10 Children’s Picture Books About Italy

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This year we’ve been studying World Cultures and History in our homeschool. I wrote the curriculum, which is mostly a ton of library books, a bunch of hands on activities, and thoughtful open ended discussions.

I have checked out nearly 900 library books since September, so I have been able to read and narrow down my favorite books from each country and culture. We had a lot of fun studying Italy. We went to our favorite Italian restaurant, we built the Trevi Fountain out of LEGOs, and we did several art projects and listened to classical composers. These were the top 10 picture books we read about Italy.

1. Madeline and the Cats of Rome
Written by the grandson of the original author of the Madeline series, Madeline and the Cats of Rome follows the charming little French girl and the other 11 girls in her home plus Miss Clavel as they take a spring trip to Rome.

2. Pizza for the Queen
This is a really cute picture book based on a true story, about the origins of the Margherita pizza: when a pizza maker wanted to impress the Queen of Italy. This was a fun read and made us hungry!

3. There’s a Dolphin in the Grand Canal
This book takes place in Venice, and follows the young Venetian boy Luca as he tries to convince his family and friends that the dolphin he claims to see in the Grand Canal is not just a imaginary story.

4. Gabriella’s Song
Gabriella hears a beautiful melody in everything, including her everyday tasks, and it inspires a classical composer to write a new masterpiece when he hears the rhythm.

5. Vivaldi and the Invisible Orchestra
Cute historical fiction about a young orphan girl who transcribes Antonio Vivaldi’s music into sheet music, and how she inspires him. Based on true characters.

6. Strega Nona’s Gift
Fun and whimsical series about Strega Nona, the Italian grandmother who has magical powers.

7. The Famous Nini: A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star
A fun little book about a stray cat that becomes a celebrity.

8. Blockhead-The Life of Fibonacci
Probably one of the best books we have read this entire year. Informative, interesting, entertaining, and engaging. My 8 year old was inspired to write the Fibonacci sequence out as high as she could. The story of the mathematician who found number patterns in nature.

9. Italy ABCs
An ABC book that explains Italian words and famous locations.

10. You Wouldn’t Want to Live in Pompeii
We have LOVED the You Wouldn’t Want To… Series. It is written almost in comic book style and gives a lot of information while still being a lot of fun. The series includes other events, such as The Great Wall of China, the Hindenburg, and the Travels of Marco Polo.

This post contains some affiliate links if you order through Amazon, but these are all books we have read and enjoyed as a family and I don’t have a vested interest in any of them.

Homeschooling a Child With Sensory Issues

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Tater is in 2nd grade now, and while some of her sensory issues are improving, she can still have a hard time focusing, which means I need to get creative in our homeschool so she can reach her full potential. Homeschooling is an ideal environment for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder because you can teach exactly how they learn best, and tailor the curriculum to their learning style. There’s no “falling through the cracks” in the homeschool setting because of the one-on-one attention they get.

Since Junior’s sensory issues are worse than Tater’s because of his hearing loss, I know I’ll need to adapt even more once he starts doing school, but here are some tips that have helped me keep my sanity and Tater keep from getting (too) frustrated.

1. Create a Peaceful Space
Kids with sensory issues either get overstimulated and out of control or completely shut down if there is too much stimulation. It could be in the form of visual, auditory, or tactile stimulation. Between the constant sounds of Junior being a loud 3 year old, the dishwasher and washing machine running, and the visual distractions of cars driving by, birds flying by, and neighbors out walking, Tater sometimes struggles to focus. Hearing protection Headphones (we have a pair like these) have been great when she just needs some quiet in the midst of everyday noises. Too much visual stimulation can be a problem too. I make sure all the cabinet doors in the school room are closed and that she’s facing away from the window, so a car or bird flying by doesn’t distract her.

2. Make Movement Part of the Lesson Plan
Movement is important for helping sensory kids become stable and grounded because they need that Vestibular or Proprioceptive input. I try to add in movement into our lesson plans as much as possible. Sometimes we do Math Obstacle Courses…I’ll create an obstacle course in the backyard, and she will have to answer a math problem at each obstacle. I also do scavenger hunts…I write out her math problems and place one inside of a plastic Easter egg, then hide them around the yard. She runs around finding the eggs and does the problems.

When we’re studying music (lately we’ve been studying Tchaikovsky), I allow her to dance to the music. For history, sometimes she will act out a scene from our history book, or she will just take a break every 20-30 minutes to go do some laps or jump on the exercise trampoline.

3. Let Them Focus on Something Else
I used to make Tater give me her full attention whenever I would read aloud. I didn’t think she was paying attention if her eyes were not focused on me. Well, after some challenges with recalling what I read, someone mentioned that if her hands were otherwise occupied, she might be able to focus better. Wow, what a difference that made! She needed the Tactile input so she could focus auditorily. She plays with LEGOs, draws, plays with Kinetic Sand or Play-Doh while I’m reading aloud to  her, and she is able to repeat what I said verbatim. (I always ask some comprehension questions while I’m reading.)

4. It’s Okay to Take a Break
Sensory kids can easily get burned out and shut down. When we’ve hit a wall and she starts to shut down, we just stop what we’re doing and take a quiet time break. Sometimes 15 minutes of going to a quiet place to read or do a puzzle is all it takes to calm her down and allow her to focus enough to get back on task.

5. Create Hands On Learning Opportunities
For all kids, but especially kids with sensory issues, utilizing all their senses is one of the keys to their academic success. Some of the things we regularly do in our lesson plans to encourage sensory input are:

-Creating Lego models of what we’ve learned
-Doing a science experiment instead of just reading about science
-Acting out a chapter from a book, including dressing up as the character(s)
-Aforementioned “Movement” activities
-Field Trips to local museums, hands-on Children’s Museums, state parks and National Parks
-Cooking or baking a recipe from whatever area we’re studying in Geography

Remember, homeschooling doesn’t have to look like regular school. As long as your child is learning the concepts they need to, you can present them in whatever way they will learn best. And sometimes that means doing math problems upside down while working on a LEGO masterpiece :)

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Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt

Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt for Kids...Make Learning FunHi, I’m Sara, and I have a book problem. Phew. There, I said it.

Being a homeschooler, I have noticed a teensy-tiny tendency to buy hoards of books, and justify them as “for school”. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we now have a bunch of really neat and fun educational books. But, it didn’t really matter because Tater wasn’t really reading them. I mean, if you’re 7 years old, why are you going to pull out huge copies of A History of the World or 1000 Animals of the Ocean when you could read Berenstain Bears? So, I was pondering how to get Tater to really delve into these encyclopedias we have, without it feeling like a chore.

A scavenger hunt!

It hit me all of a sudden…Tater loooooovvvvesss games and puzzles, so one evening after dinner, I pulled out a copy of our Ocean encyclopedia and gave her a list of things to find. Some were easy, like a fish or a dolphin. Some were subjective like “something adorable” or “a funny looking creature”. It took her about 10 minutes to finish the hunt, but then she spent a while looking through the volume and pointing out interesting facts and trivia. She read the encyclopedia until it was time to get ready for bed (that’s an impressive feat since most of her free time has been going to Minecraft lately!) She even asked me to create another hunt for the following day.

The next day I pulled out an illustrated atlas of the US, and had her find things like “a city that begins with ‘M'”, “a state bird”, and “a lake in a southern state.” Again, she asked for more. I’m going to start doing one of these a week with her, since she truly enjoys it and is learning in the process.

Tips for creating an Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt

-Have a Variety of Difficulty
     -Kids will lose interest if it’s either too challenging or too easy. You want to vary it up a bit. You could do something really specific, followed by a super easy task.

-Make Some Subjective
-In our Natural History hunt below (which is basically a big book categorizing all living plants and animals), I made sure to have a couple of subjective tasks on there, including “an animal you would want for a pet”. Kids will read more in depth if they feel they should form an opinion about it.

-Don’t Overdo It
-As fun as these are for Tater, I need to create them for her just a little less than she wants to do them. That way, it’s a treat and a novelty instead of a commonplace activity.

-Explore New Genres
     -If you don’t have a  book problem like me, you can borrow some books at the library to do these hunts with. Use different subjects, such as Encyclopedias of History (either broad or specific time frames), Bible, World Cultures, US Geography, Zoology, Marine Biology, and Botany.

Now that I’ve found a use for all these books, I think it’s time to start looking into a bigger bookshelf!

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Our Summer Homeschool Plan

Summer SchoolEvery year I have these great ambitions of doing school year-round, and having summer be just as productive and structured as the rest of the year. And every summer, I laugh at my well-laid plans, and realize that it’s just not going to happen.

So, this year, I’m actually anticipating this, and have a laid back summer planned…with lots of learning activities available of course. (See my popular post about Learning While On Summer Vacation)

Math: We finished out Tater’s 1st grade year about 20 lessons into Horizons 2. We’ll continue doing a couple lessons a week, but will be mainly focusing on memorizing Skip Counting and solidifying her addition and subtraction skills to begin multiplication in the Fall.

Handwriting: Tater was diagnosed with dysgraphia, which basically means she has a hard time with handwriting and spelling because of motor skill development. (Fun fact: I had similar issues in school.) We’ve been working with Junior’s OT to give her hand exercises to strengthen her fine motor skills, and some core exercises to improve her gross motor skills. We will be starting cursive, as that is supposed to help, and this summer will be spent learning cursive letters and improving motor skills.

Reading: She does reading herself and we do a read aloud together…she’s been reading Imagination Station, Berenstain Bears, and her Bible Storybooks to herself. Our read-aloud right now is Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Spanish: I found a Spanish workbook at Costco that Tater is really excited to start. She likes to order in Spanish at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and has asked to learn more.

Travel: We have several trips planned this summer. One vacation to the beach and one trip to visit family on the East Coast, so I’m going to incorporate History, Geography, and Geology into those trips.

What are your Summer Plans? Comment below to let me know!

 

Our Homeschool in Review: April 20-May 15, 2015

Homeschool Week in ReviewSo, I haven’t posted our homeschool week in review in several weeks…we’ve been working, just at a slower pace and more relaxed schedule since the year is winding down and Tater has finished almost all of her first grade work and is already in much of her 2nd grade curriculum. We took a few field trips as well.

Here’s what we’ve been working on for the last few weeks:

Bible: We studied Daniel, Jonah, and the Armor of God. We watched a few Veggie Tales and What’s In The Bible episodes, and did a few art projects. Tater built a sword out of cardboard for the Sword of the Spirit.

History: We studied the Phoenicians, Mayans, and started looking at the Greeks. We read some books about each civilization, built a Mayan pyramid out of Legos, made a homemade sundial, and Tater created some buildings modeled after Greek architecture on her Minecraft game.

Math: We’re finally done with Horizons 1! Tater loves math, so she was excited to start with Horizons 2 the next day :)

Reading: We finished two read alouds: Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Boxcar Children #6-Blue Bay Mystery. Tater also worked through some reading comprehension worksheets, and we did 7 Abeka phonics lessons.

Language Arts and Spelling: We worked through several more Latin and Greek root words (port, miss, and graph), and finished All About Spelling step 15 and completed seven lessons from First Language Lessons 2 about adjectives and adverbs.

Science: We did three weeks worth of A Reason for Science…lessons about sound, lift, and aerodynamics. We also did experiments for each of those topics. Tater also spent time pulling weeds and planting seeds in our garden, learning about life science of plants and seeds. And, she learned about sea animals on our field trip to the aquarium.

Art: We studied Leonardo DaVinci and Tater designed some inventions she would like to see in the future. Since we did some crafts for our Bible lessons, I counted that towards art as well.