Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Series Review

By DJD

One book series I have always enjoyed reading is Percy Jackson and the Olympians, or PJO for short, written by Rick Riordan. It has a simple premise: Greek Mythology is alive and well, and roaming through New York City and elsewhere on a day-to-day basis. But as the books continue, you realize that this series is much deeper and more intriguing than it seems at first glance.

Book 1: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2005)

This is the first book in the series, and acts as an introduction to the world of modern Demigods, a.k.a. The “Riordanverse”. We start by meeting the main character, Percy Jackson, and are shortly introduced to multiple characters, such as Grover Underwood, Percy’s best friend, Mr. Brunner, the ‘cool’ history teacher at Yancy Academy, the school Percy goes to, and Nancy Bobofit, the class bully.

As the first chapters continue, we listen to a recounting of who, exactly, Percy Jackson believes he is. However, weird things start happening on a class field trip, and Percy starts to think about all the strange things that have happened to him throughout his life. And on the way back to his apartment at the end of the year, he sees something… strange. Something he can’t quite understand.

As the story goes on, we meet a plethora of characters: Sally Jackson, Percy’s mother, Gabe Ugliano, (yes that’s his real name) his jerk step-father, Annabeth Chase, a blond-haired brainiac daughter of Athena, and many more. Identities are revealed, such as Grover being a Satyr, and monsters are fought. An oracle gives a mysterious quest, three are chosen, and a crazy adventure ensues. At the end of the day(er, book), everything ends out ok… or does it…

Book 2: The Sea of Monsters (2006)

This book starts off with a foreboding dream of Grover, Percy’s best friend, running from something, muttering about how he needs to warn them about something. After a chase, Percy wakes with a start. His mom calls him out of bed for his last day of school, and after a breakfast of blue eggs and waffles, he goes down to class. Here we meet Tyson, a homeless kid whom Percy and his Mom have a soft spot for, Matt Sloan, the school bully at Merriweather academy, and a few others.

After a monster attack during PE, with Annabeth showing up and, along with Tyson and Percy, taking out the monsters, they hitch a ride to Camp Half-Blood on the Chariot of Damnation and discover that not all is going well at Camp. A poisoned pine tree, a careless new head counselor, and many other things, and Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson have to sneak onto a monster-infested cruise ship to find Grover, the Golden Fleece, and, most importantly, the answers to what is happening around them.

As the book continues, we see the questers defeat countless monsters and win the day! However, at the end of the book, something happens. Something… strange.

Book 3: The Titan’s Curse (2007)

A few months after SOM, we see Percy, Annabeth, and Thalia Grace, daughter of Zeus, head to a military school where Grover has found two new demigods: Nico and Bianca di Angelo, children of Hades.

After a surprise encounter with a Manticore ending with Annabeth getting kidnapped, the gang is saved by Artemis, goddess of the Hunt. Bianca becomes a hunter and they get a ride to camp in Apollo’s Maserati/Magic School Bus/Sun Chariot. Once there, they get a Prophecy from the Oracle while playing Capture-the-Flag, and leave on a quest with the team of 5 being Percy, Grover, Bianca, Thalia, and Zoë Nightshade.

Along the way to save Annabeth and Artemis, who was also kidnapped a bit after Annabeth, they encounter living skeletons, (the human and kitty cat kind) monsters of all shapes and sizes, gods and goddesses, and much more. Once they find Annabeth, they fight an intense battle, with Percy having to hold up the sky, Luke Castellean (who’s evil btw) making an appearance and going hand-to-hand combat, knife on sword, and Zoё being tragically killed by her own father, the Titan Atlas, when defending Artemis, her leader. The battle seems to be taking a turn for the worse, however, when hundreds of monsters march up from Luke’s cruise ship. Hope seems lost, when… Well, you’ll have to read the book to see what happens! 

Book 4: Battle of the Labyrinth (2008)

In this book, we start with Percy going to see a new school he’s going to- Goode High School, where Sally Jackson’s boyfriend(and Percy’s future step-dad), Paul Blofis, works as a teacher. However, it wasn’t meant to be, as Percy gets ambushed by two Empousa, the entire band room at Goode explodes in flame, with Percy fleeing to Camp Half-Blood. When there, they meet Quintus, the new combat instructor, and Mrs. O’Leary, his tamed Hellhound.

After introducing himself to the duo, Percy heads to lunch. Afterwards, before Capture-the-Flag, Annabeth and Grover show up at his cabin, and they discuss what they need to do: Plan a quest into the Labyrinth. After a near-fatal game of CtF, they receive a prophecy from the Oracle and set off in a group of 4: Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson. They meet gods, monsters, and demigods, face tough trials, and traverse the confusing territory of the labyrinth.

Some of the challenges faced are as follows: Percy facing the 3-bodied rancher, Geryon, in battle, Annabeth facing a Sphinx in a duel of intellect, Grover and Tyson tracking down Pan, god of the Wild, and Percy taking on a near-immortal gladiator in an arena of earth, and the gang + Nico di Angelo and Quintus, now revealed to be Daedalus, taking on a whole horde of monsters in the center of the Labyrinth.

They see Luke taken over by Kronos and almost kill Percy (it’s ok though Rachel Elizabeth Dare [a mortal who can see through the Mist] hits Kronos in the eye with a hairbrush), and Percy almost dies again after exploding Mt. Saint Helens to kill the Telkhines trying to kill him and let Annabeth get away, and ends up releasing Typhon, a massive giant that can destroy the gods. At the end of the book, Daedalus sacrifices himself to destroy the Labyrinth, and the majority of Kronos’s forces along with it.

 Book 5: The Last Olympian (2010)

The final book in the series, the finale of this quintuplet of books, The Last Olympian is a fast-paced, incredible last book for this series. It has all our favorite characters in a group of battles to the finish, with events such as Percy taking a dip in the River Styx to give him immortality, Charles Beckendorf, son of Hephestus, sacrificing himself to destroy the Princess Andromeda, Kronos’s main attack force, in a fiery explosion, Percy going blade-to-blade in a battle against Hyperion, Titan of light, and weakening him enough that the Satyrs could turn him into a massive oak tree in Central Park, Silena Beauregard and Clarisse La Rue, daughters of Aphrodite and Ares respectively taking on the drakon that Kronos released on Manhattan and killing it, and Annabeth going hand-to-hand, scythe-on-knife against Kronos himself, and Luke making the bravest choice of using Annabeth’s knife to kill himself, effectively killing Kronos as well, and saving the world with one choice. 

In conclusion, this series is amazing, and you should really read it. Rick Riordan is still putting out books today, with his most recent series, Trials of Apollo, finished up last fall. (I would recommend reading this series before that one, though.) Other series I recommend for kids my age (12+) are:

(Dates are when the first book was released)

Thank you for reading!

Percy Jackson Paperback Book Set

Cooking Is Fun

By Izzy

     Cooking is a great way to use your time. It helps you learn new skills and is lots of fun. There are many ways to find recipes. Lots of people have made recipes and it is not hard to find them. I like to use cook books but you can also find them online.

For cook books I recommend the Complete Children’s Cookbook. It’s my favorite. I think that this is a very good cook book and it has some delicious recipes. I have made a strawberry cake from it. It was lots of fun to make. It tasted delicious. The book is very easy to use and the instructions are easy to follow.

    I also used Raddish Kids Kits. They come in small boxes and they are lots of fun. They bring tools for you to use and they come with recipe cards. One of my favorites is the spring green risotto. It is delicious and pretty easy to make. It is easy to read and very enjoyable to make. There are pictures to look at to help follow along. Raddish kits are lots of fun. Another program like Raddish is KidStir and they have fun recipes and kits also.

      One of the other things I did was the Girl Scouts cooking badge for Juniors. It is fun because you get to use your creativity and make your own meal. You also work on using the tools and learn lots about cooking. If you are a Girl Scout I would recommend doing it. 

       You can learn lots of things from cooking. You can learn how to use the tools, what type of foods are healthier than others and even which foods are fastest to cook and which take a long time. 

    Another fun thing I like to make is chocolate covered strawberries. These are easy to make and lots of fun. All you do is melt some chocolate chips in a bowl, add some coconut oil, and stir it around. Wash the strawberries well and then dip them in the chocolate. Finally, you put them on a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet and put them in the fridge to harden.these are very tasty and lots of fun. 

       I don’t have a favorite thing to cook because everything is fun but I do like making homemade tortillas and tacos. I think that cooking is lots of fun and everybody should try it and have a good time.


Tide Pools

By Izzy

One of my favorite places to go is tide pools. Tide pools are lots of fun because you get to explore and find animals crawling around in the rocks. Tide pools are full of wildlife and it is beautiful to be able to stand on the rocks and look out into the ocean. Some places to go for tide pools are Shaw’s Cove Laguna Beach, Little Corona, Dana Point Marine Protected Area, Crystal Cove and Treasure Island. These places are lots of fun and you would enjoy them lots.

At tide pools you can find lots of wildlife. There are crabs hiding under the rocks and sea anemones on the tops of the rocks. Sometimes if you are lucky you might find a starfish or a little lobster. Once I went to the tide pools and the water was very low so I could see all the animals and plants that would usually be under water. 

One thing about tide pools that you have to be careful about is the moss on the rocks and the sharp sticks and rocks on the ground. You might slip and fall and that would not be fun. I also like to climb on the rocks and when I am at the very top I will look over the top and it seems like I can see the whole ocean. It sure is beautiful.

 Another thing you should do at tide pools is dress warmly but still be able to move around because if you get wet then it is normally pretty cold. You can also wear water shoes so that you don’t have to worry about stepping on rocks or anything else sharp. But remember that every time you step on a shell or rock, you could be smashing an animal and we want animals to live, so when you are at tide pools please watch your step. Also do not collect anything from the beach. And last thing, try to keep the beach cleaner than it was before so that everybody that goes there can enjoy it without stepping on trash.

Other things you can do is draw what you see or make an arts and crafts project. You could always go home and pull out a piece of paper and draw an animal that you saw there or the waves or you could work on a diorama or make a painting of the ocean. And if you are not good at drawing or painting or you need some inspiration you can always use a drawing book or watch drawing/paint videos. So there are many things you can do at or about tide pools but sometimes you just need some inspiration. I like to use artforkidshub.com for step by step instructions.

Tide pools are fun and good places to go to get outside in the fresh air and I think that everybody should go at least once to a tide pool just to enjoy it. Have fun in the water!

Stock up on art supplies for your project! We love these Art Supplies!


Bills Affecting California Homeschools

Education is about choices.

And if you’re one of California’s almost 200,000 homeschoolers, or if you’re interested in becoming one, you already know that your toughest job isn’t necessarily choosing your curriculum…It’s in the Legislature.

You need to stay informed about laws that impact your ability to choose how your child is educated.

The State of California currently has several bills before the Legislature which are aimed at the growing homeschooling community. Though homeschooling is largely regulated by states, there are also a couple of bills at the federal level you should know about.

We know that you’ve got lessons to plan, projects to help with, and field trips to go on… you’re busy! So, to help keep you informed, we’ve researched the bills currently working their way through the Assembly and written you a handy summary complete with links to the actual bills so you can investigate on your own.

Ready?


Bill: SB-2

Purpose: Student Data Collection

This bill wants to use available data to “improve education and workforce opportunities for all students” by using data on test scores, type of education (special needs, advanced courses, etc.) to help develop better educational programs for California’s kids.

While the state already has access to a lot of this information, it’s not in a central database with your kid’s name on it. This bill would assign your student a unique number in a central database and track things like:

  • academic performance
  • enrollment
  • demographics
  • attendance in special education or gifted programs
  • whether your student gets a free or reduced lunch
  • whether they graduated or dropped out

The bill also requires a review committee of “education stakeholders and experts” that will use the database to develop better educational programs.

The committee will have an expert on privacy issues, but there should be concern over whether or not the database can be kept private and safe.  The bill notes that additional legislation is needed to address privacy concerns.

Important to know: The bill does currently state that “Home-based private schools shall not be required to collect or submit data for the database.”  However, the bill doesn’t exempt private schools that aren’t home-based, which may leave some homeschoolers vulnerable.

Current Status: AMENDED  IN  SENATE  MAY 23, 2019, active bill, pending referral.


Bill: AB 2756

Purpose: Mandatory Fire Inspection/Privacy concern

All schools, public and private, including homeschools, would be required to:

  • submit to mandatory fire inspection.
  • Private schools would have to include the nature of their school on their affidavit.

The intent of this bill is apparently to prevent child abuse (ex. the Turpin case in Perris, California) by requiring all homeschools to submit to an inspection by the Fire Marshal. In other words, requiring a mandated reporter to come into your homeschool.

Important to Know: In America, private homes cannot be investigated by the government without just cause.

Kids aren’t at a higher risk of abuse just because they’re homeschooled. This bill assumes otherwise. 

Current Status: FAILED IN HEARING on 4/25/19


Bill: AB 2926

Purpose: Homeschool Regulation

AB 2926 would establish an advisory committee to make recommendations about imposing extra requirements on homeschools.

This bill will give the state the power to:

  • regulate private homeschooling, possibly including home visits to observe instruction, as well as home inspection (at the place of instruction).
  • impose health and safety inspections on private homeschools.
  • attempt to mandate a specific curriculum, whether or not homeschool parents consider it appropriate.
  • require privately homeschooling parents to be certified teachers.

Current Status: PULLED, BUT STILL ON THE WATCH LIST


Bill: SB 972

Purpose: Student Health/Suicide Prevention

All schools, public and private, would be required to add a suicide prevention hotline number on the back of their student IDs.

Current Status: Inactive bill, chaptered.


That was a lot, wasn’t it?

But we’re not done yet…

Pop quiz: What’s the percentage of California students that are enrolled in a charter school over a traditional school?

Ready?

California leads the country with a whopping 11% of students enrolled in charter schools.

That percentage only seems to get larger every year…so it’s no surprise that this next set of bills, largely supported by the California Teachers’ Association, targets the ever-growing charter school community.


Bill: AB 1505

Purpose: Limiting the creation of new charter schools in individual school districts

AB 1505 gives local school districts the sole authority in the approval of new charter schools.

  • Traditional schools will be allowed to consider a negative financial outcome as a reason for the denial of a charter. Since state funding follows the student, any charter school that opens automatically negatively impacts the traditional school in that district.
  • New charters would be denied the ability to appeal to the county and state Boards of Education if a denial is issued. Currently, the law does allow charters to appeal if a district won’t approve of them.
  • Charter renewals would be changed to a period of 2 to 5 years; the current renewal period is 5 years.

Current Status: PASSED THE ASSEMBLY, GOING BEFORE THE SENATE


Bill: AB 1506

Purpose: Limits the number of charter schools allowed to operate, both at local and state levels.

AB 1506 would:

  • cap the total number of charter schools in California at the number of charters operating as of January 1, 2020.
  • new charters would only be allowed in a district if a currently-operating one closes.
  • cap the maximum number of students allowed to attend a charter at no more than 10% of all students in the district.

This educational homeostasis is a very blatant attempt by the California Teachers’ Association to keep the charter school movement from growing any further.

Current Status: ACTIVE BILL, IN FLOOR PROCESS


Bill: AB 1507

Purpose: Charter schools must operate in the school district which approved them.

This bill is actually worth supporting.

AB 1507 gets rid of the loophole that some small school districts have used to create charter schools – and charge them for services – while those charters are actually operating outside that community.

In other words, you can’t create a charter in Anaheim and have it actually exist in Brea, and cause the Brea district to lose students…and funding.

This is important: the originating district loses absolutely nothing – in fact, they gain money – while impacting another district’s enrollment.

Since the charter is actually not in their community, there’s no incentive for them to make sure it’s operating in good faith and providing a top-notch education.

Current Status: Active Bill – In Committee Process


Bill: HR610

Purpose: State Education Voucher Program

HR610 establishes homeschoolers as eligible for federal grants.

Homeschooling kids could get financial aid? That’s good, right?

Not so fast.

This bill would likely mean that “homeschooling” must eventually be legally defined by the Federal Government.

This might not matter as much to a charter school, which is already a public school, but private homeschools will definitely be affected. The legal definition of “homeschooling” will most likely include requirements like:

  • use of Common Core standards
  • supervision by a state-credentialed teacher/parent must have teaching credentials
  • faith-based curriculums may be restricted
  • homeschool styles may be restricted
  • homeschoolers required to be accountable to State and Federal governments

Current Status: INTRODUCED 2017-2018


Bill: SB 756

Purpose: No New Charters for Two Years

This bill caps off the anti-charter bills by putting a moratorium on the creation of any new charter schools in California for two years…unless the charter reforms in the previous bills are passed.

Current Status: INACTIVE


And finally…

Bill: HR899

Purpose: Terminating the Department of Education

The shortest bill we reviewed, this one just calls for the termination of the Department of Education on December 31, 2018.

Current Status: INTRODUCED 2017


Hey, you made it to the end of the summary. Whew!

Hopefully, this post gave you an idea of what’s going on in California’s legislative arena this year.

It’s a lot to take in, and a lot to keep an eye on, but you already know about the connection between knowledge and power.

You know that hard work pays off. After all, you’re a homeschooler.


Best Educational Box Subscriptions for Homeschool

For an easy way to make learning fun, you can choose from so many educational box subscriptions that are perfect for adding into your homeschool activities. Many of the boxes provide everything you need for the activities inside, and some require a minimal purchase. Here are some of our favorite educational box subscriptions. **Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Best Educational Box Subscriptions for Homeschool

BookRoo – BookRoo is a box subscription that sends new books to your door every month. This is a perfect was to grow your home library and read new books with your kids. The nice thing about BookRoo is that the books are chosen by someone else so it introduces kids to books they may not have chosen themselves. Subscriptions are appropriate for ages 0-10, with three options: board books, picture books, or chapter books.

Raddish – Raddish Kids is a children’s cooking subscription box that delivers kid-friendly recipes to your door every month. Inside the box you get a new kitchen tool and three recipe cards with step by step instructions to guide kids through the steps of preparing the meal. The recipe cards include the featured culinary skill such as chopping, peeling eggs, or using a box grater, as well as suggested ways to modify the recipe and an educational element that touches on math, science, or language. You have to get the ingredients yourself but the box includes a pre-printed shopping list for each recipe, a set of table talk cards to get the family talking over dinner, and an activity to complete related to the box theme. Raddish subscribers can also log on to the website and download lesson plans, playlists, free bonus recipes, and substitutions for food allergies and sensitivities.

Kiwi Crate – What started out as Kiwi Crate has now expanded and become five different boxes that are appropriate for different age groups that provide hands-on learning and experience-based play with an emphasis on science, art, and exploration. The Cricket Crate is for age 0-2 and includes activities to engage in pretend play and strengthen fine motor skills. Koala Crate (ages 3-4) includes activities and engaging stories to support inquiry based learning. Kiwi Crate (ages 5-8) inspires kids to be innovative and creative and includes science-based activities to build and crafts to complete. Doodle Crate (ages 9-16+) includes hand-on creativity based projects that teach art and design techniques like candlemaking and inkwash painting. Tinker Crate (ages 9-16+) includes STEAM-based projects that teach scientific concepts like building a trebuchet, a hydraulic claw, and fiber optic stars.

Little Passports – Little Passports is a subscription box for kids that teaches about culture, geography, science, and the world around us. Each month kids will explore a new theme or destination on their global adventure with Little Passports. There are now four subscription options available. Early Explorers (ages 3-5) takes kids on an adventure to learn about a new world theme like dinosaurs or the ocean. World Edition (6-10) uses souvenirs and hands-on activities to introduce kids to a new country every month. USA Edition (ages 7-10) teaches kids about two new states every month with state journals filled with activities. Science Expeditions (ages 9+) teaches science concepts through hands-on activities and science experiments.

GroovyLab -Groovy Lab In A Box is a science themed subscription box ideal for ages 8 and up and includes hands-on activities to teach kids about science, technology, engineering, and math. Children will learn about scientific inquiry and the engineering design process, which will help them create amazing inventions and improve critical problem solving skills all while having fun. Past Groovy Lab boxes have included projects like building and launching a rocket, making an ice lantern, and making an electric dance pad.

Magic School Bus Science Club – The Young Scientists Club presents the Magic School Bus science club with a selection of box kits that teach science concepts explored in the Magic School Bus books and television shows through hands on science experiments. The boxes include everything you need to perform multiple experiments, plus you receive a log to write down you observations and results. Young scientists will learn about a variety of things like acids and bases, fossils, magnets, and the human body.

Do you have a favorite subscription box that you use for your learning adventures? Share it with us!

 

Go Outside And Play

GoOutsideandPlayLife is messy. And busy. Stuffed full of to-do lists and commitments overflowing from your plate. Like many families, we’ve spent the first two months of the New Year passing the flu, and stomach bugs, and colds around the house like a hot potato. Zero fun. Now that we are all mostly on the mend, it was time to get back outside and do what we love. Hike. We bought our Adventure Pass back in January and haven’t had a chance to use it yet, so yesterday we shot up the 210 to the Chantry Flat Recreation Area in the Angeles National Forest. It was our first time here.

We hiked the Sturtevant Falls trail, about four miles round trip. The first half mile is down a paved road into the canyon. When you reach the bottom, we followed the dirt trail across the bridge into a magical shaded forest that follows a running stream. The kids loved the cute storybook cabins, comparing them to Minecraft Villages and deciding what type of villagers might live there. There were spots along the stream where the trunks of the trees were covered entirely with ivy and we imagined little gnomes and fairies making homes in the roots of the trees just below the leaves. We hopped rocks to cross the stream three times and only one of us left with wet feet.

We stopped at Sturtevant Falls, a lovely 50-foot waterfall, and had a light snack on the rocks nearby. This is a well-trafficked trail so plenty of people were there also enjoying the view. We made our way back and talked about waterfalls, living conditions in different states, and inflation. Yep, we actually had a long conversation about money, how it has changed over time, and the cost of living.

Maybe we weren’t at a desk or the kitchen table, but we were still learning. I say we, because I learn from them just as much as they learn from me. When we’re not sick, we try to take at least one day during the week to go hiking. I believe being outside and connecting with nature is one of the best ways to decompress, and it’s good for all of us to get the blood flowing and move our bodies. Turn off the TV, put down the video games, and get outside. We all need some time to play.

Mountains are Yearning

Nonfiction Activity Page: Kaluga Sturgeon

Nonfiction Activity Page

I teach language arts at home and I bounce around between topics so my kids don’t get bored doing the same activity. We use the LifePac language arts workbooks from Alpha Omega as our foundation. This way we always have something we can open and go to. But workbooks can be dry and repetitive when you do them everyday. So I like to change it up by adding my own activities now and then.

We have journals that we use for different things. My first grader chooses something to learn about (usually an animal) and she draws a picture and writes two to three sentences about what she learned. She can read and write on her own but still needs help with spelling, so she tells me what she wants to write, I write it down on a small dry erase white board, and she copies it into her writing journal. My fourth grader uses his to write short stories or keep notes that he wants to remember and come back to later. He copied down all the roman numerals in his so now he comes back to it every time he needs to refer to it for his math assignments.

I also make my own worksheets. I try to make them interesting, about something they wouldn’t generally learn about in a textbook or frame it in a fun way. The worksheet I’m sharing here is about the Kaluga Sturgeon, an ancient fish that is endangered because it is frequently caught and used for caviar. I highlight and define new vocabulary words directly in the worksheet and include a few questions about the main idea, details, and text features. Download your copy below. Enjoy!

Kaluga Sturgeon_With Questions_BookwormHomeschool

 

 

Becoming a Writer

Untitled design

I’m an author. I love coming up with ideas to write about and I love bringing other ideas to life through written words. There was a time in my life that I didn’t think I could be a writer because I didn’t enjoy making things up. Writing fiction was not my thing. When I was in sixth grade I took creative writing as an elective and the teacher told me over and over again that my writing was wrong. My ideas weren’t good. I didn’t set the scene or perfect the plot or use the right voice. She crushed my writing spirit. But I kept going. I never shared anything I wrote because I assumed everyone would think it was terrible, like she did.

Eventually I started sharing my poetry. My friends liked it. And I actually paid to have my poetry published in anthologies stuffed with thousands of other authors – who also paid. I think you’ll find me on page 537, column 2, third row down. I kept writing.

Then something happened. I started college at 19 attending off and on at local community colleges. I avoided English 101 for a while. When I finally registered for it, I was excited (because I like to write), but I expected to get a poor grade and a lot of criticism. When I turned in that first writing assignment – an informational essay about computers and education – I shrugged it off immediately. I did my best. The day she handed the assignment back I was completely ready for the bad grade that was heading my way. But it never came. Instead, I was shocked to see an A+ with curly red comments about being well thought out and nicely structured. Huh. Maybe I’m not terrible.

Something else happened. I remembered a day in second grade. I came home from school and set up a spot on the floor in front of the TV with my markers and a pad of pastel-colored paper. I wrote my own story of the first Thanksgiving, complete with pictures of corn and Indians. And I liked it. I read it to everyone. I hung it up. Eventually I transferred it to my scrapbook. It’s still there. As I remembered this, I realized what my path was – I’m a nonfiction writer. That’s what I was meant to do. It doesn’t matter that I can’t make up stories about unicorns and furry trolls in faraway lands. That’s not necessary for my journey.

I did eventually branch out to making things up. Actually, my last book was creative nonfiction. It was my job to take the characters in the story through time to meet famous scientists who developed advances in electricity like Ben Franklin, Nikola Tesla, and Michael Faraday. It’s one of my favorite projects so far. I can’t wait for that one to be in print so I can put it on my bookshelf.

Over the last few months I’ve received two of my latest books in the mail, and I don’t think that is ever going to get boring. Opening a package to find a book that I wrote, and then watching my kids read it?! Whoa. So mind blowing. And I think back to that teacher who thought I was terrible and sat me down for a conference after class about how my writing just wasn’t very good. How many times her voice echoed in my head, discouraging and condescending. I kept trying. Secretly. But I kept trying.

Today, I get to be role model for my kids. I may not write the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but I wanted to be an author, and here I am with four books under my belt. I did it. So now when I tell them they can be whatever they want if they work hard for it, they know it’s true because I did it.

Do you have a writing journey? I’d love for you to share it with me!

Benefits of Being a Book Hoarder

In honor of National Young Readers Week, I wanted to share some thoughts on books.

Everyday I walk through the house collecting the books lying around in the kitchen, the bathroom, on the couch. You name it, we’ve probably got a book there. Sometimes as I try to find shelf space for the misplaced books I catch myself mumbling about having too many books. Hahaha! I get a good laugh every time because having too many books is a good thing and there’s no way I’m downsizing.

There are actually benefits to having too many books.  I should clarify that the books should be quality reading material with an educational element of some sort. A bookshelf full of crime drama or erotica is great if that’s what you’re into, but definitely don’t contribute to the benefits I’ll be referring to here.

First, having books means your kids always have access to reading material. Even if they read the same book twenty times, they are going to learn something new from it as they grow. Different ages retain and comprehend reading material differently.

Second, you can teach your kids about primary sources rather than going straight to Google, Siri, or Alexa for answers. When my kids ask what life was like when there were no cities and people were looking for new land to settle, we whip out books like Boomtown or Little House on the Prairie. And we read. And we look at pictures. And we talk about what life might have been like. What the world looked like before houses were crunched together in grid patterns. When a wild animal in the neighborhood was an opportunity instead of a nuisance. When you planted your food instead of buying GMO corn at the grocery store.

Third, books become handy resources for a variety of learning opportunities. I found this book at the library bookstore called From Sea to Shining Sea for $3. It’s a treasury of American folklore and folk songs and includes everything from Native American culture to the Industrial Revolution to America’s favorite pastime – baseball. We can read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech and the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. We can read a poem about Harriet Tubman and how she risked her life 19 times to guide hundreds of slaves to freedom. For $3 we got a book we can use over and over again. For many subjects. For years to come.

If you have a house full of books, it’s hard for kids to avoid reading. It makes it hard for you to avoid reading, too. That being said, some kids do need to be encouraged to read. But if you’ve got shelves of books covering a variety of subjects, there’s got to be something interesting that young readers will gravitate to. Drones, extreme sports, National Parks, rocks, horses, writing your own stories, Shakespeare, mythology – we’ve got tons of subjects in our nonfiction collection. Our chapter books and picture books are also overflowing from the shelves. When you have books available that you consistently share and read with your kids, they will eventually learn to read. And some of them will even grow to love it.

For more information about National Young Readers Week check out the Pizza Hut Book It! program, and pay a visit to your local library. Happy reading!

 

The Buzz About Bees

bee

Did you know that when bees are about 12 days old, they develop glands in their abdomen that produce wax? The wax comes out of little openings on the side of their abdomen. The bees chew the wax and add it to the honey comb.

Bees make honey from pollen and nectar. They feed honey to their young and store honey to eat during the winter. But not all bees make honey.

There are over 20,000 species of bees!

If predators, like wasps, invade the hive, bees will ball together and vibrate their muscles. This generates enough heat to kill the intruder.

My co-leader and I recently took our Girl Scout Troop to Backyard Bees, an educational program at a location in Orange, CA. We are working on growing a tower garden right now and thought this would be a great opportunity to teach them additional information about gardening and help them learn about the helpful bees.

Backyard Bees was a delightful adventure. We started by harvesting seeds from cotton and amaranth. Janet showed the girls gourds and talked about different uses for them. We met her chickens, talked about eggs, and learned about some of the other plants that were growing there. The girls got to meet the resident horse and see where the bee hive was.

Each girl got to plant their own seeds, either cotton or amaranth, to bring home and grow. My daughter chose cotton and my son chose amaranth – he’s a Cub Scout and gets to join us on many of our Girl Scout adventures, too. Both plants are already growing nicely and we are excited to add them to our garden when they get a little bigger.

We went into the honey house where Janet shared a lot of educational information about bees and what they do. We got to see harvested bee’s wax and sample the honey she collected from her very own bees. It’s amazing to see how much can be created from bees and honey. The educational tour and program lasted just over an hour and was packed full of fun and information. We left with lots of ideas about what we can grow in our garden at home. This is a great program for scouts and homeschool groups.

For more information on Backyard Bees visit  http://www.backyardbees.net/.

Here are some great books about bees!

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