Our Book List: Reference Books We Love

reference books

One of the things that we have an abundance of is reference books. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and subject specific reference guides are some of our most used books. And the benefits extend beyond homeschool. Every student should have access to reference books that are easy to read and understand. Our reference books help us fully understand concepts and subjects we aren’t familiar with. This year I expect we’ll be using our reference books even more as we get into more difficult subjects. I’ve even got a list of books that I’ll be ordering to add to our collection. Here is the short list of the essential reference guides that every elementary student should have.

Illustrated Dictionary – 288 pages with over 1000 illustrations. Inside the Illustrated Dictionary you’ll find a user’s guide, parts of speech and their roles in forming sentences, hints and guidelines for writing and spelling, and a brief history of the English language.

Children’s Encyclopedia  – 320 pages with over 1,500 images. Packed full of information and includes hands on activities and experiments plus downloadable images, quizzes and activity pages. Features all the world maps and flags with facts and records and over 600 hand-picked internet links for additional exploration.

Encyclopedia of World History – 416 pages of history from prehistoric times to the 21st century. Includes a 12,000 year illustrated timeline, over 100 maps, and amazing facts and illustrations. We use this as our history book and will be developing several lessons from it over the course of the year. This book also includes Usborne Quicklinks and additional links to hand-picked websites featuring information and activities related to in-text topics.

The Science Encyclopedia – 448 pages of science with over 140 experiments, activities and observations. Brilliant images throughout the book with information on everything from atoms to energy to plant life. Quizzes for each section are available in the back of the book plus additional Quicklinks and internet resources. We love this book and are using it as our science book this year.

First Illustrated Math Dictionary – This book clearly explains math concepts, breaking them down into the most basic elements and helping you understand math step-by-step. This is for the early grades from pre-k to 3rd or 4th grade and uses fun illustrations and easy to understand terminology. If you have a student who has a hard time in math, this book is for you. If your student is 2nd grade or above, consider the next level up: Illustrated Elementary Math Dictionary. Just as fun and just as helpful but geared for 8 and up.


All Aboard! The Transcontinental Railroad

All Aboard the Transcontinental Railroad

I hope all the moms out there had a fantastic Mother’s Day. I took the weekend off from the computer, but I’m ready to get back on track. Speaking of tracks, did you know that this month marks the anniversary of the connection of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads, creating the first transcontinental railroad. The golden spike was driven in a ceremony in Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869. The decision to link the east and west coasts was driven by the discovery of gold in California, and while progress was slow, the decision to move forward with the railroad changed the lives of all Americans. It took seven years to lay tracks from Sacramento, California to Omaha, Nebraska. Imagine the work that went into this development: blasting through mountains, building bridges over rivers, the clearing of forests. It’s both astounding and sad – amazing because of the huge accomplishment the development of such a railroad is, but sad because of the destruction of wilderness. The beginning of an uncontrollable trend.

By 1850, there were already some 9000 miles of train tracks in the east, but some wanted easier access to the west coast. Before the railroads, people were forced to push through dangerous wild lands and mountain passes, fast-moving rivers and scorching deserts. The alternative was to travel by sea on a six-month journey around the tip of South America. The transcontinental railroad increased opportunities and decreased travel costs.

Transcontinental Railroad Information





Questions for Conversation

How did Americans benefit from the creation of a transcontinental railroad?

What types of opportunities may have appeared with the creation of the railroad?

What do you think train travel was like in the early days?

How do you think the view from the window of a train is different today from 1869?


Books (click on images for more information)

big book of trains   look inside trains   on the train   see inside trains   trains sticker book   trains

Knights and Castles

One of my favorite things is when my kids take on a project independently. Especially when I didn’t suggest it or provide guidelines. Earlier this month we were invited to Medieval Times for a behind the scenes tour and a showing of the event. The last time I was there was over 25 years ago, so I was really excited – more excited than my kids. But the moment we arrived at the castle they realized what a great experience we were in for.

medieval times

We met the Head Knight, the Head Trainer, and a few of the horses. We cheered on the red knight and my daughter received the Queen of the Tournament ribbon. It was splendid.

Anyway, I prepared an article for Dandelion Moms complete with a study guide for learning more about the Middle Ages, the Feudal System, and Knights. You can read that article here. During the writing process I checked out several books from the library, including activity books. My son grabbed the How to Draw Knights and Castles book and set off on his own adventure. He filled a page with drawings and requested bigger paper. I picked up a large piece of poster board that night and he proceeded to do an entire workup of castles, armor, shields, weapons, and horses – all without me saying a word.

Knights and Castles

While he did this project I learned a few things:

  • He is thinking more about layout and presentation and understands that everything can’t just be crammed into the space.
  • He is paying attention even when I think he isn’t.
  • He can be really productive when given the right tools and a little bit of freedom and encouragement.

I purchased two pieces of poster board so we’ll see what #2 produces!

We did a lot of learning about knights and castles over the last few weeks and I’ll be posting some new activity pages on this topic later, but for now, here are some great books and activities to go along with the knights and castles theme:

Medieval World   king arthur  Knights sticker book   Look inside a castle

castlesbuild your own castle

Usborne Publishing Ltd. (UK) has no connection with these pages and does not sponsor or support their content.

13 Colonies Unit Study

13 Colonies Unit Study Cover

I write a few posts every month for the website DandelionMoms.com and I recently added an educational post about developing a unit study for the 13 colonies. I thought it might be of interest to some of my readers so I’ll share it here too. Follow the link to the original article.

You’ll find a printable checklist to help you organize your study and gather materials. You’ll also find the list of books that we used as well as some of the other curriculum that we follow. I also included a link to my notebooking pages that I used with this study which you can also find on my blog here.

Happy Studying!

Happy New Year!

happy 2015

My post tonight will be short and sweet. I just wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who have taken the time to read and follow Bookworm Homeschool in the early stages. I’ve been blogging for quite a while about education and play (my previous posts can be found at heidideal.blogspot.com) but Bookworm is my new and formal adventure. As a new homeschooler, I realize how important useful information is. Even tonight I spent time flipping through sites in search of some New Year-related activities and I ended up pretty much empty-handed despite the 45 minutes of time spent at my desk. The leads were promising, but they did not deliver.

My goal for this blog is to provide inspiration and resources that are useful, without dragging you on an hour-long hunt. Because I know your time is just as important as mine. My posts will be short but will tell you about what we are doing in homeschool or will introduce you to something we think is a good educational resource. There will be lots of talk about books, some fun science activities, and I’m even working on some readers with comprehension activities to share with you. I hope you continue to find Bookworm Homeschool fun and informative. Please feel free to share your questions or comments with me at any time.

I look forward to sharing with you in 2015.

Happy New Year!