alaska to Argentina, doing non-profit work in the Philippines, or traveling the world with your family.

So here's my takeaways from these nine posts, which are actually takeaways from five years of inspiration to action movement in our family life.

Takeaways

Give yourself space to dream.

For us that literally means wide open spaces. The more time we spend outdoors the more we dream. You might not be outdoorsy but I encourage you figure out some way to spend regular time outdoors with your family - walking, biking, beaching. Get into nature.

Evaluate your life.

Identify areas you want to see change and forward movement, and then work towards that. Write down your dreams, goals, values, and mission.

Start exactly where you are.

Today. And move forward. Don't disdain humble beginnings. We all start somewhere.

Surround yourself with inspiration.

Tune into inspiring people, music, blogs, books, and media. Be inspired in relationship and community.

Question the status quo.

Question what society says family life (student life, retired life, "wherever you are" life) must look like. Must it mean a house of a certain size, a job with certain benefits, a certain schedule? Get creative and think outside the box of how you might achieve your dreams.

Do something difficult.

Do something that you think might be nearly impossible. It will inspire you to do the next nearly impossible thing. You will set a precedent in your life of doing difficult things. And what was once difficult will be easy and you'll move on to more challenging tasks.

Allow for mess.

Moving ideas from inspiration to expression is messy (and you may experience what other people call failure, we call it growth), but this is the stuff of life. Let go of perfection. Getting out the door is better than never crossing the threshold.

Living is hard work.

Regardless of how you slice it it's going to be hard. Why not invest those energies into moving forward in your family and personal dreams and goals?

Do it together.

We're wired for relationship for many reasons, one of them is simply that there is strength in numbers. Working together helps you capitalize on individual strengths (you don't need to do it all!) and support each other in weakness.

I believe you can make goals and work towards them. You may currently feel trapped in a situation, but you can make choices, right now, today, that move you in the direction you want to go.

Questions to ask yourself

Where do we want to be? What direction do we want to go in? (Hint: You'll need some dreams to point the way.)

What can we do right now, today, that moves use closer to that?

What are we willing to change in our life to make that happen?

Where can we find inspiration for these dreams? How can we surround ourselves with inspiring dreamers and doers?

What big, scary difficult thing can set our sights on? And how do we move that direction?

Who are we, together? How can we maximize our "team effect"?

There are no guarantees in life. Ever. There are no guarantees of success, health, or happiness when you "go with the flow" or accept the status quo. So why not live the life you dream of living?

In the context of homeschooling

I'd like to suggest that homeschooling is no different.

Let your kids dream. They'll need spaces of open time for this.

Surround them with inspiration.

Evaluate your core beliefs about living and education. This is your educational philosophy.

Do your homeschool methods and resources align with those beliefs? Are your days, the rhythms and patterns, an expression of that philosophy.

Help your kids do hard things. Show them how. Partner with them. Let go of perfection in your homeschool, in your life, and gift your children the freedom of good enough.

And above all else, do it together. Invite your children into a lifestyle of learning, study, and scholarship.

What are your thoughts. How do you take winter dreams (or summer dreams) and make them real? How do you move from inspiration to action in your life?

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