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.


Mathematics Education Month: What We’re Using for Math

math education month

March had National Pi Day, but April is Mathematics Education Month. I’ve done several write-ups about math including this post on math manipulatives and a Pi Day post for Dandelion Moms.

Around here, we try to do math every day, although we do mix it up a bit. For example, last week we did one or two worksheets out of our Saxon Math 1st grade workbooks, he finished the last few problems in his 2nd grade Lakeshore Common Core Workbooks, he started his 3rd grade Common Core workbook, and we spent a day practicing counting money (I’d give him different denominations and he had to see how much it all added up to.) We got the common core workbooks because we wanted to see how it was different from what we were already doing, and I chose different grades because I wanted to see what he already knows and what we need to start working on. He actually really enjoys doing these workbooks, minus the in-depth explanation of how he found his answer.

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Since we started adding Usborne books to our collection, we have found several new books and tools that make math fun to learn and practice. We love the First Illustrated Math Dictionary. The illustrations are so playful that my 3-year old loves to sit down and read it. She practices counting and names all the shapes she finds. The book covers everything in a fun and kid-friendly way from counting from 1-100, how to use a calculator, lines of symmetry, number lines, counting in groups and so much more. We love it. It’s perfect for pre-k and up.

The next step up is the Illustrated Elementary Math Dictionary. This book has the same fun illustrations but adds more difficult mathematics to the mix. This is a great resource for students, but is also super-helpful for parents! This one gives you the tools you need to understand the math your kids are bringing home, and how to help them work through the problems.

We also love the Wipe-Clean activity books. The repetition is great for practice and the kids use their books over and over again. Two of our wipe-clean books are two years old and we still use them on a regular basis.

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Here are some other great books and tools that will help you learn and love math! Click on the images for more information about each item.

Lift The Flap Times Tables   First Numbers Flash Cards   What's Math All About?   Finger Match Math Readiness   Illustrated Dictionary of Math   First Numbers Sticker Book

1st Grade Math Center Kit   10 Days to Addition Mastery   Math Kid Kit and Dictionaries

Math Center Kits are available for grades K-2 and the Mastery Box sets are available for addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Looking for something specific? Please feel free to message me at heidideal711@gmail.com and I’ll help you find what you’re looking for!

How do you make math fun? What out-of-the-box activities do you like to do with your kids?


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.

Getting Creative: Writing Prompts for Kids

Writing Prompts

My son needs practice with his penmanship, and he typically finds long writing assignments frustrating. I’m not sure if his being left-handed has anything to do with it, but I usually give writing assignments in small increments so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed. I’ve also noticed that offering a drawing activity as a follow-up (or even as a lead-in) helps him ease into it.

I have created several writing prompts this year for him. The creative aspect is more enticing to him, as I’m sure it is to most kids – write your own story or write a book report? I was a different kind of child and would have chosen the book report but most of my peers would have selected story-writing every time.

Here are a few of the creative writing prompts I’ve made. Each writing page is followed by a page with space to draw a picture from the story, and each prompt has a keyword box with words that should be creatively included somewhere in the writing. Feel free to share your stories with us!

A Cowboy Story

A Superhero Story

An Undersea Adventure

Terms of use: All downloadable content on the bookworm homeschool site is copyright protected and may only be used for personal or classroom use. You may not host  my files on your own or other sites, alter or sell any of my files in any way, transmit or store any resources on any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system. To share, please provide a link to the blog post and not to the PDF. Please contact me if you have any questions. Thank you!

Need more writing inspiration? Here are some great books to add to your collection:

Write Your Own Story Book   I Love Words

Write & Draw Your Own Comics   Illustrated Dictionary

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

Giveaway! Free Dinosaurs Fact Cards

Dinosaurs Fact Cards

I’m super excited about being an Usborne Books & More Independent Consultant because I love the products. I’m hoping that running a giveaway will encourage other parents looking for fun and educational materials for their children to take a few minutes to browse my store page. I know you’ll fall in love with the things we have to offer. I’ll be giving away a free set of the Dinosaurs Fact Cards.

Click on the link below to enter the giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Do you have any Usborne books or activities? I’d love to hear what your favorites are!


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

The Highlight of Our Day

the highlight of our day

We’re all sick. The whole family. But there’s always something to look forward to, right? On the bright side, there were no tears in school today. That’s always a great feeling. Also, we got our book delivery. If you’ve been following along you may have read that I signed up to be an Usborne Books and More Independent Consultant. My number one reason is to have direct access to soooo many books and activities that I can use with our homeschool curriculum. My number two reason is to be able to help others get these amazing resources into their own hands as easily as possible. I’m a firm believer in the idea that kids benefit from play and that they all learn in different ways, and I became even more aware just today, how Usborne products cater to different learning styles and cater to kids and families with so many different interests and at so many different levels.

So, we got our starter kit and all of my materials. We are delighted with the titles that we got in our shipment and I can’t wait to share them with you. And the kids couldn’t wait to dig into them. Here are the three things they couldn’t keep their hands off of.

1. 100 things for little children to do on a trip – This set of flashcards comes with 50 double-sided, wipe-clean cards and a dry erase pen. They’ll draw faces and ice cream sundaes and fish. They’ll play tic-tac-toe, complete mazes, and dot-to-dots. Within minutes my 3-year old had these out and was making her way through the deck. She loves these. These are perfect to drop in your purse (or backpack) to give them something to do while they’re waiting at a restaurant, at the doctor, or darn near anywhere. And this is just one of the many flashcard sets available. I’m planning on purchasing the Famous Paintings set for our art study and the Dinosaur Quiz Cards for my dino-lover.

100 things for little children to do on a trip

2. 100 Paper Planes to Fold and Fly – The front flaps of this book give you the instructions for folding four different types of paper airplanes. The inner pages are awesomely designed paper to fold into super-cool planes. We’ve tried a similar item before, but it was difficult for my 6-year old to fold some of the planes. On this one, after I helped him with his first plane, he was able to complete the other three plane styles on his own and they all flew wonderfully.

100 paper planes to fold and fly

3. Secrets of the Apple Tree – This is a really cool idea. This “Shine A Light” book tells a story and asks you to find what’s hidden on each page. Hold the page up to the light and you reveal the hidden habitat beneath the pile of leaves, within the tree trunk, among the branches high above. Such a cool concept and the kids loved seeing the hidden images appear. You can also get Secrets of the Rain Forest and Secrets of the Seashore.

secrets of the apple tree

I Love Books!


I do. I really love books. I see kids walking to and from school staring at their phones, but when I was in junior high and high school, I read books as I walked to school. I read The Outsiders, The Pinballs, Go Ask Alice and anything by Dean Koontz. Now, as a parent and homeschool teacher, I love sharing new books with my kids. There are so many amazing picture books and new fiction series’ out there, but it’s important not to forget the books I grew up with. They are classics. Currently, my son is reading the Judy Blume books as well as the Magic Tree House series. We’re having so much fun talking about what we’re reading.

Outside of fiction and picture books though, we love nonfiction. In fact, most of our book purchases are nonfiction and our trips to the library are equally weighted with fiction and nonfiction. In a previous post I talked about the science books we were using. I fell in love with the Usborne Books collections and I finally did it. I signed up to be an independent consultant. I’m super excited because it gives me access to so many amazing nonfiction and fiction titles as well as activity books, dictionaries, and so much more. We will be using many of the titles to supplement our homeschool and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Are you looking for new books to add to your curriculum or need some fun new after school reading material? Check out my store and browse some of the great books. Here’s a look at some of our January specials: CustomerSpecials2015January

And here are some wonderfully illustrated titles you might be interested in:

entertaining and educating young children 100 Science experiments The World of the Microscope Dictionary of Biology


Usborne Books & More Independent Consultant Heidi Deal

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