Wednesday, December 27

Word of the Year: Renaissance

Each year, we choose a Word of the Year...something to focus on energies on for the upcoming year.  It's akin to the New Year Resolution, but less of an actual task than a change in mindset.  For 2024, we selected Renaissance...or Awakening, if you will.

Previous words of the year include:

You can visit each of these to pick up resources and ideas for incorporating those principles and goals into your home.

Looking around, something I've noticed since 'rona is a realignment of values and priorities.  People were forced to really take a good, hard look at their lives and reexamine what they wanted.  For folks of a certain age, those mid-lifers, it kicked off a renaissance movement...

Renaissance is a French word meaning “rebirth.”  People tend to think of it as the revival of art and literature under the influence of classical models in the 14th–16th centuries, but it can also be a revival or renewed interest in something.

For homeschooling mamas reaching the end of their journey, having the last child leave, facing an empty nest, and potentially coping with aging parents can all lead to major life changes that leave you wondering exactly what comes next.  Particularly if you've made the decision not to pursue a career and instead dedicated your life to raising babies and setting the stage for them to be successful, what is your purpose now?

This is a prime moment to face rebirth.  Your old life is fading, but your new life isn't born yet.  It's not a midlife crisis, per se, though it might seem like it to those on the outside, but it's a time to examine what the next steps are....

Some of the Precursors to a Rebirth

  • Death of a Loved One
  • Physical Changes
  • Career Setback
  • Family Relationship

Signs of Impending Rebirth

  • Feelings of Nostalgia
  • Emptiness and Boredom
  • Discontentment with Life
  • Drastic Change in Attitude

Your Rebirth Book List

Bring the Renaissance -- the historic version -- into your homeschool with these resources and unit studies!!!


What's your word of the year???

Monday, September 18

Sensational Seasonal Breakfasts

Breakfast - literally "break fast" - is the most important meal of the don't skip it! The meal improves your energy level and provides much-needed glucose to your body and brain. It also fills you up before you really get hungry, making you less likely to reach for just anything later.

However, many breakfast foods are laden with sugar and fats, which don't give you the brain boost you need. They give you a quick glucose spike, followed by a sluggish period. Here are two recipes that will bring seasonal flavors to your table and much-needed nutrients to your body!

 Baked Granola

Most store-bought granolas are full of sugars and oil, but a few simple tweaks makes a healthy and tasty homemade option!

  • 8 c rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 c chopped dates
  • orange zest (to taste)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 275, and line baking pans with parchment paper.
  2. Put dates into saucepan with 2 c water, bring to boil, and cook on medium for 10 minutes.  
  3. Remove from heat, and put into blender.  Add orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt.  Process until creamy.
  4. Put oats into mixing bowl and add date mixture.  Stir well.
  5. Divide granola among baking pans and spread evenly.  Bake 40 to 50 minutes until granola is crispy.
  6. Let cool completely before storing in airtight containers.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Best served with warm maple frosting and a cup of coffee, these pancakes are the perfect start to your autumn morning!
  • Pancakes
    • c flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp nutmeg
    • pinch salt
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 c buttermilk
    • 1/2 c melted butter
    • 1/4 c maple syrup
    • 1 c shredded carrots
    • 1/4 c raisins
  • Maple Frosting
    • 8 oz softened cream cheese
    • 1/4 c maple syrup
  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, maple syrup, and eggs.  
  3. Fold in flour mixture.
  4. Add carrots and raisins.  Stir well.
  5. Drop and cook pancakes.
  6. Stir together cream cheese and maple syrup until smooth and creamy to make frosting.

You may also like...

Pick up more healthy & homemade recipes in the No-Sweat! Cooking Bundle!

This three-book bundle includes:

Freezer Cooking Through the Year – This book includes : the whats and whys behind freezer cooking how-to tips and tricks pantry freezing guidelines, printable planning sheets more than thirty kid-friendly recipes!

Freezer Cooking Through Another Year – Join us for another twelve months of seasonally-appropriate freezer cooking recipes, along with planning tips and helps! This is for anyone who wants to get a leg up on getting healthy meals on the family table, without much fuss, and includes planning sheets and extra hints.

A Slow-Cooked Year – This book includes : the whats and whys behind crockpot cooking, how-to tips and tricks, safe crockpot guidelines, printable planning sheets, and more than thirty seasonally-appropriate, kid-friendly recipes!

Tuesday, September 12

Seasonal Smoothie Treats

Remember when smoothies were all the craze?  You can sneak fruits and veggies into them, drink your breakfast, and feel good about your nutritional choices for the day...

Unfortunately, it really wasn't that simple.  It turned out to be really easy to load up on sugars quickly, without even realizing how much sugar you were getting, and people weren't getting the health benefits they'd hoped.  However, that doesn't mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater!

You can mix up the ingredients, too, to address various nutritional challenges.  Smoothies made with whole-milk, for example, will have more fat than smoothies made with water or non-fat milk.  Smoothies made with milk, yogurt, or water will have less sugar than those made with fruit juice.

Whip up one of these yummy smoothies for a sweet autumn treat!  These cute mason jars are perfect for taking them on-the-go!

 Chunky Monkey

This is a filling treat that's ready in less than five minutes.  You can use any nut butter you choose, and if you don't have frozen bananas, use fresh ones with a couple of ice cubes.

  • 1 c almond milk
  • 2 frozen bananas, in chunks
  • 1 Tbsp almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c chopped dates

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.  Add more almond milk for a smoother texture.

Pumpkin Pie

Perfect for autumn, this sweet treat is like having the Thanksgiving pie without the side of guilt!

  • 1 c almond milk
  • 1/2 c pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c crushed ice
  • 4 chopped dates
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.  Add more almond milk for a smoother texture.

Pick up more healthy & homemade recipes in the No-Sweat! Cooking Bundle!

This three-book bundle includes:

Freezer Cooking Through the Year – This book includes : the whats and whys behind freezer cooking how-to tips and tricks pantry freezing guidelines, printable planning sheets more than thirty kid-friendly recipes!

Freezer Cooking Through Another Year – Join us for another twelve months of seasonally-appropriate freezer cooking recipes, along with planning tips and helps! This is for anyone who wants to get a leg up on getting healthy meals on the family table, without much fuss, and includes planning sheets and extra hints.

A Slow-Cooked Year – This book includes : the whats and whys behind crockpot cooking, how-to tips and tricks, safe crockpot guidelines, printable planning sheets, and more than thirty seasonally-appropriate, kid-friendly recipes!

Thursday, September 7

Censorship, Propaganda, and the Book Thief

 In our current climate of big-tech censorship, mass media propaganda, and an ever-increasingly polarized world, scholars are debating a World War 2 question --- would censorship have stopped the Nazis?  What lessons can be applied today?

As we have learned in previous novel studies, Germany was defeated in World War I, suffered dire consequences, and eventually came under the control of Adolf Hitler.  He envisioned the German people, specifically the Aryan people, as a superior race.  As early as 1934, he began making changes in Germany's political agreements and governmental policies.  He began to annex adjoining areas, such as Czechoslovakia, into his empire.

There is a long history of anti-Semitism, such as that we studied in the Broken Strings unit study.  Jews had long been persecuted against for their religious beliefs, and at times were forced to convert to another religion.  Many of them were money lenders (due to restrictions put into place regarding what jobs they were allowed to have), and when the economy of Germany took a nosedive, this made Jews an easy scapegoat.  In his 1925 book, Mein Kampf, Hitler accused Jews of deliberately attempting to pollute the pure German gene pool, of robbing Aryans, and of destroying the nation’s social fabric. 

We study the Holocaust and its atrocities more in depth in Under the Donim Tree.  You may also pick up the entire bundle of Jewish Studies through Literature - ten units.

Banned Books in Nazi Germany

The government banned books that were written by authors with Jewish lineage, or who had communist or pacifist leanings.  The books were removed from public, and it became illegal to own one, and many were burned.  In some occupied countries, books that were not written in German (even if German wasn't the native language) were also banned.  A few well known books that were banned included All Quiet on the Western Front and Metamorphosis.

Censorship & Propaganda

When Nazis first came to power, the German constitution guaranteed freedoms of speech and the press, but those rights were eroded over the next couple of years.  This eventually destroyed the German democracy.  It was illegal to criticize the government, and even illegal to tell a joke about Hitler!

In spite of this erosion of their rights, it was imperative for the people to support Nazi ideas, if they were to accomplish their political goals.  To get the people on board, they seized control of newspapers, magazines, radio shows, books, music, movies, and other art forms.  They did this by banning books, controlling what allowed to be published in print or on air, and even censoring letters home from soldiers.  This helped to damper the flow of negative information.

In addition to stopping negative information from getting out, a new department - the Reich Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda - was headed by Joseph Goebbels to create and promote propaganda.  Propaganda is information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view, and the Nazis used it to spread their ideology.  Some examples of this included: using Hitler's image all over the place, spreading negative ideas and misinformation about Jews, broadcasting Nazi speeches, holding large rallies, promoting Nazi ideas in the classroom, and creating youth groups, such as the Hitler Youth and League of German Girls.

You may also be interested in We Were There at the Battle of Britain, Breaking Stalin's Nose, or Animal Farm


  • The Book Thief
    • It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.


Make / Do

  • In The Book Thief, characters risk their freedom to access banned books. Create a scrapbook based on the books that you would be willing to take risks to read.
  • Using all the clues and snapshots given in the story, create a timeline for Liesel's life. Include important events that impacted the direction her life took.
  • Choose two characters, and then create a collage of the characters’ characteristics using words and images.
  • Trace character development Liesel’s growing from a scared, angry girl to a witty, brave young woman.
  • Write about an event that marked a turning point in your life
  • What is your favorite color? Why? What does it remind you of or what emotion does it represent?
  • Want to further explore this topic?  Download the Childhood in Nazi Germany lesson.


  • hindered
  • protestations 
  • amiable 
  • affable 
  • genially 
  • abhorrence
  • trepidation 
  • septic
  • torrent 
  • innocuously
  • echelons 
  • eventuated 
  • castigate 
  • audacious
  • catatonic  
  • bereaved 


  • How does the author use the literary device of foreshadowing to pull the reader into the story?
  • What is your favorite color? Why?  What does it remind you of or what emotion does it represent?

Get the entire World War 2 Bundle!


  • The Book Thief
  • We Were There at the Battle of Britain
  • Number the Stars
  • The Winged Watchmen
  • We Were There at Pearl Harbor
  • We Were There at the Battle of Bataan
  • Island War
  • Red Stars
  • The Night Witches
  • Mare’s War
  • We Were There at the Normandy Invasion
  • Code Talkers
  • We Were There at the Battle of the Bulge
  • The Light Between Us
  • We Were There at the Open of the Atomic Era
  • A Merry 1940s Christmas

Product samples:

Wednesday, August 23

A New Crop of Books (for all ages) this National Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th to October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage Month.  During this time, Americans celebrate the history, culture, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.  Here are some ideas for you to incorporate unit studies, read alouds, and other fun activities into your homeschool this month!!

Fantastic New Books!!

This crop of new reads incorporates elements of Hispanic culture, interweaving them seamlessly into stories that educate and / or entertain.  Here are two of our favorites for each age range!

Children's Books

  • Mother of Sharks
    • As the sun sets over another gorgeous day at la Playita Del Condado in Puerto Rico, Meli doesn't want to go home. She loves the ocean more than anything, and with only five minutes left at the beach, she knows exactly where her last stop should be: the tidal pools. They are small universes of their own teeming with critters and creatures of the ocean. While looking into the pools, she meets a crab, Jaiba, who takes her on a dreamlike underwater adventure, teaches her about the importance of shark conservation, and reveals Meli's ultimate destiny: to become the Mother of Sharks.
  • How to Speak in Spanglish
    • Sami loves to speak both English and Spanish. But he doesn't just speak them one at a time. He speaks in Spanglish! Sometimes, he makes brand-new words—like "lonche"—and sometimes, he puts the languages together in one sentence, like when he's hungry for jamberguers con papas fritas.  But not everyone likes Spanglish. Abuela thinks that Spanish should be spoken at home and English at school. And to make matters more complicated, Sami's not allowed to write his homework in Spanglish.  At first, Sami feels confused and frustrated. But with the support of his family, friends, and neighbors, Sami soon realizes that his unique identity should be celebrated. Hooray, muy bien, Sami!

Older Children's Books

  • Hands
    • Trev would do anything to protect his mom and sisters, especially from his stepdad. But his stepdad’s return stresses Trev—because when he left, he threatened Trev’s mom. Rather than live scared, Trev takes matters into his own hands, literally. He starts learning to box to handle his stepdad. But everyone isn’t a fan of his plan, because Trev’s a talented artist, and his hands could actually help him build a better future. And they’re letting him know. But their advice for some distant future feels useless in his reality right now. Ultimately, Trev knows his future is in his hands, and his hands are his own, and he has to choose how to use them.
  • Quien fue Celia Cruz?
    • Although her family and friends know her as Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, the world refers to her simply as Celia Cruz. Starting her career in 1950, Celia grew increasingly popular as the new lead singer of the Cuban band Sonora Matancera. Her exceptional vocal range and flashy costumes made fans fall in love with her.  Celia's talent took her all around the world, including the United States. After Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, she wasn't allowed to return to her native country. She and other Cubans who were exiled used their music to express their love for their homeland.  Celia rose to the top of the charts in a genre that was dominated by men. She become an award-winning singer and the most popular Latin artist of the twentieth century. Azucar! indeed!

Young Adult Books

  • Chupacarter & the Haunted Pinata
    • New kid Jorge is shocked to learn that his beastly friend Carter isn't the only legendary creature in Boca falls. Every few years, the town is terrorized by a haunted . . . piñata? Rumor has it that the petrifying party decoration floats around setting eerie fires to avenge a long-ago betrayal. Jorge can't help but laugh, until a rash of green fires forces the townspeople to consider moving away, including the parents of his pals Ernie and Liza! With Carter at their side, the three friends are in a race against time to catch the real culprit before they're separated forever . . . or the whole town is set aflame. Which will come first?
  • Always Isn't Forever
    • Best friends and soul mates since they were kids, Hart Augusto and Ruby Armenta were poised to take on senior year together when Hart tragically drowns in a boating accident. Absolutely shattered, Ruby struggles to move on from the person she knows was her forever love.  Hart can’t let go of Ruby either…. Due to some divine intervention, he’s offered a second chance. Only it won’t be as simple as bringing him back to life—instead, Hart’s soul is transferred to the body of local bad boy.  When Hart returns to town as Jameson, he realizes that winning Ruby back will be more challenging than he’d imagined. For one, he’s forbidden from telling Ruby the truth. And with each day he spends as Jameson, memories of his life as Hart begin to fade away.  Though Ruby still mourns Hart, she can’t deny that something is drawing her to Jameson. As much as she doesn’t understand the sudden pull, it can’t be ignored. And why does he remind her so much of Hart? Desperate to see if the connection she feels is real, Ruby begins to open her heart to Jameson—but will their love be enough to bridge the distance between them?

Dive Deeper with Literature-Based Unit Studies

  • We Were There with Cortes and Montezuma -- In the early 16th century, Spanish colonies were already well established in the Caribbean islands and they were turning their eyes westward.  Under the leadership of Hernán Cortés, the Spaniards looked to Aztec territory in present-day Mexico...
  • Charlie Hernandez -- Latin American culture is full of terrifying mythological creatures that our parents used to scare us into good behavior!  The Charlie Hernandez books pull myths from several countries and weave them together into a story of good battling evil while teaching readers about these cultural tales.  And no, la chancla isn't one of them, but as any Latino kid should be...
  • The King's Fifth -- The earliest exploration of the Southwest occurred as a result of the accident that left Cabeza de Vaca and his companions shipwrecked along the Gulf Coast.  Cabeza de Vaca was one of the first non-Native Americans to travel through Texas, and he published a narrative of his adventures that would inspire the expeditions of de Soto and Coronado...
  • Encounter -- When Columbus met some native men in the Carribbean, they said "Taíno, Taíno," which meant, "We are good, noble." Columbus thought they were saying the name of their people....and the name stuck...
  • Studying Central America -- Once home to the Mayan civilization, one of the greatest historic civilizations of the Americas, Central America is a narrow isthmus connecting North and South America...

Foreign Language Resources


The best parts of each of these resources is that you don't have to know the language because you'll be learning alongside your children.  This can be used with young children for bilingual development, or with older children as foreign language curriculum.  And the subscription model helps families to stay the course, focusing on different language aspects each month!

What resources would you add to this list?  How will you be celebrating this month in your homeschool?

Monday, July 24

Studying Congo with Inoyo of the Congo Forest

Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa...two African countries with a similar history, but a varied future...

The word ‘Congo’ originates from the Bakongo, a Bantu tribe that lives in both countries.  Congo-Kinshasa (also known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) is the third-largest country in Africa, but Congo-Brazzaville (also known as the Republic of Congo) is very small in both size and population.

Both Congo countries are the perfect place for visitors who love outdoor adventures.   There are several hiking trails, national parks, places to boat, and beaches.  In Congo-Brazzaville, most of the population lives in urban areas, but in Congo-Kinshasa, the large majority lives scattered in the rural regions that are lushly covered in tropical forest.  The indigenous peoples of the region largely include the Bantu and Pygmies, with nearly 200 other ethnic tribes comprising the rest.

Congo History

The countries were once ruled by France and Belgium, and French is one of the official languages of the region.  Aside from Rome and the Vatican City, the Congo capitals - Brazzaville and Kinshasa - are the closest capital cities on Earth.  They sit directly across each other on either side of the shared Congo River.  Both countries gained their independence in 1960, and while their cultures are similar, they began to split in similarity at this point.  

They use different currencies and have different governmental systems.  Congo-Kinshasa (orange on the map) was once known as Zaire.  When it became independent from Belgium, Western countries supported General Mobuto Sese Seko as the leader of the free DRC.  Upon his death in 1997, the region was drawn into a series of military conflicts with its neighbors, known as "Africa's World War."
"The abundance of natural resources in the Congo helps fuel the flames of conflict. In a context in which the population is desperately poor and the government fails to provide even basic services, taking up arms seems to some individuals and communities to be the only way to break through the corruption, patrimonialism, and government incompetence that prevents their accessing the benefits of the abundant mineral wealth in their territory. Competition over resources has been a factor driving conflict, and the exploitation of Congo’s resources by groups linked to Rwanda, Uganda, and other outside interests has provided particular motivation for local militia groups to act to secure economic resources for their communities — or at least for themselves."  (~Global Security)

Colonization History

In 1884, the Berlin Conference was a starting point for partitioning the Dark Continent.  During what became known as the "Scramble for Africa," seven European powers divided, invaded, and occupied most of the land over the next 30 thirty years.  At the time, Europe was experiencing a depression.  Africa had an abundance of raw materials, such as oil, ivory, rubber, wood, and gum, that could be used for profit.  Nearly 90% of Africa was under European control by the onset of World War I.

Learn more about the scramble for Africa in our Things Fall Apart unit study, part of the Advanced Literature Studies bundle.

Dangerous Animals of the Congo

  • Hippopotamus may be an herbivore, but can easily kill a person since it is big, aggressive, and quick, both in and out of the water. It is believed that hippos are responsible for hundreds of deaths every year.
  • Nile Crocodile are large, fearsome predators with the occasional penchant to attack humans who accidentally stumble into their territory, and sometimes even grab fishers in their boats.
  • Puff Adder snakes are responsible for more bites than any other snake in Africa. There is always the danger of someone accidentally stepping on them as they lie in the dirt since they are camouflaged and very toxic.
  • Black Mamba is one of the largest and deadliest snakes in all of Africa. The potent mixture of neurotoxins will directly attack the nervous system. The death rate is quite high in untreated cases.

  • Where is the Congo?
  • Inoyo of the Congo Forest
    • Twelve-year-old Inoyo’s story begins in the dense tangle of the Congo rainforest, where he hunts for food as his father taught him. However, Inoyo has ambitions beyond the jungle—a plan to move to the Christian mission and learn medicine. His father, fearful of breaking tradition and of the tribal medicine man’s disapproval, grudgingly gives his permission. As he works tirelessly to prove his dedication and earn money for his schooling, Inoyo finds himself in a difficult position of choosing to help a friend in need or continuing to pursue his education. Equipped with practical medical knowledge from his time at the hospital and a newfound testimony of Jesus Christ, Inoyo helps to free his family and his village from the shackles of fear and superstition.

Make / Do
  • Kinshasa
  • DRC
  • Congo River
  • Zaire
  • Livingstone Falls
  • Brazzaville
  • Mobayi-Mbongo
  • Lake Tumba
  • Lake Mai-Ndombe
  • Katanga
  • bonobo
  • tsetse
  • okapi
  • Lake Tanganyika
  • To what extent did Western influences shape life in the Congo?
  • Why did the witchdoctor in our book vehemently oppose his villagers going to the hospital?

Monday, June 12

Year-by-Year High School Reading Plan

The Good & the Beautiful has an amazing language arts program, and my sons have really thrived by completing it.  Without any further practice or instruction, they've performed well on the ACT reading and grammar portions, too, so I know it's working!

I wanted the kids to have a stronger literature base, however, than just what was included in the program.  Each year, the students read five novels as part of the language arts.  We're a reading household, though, with each of us reading multiple books simultaneously...some for school, some for fun, some for bedtime (and in mom's case, one for the elliptical -- you can find Mom's Books here).  

One question I'm often asked if how we keep the plots separate, but as a long-time, avid reader, it just comes naturally.  I mean, as long as you're not reading very similar books (ie, don't be reading three WW2 books at the same time).  But I digress....

When choosing books to add to the language arts program, we took into consideration the other core classes the kids were doing each year and built a library around those studies.  You guys know I'm a huge proponent of learning through literature -- hence all the novel studies -- and we've been doing that for several years now.

When we first started homeschooling, we used a curriculum called A World of Adventure, which was AMAZING for families who want to do unit studies together.  Honestly, I have no idea why the author quit writing 2/3 of the way through.  Many of the books we used with that curriculum are on the list of fleshed out reading my young son does today as part of his high school.

Broken down by subject, here are our recommend reading list for additional high school studies.  
  • Books that are included in the TGTB Library line are starred.*
  • Books that we have unit studies for are highlighted.   

Ancient History

(Choose six books from different periods)

Medieval History

(Choose seven books from different periods)

Early Modern History 

(Choose eight books from different periods)

Modern History 

(Choose six books from different periods)

Looking for more booklists?  Check out...