Friday, January 27

Left Brain & Right Brain Learners (and how to transition!)

 Since the 1960s, there's been a theory that people are either left-brained or right-brained, meaning that one side of their brain is dominant. If you’re mostly analytical and methodical in your thinking, the theory says that you’re left-brained. If you tend to be more creative or artistic, you’re right-brained.

This theory is based on the fact that the brain’s two hemispheres function differently. The theory developed after research was conducted on split-brain patients, which most people are not.  Does it hold any validity?

Brain Hemispheres

The left brain is more verbal, analytical, and orderly than the right brain.  It’s sometimes called the digital brain, and is better at things like reading, writing, and computations.  It helps with logic, sequencing, linear thinking, facts, mathematics, and thinking in words.

The right brain is more visual and intuitive.  People sometimes refer to it as the analog brain, and it has a more creative and less organized way of thinking.  It helps with imagination, intuition, arts, rhythm, holistic thinking, feelings, visualization, daydreaming, and nonverbal cues.

We know the two sides of our brain are different, but does this necessarily mean that we have a dominant brain just as we have a dominant hand?

People probably DO have a dominant side, but it's not as strongly dominant as pop culture would have you believe.  Different circumstances also activate different parts of your brain, too.  You might work more from the logical side at one point in the day, but the artistic side later.  To really learn and integrate material you're studying, try to integrate both hemispheres of your brain while studying.

Take these Brain Tests (printable) to determine your dominance.  For best results, take it considering yourself in all circumstances.

To activate your right brain:
  • doodle, draw, print
  • sing, hum, or joke
  • breathe deeply, exhaling deeply
  • take a stroll
  • lean back, relax, and daydream
  • make eye contact with others
  • notice colors, aromas, sounds, and emotions
  • look for patterns, connections, and a bigger picture
  • smile, laugh, or give a hug
  • exercise or get moving
  • be childlike and play

To activate your left brain:
  • set goals and check progress
  • organize, create priorities, and take notes
  • break problems into smaller parts
  • check the time, mentally plan the day
  • ask questions, seek answers
  • perform calisthenics, counting aloud
  • work a crossword puzzle or math problem
  • make a list

In recent years, researchers have demonstrated that right-brain/left-brain theory is a myth, yet its popularity persists.  It's important to remember that if you take one of the many left brain/right brain quizzes, they are entirely for fun and you shouldn't place much stock in your results.  The idea seems to have taken on a mind of its own within pop culture.  While over-generalized and overstated by pop psychology and self-help texts, understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you develop better ways to learn and study. 

When choosing a curriculum for your family, you'll want to consider 'intelligence' and learning styles.
  A Genius in Every Seat helps you work through determining these factors...
As a teacher, how do you assess intelligence?  Do  you provide and develop opportunities for students’ intelligences, or instead teach to your own?  These can be hard, thought-provoking questions.  Yet, answering each of these is essential if you are to truly examine your educational practices.  How can you best serve the needs of your students?  This examination begins with an assessment of your students’ intelligences.  This e-book comes with a workbook component for surveying yourself and your students, along with suggestions for putting the results into practice.

Monday, January 23

Mary, Bloody Mary {Young Royals Lit-Based Unit Study}

Born in 1516, Mary Tudor experienced many hardships during her youth and formative years.  The eldest daughter of Henry VIII, she was staunchly religious and a devoted Catholic.  Her childhood and religious beliefs guided her during her years as Queen...earning her the nickname "Bloody Mary."

Legacy of Mary's Reign & Religious Strife

Mary was born of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife.  She was declared illegitimate in her youth when her father married Anne Boleyn (see Anne's unit).  In her youth, she was shunned, forcibly kept from her mother, and even locked in the Tower of London.  Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded their father at the age of nine, but died from consumption before he could truly rule.  Upon his death, Lady Jane Grey became Queen for a mere nine days.  Mary gathered the backing of her supporters, of which there were many, and beheaded Lady Jane.  

Mary campaigned for Queen as wanting freedom of religion, but quickly changed her stance.  England had, at one time, been under Catholic rule.  The priests held as much power as, if not more than, the royal family.  King Henry VIII had broken away from that Roman Catholicism, primarily because he wanted a divorce the religion would not grant, and created his own church - the Church of England - with himself at the head.  He punished those who would not convert to Protestantism and accept his rule.  After his death, Mary reverted the country back to Catholicism, and she became famous for killing Protestants who would not convert to Catholicism.  After her death, in 1558, Queen Elizabeth I reversed the religious decree once again.

Betrothals & Royal Marriage

Intermarriage, or the practice of members of ruling dynasties marrying into other reigning families, was very common in the past for political and diplomatic reasons. Put simply, it's hard to go to war with your wife's father. This was the tradition for most of Europe from the medieval era all the way until World War I. Around the world, there is evidence of royal intermarriage as far back as the Bronze Age.  Kinship by marriage could secure an alliance between two ruling powers, hopefully helping to reduce the sense of threat. It could also help to expand a dynasty, through colonization or inheritance.

Royals were often betrothed at a very young age. Parental figures arranged marriages that they hoped would create strong alliances. It was not just young women who were betrothed, and they did not actually married until they reached "adulthood," as defined by the culture. Young Louis XIV and his wife were betrothed as very young children, although they did not get married officially until many years later.


When Mary is a young girl, she practices the art of falconry.  Falconry is when you use a raptor, such as a falcon, hawk, or eagle, to pursue live prey (rabbits, squirrels, small birds, etc).  While it is both a sport and a hobby, it is also a bit of a lifestyle, because you must tend to the birds every day, unlike a rifle or bow and arrow, which can both be put away until you are ready to hunt again.  If you are interested in learning more about raptors, see Guide to Raptors.  Want to try it yourself?  Learn how to become a falconer today.

Tower of London

On the north bank of the River Thames in the heart of London is the Tower of London.  Originally known as the White Tower, and built by William the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest, it has been historically known as a prison.  When it was first built, it was a royal residence, but after several periods of expansion in the 12th and 13th centuries, it is now a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat.

Over the years, the tower has served as a treasury, armory, home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels.  During the 15th through 17th centuries, the tower was most prominently used as a prison.  Today, you can visit the Tower of London and step through history to see it as it was in each century.  Can't get to England?  Take a video tour.

What came just before this?  Learn more in A Loyal Foe & Wars of the Roses


  • Mary, Bloody Mary - The story of Mary Tudor's childhood is a classic fairy tale: A princess who is to inherit the throne of England is separated from her mother; abused by an evil stepmother who has enchanted her father; stripped of her title; and forced to care for her baby stepsister, who inherits Mary's rights to the throne. Believe it or not, it's all true. Told in the voice of the young Mary, this novel explores the history and intrigue of the dramatic rule of Henry VIII, his outrageous affair with and marriage to the bewitching Anne Boleyn, and the consequences of that relationship for his firstborn daughter. This is a historical novel about love and loss, jealousy and fear--and a girl's struggle with forces far beyond her control.
  • Tudor Boy Spy - Thomas Snoop is in training to become a spy. Entrusted with a top secret mission by the mysterious Lord Severn, right-hand man to the Tudor king, Thomas must travel to the magnificent Goldenhilt Hall - in the guise of a servant - in order to uncover traitors plotting against the crown. It will take all Thomas's wits and cunning to uncover the traitors lurking at Goldenhilt Hall - and he must do so without being discovered himself... Filled with amazing facts and historical trivia, you won't be able to put this secret diary down!


Make / Do


  • monarch
  • armada
  • execution
  • reign
  • vagrancy
  • treason
  • War of the Roses
  • heir
  • Tower of London


  • What were the long-term consequences of what has been described as "England's Terror"?
  • Listen to this primary source document (read aloud).  What did people think of Mary?  Did they want her to be Queen?  Having read the book and studied history, why do you think this is?

Get the entire Young Royals bundle!

Includes seven unit studies covering the entire series. Each unit addresses a historic era from the eyes of a young royal, and these are told in living history format.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Product samples:   Mary, Bloody Mary

  • Mary, Bloody Mary
  • Beware, Princess Elizabeth
  • Doomed Queen Anne
  • Patience, Princess Catherine
  • Duchessina: Catherine De'Medici
  • Wild Queen: Mary, Queen of Scots
  • Bad Queen: Marie Antoinette

Wednesday, January 18

How to Stretch Your Grocery Dollars

Who here is trying to pinch those groceries pennies until they squeal?  For most of today's homeschooling parents, this is the first time they've really felt the economic strains.  It's different when you have a family to care for than when you're living off ramen and scavenged food in the college you have kids, and you want them to eat healthy.  So what's a mom to do?

Drawing from lessons of the past, our grandparents' (or great-grandparents') experiences of the Great Depression and war years, and a little bit of can-do, homesteading spirit, here are some tips for stretching your dollars...

Make a Plan

  • If you walk into the store with a plan, you're less likely to impulse shop, or just stand there in front of the dairy aisle going, 'Will I need sour cream this week?'  There are umpteen apps for meal planning, and there's surely one to fit your personal planning style.  
  • Make a list of all the meals and snacks you want to prepare that week.  Denote what you already have on hand, and grocery list the rest.  
  • Staple items, like canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, canned green beans and corn, raisins, canned fruit, and dry beans, store well and stretch meals, so keep plenty of them on hand. When meal planning, make sure you're stocked up on staples.
  • Take it a step further, and organize your list according to the store layout.  This saves time, reduces the temptation to buy foods that are not on your list, and helps you avoid forgetting items.
  • It's always a good idea to have an extra freezer meal on hand for crazy nights.  If you don't have one of those, pick one up this week.  
  • Keep a cooler in your car for keeping perishable foods safe on the way home, especially in warm weather.

Check your Budget

  • How much money do you have to spend on food?  What's on sale this week?  This involves a little math and time, but can save you big.
  • Take one month to track what you are currently spending.  Save your receipts and look at trends.  Is the bulk of your money going to fresh produce?  Premade foods?  See where you want to try and trim it down first.  Unless, this is an emergency situation, don't try to do it all at once!
  • Check the store brands.  How much cheaper are they than the name brands?  Are they healthier?  Sometimes they are; sometimes they aren't.  You won't know until you check, and can often save big.
  • Sales on different categories of items are rotated about every three months.  By stocking up when foods are on sale, you can take advantage of the best prices and shop from your own pantry later.
  • Pay in cash.  If you go with a budget, and a set amount of cash, you'll be less likely to throw in an extra thing here or there.  That said, with the way prices go up, you might take cash plus 10% extra to cover any inflationary costs for your list.
  • Probably goes without saying, to you mommas, but shop alone if you are able.  You'll save time and the aggravation of explaining twenty times why you won't get something...or finding it in your cart unexpectedly at checkout.

Have the Meats...Sometimes

  • Meat can be replaced with dried beans, peas, lentils, tofu, eggs, and other less-expensive protein sources.  You don't have to deprive yourself though.  Budget for an expensive steak dinner by serving a few meatless meals throughout the week.
  • Stretch meats, particularly tougher cuts, by using them in sauces or casseroles.
  • If you talk with the butcher, ask what time of day meat markdowns are made, and plan your shopping to take advantage of them.
  • Cook once, eat twice.  Having leftovers doesn't necessarily mean eating the exact same thing again.  Cook a whole chicken, and then use it for more than one meal.  Have baked chicken one night, and use the leftover in chicken quesadillas the next.
  • Find some tasty meatless meals here.

Go Somewhere Else

  • Plan to get your non-food items from a discount store.  These are generally marked up at grocery stores, and you are paying for the convenience of shopping in one place.
  • Dollar stores may also sell items like canned fruit and snack crackers cheaper than the grocery store.
  • Day-Old Bread stores aren't just for bread.  You can find other bread products and packaged treats, too, generally at half-price or less.  These can be frozen for later.
  • Buying seasonally generally means fresher produce that will last longer.  You can get these at the store, but for the freshest, hit the farmer's market or a roadside stand.  Toward the end of the day, you can usually bargain with the vendor.  If you're more of a DIY, or want a field trip, visit a U-pick farm.

Step Back in Time

  • Cooking from scratch is often healthier for you, since it will mean less fat, sugar, and salt in your food.  If you don't have time to cook from scratch daily, consider once-a-week freezer cooking.
  • Grow a Victory Garden.  If you have the room, grow a plot of land with several vegetables.  If you don't, plant items like tomatoes and strawberries in pots on your patio. Beans also can run up a small trellis, and herbs grow well in a flower pot or a windowsill container.
  • Access all of our gardening and self-sufficiency information here.
  • The most expensive food is the food you throw away.  If you have food that has started to turn, use it for animal fodder.  Use your kitchen scraps for compost or animals, too.
  • Learn to make your own bread.  It's fresher, healthier, and tastier.  Here's an easy recipe.

To Coupon or Not to Coupon?

  • Check the weekly circulars to see what's on sale, and build your meal planning around that.
  • Pay attention to unadvertised specials at the store, and be willing to be flexible with your planning if it's a super deal.  But also pay attention to the expiration dates on those deals.  Sometimes it's too good to be true.
  • Common psychological tricks: 
  • If a store limits the quantity you're allowed to buy, it generally tempts people to buy more.
  • If there is a quantity discount, you don't usually have to buy that many (ie, 6 for $10, you can still get 1 for $1.67).
  • Know your store's coupon rules.  Some honor other stores or will price match.  Some will do rain checks.  Some will have double and triple coupon days.  Some do none of the above.  You'll want to learn your store.
  • Sign up for the loyalty card.  I know, you don't want one more card, but this one will actually save you money more often than some of the others.

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!
Another Year of Freezer Cooking
For anyone who wants to get a leg up on getting healthy meals on the family table, without much fuss...this book includes : the whats and whys behind freezer cooking how-to tips and tricks pantry freezing guidelines, printable planning sheets more than thirty seasonally-appropriate, kid-friendly recipes!

Looking to utilize the crockpot?  Check out a sample from A Slow-Cooked Year here.  If you're more of a freezer cooking mom, check out some samples from Freezer Cooking Through the Year here.

Monday, January 16

Improve Your Memory in 7 Easy Steps!

Do you know which of these statements is correct?

  1. You can improve your memory by exercising it -- that is, by memorizing poetry, important dates, etc.
  2. You can't do anything about your memory; like height, it's inherited.

Actually, neither is true.  Research shows that volunteers who memorized masses of material go worse at it as their minds became cluttered.  Memory isn't a muscle; exercise doesn't make it stronger.  But you CAN improve your memory.  

Here are seven ways to make your memory stronger...

  1. External Memory
    • This refers to all physical devices that help you remember: lists, memos, diaries, and even alarm clocks.  Many of us forget to perform a chore at one time or another because we didn't jot it down.  
    • One handy form of external memory is the deliberately misplaced object.  My son will often remember something in the middle of the night, and throw a book from his bed-bookshelf into the middle of the floor to remind himself of it.  When he sees it the next morning, he remembers!
  2. Chunking
    • This is the grouping of several items into one piece - such as remembering the ten digits of a phone number by chunking it into three pieces (area code, prefix, and home code).
    • Another example would be acronyms, such as HOMES to remember the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior) or ROYGBIV for the colors of the rainbow.
  3. Mediation
    • In this case, we're attaching information to a mediating device, such as a jingle.  Think of old tv commercials that you're still humming today.  Those marketers attached the product information to a mediator.
    • Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November....   I bet you know how many days every month has from this jingle.  When you need to memorize detailed information, try to attach it to a silly song.
  4. Associations
    • Visual images are an effective form of association.  This works well when meeting new people.  Say you've just met a Mr. Clausen, who has a big bushy beard.  You can easily relate Clausen to Claus (as in, Santa) to remember his name!
  5. Reliving the Moment
    • Sensory impressions are associated in memory to what we're learning, and they later help remind us of what we learned.  So if you're trying to recall a name or fact, picture the place in which you learned it, the people around you at the time, the seat you sat in, and your chances of remembering will increase.  It's the reason you might perform better taking a test in the same seat you learned the material.
    • If you're trying to remember where you lost something, mentally retrace your steps, seeing the scene in your mind's eye, and you're more likely to find it.
  6. Mnemonics
    • Similar to chunking, this allows you to take detailed information and put it in something slightly absurd, yet memorable.  For example, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the streets can be very confusing, especially to newcomers...but there's a solution for that!  You just have to remember, "My Silly Young Husband Likes Playing Rugby."  It's just a sentence, but one you're more likely to remember than the order of the major streets:  Memorial, Sheridan, Yale,  Harvard, Lewis, Peoria, and Riverside.
  7. Weaving a Web
    • All the above methods are useful for recalling simple lists and names, but with more complicated information, you can't merely memorize.  You have to connect it to the many related items you already know so you will be able to retrieve it later.
    • And that is true LEARNING...not just memorization.

Here are a few more ways to make something more memorable.  As you watch commercials on TV, you'll notice that advertise use all of these tricks, often times more than one in each ad, to make their products more memorable.

  • Exaggerate it -- make it large, loud, and over the top
  • Make it Absurd -- linked images and messages form a new image that is funny or ridiculous
  • Move it, Move it -- moving images last longer than static ones
  • Color it -- brightly or gaudily colored images last longer

Take a tip from these marketers and use these memory tricks to help the next time you are studying!

--> Download the Memory Helps Printable to get started  <-

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Friday, January 13

Celebrate Multicultural Children's Book Day 2023!!

Logo, company name

Description automatically generated

 Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2023 is 10 years oldThis non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those books into the hands of young readers and educators.

Young Adult - Non-Fiction

Honor and Fidelity. That is the motto of the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Borinqueneers, the only Puerto Rican unit in the United States Army.

Since the regiment’s creation in 1899, the men of the 65th have proudly served the US through multiple wars, despite facing racial discrimination. Their courage, loyalty, and patriotism earned them hundreds of accolades, including the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2014.

But the honor and fidelity of the men of the 65th came into question in 1952, in the midst of the Korean War, when ninety-one Borinqueneers were arrested and tried for desertion and disobeying orders. How could this happen in one of the most distinguished and decorated units of the Army?


The book does a good job of providing history in an age-appropriate way, without being too graphic (which can be difficult with war stories).  The story of the 65th is one that most people have never heard, but with a Borinquen background and a grandfather who served in Korea, I happened to have heard the name...I just didn't know their story.  My boys enjoyed the 'meat' of the text more than I did, but only because they are naturally more drawn to war stories than myself.  The island stories interested me more as I could picture those places today.  For families wanting to include lesser-known stories of diversity and history, this is a good addition to the home library.

Worth noting - There are several fantastic photographs, both modern and historic, to help illustrate the text, as well as a timeline of events.  :: Publisher site

Pick up the complete unit study for this novel, and seven others, in the Diversity Literature Unit Study Bundle!

Bring modern history to life with living literature that represents several different groups!  Includes eight unit studies covering cultural stories from around the world. Each unit addresses a historic era from a new perspective, and these are told in living history format.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

Product sample:   The Button Box


  • The Year of the Panda
  • The Button Box
  • Men of the 65th: Borinqueneers of the Korean War
  • Killers of the Flower Moon
    • Indigenous People insert
  • Genius Under the Table
  • Anna Strong & the Culper Spies
  • Inoyo of the Congo Forest
  • The Forgotten Finca