Summer Schooling: 4 Solutions for Laid Back Learning

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Summer Schooling: 4 Solutions for Laid Back Learning

Sweet summertime. It’s a time of Popsicles and bare feet, sunshine and late nights. If you are like me, you love summer. For homeschoolers and public schoolers alike, it’s a great time to recharge your batteries and enjoy your kids without the added pressures of schoolwork and schedules. However, while we are just as excited as the kids to soak up some sunshine, many of us also are not willing to let three whole months go by without challenging the young minds of our growing children. So what are we to do?

Summer schooling is one of my favorite types of school. It’s just sneaky enough that my kids don’t even realize that we are doing “school” but it’s still prompting them to think and sparking curiosity. In the summer, I like to focus on four main areas: character & bible study, review, read-alouds, and interest driven learning.

1. Character & Bible Study for Summer Schooling

I firmly believe in never making Bible study a “school subject.” I would cringe if I thought my kids saw Bible Study in that light. Because of this perspective, we never stop reading the Bible, even on Christmas break, spring break, and summer. The Bible is a standing routine in our home.

Usually our summer Bible Study is a bit more informal though. This summer, I’ve personally been reading through the Psalms, and I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’ve been reading some of my favorites to my children. We’ve had great discussions on what they mean and how we can apply them in our lives.

In years past, I’ve spent summers also working heavily on heart issues. If I know that we have a particular character flaw that needs to be addressed, we use summer break to address it. For example, if my children need to work on respect, summertime provides the flexibility and time to discuss the issue, work through it together, and practice it thoroughly.

2. Review for Summer Schooling

Oh, yes! You know where I’m going with this, right? It’s that pesky subject from the school year that they just never quite grasped. Or maybe you just don’t want them to forget anything they learned this year. After all, you all worked hard to learn all that!

Now, you might be tempted to pull out the worksheets again, but I would caution against that technique. Instead, think of fun ways that you can practice those struggle spots without them really knowing that you are sneaking in some school time.

If they are struggling in Math, play card games or Monopoly! Pull out your Life of Fred stash that you had the best of intentions to use during the school year and read away! For language arts, watch fun grammar videos like Schoolhouse Rock. If they need work on writing, letter writing to pen pals or long-distance family members provides great summer writing  practice.

3. Reading Aloud for Summer Schooling

It never ends! Read-alouds are probably one of the things that my kids will remember most from their days at home. We read aloud constantly! Even my incoming seventh grader still loves for me to read to him, and I have no plans of stopping any time soon. Our summer read-alouds do have a different flavor however. In the summer, we generally focus on strictly fun read-alouds, and the best source for fun summer read-alouds is the Sonlight Summer Readers. I’m so excited about this year’s selection, but I’ve also been known to drool over past years’ collections too!

This year, loosen up for summertime and read some laugh-out-loud, truly hilarious, seriously silly stories or a great mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Oh yes, and it never hurts to add in some lemonade and a few blankets on the ground to make summer read-aloud time unforgettable.

4. Interest Driven Learning for Summer Schooling

At the beginning of the summer, I usually will sit down with each child and decide what we would really like to work on this summer. My four children are as different as night and day, so their responses include everything from working on my basketball layups to learning to type.

When a child has a true, intrinsic curiosity, summertime is the best time to explore it. Think about a block of time where you can schedule thirty minutes to an hour of time for your kids to explore whatever they would like. I like to call this The Genius Hour. The kids get a real kick out that!

If your child is a real science buff, it’s an ideal opportunity to go through a Sonlight Science course. You might also peruse through the Sonlight Electives in the catalog to pick out a few resources for your child’s Genius Hour project. Summer is perfect for learning a foreign language or trying out a small business such as lawn mowing. The possibilities are limitless!

Summer schooling doesn’t have to be a fun vacuum. On the contrary, I find that my kids enjoy the fact that many of their comfortable routines from school can continue through summer, only slightly modified and more relaxed.

To find out more about Sonlight's unmatched Read-Alouds, engaging electives, and our complete book-based homeschool programs, order a complimentary copy of your catalog today.

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42 Homeschool Field Trip Ideas + Planning Tips & Printable Log

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Are you looking to get out of the field trip rut of zoo and science museum? This article has unique field trip ideas to add zest back into your day trips! 

Not sure how to get started with field trips for preschoolers, how often to take field trips, how to plan them, or where to get a printable homeschool field trip log? This article has you covered! 

Are field trips good for students? 

Field trips are great for students! They are an extension of learning and one of the biggest perks of being a homeschooler. After all, how many field trips can a public school class have each year? Maybe two at best, right? They take an inordinate amount of planning for a school: boxed lunches, buses, permission forms, chaperones, etc. But as a homeschool family, you can pick up and go with much less preparation. In fact, many homeschoolers take a field trip nearly every week! 

What are the benefits of a field trip?

Since you’re reading this article, you probably don’t need convincing, but here are eight concrete advantages that field trips offer your children (and you). Yes, they’re fun, and that’s reason enough! But they offer additional perks, too!

1. Real Life Learning Beyond the Books

Books are great! They are the foundation of the literature-based Sonlight curriculum. But there’s an entire world out there that can be experienced firsthand—beyond the books. While books make far off cultures and distant histories accessible to our children, there are many topics we can see, touch, and hear for ourselves either instead of (or in addition to) a book. 

  • So don’t only read about Native Americans. Visit an Indian mound museum and go deeper! Attend a public pow wow to observe and ask questions. 
  • Don’t just read about plant root systems. Visit a local nursery or botanical gardens and get pointers from the professional gardeners who serve there.

2. Socialization

One of the best parts of homeschooling is being able to open our front door and use our community as a classroom. So much for the stereotype of unsocialized homeschoolers! No way! Homeschoolers are out and about in the community, going on field trips, and interacting with all kinds of people

3. Motivation

Getting outside the house, exploring new places, and immersing yourself physically in a topic is an ideal way to erase monotony. When you find you’re falling into a boring rut with your homeschool schedule or attitudes are getting prickly, take a field trip! Mix things up! Take an adventure with your kids and experience the wonder of the larger world alongside them. 

Field trips raise spirits, renew zest for learning, and give kids a break from the challenging tasks of pencil-to-paper work.

Field trips can be used as a culminating activity after a unit of study—a reward after a period of challenging academic work.

4. Retention

The more senses that are engaged when learning something, the more likely it is to be retained. Field trips are memorable, so kids tend to retain what they soak up on these outings.

5. Family Bonding

Field trips can smooth over the normal annoyances of homeschool family life. Instead of fussing about folding laundry, leave the chores and go explore the zoo! You’ll laugh at the antics of the animals instead of crying over math. 

You and your children will create lasting memories of shared moments. When they are adults, these field trips (no matter how simple) are the things they will remember and cherish! So make more happy memories by taking more field trips.

6. Exercise

Many field trips involve quite a bit of walking. Some may even include climbing, leaping, and other physical exertion. In our tech-driven world, let’s not forget that we have bodies that need to move for optimum health! Field trips provide an ideal catalyst for meaningful movement

7. Awe

Experiencing a sense of awe is a remedy to depression and anxiety. What a gift for our children, and one that we parents need as well! 

God’s creation is amazing! So the potential for awe awaits you at any nature-focused field trip destination. Go! And then look, smell, listen, and feel. Let your senses absorb the wonder of God’s creation. The mindfulness and delight will lift your spirits

8. Small Steps of Career Exploration

In some cases, a field trip gives kids a window into possible career fields. They can get a feel for workplaces and ask questions of the professionals who work there. 

What are the disadvantages of a field trip?

The advantages of field trips practically negate the possible downsides, so don’t let these discourage you! But field trips can be a disruption to your normal routine (a feature, not a bug!). 

There are field trip logistics that can be possibly annoying: driving distance, parking, where to eat a picnic on premises, rough terrain that makes pushing a stroller a challenge, finding diaper changing facilities, etc. Again, pushing to find solutions is worth the benefit your family gets from the outing!

Some field trip destinations can be pricey, but free homeschool field trips exist! Be sure to ask your desired venues about family passes, special discount days, or community events that are free of charge. Alternate free homeschool field trips with paid field trips to keep costs low, and carpool with another homeschool family to save on gas. Skip the gift shop and take a picnic instead of eating at the kiosks. There are ways to make field trips doable even with a tiny budget. 

Bad weather can ruin an outside field trip, but you have the flexibility to move that trip to a prettier day! 

There aren’t really any disadvantages inherent in field trips for homeschoolers. But there are small irritations of life that come along with any kind of day trip. 

What are good field trip ideas?

The sky's the limit, but here are forty-two suggestions to get you started with homeschool field trips for all ages and grades. Start with lower cost local field trips, and then expand out to more distant destinations as your children mature. 

  1. caves
  2. theater, opera, or ballet performances
  3. concerts
  4. local house of worship, especially of a faith that is not your own (Muslim mosque, Hindu temple, Jewish synagogue, Greek Orthodox church, etc.)
  5. factories (like a bakery or an automotive factory)
  6. fish hatchery
  7. orchard, farm, or farmers market
  8. local power plant
  9. bike trails, hiking trails, or river canoeing
  10. space centers
  11. water treatment facility
  12. cemetery tours
  13. city capitol or state capitol, including the courthouse
  14. historic landmarks like battlefields or birthplace museums (think famous artists, musicians, athletes, writers, presidents, etc.)
  15. archaeological dig
  16. fire station, ambulance, or police station
  17. the post office
  18. a US mint
  19. historic reenactments
  20. Native American pow wows
  21. festivals 
  22. county fairs
  23. air shows
  24. science museums
  25. college tours
  26. science lab tours (could be industry or educational)
  27. planetarium
  28. observatory
  29. dams and bridges
  30. arboretum, botanic gardens, or greenhouse
  31. aquarium, zoo, or wild animal park
  32. local or county parks
  33. state parks and forests
  34. national parks
  35. recycling center
  36. animal shelter or veterinarian’s office
  37. food bank, homeless shelter, or other charity organization
  38. semi-professional sporting events
  39. amusement parks
  40. military bases
  41. TV station or radio station
  42. music recording studios

What are the types of field trips?

The weather will influence your choice between indoor field trips and outdoor field trips. Your budget impacts your decision between free field trips and trips that cost money. 

And your own preferences for planning will affect whether you go for easy field trips or those that take more advance preparation. For example, venues like zoos, galleries, and museums are already optimized for easy field trips. But there are a myriad of other locales that can make for a great field trip when you connect with someone who can arrange it for you—think local newspaper, the fire station, a historic house of worship, or a local factory. 

There are local field trips and more distant trips. Typically a field trip is a day trip—you return home the same day and sleep in your own bed.

Free Family Travel Guides from Sonlight

But some field trips expand into complete family vacations like these two East Coast destinations for American history buffs. 

A Family Travel Guide to Historic Williamsburg

One ticket. Five parks. Seven days. An unforgettable trip. Virginia is home to some of the greatest historical landmarks of colonial America. The Historic Triangle provides a peek into America's journey from English settlement to the independence of a new nation. When you are ready to visit, make the most of your time with these practical, tried-and-true tips.

Navigating Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Enjoy a day or a long weekend exploring Monticello and the surrounding area. Visiting this estate can be a wonderful addition as you study American History. Download this full-color free digital travel guide today to help you navigate Monticello and all the additional historical locations surrounding Monticello.

What are the most popular field trips?

The most popular homeschool field trips are those locations that are already set up for large groups with ample parking, pre-designed tours, clearly defined hours, and even amenities like picnic areas or shuttles/trains. 

These family pleasers have rotating exhibits or frequent workshops/events that deliberately cater to homeschool families. Examples are 

  • nature preserves
  • botanic gardens
  • zoos
  • art galleries
  • science museums
  • history museums
  • historic sites
  • aquariums
  • and national or state parks

These locales are typically large and well-established. Visit their websites to see what they offer. Sign up for their email newsletters so you’re always in the know about special events, bargain days, and new exhibits.

Field Trip Planning, Preparation, and Printables

Some field trippers spontaneously jump in the car and head off for an unscripted adventure. But most moms probably prefer to set the stage with some basic groundwork. In fact, field trip planning can be part of your annual curriculum shopping as you lay out a course for your school year.  

Free printable homeschool field trip log

A homeschool field trip log can pull double duty as a place to record your plans beforehand and/or a place to document the trips you took afterwards. If you’re required to keep a homeschool portfolio or verify a certain number of school days, a homeschool field trip log is essential! (Don’t rely on your memory alone. Record those field trips!)

free printable field trip log

Download a free homeschool field trip form here to use as you work through the seven steps below.

(This free page is taken from the larger Sonlight Planner.) 

PRO TIP: Print multiple copies (or sets)—one for planning and one for recordkeeping. 

How do you plan an educational field trip?

For those of you who like to plan ahead, here are seven steps for making a comprehensive field trip plan for your homeschool.

1. Brainstorm fun homeschool field trip ideas

This is the fun part! Looking at the list of 42 suggestions above, jot down the ones that seem appealing to you and your children. 

Alternatively, consider your curriculum. What are you studying this term or year? What field trips can you plan to go along with the science and history topics you’ll be covering? What Readers and Read-Alouds have field trip tie-ins?

Don’t rule out field trips for teens! Advanced courses mesh well with learning excursions! Here are some examples:

  • Biology field trip ideas: a butterfly vivarium, an Audubon Center, a wolf preserve
  • Chemistry field trip ideas: a manufacturing laboratory, a college research lab, fire department, wastewater treatment plant

2. Look for specific locations

Head to Google and input your desired type of field trip. For example, when you search TV station tour, your local station will likely pop up with contact information to get started! Or search for planetariums near me. Yelp and Tripadvisor are two great apps for reading user reviews of many field trip destinations. 

3. Outline the logistics

Once you have specific venues in mind, start charting out the details like hours of operation, ticket costs, special tours/exhibits/workshops, etc.

4. Contact the specific venue for insider information

Don’t be nervous to send an email or pick up the phone to inquire about details. Even established venues like museums and zoos may be able to offer you special accommodations or workshops as long as you let them know you’re coming. 

Directly ask for insider tips: “Is there anything else that I should know before we come? Anything that’s not on the website?” 

5. Make a field trip calendar for the year 

Now you have the information you need to start filling out an annual field trip calendar. Pencil in your ideas based on your curriculum, the weather, and other family events. It’s common to have a monthly field trip, but you may want excursions more or less frequently.

6. Consider providing structure to the trip—or not!

There are different approaches to taking a field trip. Some families drop all the academics and simply enjoy the experience, letting the fun unfold naturally. 

Other families read about the place beforehand and assign homeschool field trip activities. These activities provide structure to the trip by giving kids a task to focus their exploration:

  • a worksheet to fill out
  • a journal for sketching
  • a scavenger hunt

If your children tend to race through an exhibit without truly appreciating anything, an on-site assignment can help slow them down and center their attention on key facts. 

Check with the venue ahead of time because many of them already offer these activities either in hardcopy when you enter the destination or in digital format for you to print at home. 

PRO TIP: If you expect your child to do a written activity at the field trip, bring clipboards or bring homeschool field trip journals with a cardboard backing.

There’s no right or wrong here, but realize that you don’t have to add anything school-ish to justify a field trip. It’s enough to simply soak in great works of art or wander around an arboretum. Your kids are learning! 

7. Consider review or documentation—or not!

Once you’re back home, you may want to document the trip or review what you experienced. Again, this step is optional and doesn’t have to be formal or burdensome. 

How to write a homeschool field trip report

For upper elementary ages, middle schoolers, and high schoolers, it’s appropriate to assign a written project. This homeschool field trip report can take the format of a notebooking page, a journal entry, a scrapbook page, or a short composition. 

Here are the basics to include in a field trip report:

  • the date of the trip
  • the full name and address/location of the destination
  • the significance of the location (if historic)
  • the primary places/exhibits/topics that were experienced along with a brief description of each
  • insights, opinions, and reflections

Add these extras to add to the field trip report to make it more of a homeschool field trip journal:

  • maps
  • diagrams and sketches made at the venue
  • brochures
  • photographs or postcards
  • actual items from the site (where allowed, of course) such as leaves, moss, feathers, etc.

You could help your kids write a review of the location to post on Google, Yelp, or Tripadvisor. 

Or maybe you simply have a discussion about what you experienced. Here are a few discussion starters:

  • What was your favorite part of today? Why?
  • What surprised you today?
  • If we do that field trip again, what would you like to spend more time doing?
  • Tell me 3 facts about [topic, person, place].
  • Imagine you have to convince someone to go on a field trip to that place. What would you say to them?
  • Quiz me/your sibling by asking me three questions I should have the answer to after our field trip today.

What to carry with you on a field trip?

If you’re not sure what to take along on your field trip, call the venue and ask! Find out what kinds of amenities they offer and what they suggest.

Aside from that, you already know the basics: snacks, wipes, a few adhesive bandages, drinking water, sunscreen, hats, etc. 

Unique field trip ideas

Because field trips have the potential to be so powerful, and because we have such an abundance of resources in our communities, it’s important to think beyond the norm to get our kids—and ourselves—out there, gaining fresh experiences and better understanding. Nearly any place that’s not unsafe for kids has the potential to be a field trip destination.

Any process, any job, any business has fascinating aspects to uncover on a family field trip for homeschool. Simply drive around your community with an open mind. Nearly every business you see is potential fodder for a field trip! 

  • That locally owned coffee shop? Yep! 
  • The beauty parlor? Why not? 
  • The dentist’s office. For sure.
  • That manufacturing plant? Probably!

Start with your connections. Ask friends about their place of work, their family businesses, their connections. Having a contact smooths the path to set up a family tour and an unlikely field trip destination. Most folks are thrilled to show off what they do to a handful of kids (and an interested parent). So don’t be afraid to ask! 

Your community is full of experiences, and those experiences can easily be tied to your curriculum. Here are four examples to get you started with fun homeschool field trip ideas:

1. Small Engine Repair Shop Field Trip

Kids (and adults) of all ages will be fascinated to see what goes into maintaining and repairing the many machines we use every day. Lawnmowers, chainsaws, generators, and scooters all fall under the small engine category.

The history of these machines is intriguing, and it’s a great introduction to more complex engines, too! This field trip ties in nicely with any of these books (or programs):

2. General Aviation Airport Field Trip

Even better than flying on a commercial airliner is the experience of walking and talking with the pilot of a General Aviation (GA) plane. These smaller models operate under the same principles, and are in much wider use than the jumbo jets we board to fly cross country. You may be able to arrange to tour the actual facility or even take a short flight! If you’re reading these books, a field trip to an airport fits well:

3. Ethnic Food Market Field Trip

Pick a country, and find a shop! From the delicacies of Asia to the exotic (to us) foods of the Middle East, chances are excellent that you’ll have a market hidden somewhere in your community that specializes in foods of other lands. While you can order individual items online, nothing beats walking the aisles, smelling the smells, and seeing what’s on offer on the shelves.

There are so many Sonlight books that tie in to this field trip, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that HBL F: Eastern Hemisphere is crying out for a whole year of such outings!

4. Radio Station Field Trip

If you’re reading Catching Their Talk in a Box or Window on the World, or your child is studying physics, definitely make time for a trip to a local radio station. Choosing a smaller, local station to tour means the chance to walk into booths and likely get an up close and personal glance of the inner workings of a broadcast in progress. Missionaries of the past and present have utilized radio as an evangelism tool, and the science behind it is fascinating.

Where to get the best homeschool field trip ideas

Need inspiration for field trip ideas for kids? Marry books and field trips as often as you can to cultivate an adventurous learning environment. Here are examples: 

Getting out and seeing firsthand the elements of a story or work of nonfiction cements it in our understanding. Not only do children hear how the mail system works in Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day, but then they see it in action when they visit the post office. All the senses are engaged!

The details that may have escaped them in the book are suddenly prominent and yes, maybe even a door is opened to a new occupational calling. You just never know!

Suggested Field Trips by Age

The list of 42 ideas above are for all ages, stages, and grades, but admittedly some destinations are more suitable for younger or older students. Here’s how to work out your field trip decisions based on ages or grades.  

Field trips for toddlers & preschoolers

Since toddlers and preschoolers are probably still napping, you want local field trip ideas that won’t require lots of driving. Thanks to the mid-day pause for nap time, you’ll choose trips that can be done in the morning or afternoon but don’t demand a full day.

Avoid stodgy venues where quiet is expected and children can’t touch things. Instead opt for field trips with lots of hands-on, active exploration and frequently changing things to observe. 

Your best bets are anything related to animals:

  • zoos
  • aquariums
  • animal shelters and preserves
  • an aviary
  • butterfly gardens

Or any venue that has a nature or science slant:

  • children’s museum
  • arboretum or botanic gardens
  • science museum
  • parks

Call ahead or scour the website to find programs or exhibits especially designed for very young children to touch and physically experience the content. 

Children at this age are still developing vocabulary, so exposing them to new experiences and talking about what you see is invaluable. 

Outdoor or large open spaces where it’s okay to run are ideal for little kids. And you’ll want to consider field trip spots where strollers can drive easily when little legs finally tire. 

Keep field trips short in duration and leave while everyone is still happy!

Homeschool kindergarten field trip list

Although some parents consider kindergarten their first year of formal schooling, there’s no need to restrict yourself to learning at the kitchen table with books, pencil, and paper. Field trips are rich learning experiences for 5-year-olds since so much of the world is brand new to them! 

During grades K-2, think of field trips as opportunities to expose your child to the larger world and don’t worry about retention or academic tie-ins. Just get out there and immerse yourself in the joy and awe of all the field trip options in your local area. 

Save the elaborate, far-off destinations for later years when your child has more maturity and physical stamina. At the kindergarten through second grade level, you’re still enjoying repeat visits to the places you frequented during the toddler and preschool years: 

  • zoos
  • aquariums
  • animal shelters and preserves
  • an aviary
  • butterfly gardens
  • children’s museum
  • arboretum or botanic gardens
  • science museum
  • parks

Now your visits may last a bit longer (no need for that daily nap!) and may include more actual academic material. For example, you may stand and listen to a zoologist give a short talk or show your child key facts on a display board. 

You’ll want field trips at this stage to still be very tangible. For example, touring a cave where a child can touch the damp stone, smell the wet air, and hear water dripping is more age appropriate than an opera, a tour of a house of worship, visiting the county courthouse, or a science lab excursion where the experience is more abstract or passive.

Opt for trips where you can get your kindergartener involved:

  • picking strawberries at a farm
  • making gravestone rubbings in a cemetery
  • making a sculpture in a special kids room at the art museum 

How often should you do field trips in kindergarten homeschool? As often as you and your kindergartener would like to! Aim for at least monthly at this age, giving yourself a few mulligans to skip a month here or there depending on other family dynamics, health concerns, etc. Your kindergarten field trips could be as often as weekly if your family is up to it! 

Field trip ideas for elementary students

Grades 3-5 are a sweet spot for homeschool field trips! These children have the physical stamina for full day trips and are growing in the mental maturity to appreciate more abstract types of experiences. They generally have the self-control not to touch what shouldn’t be touched. They are curious and can ask great questions of docents and guides. You’ll see children at this stage start to make connections between their book-based lessons and what they experience on field trips. 

So basically, anything from the 42-item list above that interests your elementary students is fair game! Even if some of the content goes over their heads, it’s still exposure to new ideas! If a field trip seems a bit too advanced for your elementary student, just cut it short or inject additional context to make it more understandable for them. 

Virtual field trips for homeschoolers

What can you do instead of field trips? The pandemic has taught us all the value (and yes, limitations) of virtual experiences as a substitute for in-person events. Sometimes a field trip is simply out of reach. In those situations, turn to virtual field trips to meet the need.

How does a virtual field trip work?

With a virtual field trip, you use the magic of the internet to explore a place you can’t visit in person. You rely on live cams, 360° virtual tours, virtual reality tours, and even live online video conferencing sessions held on-site. 

If these tools are new to you, here are fun homeschool field trip ideas that are totally online:

What are the best virtual field trips for students?

Large and well-known zoos, science museums, art galleries, and history museums make for the best virtual field trips simply because they tend to have top-notch websites with the video tours and live webcams you’ll want to access. State and national park systems are good options as well. Smaller venues, while fascinating in person, often don’t have the digital resources to provide a great virtual field trip experience to online users.

Here’s a list of virtual field trip favorites:

How do I create a virtual field trip for students?

1. Choose a website (or a series of related ones). 

The education departments of zoos, museums, and parks strive to make their facilities accessible to the maximum number of users, so scan their websites first for all the resources they have to offer: curriculum, printables, videos, virtual tours, live web cams, live and recorded workshops, lesson plans, etc. 

2. Set your child loose on the website to freely explore.

You will likely want to be nearby to enjoy the discovery process alongside them.

3. Or give your child an activity to do while exploring.

This step is totally optional. But if you feel the need to document the learning, there are plenty of ways to do it! Provide more structure with printables, worksheets, scavenger hunts, or notebooking pages. 

free sonlight catalog

Choose a curriculum that does the planning for you so you can spend more time on field trips with your kids. 

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Sonlight Spotlight - Birch Family

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Each month the Sonlight team will choose a current family to highlight by sharing their #sonlightstories. If you’d like to shine a light on your family, apply here for a chance to be featured.

Meet the Birch Family!

Marcus and Meghan with their five children ranging from 18 months to 9 years, along with a dog and cat, school year-round. They have found that this works best during the busy weeks while Marcus works full time, and Meghan maintains her "Planting Birches" YouTube channel.

The Birches decided to homeschool while pregnant with their first child. Sonlight stood out for a few reasons:

  1. It was all-inclusive; they could be confident they were not forgetting anything.
  2. The family loved the spiritual aspect, from reading the Word, Scripture memorization, and reading accounts of God's work in the lives of His people. Meghan was over the moon with excitement!
  3. Sonlight is literature-based, making history personal and alive.

We love the opportunity to train up our children, to be their number one influence, to have more access to their heart, and to be there for the questions, the wonderings, the lessons." -Meghan Birch

Different, Delightful, & Difficult

The Birch Family has found that every day presents a different challenge. Currently, with their three oldest they do their Table Subjects™ time on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and do all their Couch Subjects™ on Wednesday and Friday. If they were to go on vacation or want to do Holiday School, there is no catching up for them to do because they school year-round.

“Once you find a rhythm, you just step back and let the curriculum do the work.  While we have certainly made it our own in particular areas, my children have become excellent learners... They LOVE to learn!” ~ Meghan Birch

An added benefit to keeping the school routine year-round is that it is good mentally for the family. After the last two pregnancies, Meghan struggled with post-partum anxiety and found it hard to keep going. She felt that she was doing a disservice to her kids while she was struggling. The stability of their homeschool schedule with the kids progressing and Marcus' encouragement to think long-term beyond the moment kept her motivated to get through the hard times.

Homeschooling Expectations

Meghan reminds us that going into it with the right expectation makes all the difference. When you know you can start where they are at, they might quickly progress. If it is hard sometimes, you may want to give up, so go slow. Take little bites, and then you’ll find your groove. Sometimes you will fall, but when you keep going, it gets easier.

"Our oldest was easy peasy, and I thought this is awesome. I could homeschool anyone. Then you’re humbled by the second one and realize you know nothing. Being there to see him push through his reading struggles has been amazing." ~ Meghan

The Birch family has been able to slow down and speed up when needed to match their children's needs. It has been amazing to go at their pace and not push. They switch things up from some days on the bed to some days at the table. It has been incredible to see them become more independent.

"Seeing them reach those milestones and seeing them grow, that’s priceless. Homeschooling really teaches them not just what to learn but also how to learn. It teaches them critical thinking skills." ~ Marcus Birch

Emotional Intelligence

A Large fear about homeschooling is they would not have the right social skills if they were not around other students. The Birch family has found the opposite with their children, and they have developed a better sense of emotional intelligence because they are homeschooled.

"They’re not perfect, but when they have these arguments or don’t want to do something, we have the opportunity to train them vs. them being trained by someone without the same values or other kids." ~ Meghan Birch

Part of what the Birch children learn is from their parents, but they do have siblings and do have times where they argue about things. The Birches have this environment at home where they can learn to be merciful, forgive, and share whereas, they may not learn those skills in a traditional school environment.

“We’ve asked our kids if they’ve ever wanted to go to school, but they like using Sonlight. That’s really important for us. We want them to enjoy it.” ~ Marcus Birch

The Birch Kids Weigh In

Israel (9) loves to read to all his siblings. Ezra (6.5) excels in math and loves to entertain everyone. Daughter Johanna just started schooling full time. The family’s favorite books include:

You can learn more about the Bieda family’s Sonlight experience by listening to their full interview on the Sonlight Connections podcast.

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8 Ways to Finish Your Homeschool Year Strong

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When spring rolls around, it gets harder and harder to keep young minds focused on staying inside and finishing up the school year. As warm weather beckons outdoors, it’s tempting to put off schoolwork and head outside! Here is a list of suggestions to carry you through to the end of the year so you can finish your homeschool year strong.

1. Plan an End-of-Year Party

Invite friends and grandparents. Let your children show off how much progress they’ve made over the year, and special projects they’ve worked on. Celebrate their hard work with loved ones.

Or go to a special place such as a museum or amusement park. Do something out of the ordinary to show your children you appreciate the effort they put in all year. By having an event to look forward to, you create an excitement about finishing on time.

2. Begin the Countdown

Count how many days are left in the school year. Then mark them off on the calendar and begin counting down. By creating a definite end date and seeing it get closer and closer, you create a sense of anticipation. Freedom from school is approaching—and tangible.

3. Speed Up

Offer to let your children work ahead in their assignments, so they can finish earlier. Keep working until everything for the year is done. If they finish ahead of time, they have just earned extra summer vacation days!

4. Order New Homeschool Curriculum

By ordering early, you can look through math and phonics workbooks and see how much overlap exists between the beginning of next year and the end of this year. If you find there is a lot of overlap, you might decide to skip those topics at the end of this year's workbooks and wait until next year to cover them.

Ordering early also creates a sense of excitement with a box of new materials to unveil and organize. Having tangible evidence things will be moving on—via Box Day—creates an incentive to finish the year.

5. Cover a Book Over the Summer

You might lighten your daily workload by choosing a Read-Aloud or a workbook to finish over the summer, making your days lighter now. Summers are often filled with hot afternoons, when it’s too hot to play outside. In that case, you have a captive audience for listening to a book or doing a few pages here or there in the workbook. You can also use some books for bedtime stories, do Bible books over the summer breakfast table, or listen to audiobooks on the way to and from swimming lessons.

6. Extend a Subject Through the Summer

Some parents like to keep certain key skills going over the summer such as math and reading. By choosing to spread some work out over the full year, you can lighten your end-of-year spring days so you can be outside more often without sacrificing any of the content.

7. Choose to Homeschool on a Different Timetable

Perhaps you really would rather be out and about, enjoying the sights before the summer crowds begin slowing down the lines and making fun places less fun. You might choose to finish up your year early, and resume sooner than normal in the autumn. Or you might wish to take off April and May and homeschool during the end of July instead.

8. Call It Quits

Remember that you don’t have to finish every assignment or every book. Schools rarely complete more than 80% of their textbooks. Teachers generally pick and choose which lessons from the books they want to cover. Much of the skipped content will be taught in later years.

If you really are having a hard time just getting through the school year, put your curriculum away and decide later if it’s worth coming back to. You may decide that you are simply ready to move onto the next thing.

There’s really no wrong way to homeschool.

  • If you’d rather finish up early, you can do that.
  • Perhaps if having an end-of-year party motivates your children, then that might be the option for you.
  • If life is hard right now and you just wish you had some time off to recuperate, then that might be the right choice for this year.

Sometimes, just having a plan to finish out the year is enough to help get that far. But, finishing the year is hard for many families, and you’re not alone. Remember, homeschooling is a journey not traveled in a single year. If you aren’t able to get everything done you wanted to this year, there’s always next year.

Get the new Sonlight Summer Readers

Summer Readers can be a great incentive for your kids to finish their curriculum! You get a mini Box Day and something enjoyable to look forward to!

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Sonlight Spotlight - Bieda Family

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Each month the Sonlight team will choose a current family to highlight by sharing their #sonlightstories. If you’d like to shine a light on your family, apply here for a chance to be featured.

Meet the Bieda Family!

Brian and Julie Bieda knew they always wanted to homeschool their children Bianca (12), and Iron (10). After homeschooling for about four years, a friend recommended Sonlight, and the Biedas couldn’t be happier. 

Julie was helping teach another curriculum when her friend mentioned Sonlight. Having heard about it but never seen it, her friend pulled out her Instructor’s Guides (IG). She gave Julie a peek inside explaining how she knew exactly what to teach each day.  Julie thought, “This is exactly what I want!” When Brian saw their first order on #sonlightboxday, he said, “This is legit!!”

"I was so excited to discover Sonlight, and now that we’ve used it a few years, I still get excited about it every year!" -Julie Bieda

Switching to Sonlight

Before switching to Sonlight, the family was part of a homeschool group.  It required constant preparations each week, and they struggled to see how it was working. Julie was encouraged to just “trust the process,” but she wasn’t seeing how it was going to come together.   While Julie had heard good things about Sonlight, she knew it included a lot of books but not much else. After seeing an IG, Brian suggested they make the switch to Sonlight.

“That is one of the strongest features - the guide. To be able to have day-by-day planning, even our daughter can go and grab the books and tools that are needed. She brings it to the table, and all preparation is done. She’s invested in that process.” ~ Brian Bieda

Julie echoes this, “Last year I got very sick for a week with COVID, but my kids were able to look at the Instructor’s Guide and do nearly all of their work together.”

Strong Foundations

Sonlight’s IGs make homeschooling easy, but the Bieda family also has a special trick. Using sticky notes as bookmarks, they write the pages to be read each day.  Then the kids can just open up and start reading.  With a streamlined routine, they’re usually done with school by lunch.

This year, the Bieda kids are doing HBL E together, and they share language arts and science too.  They did discover the kids needed to be in separate math levels, however.  When Iron was struggling to keep up, they had him slow down and repeat some work over the summer. This gave him the confidence needed and the skill to move forward.

Both Brian and Julie agree, “The advantage to homeschooling is that you can repeat subject matter if necessary.  With Brian being a public school teacher, he sees kids pushed to the next grade when they’re not really ready or don’t know what they’re learning. A good foundation is necessary to help you learn new things.”  

Sharing Homeschool Perks

The Bieda family loves that they know what their children are learning and that Julie gets to be their primary teacher.  While they’ve experienced highs and lows in their homeschool journey, they focus on their end goal.

"We really enjoy homeschooling our kids. It gives us the best opportunity to invest in their future as far as preparing them for the adults they’re going to be one day. The way things have changed culturally throughout the last couple of decades, this really gives us the chance to guide and direct them in the way that they should go." ~ Brian Bieda

Sharing conversations about their personal family history and how it connects to the events the kids are studying is important to the family also.  This adds value to their days as conversations are not only educational but also relational.  The children have also had the chance to participate in activities they wouldn’t have been able to if they weren’t homeschooled.

“We have a lot of people who can’t understand why we would want to homeschool our children. We both knew we wanted to be raising our children with a Christ-Centered World focus.  I am so thankful to see that progression, thoughts, and little things they’ve learned. It’s really neat to get to be a part of it and watch your children develop critical thinking skills. Ultimately, not homeschooling was never an option.” ~ Julie

Selections, Musings, and Opinions

Both Bianca and Iron love homeschooling. Bianca states, “I like doing school as a family and reading books together.”  She is a total bookworm and loves to curl up with a book. Iron is a big fan of Sonlight’s science experiments.  They’re perfect for a child who, “Loves playing in the dirt and digging.” The family’s favorite books include:

You can learn more about the Bieda family’s Sonlight experience by listening to their full interview on the Sonlight Connections podcast.

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Practical Ways to Help Students Enjoy Poetry

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Poetry.  Just uttering the word poetry may evoke dread and terror!  Maybe you, along with many others, have secretly thought, “I don’t get poetry!  What am I missing?”

Confession: There was a time when I didn’t know why anyone would want to get poetry until the day a college friend lovingly opened her handwritten poetry scrapbook collection. I politely listened as she read her favorites aloud to me. Many years later, I finally understand what possibly possessed my friend to take the time to handwrite her favorite poems.

Today reading poetry feels like an indulgent treat! 

How Poetry Can Be a Treat

Poetry encourages a moment to stop, rest, and ponder amidst our busy daily lives. Poetry may express the poet's dreams, memories, hilarious and sometimes ironic events, imaginative whimsical ideas, and deep emotions and experiences. Reading poetry provides the opportunity to enjoy playing with words and sometimes even dance with language.

Poetry comes in all shapes and sizes! From the the short and structured haiku, to long poems covering many pages, to the beauty of Shakespeare’s sonnets, or to the wisdom of the Psalms, there is a poetic form for everyone!

Sometimes readers of poetry lose patience with a poet. Understanding poetry may be overwhelming because, in the brief format, each word counts. Yet reading poetry aloud and taking the time to consider the rich meaning and beauty of a poet’s work yields the reward of identifying with another person’s perspective and a deeper understanding of our own emotions and experiences.

Good news! Sonlight approaches poetry as poetry appreciation—learning to listen and hear various ways to combine words. Sonlight creates an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of words that will eventually spill over into appreciating other art forms. Sonlight includes poetry for every learning level but does not include discussion questions, allowing you and your child to play with words and consider writing and poetic form from an utterly creative place.  

How to Help a Young Learner Enjoy Poetry

Sonlight begins the journey of the poetry with rhythm and rhyme through A Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes in the early learning years. Mother Goose classic rhymes introduce the joy of playing with words.

Open the this anthology with a sparkle in your eye to indicate the fun and adventure of rhyme. Look at the illustration for each poem and discuss what is happening in the picture. Read the title aloud, then pause to talk about possible content.

Once you have piqued your child's interest, read the verse through entirely without stopping, so the rhythm of the words is clear. Discuss the content of the rhyme again. The discussion may be as simple as talking about the child’s favorite part. Next, reread the rhyme pausing to allow the child to fill in a rhyming word or words. Talk about the fun sounds of the rhyming words. Most children enjoy acting out a rhyme, and if they are hesitant, join the party and act out the poem together! 

When a child enjoys a particular poem, you may want to integrate other arts. Sing-song the poem using a tune of your creation. Offer the chance to Illustrate the poem according to the child’s vision. There is no need to cover each idea for every rhyme. The goal is to help the child enjoy the rhymes through play incorporating suggested techniques as time allows. 

It's been a joy to watch her learn to read, develop a love for poetry and be excited to share at dinner what she found most fascinating that day. Thank you, Sonlight.

The M Family, Sonlighters from Noblesville, IN

How to Help a Grade-School Child Enjoy Poetry

Sonlight offers an incredible variety of age-appropriate and interest-appropriate poetry books throughout the grade school years. 

The Llama Who Had No Pajama offers silly fun, just right for the young grade-school child. 

A Child’s Introduction to Poetry is intended for the enjoyment of the older grade-school child. Most of the poetry books include inviting artwork to accompany the poetry, enhancing the understanding and meaning of poems. 

When working with a grade school child who can read the poetry themselves, read the poem aloud with the child to increase enjoyment and understanding. The poetry selections at grade school levels are loaded with figurative language, imagery, and often a cadence and rhythm to the words. Reading out loud increases the enjoyment of literary techniques like alliteration and onomatopoeia which tickle the ears when heard and not merely read silently. 

If the poem’s topic seems unfamiliar to the child, you may want to provide background information to increase their understanding. Keep it simple. Perhaps a word is new to your child. Talk about the word and then reread the line together. Keep discussions brief and light so the focus remains on enjoying language together. 

When a particular line or an entire poem impacts or amazes you, share your thoughts with your child. Let them know what struck you and guide them through your thinking. Just as children learn to speak through hearing speech around them, hearing poetry will help them develop their understanding and appreciation of it. 

Sonlight's regular diet of quality books has given our daughter a growing love of poetry. She has also been inspired to write her own poems. We now have regular Poetry Tea Parties with a couple of other homeschooling families. What could be a better combination than poetry and cakes—food for the mind, body and soul!

The S Family, Sonlighters From London, UK

How to Help a High School Student Enjoy Poetry

Sonlight continues poetry exploration and appreciation throughout the middle and high school years with the works of poets like Whitman, Byron, Dickenson, Poe, and Shakespeare. Perrine’s, Sound and Sense, found in Level 630-British Literature provides an excellent resource for the junior or senior student who enjoys poetry and desires to dig deep into the study of it.    

When working with the older student, increase the understanding and enjoyment of poetry by reading about the poet’s background, experiences and culture. Knowing the poet's perspective raises a connection with the meaning of the poet’s words. Often sophisticated poems contain biblical, mythical, or cultural allusions. Helping the student identify allusions and discussing how the allusion encapsulates the depth of meaning of the poem also grows understanding and appreciation.

If the poem centers around a historical event, you and your child should take the time to become familiar with the event. Consider assigning the memorization and recitation of a poem of the student’s choice. Poetry, like a play, is meant to be heard. I have listened to student recitations of Shakespeare’s sonnets, complete with gestures and British accents.

Sometimes, a student requests to memorize and recite a meaningful poem of their choosing. Absolutely!  The goal is to inspire the student to appreciate and enjoy the art form of poetry.   

Don't let poetry overwhelm you. Knowing when to utilize a particular suggestion develops over time.  Some poems lend themselves to reveling in the moment or feeling that the poet expresses. Gift your child with reading a particularly visual poem aloud while they close their eyes and enjoy. Remember that you have invested time modeling how to approach a poem with your child, leading them and inspiring them to appreciate the poet's artistry on their own. Who knows? Maybe your child will create a handwritten collection of their favorite poems due to the rich, meaningful time they have spent enjoying poetry with you.

Sonlight books are wonderful! We come back to them again and again. Some books have been in our library for several years now, but as the kids get older, they can explore on deeper level, now memorizing poetry to share at our homeschool group. I love this journey we are on—Sonlight has made it easy to love learning!

The W Family, Sonlighters From Visalia, CA

Reading poetry gives us permission to stop our busyness and reflect to consider the small moments of our lives. Thornton Wilder best expressed the blessing and joy of appreciating small moments in our lives in Our Town.  

Emily asks, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?”

The Stage Manager replies, “The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.”
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If Sonlight’s Books are so Great, Why Do They Change?

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If Sonlight’s Books are so Great, Why Do They Change?

I have reviewed tens of thousands of children’s and young adults’ books over the last 30+ years. That background helps me evaluate every book I read. And it helps me find the outstanding books – the only ones that make it into a Sonlight program.

I want diversity. I don’t want all the authors or characters to be from the United States or Western Europe. I want to introduce your children to a wide variety of literary genres, and I don’t want to always make them work at the furthest extent of their ability. So I include a good mix of easier and harder books. In addition, I make certain there are books for both boys and girls, including books by both male and female authors, as well as books with boy characters and books with girl characters. Most importantly, I look for titles that closely relate to the time period and geographical setting of the characters and events covered in a given level. 

With such an intentional process in place to create Sonlight’s uncommon collection of literature, why do we change the books so often? 

  • Because books go out of print.
  • Because a better book comes into print.
  • Because I see a need and we produce a product to fill that need.

My team and I regularly review the new book releases throughout the year (a massive undertaking), but the end result is that we provide you with what I believe is the best literature available for your children’s education. Below, find a sneak peek at some of the exciting changes to the books this year. (Note – these titles include only History / Bible / Literature updates. Check out the 2022 Sonlight catalog or What's New page to read about all this year’s updates and changes.)

Sonlight's Pre-Kindergarten Package

My First Spanish Word Book

My First Spanish Word Book

"My First Spanish Word Book" is an engaging introduction to learning a new language. This works as your child's first Spanish picture dictionary.

Exploring American History

Anna Hibiscus

This book contains four short stories about Anna Hibiscus's life in Africa. Learn all about a different culture while sharing Anna's experiences with her parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. (We have carried this lovely title in the past. It went out of print. We worked to re-discover it.)

World Cultures

Room One: A Mystery or Two

A shrinking school in a dying town. A face in the window of an empty house. At first these facts don't seem to be related. But sixth-grader Ted Hammond learns that in his very small town, isolated events don’t exist. And the solution of one mystery often begins another.

Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet, Book 1

Frankie Sparks is a third-grader who uses her love for science and math to help her solve problems she comes across in her daily life.

Intro to World History, Year 1 of 2

Ways to Grow Love

Ryan Hart loves her family and friends. She's looking forward to summer vacation, spending time with loved ones, and her first trip to sleepaway camp! But when an unexpected camper shows up, Ryan finds it hard to share her best friend and harder to be a friend to someone who isn't a good friend back.

Intro to World History, Year 2 of 2

Tiger Boy

When a tiger cub escapes from a nature reserve near Neel's island village, the rangers, and villagers hurry to find her before the cub's anxious mother follows suit and endangers them all. But through his encounter with the cub, Neil learns that sometimes you must take risks to preserve what you love. And sometimes you must sacrifice the present for the chance to improve the future.


Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

In the small city of Strattenburg, many lawyers work on different types of law. Thirteen-year-old Theo Boone functions as an unofficial lawyer as he helps his classmates with sticky issues. 

Intro to American History, Year 1 of 2

Explore Native American Cultures! with 25 Great Projects

Explore Native American Cultures! introduces readers to seven main Native American cultural regions, from the northeast woodlands to the Northwest tribes. It includes ideas for hands-on projects to create. 

King George: What Was His Problem?

Entire books have been written about the causes of the American Revolution. This isn’t one of them. Instead, it offers fascinating anecdotes, close-up narratives filled with little-known details, lots of quotes that capture the spirit and voices of the principals, and action. It covers the story of the birth of our nation, complete with soldiers, spies, salmon sandwiches, and real facts you can’t help but want to tell everyone you know.


A twelve-year-old Iroquois boy searches for peace in this historical novel based on the creation of the Iroquois Confederacy.

The Story of the Amistad

This gripping, fast-paced book tells the dramatic story of the epic 1839 voyage of the schooner Amistad and her cargo of Africans bound for slavery in the New World.

Blood on the River

Twelve-year-old Samuel Collier lives as a lowly commoner on the streets of London. So, when he becomes the page of Captain John Smith and boards the Susan Constant, bound for the New World, he can’t believe his good fortune.

Fever 1793

During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out.

The Trailblazing Life of Daniel Boone

During Daniel Boone's 86-year life, Colonial America is transformed into a revolutionary republic, trails morph into roads and highways, and Americans discover new ways to travel―by canal, and by steam-powered boats and trains.

The White House Is Burning

This "biography of a single day" captures the burning of the White House by the British during the War of 1812 from the viewpoint of the people who were there, including First Lady Dolley Madison, a British officer, and a nine-year-old slave.

Alamo All-Stars

Through his vivid depiction, additional maps, and biographies located in the back of the book, Nathan Hale brings new insight for students, teachers, and historians into one of the most iconic structures in the United States—The Alamo.

History of Science

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

When the Watson family—ten-year-old Kenny, Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron—sets out on a trip south to visit Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama, they don’t realize that they’re heading toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history. The Watsons’ journey reminds us that even in the hardest times, laughter and family can help us get through anything.


This Newbery-Honor winning tale introduces Whittington, a roughneck tomcat who arrives one day at a barn full of rescued animals and asks for a place there. This unforgettable tale shows healing, the transcendent power of storytelling, and how learning-to-read saves one little boy.

Our Only May Amelia

The beloved Newbery Honor book about a spirited heroine who grows up in trying circumstances, with a sense of adventure, and a tremendous heart. Pioneer life isn't easy in the state of Washington in 1899. It's particularly hard when you are the only girl born in the new settlement.

20th Century World History

Modern History in Pictures

In From the Wright brothers' first flight and the First Russian Revolution to the horrors of war, to the development of motor and air travel and the birth of the digital revolution, the changes seen in the twentieth century were global in scope and monumental in terms of impact. 

Hero of the Empire

This thrilling biographical account of the early life and legacy of Winston Churchill is a nail-biter and top-notch character study rolled into one.

The Blackbird Girls

On a spring morning, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work—Chernobyl—has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who've always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina's estranged grandmother. In their new lives in Leningrad, they begin to learn what it means to trust another person.

My team and I are committed to continuing to bring you the best of the best literature for your children’s education. I hope these new titles make the world come alive for your students!

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You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more.

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