There’s a chill in the air and the Winter Solstice is only weeks away, which means it’s time to cozy up for some wintertime reading. Last year I compiled this massive winter booklist sorted by theme, and with so many wonderful new winter-y picture books released this year, I’ve assembled a booklist of new favorites winter stories from the 2016 year to add.
First Snow by Bomi Park
“Shhhh, listen… do you hear something? Pit, pit, pit against the window. Glistening, floating in the night.” Quiet and full of magic, First Snow captures the season’s first snowfall through a child’s eye’s with such gentle beauty and heart that this will surely be a treasured wintertime story for years to come.
Bear’s Winter Party by Deborah Hodge, illustrated by Lisa Cinar
Bear loves his forest home, but his imposing appearance deters friendships with other woodland creatures. In order to combat his loneliness, Bear decides to host an event for the woodland animals. Even though they’re frightened at first, Bear’s welcoming hospitality soothes their fears and all have a heartwarming, merry evening at his winter soiree. I have a feeling bear’s story whimsically illustrated story will inspire many young readers to host sweet winter parties of their own.
Almost a Full Moon by Hawksley Workman, Jensine Eckwall
First written as a song, Almost a Full Moon celebrates all the things about wintertime that makes it so enchanting: Snow, stories, candles, music, laughter, family, friends, and a meal shared under an almost full moon.
Sleep Tight Farm by Eugenie Doyle, illustrated by Becca Stadlander
What happens on a farm during the winter? Sleep Tight Farm is a handsome chronicle of one family’s preparations for winter on their farm beginning one early day in December and ending on the night of the Winter Solstice.
Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre
April Pulley Sayre has a new book! And it’s about SNOW! Naturalist author of the popular picture books Raindrop Roll and Rah, Rah, Radishes! takes readers on a poetic, photographic journey of snow in all it’s watery forms, inspiring even the littlest readers to look closely at the secrets of snow.
The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Chris Turnham
Is there such thing as a wish tree? Charles and his trusty toboggan, Boggan, set out through a winter wonderland to find out. In the process, they help forest friends along the way and at last encounter an unexpected surprise.
Little Penguins by Cythia Rylant, Christain Robinson
Cynthia Rylant. Christian Robinson. Two beloved kidlit rockstars, one book, and adorable penguins. Need I say more?
What is your favorite new or tried-and-true wintertime read?
Thanksgiving is a great time for sharing stories. For many, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things we are grateful for and also how we can be generous to and mindful of those around us. I wrote a post about how to mindfully read books about Thanksgiving with kids— This booklist is an extension of that post. For this holiday I like to select picture books that focus on gratitude and selflessness, but also stories that celebrate the holiday without reference to the First Thanksgiving, as many are historically inaccurate and misleading.
Here are a few reading suggestions to enjoy together during the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend:
Children’s Books ABOUT THANKS & GIVING
Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin, illustrated by Rebekah Raye
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Champan
Day by Day by Susan Gal
Nickommoh!: A Thanksgiving Celebration by Jacki French Koller, illustrated by Marcia Sewall
Feeling Thankful by Shelly Rotner, Shelia Kelly, photographs by Shelly Rotner
Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton
One Hen by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernades
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marcken
STORIES ABOUT THANKSGIVING (that aren’t about the First Thanksgiving)
‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey
Over the River & Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Kim Smith
Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Child, illustrated by Christopher Manson
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson, illustrated Judy Schachner
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes, illustrated by DOris Barrette
The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horwitz
Thanksgiving is this week, which means many homes, libraries, and schools will celebrate the holiday season by reading stories about Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, many children’s books about Thanksgiving and the First Thanksgiving are riddled in inaccurate, incomplete information and stereotypes. It is true that the Pilgrims held a celebratory feast after their first successful harvest that was attended by Wampanoag people in 1621, a peace that lasted lasted for a generation at most. For many across the nation this American holiday is a time of gathering for friends and family, but it is also acknowledged as a National Day of Mourning.
I want to be clear that I myself am learning how to mindfully read books that highlight American Indians. In the past, I’ve made the mistake of recommending Thanksgiving books with insensitive stereotypes. I’m grateful for my experience as a children’s librarian and now as a homeschooling parent, roles that have enlightened my previous ignorance. As we grow to be a more accepting and consciously aware society, it’s important to challenge our own perspectives about Thanksgiving and critically look at books we use to teach our children about this American holiday.
That said, here are a few suggestions for how to mindfully read books about Thanksgiving with kids.
Learn About and Teach American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving
Read about the American Indian perspectives on Thanksgiving, what really happened at the First Thanksgiving, and common myths. If you’re a teacher, parent, or caregiver, learn about how you can talk about this holiday with children.
Read Thanksgiving Books With a Critical Eye
Watch this video of Native Americans reviewing Thanksgiving books. Note the problematic depictions and stereotypes they point out:
Looking for accurate books about the First Thanksgiving? Please checkout Debbie Reese’s blog posts Looking for Books About Thanksgiving? and Good Books About Thanksgiving. Also, check out Oyate’s Recommended Books about Thansgiving and books to avoid. I refer to the American Indians in Children’s Literature website anytime I question a book and how it depicts American Indians. It’s a valuable resource and I highly recommend utilizing it if you have any questions or are unsure about a specific children’s book.
Read Books Written By and/or Featuring American Indians Year-Round
Make it a point to read books that highlight American Indian characters and/or stories throughout the year, not just in November. Yes, Thanksgiving is in November and Native American Heritage Month is celebrated in November, but don’t let that limit you to only reading books about American Indians during that month. Read books with American Indian characters, books about American Indian history, and actively choose books written by American Indians throughout the entire year. Check out this reading list, and this list, and this list for suggestions.
In our home, we choose to focus on celebrating respect and gratitude for the earth, the provider of the food we eat and the water we drink, as well as celebrating loved ones in our lives. We don’t ignore the origins, we discuss it in a way that is appropriate for them to understand, but the traditional story isn’t a part of the how we acknowledge the holiday. There are several wonderfully written books about Thanksgiving that don’t include references to the first Thanksgiving and also books with a general theme of gratitude that would be excellent read-alouds to enjoy this holiday– Here’s a booklist of my favorite children’s books about thanks & giving.
“The wind blows yellow sideways, then up, then down. Everywhere fills with yellow. A symphony of yellow.”
The leaves have finally started turning and it is aglow in gold here in Kansas. We’ve been reading Lauren Stringer’s new autumnal picture book Yellow Time (public library) on repeat, because like the characters in the story, we’ve been waiting and waiting for this magical time when the world seems to be a vibrant yellow– Now it’s finally here!
Yellow Time begins with neighborhood children gathering outside to admire the autumn weather. All of a sudden a wind rips through the trees, announcing the moment they’ve all been waiting for– Yellow time! They play, frolic, dance, gather leaves, and make leaf crowns, but like all good things it must come to an end. The children appreciate and admire the spell while it lasts and once it’s over, find a way to preserve a bit of this beloved time of year.
Melodic text and vibrant illustrations that almost appear to be moving in the vivid contrast between the the dark bark and bright yellow leaves, the children, and the crows. This is a book that will make you want to run and play outside, enjoying all the wonder and opportunity the autumn season holds.
Yellow Time Color Hunt
Reading Yellow Time prompted our own seasonal color investigation with a autumn color scavenger hunt. This is a simple activity highlighted on two fantastic blogs, Book Nerd Mommy and 3 Green Acorns, which I adapted for this picture book. Here’s how this simple exploration in autumn color theory works…
– Yellow interior paint color swatches (the ones pictured came from our local hardware store)
– Clothes pins
– Found nature items in various shades of yellow
Alrighty. So, this is a fairly straight forward activity. Take a walk outside during a fall day when the leaves have already started to change, taking notice of the various shades of yellow. Gather a few yellow nature items in a spectrum of light and dark shades. Once you return home, sort and color match the found nature treasures with the yellow paint swatches. We adhered our nature findings with clothes pins onto the paint color swatches, because the wind kept blowing the leaves away.
The yellow color seen in fallen leaves is actually a chemical breakdown of chlorophyll, the scientific name for what gives leaves their green color. When the days grow shorter and colder in autumn, photosynthesis stops and the green parts of leaves (chlorophll) breaks down leaving the yellow colors we see before the leaves breaks from the branch entirely. This yellow color is called xanthophyll. We see remnants of other colors too depending on the type of tree– Orange is carotene, the reds and purples are anthocyanin, and brown is tannin. Eventually, all leaves turn brown.
Sorting these shades of yellow is one way to see the range of xanthophyll exhibited in a variety of plants and autumn leaves. An autumn yellow color hunt is an easy peasy way to delve into the science of the season and a bit of color theory too!
Happy Yellow Time!
For more autumn reads, check out these 6 new picture books that celebrate the fall as well as this massive booklist organized by theme of favorite fall reads for kids.
*Copy of book reviewed was provided by the good folks at Simon & Schuster
Last year I assembled this massive booklist of children’s books about autumn sorted by theme– Autumn Equinox, apples, changing leaves, harvest season, pumpkins, scarecrows, and the list goes on. This year, a handful of noteworthy picture books were released about the autumnal season that are too good not to add onto the list of favorite fall-time reads.
Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! by Anne Sibley O’Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal
A followup to Abracadabra, It’s Spring, this charming, colorful book includes fold-out pages revealing the magical transformations that take place from summer to autumn. The colors in this book will make you sigh, “Ooohhh… Ahhhhhh!”, as if seeing a magician performing mystifying tricks.
Yellow Time by Lauren Stringer
This book could not have been released at a more opportune time for us here in Kansas. September is indeed a ‘yellow time’ of the year with the golden tallgrass, variety of wild, sky-reaching sunflowers, and goldenrod ablaze in the quickly dimming daylight hours. A lyrical and vibrant story about the time that comes only once a year when the world seems to glow yellow.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak
A debut book as both author and illustrator, Kenard Pak walks us through the transition from late summer to the beginning of the autumn season in this factual, stunning read aloud. Full book review + goodbye summer nature activity can be found here!
Wonderfall by Michael Hall
Fall can be described in many ways, some of which Michael Hall has cleverly discovered end in “fall”. “Peacefall”, “Plentifall”, “Beautifall”, this picture book in verse featuring a tree, two squirrels and many ways to explore word blending and the wonder of fall. This book is a must-read for elementary school teachers.
Little Frog and the Scary Autumn Thing by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Ellen Shi
Little frog loves the color green. Her whole summertime life since she’s been alive has been green, green, green. When the colors start changing with the transition of seasons, Little Frog becomes quite afraid when his beloved green starts to change into unfamiliar colors. Mother Frog tries to calm Little Frog by telling her, “Most things that are scary are only just new”. Little Frog braves exploring the changing environment, embracing the change when finding comfort in the familiar. A great read for kids who have a hard time with transitions.
Bella’s Fall Coat by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Susan Gal
Do these illustrations look familiar? Susan Gal is the same illustrator of Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! (see above)– She’s had a busy book release season this autumn! Bella loves her too-small coat and wants to keep wearing it forever, but she quickly learns that just like the autumn season change is inevitable. As we approach the days of changing out warm weather wardrobes for cool weather clothing, many children will find themselves in a similar predicament. Another fantastic book about coping and learning from change!
It’s the last weekend of summer! With the official first day of autumn next week, it’s time to bask in summer’s last hurrah and send the season a fond farewell by reading the new picture book, Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak (public library) about the transition of the seasons. After this fall-ish read, take some time out of your final summer days to go on a walk and preserve bits of summer by pressing wildflowers (tutorial after the book review!).
Author and illustrator Kenard Pak first came onto my radar with his stunning illustrations in the picture book The Dinner That Cooked Itself by J.C. Hysu (read this book if you haven’t yet!). So, when I learned he was publishing his debut book both author and illustrator about the exchange of the seasons from summer to fall, I was eager to read it and it did not disappoint– What an impressive book! Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn begins on a summer morning with a girl greeting the day: “Hello, late summer morning”. The reader follows her along on her walk as she greets animals in the woods, flowers, a passing storm, each reply with the actions of their autumn preparations. As she makes her way into the town, she continues to address nature’s elements in a quiet, back-and-forth conversation observing the sensations of the day.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn is rich in color, softly transforming from vibrant greens of summer to the end of the books’s blazing burnt oranges. The text reads as smoothly as a poem, like a sweet lullaby to summer. What I appreciate the most, what this book does so well, is demonstrate the practice off looking closely and taking the time to notice the world around us wether it’s observing a butterfly or acknowledging a friendly passerby on the street. Afterall, what we observe today might change tomorrow. It’s part of the magic and nature of the seasons and when we notice, we can fully enjoy the show.
END OF SUMMER FLOWER PRESSING
Hold onto the last bits of summer by pressing the end-of-summer wildflowers and leaves. In Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, the main character picks late blooming flowers and then hands them out do memebers of the town she walks through. I loved this simple act of kindness, so one way to expand from this book is simply mirroring this action of gifting end-of-summer blooms to people you happen to come across on a walk or throughout your day. But you could also create a token of the season to keep regardless of the time of year by pressing flowers. It’s a straight forward activity that makes a wonderful gift or decoration in the home.
The first step of this project is to take a walk outdoors. Notice the colors all around, smell the flowers, and notice the animals Make sure you only pick flowers where it is permitted.
Next, using a flower press or heavy books, press your flowers. Follow the instruction of your flower press, making sure to use the blotting paper on both sides of each flower. If you’re using books, open a book to it’s midsection and line with parchment paper on both open face pages. Place your flower on one side and carefully close the book, sandwiching the flower. Place several heavy books on top of the book with the flower in a place it won’t be disturbed. Whether you used a flower press or books, allow about a week for our flowers to fully press.
This project doesn’t have to be strictly for the end of summer- It can also be enjoyed into the following season! Press colorful leaves you find in the fall their color. This same project can be done with leaves as well. Just make sure you use leaves that aren’t already dried out or you will end up with leaf confetti when pressing, or what my girls call “leaf glitter”.
After a week, retrieve your pressed flowers. This part is a bit like opening presents. It’s an exciting surprise to see how they’ve transformed! You can be done after this step or further preserve them by arranging and mounting them to a piece of watercolor paper. On a sheet of watercolor paper, arrange flowers. You can try to glue them down to hold their place on the paper with a glue stick, but it isn’t necessary.
Then, separate a piece of facial tissue down to a single ply and mix a concoction of equal parts school glue and water in a small container (We only used about a tablespoon of glue and water each). Lay the single ply facial tissue over your floral arrangement and with a paintbrush, carefully dab and brush the facial tissue with the glue mixture covering it entirely.
Once finished with the glue process, leave to dry or several hours or overnight. Trim any access tissue around the sides or crop and the whole thing entirely with scissors. Write a message on it, give to a friend, frame, or add as decoration to your home nature table.
For an extensive list of seasonal children’s books, be sure to browse this autumnal booklist. If you’re looking for more nature activities to celebrate the outdoors, browse these all-ages nature activities for more fall time fun.
*A big thanks to the folks at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers for providing a copy of this book for review!
War, death, despair, perseverance, hope… The weight of these topics is not easily communicated in a book for children, but The Journey by Francesca Sanna (public library) approaches these topics in a heartfelt story that couldn’t be published at a more appropriate time in the world today. I know “must-read book of the year” is a big claim to make, especially in September before the year’s end, but this is a special book. It is an important book. The Journey is about a refugee family, a family that is based on many true refugee family stories, and their adventure leaving their home and everything, for a life where they are safe and no longer living in fear. This family of a mother and her two children take a leap of faith in an escape to a new land, and they encounter many obstacles along the way, at times feel despair, yet persevere onward. While the story has a serious tone, the illustrations balance that seriousness with an element of magical realism. Watching woodland creatures, an evil giant, a friendly shadow– They’re characters that remind the reader this story is told from a child’s perspective.
Not only is it an important work in children’s literature, but it’s an important story that needs to be read to people of all ages. Turn on the radio or television and the word “refugee” is bound to come up–The Journey is a way to explain and humanize this word for a young audience. It’s a label that applies to thousands of families we may only hear of on the news, families we may know in our community, and families who understand fully this poignant topic as they’ve experienced it or are currently experiencing a similar journey together. It’s a story that serves as both a mirror and a window into an epic adventure of strength and fortitude unlike any picture book you may ever read.
*A big thanks to the good folks at Flying Eye Books for providing a copy of this book for review!
“The cat walked through the world, with it’s whiskers, ears, and paws….”
Do you ever wonder how animals see us? What does their world look like? Is it the same as ours? Brendan Wenzel’s playful picture book explores this concept of animal perspective in They All Saw A Cat (public library). Follow a cat along on an adventure through the eyes of the animals it comes across, seeing the world in entirely different ways.
Man. What a clever, creative picture book. It’s a rhythmic story with stunning illustrations of a cat who comes across a child, a dog, a fox, a fish, a flea, a bee… And many other animals the cat encounters, all of which see the cat differently. But, it also waxes a bit existential in it’s notion of how we perceive the world around us, how others creatures perceive that very same world, and also how we perceive ourselves. It also makes for a wonderful early reader book– Many of the lines and words are repetitive and each page has clear picture clues to help determine the new animal words. Perhaps this will be a Geisel book award contender for 2017? I’m just going to put that out there into the universe…
Photo shoot outtake: Zydeco and Soren Lorenson also throughly enjoyed this read, but they didn’t especially enjoy the part about the flea. Not really fans of fleas. Speaking of perspective, I really should start writing my cat picture book reviews from their perspective… They have OPINIONS. Maybe not? Too much weird cat lady for you?
ANIMAL EYESIGHT ACTIVITY
They All Saw A Cat prompts the question: “When you see a cat, what do you see?” and also leads to further thinking about how animals view us as well. After watching this video about animal eyesight, we played around with the Photobooth app on the iPad, which is also available on Mac computers, and used that as a tool to discuss perception. There are eight special effects modes that kids can have fun playing around with, snapping pictures of what they see. The thermal option is pretty nifty because that’s how some snakes actually “see” using heat. If an iPad isn’t available at home, try your local school or public library to see if they have equipment to borrow. Or just take a piece of paper around and draw what you see and/or what an animal of your choice might see from their viewpoint. You can also have fun manipulating images with photo editing filters on the mobile device of your choice. Of course, the kids took pictures of the cats…
You can also download this They Saw A Cat Activity Kit for coloring pages, cat mask making, drawing prompt, and more!
For further information about animal eyesight including pictures demonstrating how certain animals see, check out these links:
How Animals See The World (video)
10 Examples How Animals See
This Is How Cats See The World
*Copy of book reviewed provided by the good folks at Chronicle Books!
Do you remember the first book you read by yourself? For those of you with older readers, what was the first book your child read independently? Venturing into the beginning reader section of a library or bookstore is overwhelming. Each publisher has their own reading level categories and don’t even get me started on all the different types of leveled reading assessments. How do you make time to skim each and every book while chasing kids around the library? This is my attempt at troubleshooting that experience of finding books for the just-started-learning-how-to-read reader. The below booklist is broken up into pre-reading stages of wordless books and one-word books, to build picture and print recognition, and then dives into books with only a few words to each page, working on word families and phonetic awareness, and the last list of books focuses on one sentence to two sentences per page, max.
WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS
Did you know that one valuable pre-reading skill is to look at picture clues to interpret a story? Wordless picture books (books without words) are a powerful tool with emergent readers. These are a few of our favorites:
Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley
Journey by Aaron Becker
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Flotsom by David Wiesner
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu
Where’s Walrus by Stephen Savage
ABC Dream by Kim Krans
Shadow by Suzy Lee
Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash
The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Pool by Jihyeon Lee
Float by Daniel Miyares
ONE WORD BOOKS
Let’s build some print recognition! This each book in this list only have one word that’s often times repeated throughout the entire story:
BEGINNING READER BOOKS
These are books that only have a few words on each page. They work on phonics and word families and gaining a comfortability with comprehension. I found these titles to be the perfect just-started-learning-how-to-read books:
Home Grown Books (start with The Play Book Pack!)
Flip-A-Word Books by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Yukiko Kido (This is the first series my daughter started reading by herself. Big fans of filp-a-word books!))
I See and See (I Like to Read) by Ted Lewin
Cat on the Mat (Cat on the Mat Books) by Brain Wildsmith
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett
I Have a Garden (I Like to Read) by Bob Barner
Dinosaurs Don’t, Dinosaurs Do (I Like to Read) by Steve Bjorkman
Sid and Sam (My First I Can Read) by Nola Buck
Oh Cats! (My First I Can Read) by Nola Buck
I Like Stars by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Joan Paley
City Cats, Country Cats (Step-Into-Reading) by Barbara Shook Hazen, illustrated by Pam Paparone
Hot Dog (Step-Into-Reading) by Molly Coxe
See Me Run (I Like to Read series)
Wow, It’s Worm! (Brand New Readers) by Kathy Caple
THE NEXT STEP
After the reader starts gaining some confidence reading books from the lists above, these titles bulk up with a few more words per page, a little bit longer sentences and some more challenging words, but continue the trend of repeat words and phrases with an overall relatively low word count. Many of these books are a part of a series, so if one seems to work out really well, check out the rest of the series:
Colorful Days (DK Rearders Learning to Read) by DK Publishing
Big Dog and Little Dog series (Green Light Readers) by Dav Pilkey
Whose Hat Is It? by Valeri Gorbachev
When Andy Met Sandy (An Andy & Sandy Book) by Tomie dePaola
The Chicken Said, “Cluck!” (I Can Read) by Judyann Ackermann Grant, illustrated by Sue Truesdell
Big Brown Bear (Green Light Readers) by David McPhail
Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories
Gossie (Gossie & Friends series) by Olivier Dunrea (series)
Cat the Cat Who is That? (Cat the Cat series) by Mo Willems
Rhyming Dust Bunnies Jan Thomas
What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig (series) by Emma J. Virjan
I Spy A Funny Frog by Jean Marzollo
Hop, Bunny! (National Geographic Kids Pre-Reader) by Susan B. Neuman
Big Red Apple by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Judith Hoffman Corwin
Puppy Mudge Takes a Bath (Ready to Read) by Cynthia Rylant
These are some great additional resources to checkout for early literacy advice and book recommendations:
10 Things You Can Do to Raise a Reader
Geisel Book Awards
CLEL Bell Awards
What to Do When Your Child Hates Reading
Learning to read is an exciting time and each child learns at a different pace. Everyone has different opinions on when a child should learn to read. To me though, the most important ingredient is to just cultivate a love of reading early, regardless of age. Read stories aloud, visit the library, allow the child to choose the stories- Even if they find a dictionary appealing, look up a couple words together. Just like adults, children have reading preferences– Nonfiction, graphic novels, picture books, fairy tales… Find what they enjoy and let that be your guide. This list is just the tip of the iceberg of all the options available for emergent readers. Take your time, good luck, and happy reading!
In the coming weeks, many eager, excited, and nervous kids will trade firefly nights and swimsuits for squeaky school hallways and backpacks. Back-to-School season is here, but for some, the new school year will start without ever leaving their home. A glimpse of life as part of a homeschool family is illuminated in a heartwarming, autobiographically inspired picture book, This Is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Bean (public library). In a show-and-tell manner, a young, homeschooled boy walks the reader through the dual purpose of his family’s home, his family’s dynamic, and the world around him. Each day is tightly intertwined with hours of love, labor, and learning- His mom and dad are also his teachers, his siblings are his classmates, similar to a school bus, their family van takes them on field trips, read-aloud at bedtime is an English lesson, and when the teacher is having a rough day, she sometimes has to phone in for a substitute.
The family of six’s rhythms and adventures as homeschooling homesteaders is a dreamy, organized chaos. Four kids running around, an energetic dog, chickens, a cat, a bunny, the house is cluttered with projects– A lived in space, full of energy and a representation that learning happens everywhere and at anytime. This is the essence of homeschooling that Jonathan Bean effortlessly captures in this book.
Visit the library or your local bookstore and there are dozens and dozens of “back-to-school” picture books, but there are only a couple of picture books that feature homeschoolers. 2 million families homeschool in the USA, and with homeschooling on the rise, these children now have a book that relates to their own experience. As a homeschool parent, I deeply appreciate the telling from Jonathan Bean’s own viewpoint and especially his author’s note and family photos in the back of the book. You can tell just in the way the story is written and in his note that he looks back fondly at his time home with his family. Our family’s own decision to homeschool our oldest child was a difficult one. We didn’t know the first thing about how the decision to homeschool would change the dynamic of our family and our lives, but the depiction of Jonathan Bean’s own positive experience helped me imagine what life as a homeschooling family could be like. My family doesn’t live on a picturesque homestead like Jonathan Bean’s (which you can read more about in his fantastic picture book, Building Our Home), but the approach is similar.
This Is Our Home, This Is Our School: A Look Inside Our Homeschool Life
In the same fashion of This Is My Home, This Is My School, I thought I’d share our homeschool “classrooms” and daily rhythms. As I mentioned already, this book helped me as a parent to visualize what life as a homeschooler was like before we decided to take the leap into life as a homeschool family. Here’s a peek inside our world.
This is our home, this is our school! We learn about a variety of subjects….
Horticulture & Livestock
Not Pictured: Piles and piles of laundry, piles and piles of library books, playing with neighborhood friends, piles and piles of dirty dishes, extracurricular activities, early morning snuggles, chores, more laundry, and a whole lot of love.
If you homeschool or are thinking about homeschooling, be sure to check out This Is My Home, This Is My School. If you haven any questions about our homeschooling rhythms, I’ll do my best to answer your questions. I’m new to homeschooling myself, so if you have any words of wisdom going into the new academic year, please share!
Good luck to all students and parents going into a new school year!
*Copy of book reviewed provided by the good folks at Farrar, Straus & Grioux