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How to Manage Library Books in Your Homeschool

The library is one of my favorite places in the world.  America's library system is a thing of beauty. We have so much wrong with our country, but our library system is a reason to feel to patriotic.  Free books.  To everyone.  It is truly awe inspiring.

As a homeschooler on a budget, the library saves us thousands of dollars a year, enabling us to us to study any subjects we want, without any added book expenses.

One of our favorite parts of My Father's World curriculum is the book basket!  Load of pretty pretty books, but at the price of a free library membership!

While I love the library, it can also be overwhelming. The giant book lists in our curriculum is a pro in my opinion, but it can also become a con if the sheer amount of books overwhelms you, or worse, you start adding up fines. Don't let this amazing tool become a burden in your family!

Online Library Holds
Almost all libraries now allow you to put books on hold ONLINE before visiting the library.  Our library has a limit of 10 books for a hold. I get around this sometimes by using my son's library cards to reserve books online, so we can get 30 books with 3 library cards.  This can be done on your phone from the convenience of your couch, after your kids go to bed.

I pick up the holds at the front of the library, instead of going all the way to the kid's section.  When we are busy with life, this can really help you get at least some books in that book basket!

 Online Renewals & Text/Email Alerts
I am the queens of library renewals.   Whenever I get an email that a book is coming due, I go online to renew those books.  No matter what. This way I can take back books on my own schedule, and not the library's. Check out your library policy and take advantage of it!  It will save you a small fortune in fines!

Signing up for email alerts & online renewals are the best things I have ever done at my library, it has almost eliminated my fines.

Library Basket 
This is where all library books live in our house.  They sleep here. Library Books DO NOT LEAVE the room of the library basket.  Period.   I wish I could let my kids read all over the house, but the fines are not worth it.  The library basket stays in the living room, where I can see it at all times.
There are a very few times where I allow my kids to take a book out of the living room, MAYBE in the car on a long trip.  But  all books must come back to sleep every night in this basket.

Bi-Weekly Trips
Never just get one week of books at a time, unless you want to live at the library (which honestly doesn't sound that bad to me).   Because of renewals, I have been known to get THREE weeks at a time.

If I haven't gotten around to reserving all the books I need online, I take my whole teacher's manual with me to the library, and stock up with as many books as my rolling cart can carry (below).

As we finish books, I put them in a bag by the door.  Our library as a drive through drop off box, and we drop off the books when we're out and about.  No need for a special trip, and because of renewals, I can do it on my own schedule.

Make your kids responsible  for the fines if they lose a book.  My boys have paid a lost book fine out of their own money because they lost a book at a park, and it never happened again. They had to split the fine because they couldn't agree on who took it to the park, and who left it there.

If you lose a book, of course you as the mom pays for it.  But I firmly believe as homeschoolers, they need to learn responsibility of keeping track of their school items, especially if they are older than 2nd grade.  A public school child must keep track of their backpack, books, coat, boots, etc.  Our kids need to learn to keep track of  book inside their own home.

Library Cart
With the amount of  books we get, it is easy to hurt your back, shoulder, or any part of you that is over 30 years old!  I have a lovely rolling cart that lives in the back of my back of my van!  I LOVE IT!  Every library as an elevator, and this cart gives me an excuse to use it! I keep a few small bags in the cart, so that I can carry the books into my house, but this saves my back from injury.

Rolling Library Cart saves my back!

I hope this helps someone who is feeling overwhelmed with library books!  Remember the library is your friend!

Pros & Cons MFW Exploring Countries & Cultures

Exploring Countries and Cultures (ECC) was our first year in the family cycle of My Father's World. It was by far one of our favorites!  I also think it is essential to begin with this study; the geographical and cultural context you gain will be essential to any historical study that follows.

The beauty of this curriculum is the core teaching is done together, with additional activities are suggested for older students.  While the Daily lesson plans are in an easy-to-use weekly chart format, it took a few weeks to get the hang of the family cycle.   Since the curriculum designed for a multi age classroom, some resources hit younger  kids, some middle elementary, and some for older. Don't get discouraged if a resources seems over your kids heads. You'll see below we had some books that we didn't use now for my 3rd graders, but will use when we repeat the cycle in 8th grade.

 Don't get overwhelmed if you are beginning, the manual will become easier to navigate as you establish the rhythm  for your Together Time.  It took a week or so of actually teaching from the manual to be comfortable with the flow, and to learn how to leave items out that weren't meant for us.  Throughout the year, you will also need to assess if a book suggested works for ALL your kids. It is OK if your youngers don't retain all the details from every book, they are still learning at their own level. For those of you like to check all the boxes,you need be OK with sometimes not doing something listed because it is too old or too young for your kids.

Below are descriptions of why a book did , or did not, work for our kids.  Your kids are different, so your cons may be our pros!  Please leave a comment on what works for you!

  • Hero Tales- We really enjoyed this kid friendly book of true stories of godly men and women and the character traits they portrayed as they served as missionaries. The manual lays out the schedule well, so you learn about a missionary from the continent you are studying. We printed copy work from Mama Jenn that helped cement then stories and lessons, and counted as handwriting practice.
  • Window on the World- This was an informative book, that was also a family friendly introduction to the religions around the world. I like that it gave us specific prayers for each country, to teach us how to pray for different cultures. It also gives you context on a bigger variety of countries that the student sheets.
  • God Speaks Numangagg-  This book is only used once, but it s a great read.  

  • Memory Verses & Bible Copy work- We did not do the Weekly memory verses and daily readings from Matthew because my kids are active in AWANA, a Bible Memorization Club.  They had enough copy work with Hero Tales printables (see above).
  • Missionary Chapter Books (Deluxe package)- These were way too old for my 3rd graders.  We may visit them again when they are older, but Hero Tales covered all the heroes already, so it felt redundant. 

  • Teacher's Manual Hands-on activities (cooking, flag sticker book, passport, etc) were easy to execute, without buying too many crazy extra items. I would usually make whatever food item was called for on Friday. If we didn't want to use the recipe in the manual for the country, I'd just google a simpler recipe for that country.
  • Student Sheets- You will definitely need the student sheets for this year!! 
  • Trip Around the World & Another Trip Around the World- These books have a few extra worksheets & activities for some of the countries you visit.  You will have to make copies for each child.  
  • Book basket- We used the book basket list  and the library heavily this year, more than any other year. These books will so much more context than you can provide to your together time. Remember this is a jumping off point for your library search! Every country allowed us to fill the library basket full of fiction and non fiction books for all ages. Online library searches at home were a weekly event, and allowed me to easily add many books that weren't on the book list to our basket. Studying one country or continent at a time made finding alternatives very easy.
  • Geography resource books of Children's Atlas of God's World, Classroom Atlas, & Maps and Globes were everyday resources that were essential to the study. We did enjoy the blow up Globe, and used it a lot each day. 
  • Geography From A to Z  was a wonderful book, age appropriate book. It might have been our favorite book of the year!  The illustrations are clear and even taught me many new vocabulary words.  The books is also scheduled strategically throughout the year, like learning about Fjords when you visit Norway.  We used the Printables from Mama Jenn, so that at the end of each child had their own hand drawn dictionary!
  • Currency Kit- We used the money kit, but never fully the way described in the manual. We were suppose to use it to "buy" items in your house each week. What we did was to have them visit the "Money exchange" office each time we got a stamp in the passport. Each new country, they would exchange  $10 American for the currency of that country. They just kept the money with their passport, until we went to the next country. 

  • Wall World Map-We did not use a world wall map due to a very small house & not enough wall space, instead used the map placement we had bought during Adventures in U.S.  History. The blow up Globe also took the place of the need for the wall map. If you have the room for this in your house, go ahead and put it up!!!
  • Geography Game. Even though it comes with the Student Sheets, we never actually used the Geography Game.  Instead we used Stack the Countries App.
  • Exploring World Geography. We did not use this, as I only had two 3rd graders.  I am sure we will use it for when we do the cycle again, but it is more for upper elementary or Junior High. Research skills are developed through the study of continents, many reports are done that are better for older kids.

Our favorite part of this year was the easily accessible science topics. All kids love animals, and the focus on different habitats (desert, rain forest, grassland, forest, polar region, etc.) was loved by all.

  • Living World Encyclopedia was a great kid friendly book, with lots of bright illustrations.
  • Book Basket-Plan to get many of the optional library books listed in book basket, especially for younger kids.  If the book listed isn't at your library, just type in Keyword for whatever ecosystem you're studying! The ecosystem always correlates to the country being studied (e.g., rain forest when studying Brazil), so searching your library catalog will be pretty easy. Even the least well stocked libraries should have some fiction and non-fiction  books on the major ecosystems (babies animals in the desert, animals of the savannah, etc.).
  • The Great Animal Search- This is a good book for younger kids.  Again, the animal study was very age appropriate for elementary aged children. 

  • Properties of Ecosystems was a good book that we tried to read with my science lovers.  It is more of a textbook, as opposed to a living book.  While we enjoyed it sometimes, it mostly just went over the head of my 3rd graders and they didn't retain any details. I'd recommend it for older elementary/junior high science lovers, but may be a bit much for most elementary aged kids.  We will probably like it much better when we repeat the cycle later in 8th grade. 
  • Weekly nature walk and nature journal.  I know this is so important to Charlotte Mason, but   we just spend a lot of time outside already, there was no need to formalize the walks.  We have never kept this up.
  • The Complete Books of Animals (for 2nd & 3rd graders).  We did not use this book, because we used  Draw Write Now which was a science and art curriculum combined.  I found our schedule for these books on the MFW ECC Group.  We also felt the abundance of library book options made this book redundant.  If you do not use Draw, Writw, Now  or your library is not well stocked, I would recommend getting this book for 2nd & 3rd graders. 

For 7th and 8th graders, add Apologia science (purchase separately). We were in 3rd grade, so this didn't apply to us.

Art & Music

  • Teacher's Manuals Art Projects- I am an artistic person, but can slack on art with my kids. Thankfully the projects were scheduled that didn't overwhelm the day, or require super weird materials. Example: When learning about Mexico, we made tissue paper flowers on Thursday that we then used for our fiesta on Friday (we made homemade tortillas on Friday, and it was almost the only thing scheduled for the day).
  • Fun with Easy Origami (Deluxe package)- My kids LOVED this book. That said, is only used during Japan, so you could easily get a simple Origami How-To Book from the library! Be prepared from a house full of paper animals! 

  • GLOBAL ART (Deluxe package) The teacher's manual provides so many hands on activities, that I didn't usually feel like we needed any projects from this book. It would make your day extraordinarily  long if you added all these. If you have crafty kids, you will like to be able to pull from this book throughout your year.
  • Wee Sing around the world (Deluxe package) At first, when we finished every country by eating food from that country, we would play a song from that region while eating.  But the CD only has one song from each region.  I would recommend just getting some CDs from that country from your library, or looking up some on your phone. 

 We have never had great luck with MFW recommend Math. We use Math U See, you can see our review here.

Language Arts
  • Language lessons for Today, Grade 3-  We again enjoyed LLFT, because it is a gentle Charlotte Mason approach to language arts.  Some feel it is too light, but as we have stuck with it, I have seen it gets harder at an age appropriate level.  Some years past have felt almost too light, but I think the 4th and 5th grade are beginning to pick up, and challenge them more with grammar and writing. 
  • Cursive handwriting -  This was a great year to start cursive.   We enjoyed  Cursive Connections: Modern Style, but I think MFW has a different recommendation now. 

  • Spelling-  Spelling Power is confusing, and just does not work with our work-boxes.  It is very teacher driven and we needed a more independent spelling curriculum that didn't require so much teacher presence.   We used Spelling By Sound and Structure for Christian Schools.

Add- Ons
Stack the Countries App   We use this instead of the Geography Game

LEGO LANDMARKS, free supplement using the Legos in your house- This past year we turned my boys' Lego obsession into another avenue of learning.

Friday Family Movie Night. Family movie night during ECC always included a movie from whatever country we were studying. Thankfully Disney has done several different countries.  You can find an extensive list in the MFW ECC Group.

Workboxes - The Workbox system has saved my sanity! I can't imagine homeschooling without it!

Draw Write Now  We used this as a science, art, and handwriting curriculum, and my kids LOVED IT.  Their drawing improved by leaps and bounds, and it as an independent activity that worked perfectly with our work boxes  We used a schedule for these books in MFW ECC Group.


LEGO Landmarks: Free Supplement to ECC

3rd Grade Workboxes- ECC

Soft Pumpkin Cookies~Dairy & Egg Free

I love pumpkin all year long. These cookies are easy to make, and fun little mouth full of pumpkin.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Dairy & Egg Free
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 ½ cups sugar 
  • ½ cup margarine (1 stick), softened 
  • 1 cup Pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tsp unsweetened almond milk (add more if too thick to drizzle)

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets
  2. COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl.
  3. Beat sugar and margarine in large bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, applesauce until smooth. 
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by small spoon size onto prepared baking sheets.  Do not make too big or they will not cook through.  
  5. BAKE for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool. Drizzle Glaze over cookies. 
  6. MAKE GLAZE Combine powdered sugar & unsweetened almond milk in a small bowl until smooth. I use a spoon and drizzle over top in a side to side motion. It's not perfect looking, but tastes yummy!

Pumpkin Scones- Dairy & Egg Free

Pumpkin Scones
Dairy & Egg free

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 7 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½  tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½  tsp cinnamon 
  • 6 tablespoons cold margarine, cut into small cubes (I put a stick of margarine in the freezer for 10 min or so)
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin pie filling 
  • 3 tablespoons DF Sour cream ( I use Tofutti)
  • 1/3 cup applesauce

1. Scones: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside (or you can use greased backing sheet)
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, pumpkin spice. Using fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  Use fingers to combine  until the mixture is crumbly and similar texture to corn meal, set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, cream, and applesauce. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until mostly combined, (the mixture will seem dry), use your hands to knead the dough against the sides of the bowl, to ensure it is completely combined.
4. Pat the dough into a 7-inch circle. Cut the round of dough into 8 equal triangles. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until gold on bottom
5. Powdered Sugar Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tbsp almond milk until smooth.  Drizzle onto scones once they are cooled

Exercise Jar for Kids

My boys both just began basketball, and have gym classes at co-op, but we are still stuck inside most days due to extreme cold temperatures.  I decided to add some exercise to the daily agenda and workboxes by making an Exercise Jar.

I picked exercises that kids can do with very little help.  If they didn't know how to do an exercise, we watched a quick video when I explained the jar (below). If your child is really struggling with one of these exercises, just take it out of the jar.



After each boy finishes his free typing lessons, they must pick 3 exercise from the Exercise Jar. What better time than after sitting at a computer?!  It's a good lesson for all of us in this modern computer age. It isn't a full workout, but keep them moving a little more during the day.

Younger children can pick one exercise a day, if 3 is too many.  Older kids can pick up 5 a day. To keep in shape, maybe you as a mom can pick a few to do with your kids!

How to Help When a Loved One's Family is in Critical Care

Welcome to another post that I wish I couldn't write from first hand experience. Like seriously.  I hate this.  But I process through writing.  It is the only way I know how I make sense of this senseless tragedy. I also believe that we experience pain so that we can eventually help others through their pain, so I'm sharing this stuff with you all. I truly truly hope it helps someone.

The spirit of this is not to shame or to complain, but to give you insight. I would know NONE of this if we hadn't experienced it firsthand.   A few months ago lost my brother in law after several days in critical care. 

Before I begin, I must describe how CRITICAL CARE is different than supporting someone in the recovery sections of the hospital. Forget all images of visiting someone recovering from pneumonia, or when you had your baby. Critical is minute to minute life and death. You are woken up from deep sleep (which is rare to come by) to hear updates or make life altering decisions. You learn to read monitors.  You become family with the nurses.  You spend every moment advocating for your loved one.  

My husband and I  have come up with some tips on how you can be helpful, or at least avoid making it worse, when you have friend who has a loved one in critical care. 

 #1 Reach out, but don’t pressure.
The next time your loved one is in crisis, reach out to tell them you love them and are thinking of them. The many texts we got while we were in the hospital were priceless. Over and over, people told us they loved us and were praying for us. It was a balm to our souls.  I can not truly express how much it meant. 

But don’t push , take their lead. Let them know you are there if they need you, then take their lead in how much they want to share. You will probably not get a response, but that is ok.  

In the hospital, and during the past few months, our support system has been amazing.  They showed up on a minutes notice when we asked.  They backed away when we needed it.  They understood when we cancelled plans.  In short, they gave us grace.They understood when texts went unanswered for days.  They understood when we needed time with just our Joyner Tribe. They understood when we would rather have you send food, than drop it off, and require us to interact with anyone else. I know they all wanted to be there specifically for us, to hug us while we cried, but they respected us when they weren't that person at that moment. They took our lead, cried when we needed to cry, and let us laugh when we need to be numb for a little bit.

#2 Be patient for updates.
Send well wishes and prayer, but don't pepper with questions. Be patient and wait for when they are ready to update you.   My brother in law was a man who made friends wherever he went.  He was one of my favorite humans on the planet, and many others had the same feeling.  Which meant many people wanted update of his condition after his accident. We literally had to assign a person to answer the phones, because people kept pestering with questions.

Critical care changes up and down so quickly, the updates are never accurate.  Please be aware that family may be processing painful news, and not ready to share yet. We found that the moment we starting sharing news was when it felt real. In this age of instant updates and live streaming, I get that waiting is hard, but you must be respectful of the family's choice of what and when to share.

Again, this is CRITICAL CARE, not a normal hospital stay. This may sound cold, but the first-tier grievers are the immediate family members. Respect their wishes at all times. Critical care is a small window of time, and no matter the outcome, you will get your time to see the patient or family eventually. Your need for news or closure needs to take a back seat to the needs and wishes of the immediate family. 

#3 Presents over presence
I am not trying to scare people away, but please know CRITICAL CARE IS DIFFERENT THAN NORMAL HOSPITAL STAY.  Family must be emotionally present at all time.  I truly can not describe it, and I hope you never experience it. 
Do not show up unannounced, ever, for any reason. Unless you are specifically asked to visit, or loved ones specifically say "open to visitors”, then visitors need to stay away. 

There are several reasons for this. The time it takes for someone to coordinate when they can meet you takes away from being able to hear updates, or make vital decisions. If you think you can sidestep this problem and be "helpful" by just coming up to room, then you will most likely interrupt a much needed nap during a brief calm in the storm. Or worse, walk in when we are receiving devastating news. Or very often the family may simply have finally found a moment of blissful numbness, and having to hug a new person and see their pain will just bring it all rushing back.

Send your love in ways that require literally no emotional resources in return from the recipient.  When sending a present, send it to the waiting room. Hospitals are perfectly capable of delivering a care package. Several people had food delivered to our room, such as simple Jimmy John’s food trays. There can never be too much food sent (again, please don't show up without permission). Any sandwiches we had leftover, we gave to the amazing nurses who became our family for that week. 

An amazing couple in our church asked if it would be helpful if they purchased us a hotel room by the hospital; she researched around the area and found a clean and safe place for us, so some of us took shifts using it to shower and sleep.  She paid online and all I had to do was show up. Of course many of us wouldn’t leave the hospital, but some took a few hour shifts to shower and catch quick naps. One night, 2 of us spent 3 hours sleeping, and were called back to the hospital, but the 3 hours in a bed made a big difference when you’re going on 72 hours of no sleep. 

#4 Be aware of YOUR need to feel needed. 
I know the feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. I. Get. This. I said before how amazing our loved ones were, they reached out and comforted our souls. That said, we also had people who didn't respond with grace or mercy. People who didn't respect the boundaries or needs of the family. The situation felt out of control to everyone, and some sought control by pushing in, in the name of helping. 

When you can't say no, there is a problem. Beware of someone's "need to be needed" turning into control. Your red flag in a crisis is if someone responds in anger when you say no to their help. Someone violating your boundaries in the name of caring for you is still a form of control. 

Use this need to be needed to motivate your generosity, but make sure it does not cloud your judgment in what is appropriate. Again, find ways that you can help that require no resources from the family. Clean their house, because they probably left in a hurry. Coming home to flies from dirty dishes is awful. 

#5 NEVER post updates or any information on social media without direct consent from immediate family. 
Family may share info with you as they process and seek support, but that is NOT permission to share information with others. Do not violate their trust with the guise of trying to help keep others informed. Always ask before sharing ANY information.  You can not control the ripples of what you post, and I promise you, there are ripples.

Cinnamon Raisin Scones- Dairy and Egg Free

The recipes makes 8 scones....but they were so irresistible that I ate before I could take the picture!

Egg Free & Dairy Free

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar + 1 tsp sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼  teaspoon baking soda
½  teaspoon salt
½ tsp cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted margarine, cold (I put a stick of margarine in freezer for 5 to 10 minutes)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup DF sour cream (I use Tofutti sour cream)
1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tsp almond milk

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda salt, and cinnamon. Cut butter into flour mixture ; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should look like coarse meal), then stir in raisins.
3. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and applesauce until smooth.
4. Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to make the dough into a ball in the ball.  (The dough will be sticky in places, and at first it seems too dry, but as you press, the dough will come together.)
5. Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a greased cookie sheet (or use sheet lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes.
6. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes
7.     Make icing by combing sugar and almond milk. Add icing to top and serve warm or at room temperature.