Well….I’m a couple days late, but I wanted to introduce you to my August sponsors/affiliates. Every now and I then I get to try out a sponsor’s product, which is always fun. You’ll see more personal pictures in this post. My oldest daughter is all about getting strong these days. It makes me smile. One of her brother’s out grew his old tank. She asked to wear it because it makes her look ‘tougher’…9.15sponsors-02

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  • Rachel - I love our fit chic headbands! An added bonus…they work great for my girls to wear during swim lessons to keep all the little fly away hair out of their faces while swimming!

  • Yvette - It’s September that’s just started :) or are these your sponsors from last month?

  • Maureen - Nice arms Mom! And Firecracker does look tough!

I’ve been fighting a losing battle. Well, I am sure I am fighting lots of losing battles, but this post is about one. The battle of the white work tables.

It is completely unrealistic and impractical to have white painted tables and 5 kids who do all their school/crafting/mess making at those tables. I’ve just been adding a coat of white paint every so often because I really, really like white. However, I’m tired. This week they caught me in a moment of weakness and I waved the white flag.

I just kept losing to paint spills. Dry erase marker smudges. Other random things I still am not sure what they are…

So I told the kids to bring it on. Just paint the table. Fill it with happy. And they did.


If I wanted it to last for a long time, I would paint it with sealer. But…I like change. And white paint.

My oldest walked in and asked, “are you really going to leave it like this?” I smiled and said, “Yes. For now.” Soon enough we’ll all be ready for change again. Another coat of white paint. Another fresh start. Another new canvas.

Soon enough they won’t want to paint pirates and mermaids and blue-haired princesses. So, this week I decided to let them go at it and it was totally worth it to see all those big smiles.

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  • Katie - You should try painting it with chalkboard paint!! Our kitchen table is a giant chalkboard and the kids love it!

  • Chris - I love it! I bet that their smiles were worth an trepidations that you might have felt. I think that it is amazing how you embrace all that is your children.

  • Stephanie - I buy clear, vinyl tablecloth by the yard at Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby. Now I can see my table, but it is protected. The vinyl is cheap and easy to replace. Each time I do, I have a perfectly clean table, for a while.

  • Haley - What a fun idea! It will be fun for you guys to watch it evolve with added doodles and drawings.

  • Jenny B. - Oh my goodness, I would never be able to paint over it again! :)

  • Jenny B. - Ok, I took a breath, and now I think this is an AMAZING idea. The whole painting over their artwork idea, I mean. I was on board with letting them paint the table already. 😉 You could take pictures of the table before you repaint it white each time, and then put together a photo book of all their table-painting-masterpieces! :) Or at least include those photos in your family yearbook. Now I’m thinking maybe we should do this with our coffee table that desperately needs refinishing. 😉

  • Emily - Oh I love this! We have a white tablecloth that comes out at thanksgiving and it’s got handprints and little notes of what we’re thankful for written on it in sharpie. I have intentions of embroidering over it in case it fades, but that feels a long way off :-)

  • Erica - This is awesome. What a memory maker for all of you!

  • Kate S. - Posts like this remind me what a TERRIBLE mother I would make, lol. I wouldn’t care about the table, but I could not tolerate the visual clutter whenever I looked at it. I’ll just admire all that cute art from way over here: ) I admire your mothering so much!

  • Kim - I love this! You totally have to take a picture of the table as it changes through the years. (Not that you didn’t already think of that.)

  • Mel - When you go to paint it again, do you sand it a little? What type of white paint do you use? I ask because I bought a little antique table over the weekend for the kids to use for homework and it desperately needs a paint job. The table is a cream paint color that is wearing away. I don’t know where to start. I would like to paint it pure white with no distressing on it.

  • Roianne - This reminds me of the movie “50 First Dates” where the dad and brother keep repainting the garage for the daughter/sister to paint since her memory is an issue from an accident she was in. A new mural everyday! I know you won’t want to do that, but lots of fun for the kids every now and again. :)

One of the things I get asked most about is what books my kids read. There isn’t an easy (or short!) answer for those questions. I told my oldest I wanted him to start gathering his thoughts for a guest post about his favorite books. Hopefully I can get him to write that soon. Until then, I thought I would share about how I incorporate books into what we are learning in ‘school’.

Both my kids and I am fans of ‘living books’. In a very basic sense these are books that bring to life what you are reading typically using a narrative form. Instead of a dry text book on the American Revolution, I provide my kids with books that teach about the American Revolution but through a narrative form.

While teaching the kids historical facts, I then find living books that will make those facts come alive and help them remember what they are learning.

In a nutshell, my kids read a lot of historical fictions, biographies and autobiographies. My oldest actually prefers these types of books, so that makes things really easy for me.

This year we will be studying ancient history. The middle shelf holds the books my kids will be reading to themselves or I will be reading aloud during the first 12 weeks of school. I am still working on organizing them and have some more to add. My oldest can’t handle new books on the shelf. He has already read almost all of them. I can’t keep up.

9.15books-02I added red washi tape to each book we will reading for school and added a number to mark which week they will read the book.

Note to fellow CC parents: The red signifies “Cycle 1” and the number is which week of the cycle. I use a different color of washi tape for Cycle 2 and Cycle 3. This will allow me to quickly find what books go with what cycle and week when my younger kids are ready to read them.9.15books-01Since I am picking my books based on specific things we will be studying, I found booklists that other parents created. The main list I used is by Half A Hundred Acre Wood. I printed that list (it is several pages) and put it in a binder. I then found a few other lists and cross referenced. If a book was mentioned on three lists, I highlighted it as one I wanted to find. Other books I saw recommended that looked good, I penciled in at the bottom of the lists. All the lists were so long, this was a way for me to narrow it down. You got to start somewhere!

From there I made two main lists: books to own, books to check out. Since I needed certain books at certain times, I could not depend on the library. I purchased books from Bibliomania in Tulsa – I highly recommend that place….a homeschoolers dream. Discount books from wall to wall. I did order a couple from Amazon and the rest we will check out.

9.15books-04If you look closely, you will also see stickers on the bottom of each book spine (right picture). These are date stickers – a genius idea I gained from my friend Amy. She wrote a more detailed post about this {click here for her post}. All this organization makes me ridiculously giddy. No joke.9.15books-06Another book series that my oldest enjoys is The Story of the World. I bought these to read aloud small sections, but he likes to read them by himself. There is actually tons of extra stuff that goes along with this series, but we just like the books.9.15books-08Behind the cabinet doors is all of our other school books. I still have lots of organizing to do and the kids have all their other books in the house. It is all a work in progress. We are constantly finding good book deals – like abridged versions of classics in the Target dollar bins (so great for early readers).9.15books-09All that to say, a lot of the time when you see pictures of my boys reading it is something I’ve purchased with intention of them learning something (historical, character traits, etc.) as they read. The great thing about well written living books and classics is they are so interesting my kids can’t put them down. It doesn’t feel like assigned reading to them – I am so thankful for that! Of course the kids also have favorite books that they are reading just for fun too. I’m really trying to get them to help me with that post soon!

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  • Shan - Reading your post has brought back SO many memories of homeschooling! Oh, the books! It’s been about 7-8 yrs since we’ve homeschooled and I am just not getting to purging all my books. It’s been tough. I love all your organization skills. Keep up the good work. You guys are great!

  • Kelseykelseyquiring - Great strategy! Your oldest may enjoy Sofie’s World

  • Alicia B - We are in our 2nd year of homeschooling (8th grader, 6th grader and 1st grader). We are absolutely in LOVE with it! This post has given me such great ideas!

  • Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life - We are just starting homeschool this year and I so appreciate the tips. We already have a ton of books because I used to be a teacher and we all just love them. I love how you have yours labeled with stickers and when you plan to read them.

  • susie - Thanks for the list! It’s hard for me to find books for my boys the same ages as yours. My girls will read anything though! why I left a comment is that you have to check out “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah and read for yourself. It is about two french sisters during WWII when the Nazi’s took over. You probably are like me, loved to read as a kid but don’t have the time to read much now so what you read has to be a good one- and this one is!

  • Ange - Thank you for sharing! Please continue to share what you are reading- I have a 11, 8, and 4 year old and all are voracious readers and homeschoolers. We are always looking for good books to read, and it’s great to have them vetted already so I don’t have to try to read ahead of them :)

  • Lisa - I plan to homeschool my 3, who are now 4, 2, and 7 mo so I’m several years away from this…but I’m curious how you handle discussing all their reading with them? I’m pretty sure you aren’t able to read all the books as well (or if you do, what is your secret?!? I haven’t read a book in 4 years and I used to read 3 a week!). So how do you discuss the content with your kids? I feel like I’m going to have to read everything my kids do so we can discuss it and learn the information but I have no idea how to fit that into my life. I’ve thought about this a lot and I’m curious what your approach is since you have voracious readers in your house.

  • Emily - All of your organization makes me giddy! My kids are in a Reggio preschool but moving to public elem (hopefully the dual language program!) but I know that public school can’t meet the needs of all students all the time so I plan on doing a bit of “afterschooling” and summer schooling at home with them to round out their interests. Your tips are priceless. Thank you so much!

    PS – I’m sure you’ve heard of it (because there are 80bajillion posts and I only just discovered it) but the podcast Things You Missed in History Class is pretty fun. It’s free on itunes. If y’all are into podcasts, which I am. I’m also completely addicted to freakonomics, which is basically a bunch of thought experiments with a bunch of data to back up their findings. 😉

  • Ashley - Thanks for this Ashley! We are doing CC this year and the hundendered acre wood list, although wonderful is SO overwhelming.
    Every time I have looked at it I get a wave of anxiety and walk away! You had such an awesome idea comparing the list and narrowing it down! Is there any way you could share the other two list you used or your final list? That would be extremely helpful!! I love the fun tape idea too. We did that for so light when I used that. How did you deside what books to buy and what to get at the library too? I have one in CC, one in School, one 3 year old, and a baby coming soon so I’m trying to keep it simple. Again love, love, love, your idea of simplifying the list. Thanks a million!!

  • Jenny B. - Love all the books! My oldest has read Detectives in Togas and Mystery of the Roman Ransom, and really enjoyed them. We also have Galen and the Gateway to Medicine on our list for this year. We use Story of the World also, but I like to get the audio CD’s. It’s a nice break from all the reading (my throat would get sore from reading aloud when my oldest was younger), and my boys can listen together. :) So fun that your studio could now also be called your schoolhouse. 😉

  • LisaAnn - Two historical fiction that we’ve really enjoyed (my 5 kids are really close in age to yours) are Johnny Tremain and Carry on Mr. Bowditch (both Newbury winners). You may have already read them but if you haven’t you should check them out. :)

  • Megan - These look like great books! I’m curious if/how you discuss the biases that memoirs and novels inevitably have in their representation of the past? e.g., the Little House on the Prairie series was heavily edited to appeal to Great Depression audiences – so it’s not really a historical text so much as a fictional one. I loved that series growing up, and my daughters love it now, but I have struggled with some aspects of it, especially the representation of Native Americans. Louise Erdich’s Birchbark House series is an attempt to fill in some of those gaps.

  • Rena Frey - Dang! Your organization is beautiful! I’m impressed. :) Where is your white cabinet/bookshelf from? We are adding on and it looks like the perfect thing to put in our office.

  • Ashley Pickrell - Have you heard of the ‘Dear America’ series? Each book is a different time period written from the perspective of a young girl in diary form. They were my favorite growing up, made me fall in love with history. There is a boys series too, called ‘America Writes’ I think. I have a few of the girl books already and I plan on getting the boy books for my son. I hope to pass on my love of reading and history to him. :)

  • Jamie - Great post. I love when you have a post related to Homeschool. Thanks!

  • paula - My daughter *loved* story of the world! We took turns reading it when she was in 2/3rd grades. She also *loved* Apologia Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day; –that was the only science book we bought as my girl went back to school for 4th grade (catholic school so a little better, but…)I was uncertian of the apologia books because I heard they were really christian..but they’re okay. They’re not overly…

  • Tobi - Your oldest son reminds my of our oldest! I also wanted to share a great source for cheap (often used) books I’ve found: half.com. I order books from there when my school (I teach in a public school) or public library don’t carry them. Most books I’ve found for less than $3 (plus shipping, which sometimes makes it double that, but if you buy more than one book from the same seller, it reduces your shipping costs). You can also sell your books there if you need to make room for more. You won’t get rich, but it’s nice to know they’re not going to waste. Have a great school year! Your blog is so inspiring to me!

  • Laura - My mom used Sonlight curriculum for most of the years she homeschooled me. They were the exact approach – a list of living books on a period of history. I loved every single book! I noticed many of them in your pictures!

  • shareeann - well as a CC mom, I just found that rather inspiring and helpful=thanks sweet momma:)

  • amber - Goodness we loved those dollar classics from target this summer! And we have a deep love for living books here too. We’re doing American History this year & I think I’m more excited than my kids! Ha!

  • Rikki - Ashley, this is so great! Thanks so much for sharing! I feel as though I can never get enough good advice and inspiration for organization and teaching kids at home, both of which I absolutely love from you!

  • MC - You are so organized! Thank you so much for sharing! We don’t homeschool but these are awesome book recommendations.

  • Ashley Pickrell - An update to my previous comment: I just discovered the boys series of the ‘Dear America’ books is called ‘My Name is America’. I found one in my thrift store today :)

  • Amy - I absolutely love this blog! You are truly an inspiration and I have loved your ideas, creativity and love for life! I am interested in what other book lists you used in correspondence with Half a Hundred Acre Wood…..is there a way to get links to those? I really want to incorporate more books in our school curriculum :-) Thank you!

  • Kate - Hi Ashley! Thanks for sharing the washi tape idea–it’s brilliant! I love hearing more about your homeschooling adventure. We don’t have a CC group in our area, but we started a little co-op with a few other families and are using a lot of CC resources among other things. I went ahead and bought the Cycle 1 memory work app. I’m curious if you do the memory work at home and how that goes for your littler ones?