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.

Why We Homeschool: 5 Reasons to Teach Your Kids at Home

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Homeschoolers get a bad rap sometimes. People think they’re weird (some are, most aren’t, just like the general population.) People think they’re unsocialized (studies have shown that homeschoolers are more well socialized than typical school children.) People think that you have to wear a denim jumper and cut your own hair and own a 15 passenger van in order to homeschool (just no…to all of that.) So, in defense of homeschooling, I want to share my top 5 reasons for choosing this for our family.

1. They Grow Up Too Fast
If you’re a parent, you don’t need me to tell you that time goes by too quickly. We all know that you blink and they’re grown. Let’s look at a typical school schedule…6 hours a day, 180 days a year. That’s 1080 hours every year that my kids would be away from me. From kindergarten until 12th grade it adds up to…wait for it…over a year and a half away from my kids. 14,000 hours…585 twenty-four hour days…18 months.

They grow up fast enough without my only seeing them on evenings and weekends. Last week Tater told me that she loves homeschooling because “We get to spend all day together.” These are moments I can never get back and wouldn’t trade for anything.


2. I Can Teach Individually to My Children’s Strengths
Each kid learns differently, but in a classroom setting with 20 or 30 other kids, there isn’t time to cater each lesson to each child. At home, I can tailor each and every lesson to my children’s unique learning style. They end up retaining more and enjoying their lessons instead of just trudging through the school day. This enables them to be lifelong learners instead of just doing their work so it can be done and over with.


3. I Know What They’re Learning
Most parents take great care in making sure they know what is going into their kids’ bodies and minds…we feed them good foods, limit their sweets, moderate the shows they watch and the video games they play. But, with 30+ hours a week in an environment I’m not in, I don’t know what they’re hearing or seeing or learning from the other kids who don’t share our same standards.

Now, I’m not “wrapping them in a bubble”, but at such impressionable ages, I want to do my best to shape and mold them in a way that reflects our values, not their peers’ values.

4. We Can Travel
Our family really enjoys traveling as a way to make school more hands on. We love taking long weekends to the National Parks. Our kids learn so much about science and history from these trips, and I love that we don’t have to “take them out of school” to go places…those places become our classroom!

5. We Can Learn Beyond the Curriculum

Sometimes we will learn about something, and the kids will take a real interest in it. Homeschooling gives us the opportunity to really explore beyond the original curriculum. For example, we have been studying world cultures this year. Tater wanted to learn everything she could about Russian history, so we did extra art projects and checked out a bunch of books at the library and really delved into it instead of just glossing over it. So far this school year we have checked out over 400 books from the library!

Those are only five of my reasons for homeschooling…there are many more, like not having to endure school traffic, not having to get everyone up and rushed and ready by 8am every morning, going to our favorite field trip locations when it’s least crowded, etc. In short, we love homeschooling and while it’s not easy, it is definitely the best choice for us, and I’m so proud of how much my children are learning and what kind and thoughtful little people they are becoming.

Our 3rd Grade Curriculum Choices

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I just can’t believe that my little Tater is in 3rd grade. We are in our second week of school, and she has told me that she LOVES third grade. I think much of it has to do with our curriculum choices. I am actually writing my own Bible/history/geography/social studies/art/music curriculum this year, and I have a lot of fun stuff planned!

Here are our curriculum choices for Tater’s 3rd grade year:

Math- Horizons 3
Langauge- Abeka 3 and Latin/Greek Root Words
Spelling- All About Spelling 3
Science- Apologia Astronomy
Handwriting- Handwriting Without Tears Cursive

The history, etc., I mentioned I was writing is World History and Cultures. We are studying every country. We are studying the history, geography, art, music, and languages of each country using a lot of craft projects, hands on activities, and TONS of living books. I am checking out about 30 books a week from the library.

I’m excited for 3rd grade, and I can’t wait to share some of our activities from the year!

Vacationpocalypse Redux

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You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been around much the last month or two. After I got back from my Jeopardy! audition in Seattle, I started not feeling right. I went to the doctor a few times, saw a couple of specialists, had surgery, and was not in a very bloggy mood until I just received the “healthy all clear”. Praise the Lord! So, all is well, I am back, and I wanted to share some photos of our trip to Texas last week. Remember Vacationpocalypse last year? Well this trip followed that one up nicely.

Our kids had the opportunity to be a flower girl and ring bearer at a friend’s wedding in Fort Worth, Texas. We decided to fly out a few days early, so we could spend some time touring the area, and we had a few “field trips” planned as part of our homeschool curriculum.

It’s a 3 hour flight from San Diego to Dallas. Well, not even three hours. I think the total flight is around two hours and forty-five minutes. Between take off and descent, it’s only about 2 hours in the air. No problem! This would be easy. We got to the San Diego airport and found a parking space right in front (never happens), then made it through security in five minutes (never happens either), and our flight left 15 minutes early, with an early arrival time planned (woohoo, Texas steak dinner here we come!)

Texas has been getting record rainfall and flooding the last few weeks, but the storm in Dallas wasn’t supposed to move in until after our 5pm flight was to arrive. Everything was going smoothly, the kids were doing great on the flight, and I was anticipating a nice steak once we arrived.

About 10 minutes before our arrival time, the captain came on and said there was a lightening storm in the DFW area, and no planes could land, but that we would circle until a path opened and arrive about 20 minutes late.

We continued to circle for 2 hours…every 30 minutes the captain would come on and promise us only 20 more minutes. I started to not believe him. It was now 7pm, and we had no time table for landing.

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Finally a little after 7pm, we were told we were beginning our initial descent–into Wichita Falls–about 120 miles north of DFW to refuel. We considered renting a car to make it down to DFW, but they never let us off the plane. We sat on the tarmac for FOUR hours. Junior was not having any of it…it was meltdown central on that plane, and I don’t blame the poor kid. A 3 hour flight had turned into 9, and I had only packed enough snacks and games for 3 hours. Finally, at 11:30pm, we landed at DFW. No one on the plane got dinner, so we were all hungry and crabby. After getting the rental car and driving an hour to the hotel, we finally settled in about 1am.

The only upside, I told my husband, is that if we ever wanted to fly to Europe, we know the kids could do it =)

Next Post: Photos of my 33 oz Texas tomahawk steak, sitting on a live longhorn steer, and the ring bearer and flower girl in action.

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“Shhhh. They Don’t Know They’re Learning” DVD List…for home or travel!

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I know a lot of parents try to tough out traveling without using technology, but sometimes you just need to switch on the DVD player for sanity’s sake. Having logged over 130 hours on road trips or plane rides with one or both of my kids since 2014, I know a little bit about traveling with kids. (plus we have another 30 hours+ worth of traveling planned for later this year), and sometimes turning on a DVD is just the best option for everyone. It tends to reset the atmosphere, gives some peace and quiet, and helps the time pass more quickly. Even though Tater gets carsick while reading or coloring in the car, she does fine watching shows, so I make sure to stock up on quality shows.

But, not all DVDs are created equal. I try to make sure that the DVDs we have in the car for traveling are educational, but also fun and enjoyable. The kids don’t even realize they’re learning! Here are my top picks for Educational DVDs to pick up for your next trip (or even just to have around the house!)

(My kids do have plenty of non-screen time during our travels as well…check out some of my DIY travel games for road trips, and my simple DIY Travel Lego Tray!)

Toddler and Preschoolers

  • Leapfrog Letter Factory
    • This is such a great show for kids who are learning their ABCs. Both of my kids were able to learn and practice their letter sounds. Junior still asks to watch it on occasion, because it’s entertaining, even though he already knows the letters.
  • Leapfrog Math Circus
    • This is another wonderful Leapfrog DVD, that teaching counting by 10s.
  • Leapfrog Math Adventure to the Moon
    • In this DVD (can you tell I love Leapfrog shows for little kids??), children are introduced to skip counting, which is a major foundation for multiplication.
  • Meet the _____ series
    • Meet the Letters, Colors, Numbers, and Shapes are four of my top DVDs for little kids. Much like the Leapfrog series, they introduce kids to learning in a fun, engaging, and sing-songy way.

Young Grade School (K-4th)

  • Wild Kratts
    • This popular PBS show teaches kids about all about animals. The fast-paced cartoon action is enough to keep all the kids entertained.
  • Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?
    • I grew up playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego on the computer, and enjoyed watching the cartoon version. Both kids love these DVDs, and will watch each episode over and over. Tater spouts off trivia about geography, history, natural wonders, and science. It’s adventure mixed with information that keeps my kids enthralled.
  • Liberty’s Kids
    • This is a cartoon take on Colonial America during the Revolutionary War. It’s fast paced, exciting, and includes all the episodes that teach about the American Revolution and incudes the lives of such historical figures as Benjamin Franklin (the main character voiced by the legendary Walter Cronkite), Paul Revere, and George Washington.
  • Popular Mechanics for Kids
    • This is a fun series for hands-on science learning. Tater didn’t like some of the “gross” episodes about reptiles and bugs, but she loved the rest of them.
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
    • Do you know how adorable it is to hear your 3 year old singing Conjunction Junction?! Too adorable. This DVD includes all 46 of the Schoolhouse Rock! songs on one disc. My kids love rocking out to this DVD. In fact, it’s in our car’s DVD player as we speak.
  • The Magic School Bus
    • With the exception of a few “millions and millions of years” dinosaur episodes, this entire series is really great. I used to watch it when I was young, and learned so much about science. My kids have the entire series on DVD and really enjoy it.

Do you have a favorite educational show? Let me know in the comments!

*This post contains some affiliate links.