Fun With Ancient History

 Fun with Ancient History!

Fun with Ancient History!

We are on our 6th week with The Precious People and having so much fun. In all honesty, ancient history is not my favorite thing to teach. Many of the stories are so heavy, and it is so long ago that it can be hard for us modern families to find a connection point with ancient people. We’ve solved this problem in part by starting the year with a reading of The All Of A Kind Family, which ties the life of a 1900’s era Jewish family to stories from ancient history that relate to Jewish holy days and Ancient Egypt.

With the sweet stories and projects that I included in The Precious People, this time period is coming to life in new ways. We celebrated Rosh Hashanah with goal setting and sweet food, made mini sukkahs from graham crackers for our harvest themed celebration of Succoth, and then, for the first time in my 22 years of homeschooling, made sugar cube pyramids as we studied Ancient Egypt (I promptly threw the extra sugar cubes in a bird bath and watered them down so that children wouldn’t be tempted to eat them. I’m hoping sugar is good for birds and bees.)

I especially love the projects included in The Precious People. Projects are an amazing way to promote STEAM learning in our homes, and as we made small buckets from clay and set up a model of a shadduff, we were learning about simple machines, while being amazed at how hard it was for ancient people to irrigate a field.

Each parent guide from The Peaceful Press has a similar focus, and as we learn through great stories and projects, a much deeper intellect is formed in our children. When learning is literature based, hands on, and multi-sensory, skills are built that will enable your child to excel in many areas of life.

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A Few Favorite Stories For Getting Started With Ancient History

National Geographic Readers; Pyramids by Laura Marsh

Hands On History! Ancient Egypt by Philip Steele

The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo

All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Cathy Goldberg Fishman

Galen and the Gateway to Medicine by Jeanne Bendick

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

We will also be studying papyrus and making paper in the next few weeks, so we ordered this deckle to help with that project.

Economy Deckle

We will also be working on building this Roman Villa as we start studying Ancient Rome.

While studying the ancients might not be quite as engrossing as learning about American history with The Playful Pioneers last year, we are making the most of it with The Precious People.

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I hope you enjoy these resources as much as our family has!

-Jennifer Pepito

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Happy Birthday World-Rosh Hashanah Activities for Children

 Rosh Hashanah Activities for Children

Rosh Hashanah Activities for Children

Our newest curriculum, The Precious People, includes celebrations of several ancient feast days to bring what we are learning to life through food and fun. Enjoy this guest post about one of these festivals.

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Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish New Year. It is the first in a series of holidays that mark the fall feasts. Rosh HaShanah are Hebrew words that mean “beginning of the year”. It falls on the first day of the month Tishri in the lunar based Hebrew calendar.

The month before Rosh HaShanah, the month of Elul, is a time of preparation. The Jewish person looks deep inside his soul, at all the actions he has done over the past year; of all the words he has spoken. Were they loving and good? Where is there room for improvement? How has he behaved before G-d and before his fellow man? Has he or she been generous, patient, kind and forgiving? It is a time of repentance and cleansing or purification, not just internally, but externally. The home is made spic and span; new clothes are bought; special foods prepared for the feasts that lie ahead. Each day in the morning, the shofar, or ram's horn is blown. Its loud booming sound is supposed to wake up the sleeping soul. “Get ready! Get ready to stand before the Lord!!”

Rosh HaShanah begins the period known as the Ten Days of Awe or Days of Repentance between the New Year and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Jewish people throughout the world celebrate Rosh HaShanah. In America, it is customary to send New Year cards to friends and family. The greetings read “L'Shannah tovah tickateyvu!” which means “May you be inscribed for a good year!” It is a family time; a time not only to attend synagogue, but to enjoy a big meal with family and friends. In Israel, it is a time of gift giving – usually something for the home, such as flowers or sweet foods.

Many families celebrate the holiday with a seder, a ritual meal with special foods, prayers and blessings to bring in the New Year. At the beginning of the meal, at sunset, the women of the home light two candles and say a blessing. It is a way of sanctifying, or making holy this time. A special prayer is recited by all, thanking G-d for preserving us and bringing us to this holy time. The father sings the blessing over the wine; the hands are washed with accompanying blessings, and then there is the blessing over the bread.

On the Sabbath day, there are two loves of freshly baked challah, a light and sweet egg bread that has been braided into three parts. On Rosh HaShanah, the challah is round in a crownlike spiral. This represents the cycle of the year as well as the fact that G-d is the King. At the meal, it is customary to eat sweet foods, most notably apples dipped in honey for a sweet year. The apples are raised up, and all present at the table say to each other; “May it be thy will, O Lord, to grant us a sweet and happy year.”

At Synagogue many prayers are said: prayers of repentance; prayers for forgiveness and mercy; prayers of thanks for the past year; and prayers for a good year. Besides the many prayers, the Torah (the first five books of the Scriptures) is chanted in Hebrew from a handwritten scroll. If the New Year does not fall on a Sabbath, the ram's horn, the shofar, is blown (blowing the shofar is extremely hard work, so if it is Shabbat or Sabbath, no work can be done). It reminds the Jewish people of the shofar blasts as Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. In the afternoon, many Jews gather near a flowing body of water for the tashlikh, or “you will cast” service. Often crumbs are carried in the pockets, symbols of broken promises, sins, bad attitudes, which are thrown into the water as a symbol “to cast all sins into the depths of the sea.”

For the Jews of Israel most holidays only last one day, but outside of the land of Israel, holidays are celebrated for two days. Because Jewish time is marked from the beginning of the creation of the world, Rosh HaShanah, 2018 is actually the beginning of the year 5779.

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Rosh HaShanah Seder

Items needed:
2 white candles (or pure beeswax candles)
1 cup/glass red wine or grape juice
1 round challah bread
1 large round plate containing the following items

*a pomegranate

dates

apple slices

honey

(some seder customs add other foods and blessings as well)

Order (seder) of Blessings: (in English)

Blessing over candle lighting:
Blessed are You, O Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, who sanctifies us by His commandments and ordains us to light the Holy Day lights. Amen.

Thanks for the season:
Blessed are You, O Lord, our G-d,
king of the universe, who has kept us in life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season. Amen.

Blessing over wine (or grape juice):
Blessed are You, O Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, who gives us the fruit of the vine. Amen.

Blessing before hand washing:
Blessed are You O Lord, our G-d, King of the universe who ordains us to wash . our hands... forgive me my sins and wash away my iniquities. Amen.

Blessing over bread:
Blessed are You, O Lord, our G-d, who brings forth bread from the earth. Amen.

Raise the pomegranate and say: May it be G-d's will that our lives may be as full of good deeds as the pomegranate is with seeds. All respond: AMEN!!! 

Raise the dates and say: May it be Your will, O Lord, that we would have a year of peace. All say: AMEN!!!

Dip the apple slices (or challah) into the honey. Distribute and say:
May you renew us for a good year, a happy year, a healthy hear, a holy year, and may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life. All say: Amen!!!

Say all together: Let the old year end with all its problems. Let the new year begin with all its blessings! AMEN!!!


Many learning activities can be inspired by the celebration.

Apple Activities:

Cut apples in half, dip in paint, and use as stamps on card stock.

Make the apple stamp cards into greeting cards for family and friends.

Apple Themed Picture Books

Apple Cider Making Days by Ann Purmell
The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

Honeybees and Honey Projects:

A great way to start the school year is to study about bees and honey. It is customary in the Jewish religion to start the first day of a child's formal schooling with a spoonful of honey. This represents the sweetness of learning.

There are many books for children about the life cycle of the bee; the many products bees produce; and great crafts as well:

Make rolled beeswax candles

Buy honey-sticks in different flavors. Tie up a bunch with twisted yellow and black pipe-cleaners to give as New Year treats to family and friends.

Children's Books About Bees:

The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons

The Beautiful Bee Book by Susan Unstead

Bees: A Honeyed History by Piotr Socha

To introduce young listeners to classical music, listen to The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov.

One of my favorite bee resources is from Israel. Search for Dvorat HaTavor. Scroll down to the English setting and watch a great video on beekeeping from Biblical times to modern day. 

 Photo by Lisa Wilkinson

Photo by Lisa Wilkinson

Rosh HaShanah Books

Celebrate Rosh HaShannah by Deborah Heiligman  


The Days Between: Blessings, Poems and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season by Marcia Falk  


Your Guide to the Jewish Holidays by Matt Axelrod 

Recipe for Rosh HaShanah 

APPLE HONEY CAKE (Vegetarian) 8 servings

I absolutely love this recipe for Rosh HaShannah and Shabbat! First of all, it tastes amazing and looks like it was topped with crème brulee. It looks so elegant and fancy, like you've been to Master Baker classes, but it's deceptively simple and quick. Also, if you adhere to the Jewish dietary laws of Kashrut, and cannot mix meat with dairy at the same meal, this is pareveh, or neutral, meaning it can be served at any meal. Lastly, because it's a tradition to use apples and honey as a symbol of a sweet new year, this is a perfect recipe. As an added bonus, it also uses four of the “seven species” grown naturally in Israel listed in Deuteronomy 8:8 – wheat, olive(oil), date(honey), and fig. I serve it all year long.

INGREDIENTS:

2 red apples, peeled and sliced
2 green apples, peeled and sliced
4 large eggs
2/3 cup pure honey or silan (date honey)
5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1⁄4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp granulated sugar
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 fresh figs (Mission), quartered for optional decoration

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 (180C). Grease or line (I do both) an 8 inch (20cm) round nonstick baking pan with parchment/baking paper. Line the bottom of the pan with all of the apple slices to form concentric rings - there should be a lot of apples on the bottom, looking like a sunflower. In medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, olive oil and two of the eggs. Blend until just smooth (I do this by hand). Pour all of the batter over top of the apples. Bake for 20 minutes.

Take the pan out of the oven. Increase temperature to 400 (200C) degrees. In separate small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 eggs and the honey (or silan). Pour the mixture over the cake and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the top looks golden brown like a crème brulee and toothpick comes out clean. Arrange fig slices in four clumps towards outer edges. Delicious eaten warm or cold.

Written by Tamar Dunbar Karmi’el, Galilee

Israel 2018/5778

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Enjoy our free parent guides, activities and books lists:

Homeschooling Busy Boys

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My boys, ages 1, 3, and 5 have been eyeing the new books, supplies, and schoolroom with excitement and finally break down my desire to begin in Fall. We start. Running out of the gate, full steam ahead! They love it! I love it. This is great. Day two, day three....and then the new wears off a bit and a hesitation starts in my eldest when I suggest we head to the school room. I watch his exterior change. No more shiny eyes, shoulders hunch, and he wants to keep playing. My heart tunes in to his. Why? Why is my son suddenly choosing to avoid our newfound adventure? I watch his shiny blonde head in the playroom, imagining, singing, and his body twirling and stretching. I had tried to make our homeschool fun, but I had not kept the wonder! 

That’s it, mamas. Nothing too wild or difficult. The best advice I can offer a mama homeschooling littles (children under 7) is maintain the wide eyed wonder. When you pull out the read aloud, pull out the peg dolls, the silk scarves, the tinker toys, the blocks, the fort making supplies....something, anything, to invite them to jump into the story and live with the characters. Make the food the book describes, do a craft like the main character, visit somewhere like the setting, anything you can to keep their minds alive with wonder about the lives and experiences of those in the stories you read. 

When they show interest in letters and reading, please don’t buy a full phonics or reading curriculum and expect them to spend 30 minutes a day sitting with you learning to read. Choose something light and natural, with play and whimsy built in. The Peaceful Preschool does this so innately and beautifully. If you do use a phonics curriculum try something brief. I found a wonderful little phonics set called “Dash into Readingthat takes all of 5-8 minutes a day and incorporates horses, pirates, dogs, rats, young children, games, and beautiful watercolor pictures all in its simple lessons. 

When your child begins to count their toys and recognize numbers as you wander through the grocery store aisles, don’t hurry to find the best math curriculum out there. Instead, encourage them to sort their toys, count beans, the wings on bugs, the legs on a butterfly, have them paint what they see and count too! Let them enjoy the wonder and discovery they are naturally prone to. 

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Don’t be afraid to spend days outside with your littles, mama! Whether you call yourself Charlotte Mason, Classical, Montessori, it doesn’t matter. Get those littles outside. The sunshine, the trees, the bugs, the natural world - it saturates, invigorates, and soothes their little souls. I have a very active and excited little tribe of boys that comes alive and even focused in the woods. Find a small group to spend hours with at a stream or field. Explore, play, investigate, bring lunch, read! You will be rewarded with great naps and lots of smiles all around. 

If you are still reading, thank you and welcome to the journey with me. Let’s explore a week at Arrow Hill Academy.

On Mondays and Tuesdays we begin our day with about 3-5 minutes of reading from a great book (The Ology). Then we sing a hymn together and go over the alphabet/letter sounds and our scripture. We do this at breakfast and the boys have come to expect it. Then we are off! Lunch is packed, swim suits or play clothing is on, and we bustle to the car! Out to the woods for 4-5 hours. We explore and play and read and eat with friends at the same location for 8-12 weeks at a time! It is a wonderful little program I help direct called Free Forest School.

When we arrive home, we rest. My boys often sleep 2-3 hours on these days! Later, we may read or do a craft or poetry together. I typically allow my eldest two to choose the rhythm for our afternoons on these days.

The rest of the week, we start out with our bible and hymn (morning basket) routine at breakfast and then head to our schoolroom for a read aloud from The Playful Pioneers. My boys love Almanzo and talk about him and play “with” him unprompted throughout our days. While I read, they draw or play with blocks or get out our vintage Playmobil log cabin, Native American figurines, and toy animals.

After our reading, we talk about the book, draw together, cook, or enjoy a craft. I have a gentle math and language arts curriculum if and when my eldest wants to do it, and I offer it daily. When he chooses it, we love the game based learning it incorporates and my 3 year old often joins in! We use Dash into Reading for phonics on these days and sometimes play the games it has too.

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On the days we don’t stay in the woods, we enjoy outside time in the afternoons and my boys collect bugs in the yard, write in the mud with sticks, or kick balls, and watch birds and squirrels. Our academic pursuits in the schoolroom might last an hour, or they might be 30 minutes. Then, we play and cook and enjoy time exploring and having fun!

If I can leave you with any great nugget, any strong encouragement, it would be that you watch that little one and keep their wide-eye wonder! If it begins to lack it's luster, watch them, assess, take inventory, and make adjustments.

Our littles need us to be the great protectors of their childhood. The ones that guard their inquisitive souls from the dull and the sedentary.

So, mother of littles, go and set up a homeschool adventure around that wide eyed wonder, create an atmosphere for it to thrive and roam and indulge because all too soon it will naturally settle and they will leave Never Never Land and alight in our beautiful school rooms with logical minds ready for academia. 

Sarah Ruth Owens

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Gentle Learning With Littles- A Guest Post

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We are in the depths of early childhood. Just past the sleepless nights and constant nursing, but still in the expanse of that sweet age of boundless energy and curiosity that is so fleeting. There was no doubt when we implemented The Peaceful Preschool last year that it would be a perfect fit for our family.

My eldest daughter has always loved books and this gentle, literature based approach was just what our family needed. It brought such a peaceful rhythm to our learning and I am thankful to have been able to begin our homeschooling journey in a peaceful way from the start. Much of homeschooling last year would find us snuggling on the couch or under a tree reading books and then re-enacting the stories, painting with watercolors, and hanging letters on our school room wall with pride and accomplishment. Then outside we went! 

Click For The Peaceful Preschool Book List

Much of our day you can find us outdoors, weather permitting. Exploring the woods next door, walking to a favorite local spring fed stream with friends, and hiking a new trail. So much growth and knowledge can occur when in nature, especially in the early years.  Respect is learned for creatures, gentleness when one finds a butterfly, attention is stretched when observing more and more details of a little lady bug who decides to visit a while. Perseverance and determination are developed when hiking and littles learn that one step taken is one step closer to the goal.  

Need More Ideas For Nature Based Learning? Our Ocean Guide Can Help

We also started tea time, which has been such a blessing! When we are having a hard day, whether it be difficult feelings or just bad attitudes, putting everything aside to sit and have tea has proven countless times to reset our day. We read poems, enjoy tea (in our case apple juice), talk, and giggles are sprinkled throughout. By the time we are done with tea we leave the table with a deeper understanding and love for one another.

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Homeschooling with littles is a bit different this year than it was last year. We are three weeks in with The Playful Pioneers and my youngest, who is two, is showing more and more interest in what we are doing. While at times it can be so tempting to distract and give her something else to do, I have found it more helpful to include her. Toddlers are so curious and what better way to hone in on their desire to learn than to welcome them in with arms wide open. While I’m reading from Farmer Boy my youngest plays with her little wooden barn while my five year old does copy work or works on weaving. The activities in The Playful Pioneers are so easily adaptable between ages, which I love. My toddler is always right in the midst of it and along the way we are learning patience, helpfulness, and forgiveness. And grace, oh so much grace. Easier said than done, but from what I’ve gleaned from seasoned mamas who have been there and have seen the fruits of their labor… it is hard work, but it is so worth it.

Melina Boswell

Click Here For The Playful Pioneers Book List

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Are you in need or reading resources for your young learners? This post contains a few of our favorites.

Math can be fun. This post shares a few resources that can help shape a positive view.

A Peaceful Preschool

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We sat down at the kitchen table this past summer, my husband and I, asking, “What do we want down deep for our family?” Our oldest daughter was 3, we had welcomed our son into the world in January, we were exhausted, but grateful, and wanting more. We’d been prayerfully considering the possibilities of homeschooling for quite some time, but also looking into local preschools as we tried to figure out what would be best for us. Maybe it was God’s sovereignty, maybe it was due to the fact that we had just moved to the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t bear to think of driving 25 minutes into town and back and back again three days a week, maybe it was feeling pressed financially and wanting to be wise with our investments, but whatever it was, we decided to keep her home and to dive in to this new, unexplored, beautiful world that is homeschooling.

Upon receiving The Peaceful Preschool curriculum, I devoured those first 26 pages like a hungry child. Oh, the weekly materials are beyond beautiful and I’ll touch on that in a minute, but the heart behind it all… it’s everything. That’s where it clicks and we come back to that overarching question, “What do we want down deep for our family?” and we were met with the resounding answer that, most of all, our deepest desire as parents is to be purposeful and present with one another and with the things that fill our days. Jen’s wisdom and guidance, her experience and practical advice, have helped us solidify a clear vision for why we are doing what we are doing, why it’s worth it, and how we can take tangible action steps toward achieving our heart’s cry for our family. 

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You can tell that every word and activity in the weekly lessons have been carefully chosen and created, born from both rich experience and simple, devoted parenting. Though it requires intentionality, most of the learning that occurs is natural and easy to incorporate into our daily lives. I love having the confidence that we are covering phonics and counting skills, while also focusing on life skills like cooking and cleaning and sharing with others. The framework is there, but there’s also a freedom to take it and run with it… compelling us to more. 

It’s been far from perfect. But it’s been us. I know we’ve got plenty of time to continue learning and growing and patiently discovering our longings, our strengths, our weaknesses, our groove. But, it’s been beautiful, needed and deep. It’s crazy how these simple little lessons have helped meet some of those big, down deep desires in our hearts. And as the new year awaits us, I have such hope that more will continue to unfold as we dive into the rest of the letters… into learning… into living…into loving... purposeful and present, together. 

Humbly,

Kelly-This Humble Hive

You can check out Kelly's beautiful resources for learning with toddlers here.

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Our Year With The Peaceful Preschool-A Guest Post

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As I write this post we just finished up with Letter V and are on the home stretch to finish up our first year with The Peaceful Preschool curriculum. I knew when we started this curriculum that I would be repeating it again, and my kids and I are already getting excited to start again with Letter A! 

At the beginning of last year when I was considering whether or not I could homeschool my children, a good friend of mine suggested The Peaceful Preschool curriculum. I decided to purchase it, not sure if we would use it or to what degree. The introductory pages to this curriculum, which provide a family vision sheet and suggestions for daily rhythms, were so inspiring to me. I felt excited and had so much peace and comfort from having everything clearly defined and laid out for me. After purchasing the curriculum I then began reading several Charlotte Mason and Montessori inspired books, websites, and blogs. After having a clearer grasp on our family's goals for homeschooling I felt even more certain that The Peaceful Preschool was the best guide for us in the early years, which Charlotte Mason describes as "a quiet growing time." 

The Peaceful Preschool lessons are engaging, gentle, and fit fluidly into our regular daily rhythm (which I recently blogged about here). The preparation is minimal; most supplies can be found around your home or you can easily find a suitable alternative. You only need to find 2-3 books at your library for each week's lessons, but if your library isn't great, you will not regret purchasing any of the books on the booklist! The curriculum also will not break your budget: I had to spend money up-front to gather basic supplies (I really did not have much before starting preschool at home), but on a week-by-week basis there is very little to no requirement for spending money on additional materials, or even burdening you with extra cost of printer ink. What a blessing!

For this past year, I structured our weeks so that we could spend two weeks on each Letter Unit, enjoying two days from The Peaceful Preschool each week. The other days of the week I would add some  based on my children's interests (for example, B is for Birds or C is for Camping). 

My memories of our time spent with The Peaceful Preschool are rooted in reading and re-reading the books that come from the weekly booklist. The books are, in my mind, the heart of the curriculum. The stories are rich, most have stood the test of time, and are what Charlotte Mason would describe as twaddle-free. My kids have latched on to so many of these stories in lasting ways. 

Okay, so the books are wonderful, the prep is manageable, the activities are simple and engaging, but really the core reason why I plan to do this curriculum all over again is that it fosters connection with my children. The activities are not simply tasks to check off on some academic-attainment list; they are invitations to take a break from the adult world, be present, connect with your children, and come alongside them in a slow and purposeful way. When we engage in these preschool activities, my children receive the message that they are valued and who they are matters. Plus, it's fun!! What could be more fun than gathering every hat in your house and stacking them all on your head like the "Caps For Sale" peddler? Or, playing Follow the Leader, acting out animals from stories, and building a fort? Preschool is the best!

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I do also add on a few things to the curriculum over the two-week-per-letter period, like 3-Part Cards for our letter learning, other Montessori-based resources, or just fun ideas I find on Pinterest or Instagram. 

I also consider our weekly Bible lessons and daily outdoor time as essential elements to our Preschool at Home. For each Letter Unit, I chose to add on a Bible lesson using The Jesus Storybook Bible -- you can view these lessons on my blog here. These are based on Letter Unit themes and sometimes nicely pair with the memory verses from The Peaceful Preschool. 

For our daily outdoor time we have lots of unstructured outdoor play in our yard, and we also walk and explore each day. My family lives on a camp property in Indiana where my husband works -- it is situated on 2,500 acres of woods with lots of trails and a lake. We feel incredibly grateful to give our children a childhood like this where they can explore the woods so easily each day and already know so many trees, birds, and plants with not much effort on our part. With that in mind, it always brings me joy to see how many activities in The Peaceful Preschool coincide with our desire to be outdoors. Many activities in the weekly plan are intended to be done outdoors, and even some of the counting skills and fine motor skills can be completed using natural materials. Build a fairy garden, collect wildflowers and make an arrangement, gather leaves and make leaf rubbings, etc.

Again, I am so grateful to have a curriculum that fosters connection with my children, and am excited to repeat it again next year! For the first 3 years of my oldest child's life, I would have never considered homeschooling. This last year has been such a confidence-builder for me in all the right ways, giving me the encouragement and inspiration to view home education as "an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" (in the words of Charlotte Mason) and not just public-school-done-at-home. Lastly, I am grateful for the community of homeschooling moms I have as support through The Peaceful Press Facebook group and the Instagram community as well. It is a true gift to know I am not alone.

Written by Sarah Street

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Summer Reading and Projects

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Summer is nearly upon us, and we are excited about all the memories we will make. Each year I grow more aware of how fast the precious years of childhood are flying by, and I am doing my best to make the most of them. 

Although every summer is a little different; sometimes we school through the summer, and other years we take the whole season off, this year we will continue working on literacy and math, while staying close to home. We will be starting The Precious People curriculum in September, so I'm excited for the opportunity to plan for our fall celebrations and learning.

We found some great summer themed books we wanted to share so you can make the most of this season with your children as well. We have even paired the books with easy activities to build sweet memories in your own family.

Swimmy by Leo Lionni

Activity: Find a body of water and look for minnows, or head to the ocean and see if you can spot a Swimmy in the tide pools.

The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice by Wendy Pfeiffer

Activity: Find a map of the world and show your littles the different time zones. What time is the sun setting in Iceland? In India? Is there any sun in Antarctica in July?

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Activity: Go on a scavenger hunt, make it a competition or an expedition.

The Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing

Activity: Find a trampoline or spread out some blankets, can you find the first star in the summer sky, the big dipper, or make your own constellations with dot paint on black construction paper.

S is for S’Mores: A Camping Alphabet by Helen Foster James

Activity: Make s'mores. How many different types of chocolate and biscuit combinations can you use to make a s’more?

Summertime in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Activity: Find a local farm to pick some stone fruit or a field with blackberries or raspberries.

For more fun with The Little House on the Prairie, check out our The Playful Pioneers curriculum.

Join the conversation and share your favorite books and ideas for summer fun! 

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Click here for helpful hints on teaching your child to read.

For a full year learning plan that incorporates books and projects, check out our open and go parent guides.

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Learning About Trees- A Guest Post

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As the end of the school year approaches, we often get burned out and I find that it is the perfect time to change things up and create a unit study for us all to enjoy, explore, and learn together. Often, we explore something that has been the topic of recent conversation, but with Arbor Day and Earth Day both falling in April I thought it would be the perfect time for a month long unit study on trees. 

Whenever we plan a unit study, I usually start by breaking it down into a few basic categories (or weeks) of learning. For a study of trees, I broke it into these categories, these will be broken down into daily lessons.

Beginning- The study of the beginning of plants and trees.

Identifying- Becoming aware and informed on the different parts, types, and purposes of trees.

Habitats- Learning about the habitat of a tree, as well as a forest ecosystem.

Exploring and Adopting- Putting our knowledge to work by both adopting a tree we can observe in all seasons and adventuring out to see what we have learned and what we can identif


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We meet together in the mornings, around the table, for family studies. We sip tea, we talk, we ask questions, and we learn together. The baby eats way too much in his high chair as we linger over books and journals, and the preschooler is often kept busy with activities just for her when she is growing tired of sitting and listening.  In this case we pulled out The Peaceful Preschool letter activities that could work well with our theme so she was making similar connections, but in ways that could keep her hands busy and more importantly, keep her included. 

We started our tree unit at the beginning, understanding the importance of the tiniest seeds to the deepest roots. When you begin at the beginning it brings a fuller, easier understanding of why and how. I always want to make sure that we have as many questions answered as possible. We talked about nurture, as well as nature, and how they both play a role in the growth of a plant, as well as in the growth of us. We talked about how we can play a role in the growth of plants and trees, as well as in the growth of those around us. We planted seeds, observed seeds from different trees, and we journaled the seed cycle. 

Resources:

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Aston

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

Because of An Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer

Next, we began to identify the tree as a whole, as well as each individual part of the tree, the roots, the trunk, the bark, the leaves. And in doing that we discovered how unique and different each tree is, and how they tell stories of their pasts in their growth. It reminded us how we are all left with marks, scars, and evidence of what God has done in our lives, too. And how special and important that is.

Breaking it all down, comparing and contrasting, and spending time poring over living books and field guides, will help us when we are exploring outside, whether a hike in the mountains and forest, or just in the backyard, to make connections with confidence. It will create a more excited and thoughtful explorer, a more eager learner, which is my ultimate goal for a unit study. I am always looking at how the unit study can impact us for future learning. 

Resources: 

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

Play the Forest School Way by Peter Houghton and Jane Worroll

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger

Trees, Leaves and Bark by Diane Burns

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown Ups by Gina Ingoglia

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A study of habitat was important to add mindfulness that we are not the only ones that enjoy trees and forests. I pulled out our favorite living books that gave us a fuller picture of life within a log, a tree, and the forest. Creating food chains, playing games, building dioramas, and pulling out our nature journals to make notes of tracks and evidence of life to look for when we head out to explore, all add to our unit study. 

Resources:

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

A Log's Life by Wendy Pfeffer

The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward

In Woods and Forests by Tessa Paul

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry

Game: Into the Forest

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As we head into Arbor Day and Earth Day, we plan to complete our journey with packing up special arbor themed nature packs and heading out into our backyard, a forest hike, and a local park, to see if we can put together all we learned and test our knowledge. I think the best tests have more to do with seeing it play out as you experience it, and not what you can answer on paper. Lastly, we plan to adopt a tree to visit and observe over the course of a year, season after season. And as we adventure and grow over this year, so will the tree. 

Resources: 

Play the Forest School Way by Peter Houghton and Jane Worroll 

Arbor Day Square by Kathryn O. Galbraith (I highly recommend this if you are studying The Playful Pioneers!) 

Post by Lisa Wilkinson, you can find more of her resources here-

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You can add more literature and project based learning to your school year with our easy to use parent guides. Each week contains lesson plans, book suggestions, poetry and more, to make learning a joyful experience with your child.

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