harry potter

Stuff We Like :: 7.14.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources. 

Hello, weekend!

around the web

Horse-Riding Librarians Were the Great Depression’s Bookmobiles

This might be the best movie review you ever read.

I am always up for a true story about an imaginary kingdom with a real consulate, and this one is just fascinating.

Disney Princesses suck at consent. (Suzanne sent me this because she knew I was having a hard week, and she knows what brings me joy.)

Also, Suzanne would like everyone to know that THERE IS GOING TO BE A SQUIRREL GIRL MOVIE.


at home/school/life

in the magazine: Hooray! The summer issue is out!

on the blog: Resources for better literature classes

one year ago: One of my all-time favorite posts: How to NOT Teach Your Kids Shakespeare (But Do Something Else Really Important Instead)

two years ago: The easiest way to get organized for high school (This is still the system I use—I like it so much, I implemented it at my husband’s hybrid high school)

three years ago: Am I the only lonely homeschool mom?


reading list

I’ve been swamped this week, so it’s another not-so-stellar Library Chicken report: The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession (+1), Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (+1), 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories (-1, returned unread but not because I don’t want to read it), How to Cook a Wolf (+0, on my bookshelf)

Another lazy homeschool week here, but we did just start a big family Harry Potter reread, starting with the fancy illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.


at home

Everything in my house needs cleaning or laundering, but I am still planning to spend as much of this weekend reading by the pool as is humanly possible. It’s not like the mess won’t still be there on Monday, right?

The Book Nerd: Planning Our Day Around Readalouds

The Book Nerd: Suzanne talks about how she plans her homeschool day around readalouds

Some people begin homeschooling because they want to tailor their child’s education to his or her individual needs. Others want to give their child the opportunity to explore a particular interest or talent. I decided to homeschool because I wanted to read to my kids. 

It started with a story on the “new homeschool movement” that aired on NPR many years ago, back when my 15-­year-­old was a toddler. I don’t remember anything they said about the hows or whys of homeschooling, but I do remember that they had a clip of the mother of a homeschooled family reading Harry Potter aloud to her children as (described by the reporter) they all snuggled together on a large comfy chair. I loved it. It started me thinking that maybe homeschooling wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. It sent me to the library to check out a stack of how-­to books, and ultimately it led to 10-plus years of homeschooling for the toddler and his three (eventual) siblings. 

I do realize that you don’t actually have to homeschool to read to your kids—­­all my friends who send their children to school like normal people read to their children on a regular basis­­—but I found it easy to commit to a lifestyle that involved wearing pajamas after noon, eating dinner surrounded by stacks of curriculum, and lots of snuggling on comfy chairs. And, just like I’d imagined it, we have plenty of time for the intersection of my two favorite things in the world: my kids and books. It’s not a surprise that our days revolve around reading aloud. 

We begin each homeschool day with Mom’s read­aloud, a tradition that grew out of our daily struggle to get everyone up and out of bed for lessons. The prospect of math wasn’t very motivating first thing in the morning, but now we ease into our day with about 20 minutes of reading aloud. I get to pick the book, so I can sneak in those personal favorites that the kids have not quite gotten around to reading. (This is how I made sure my teenage son didn’t miss out on Little Women.) When we read The Never­ending Story by Michael Ende, I found an edition just like the one I checked out from my local library 30 years ago, printed in green ink for the story of young Atreyu and his friend, Falkor the luck­dragon, and their quest to save Fantastia, and in red ink for Bastian, who is reading Atreyu’s story and gradually discovering that he may be part of the adventure. I’m sure my library also had a copy of Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays, the first book in the Melendy Quartet, but somehow I never discovered it, so my children and I were introduced together to the four Melendy siblings, growing up in pre-World War II New York and pooling their money to create the Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club. 

Another new acquaintance was Fern Drudger, modern day heroine of N.E. Bode’s The Anybodies, who discovers that despite being raised by tragically boring parents (they work for the firm of Beige & Beige and like to collect toasters), she actually belongs to a family with magical powers and a very special house made of books, where lunch is green eggs and ham and Borrowers live in the walls. We so enjoyed Fern (and her narrator, who likes to break into the action to complain about his old writing teacher) that we happily followed her through two sequels, The Nobodies and The Somebodies. 

Once we’ve gotten around to math and our other morning lessons, we break for lunch and then gather together again on the couch for homeschool read­alouds. We’ve done the same cycle of read­alouds with each child, beginning with myths and legends from around the world, and moving on to adaptations of classic literature. It can be difficult to find adaptations that are clear to modern readers without sacrificing too much of the original story, but we always enjoy Geraldine McCaughrean, whose retellings of classic stories (from The Odyssey to One Thousand and One Arabian Nights to The Canterbury Tales and beyond) are witty and detailed. Another favorite retelling of an old story is T.H. White’s version of King Arthur’s childhood, The Sword in the Stone, which combines medieval culture and cheerful anachronism as it describes how Merlin turned the Wart (as Arthur was known) into various animals as part of his education. (T.H. White continues Arthur’s story in the rest of The Once and Future King, of which The Sword in the Stone is the first part, but the tone gets considerably darker and more adult, and I haven’t attempted that as a read­aloud.) Towards the end of our read­aloud cycle, we spend some time with Shakespeare and the best collection of adaptations I’ve found so far is Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories and its follow-up, Shakespeare Stories II. Garfield also developed Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, a series of BBC­-produced 30­-minute versions of the plays which are fun and entertaining, along with being good warm-­ups for full­-length productions. 

We end our day with evening read­aloud, where each child gets to pick his or her own book. We’ve read everything from the Betsy­-Tacy series to The Lord of the Rings, and a while back we spent several months working our way through all of Harry Potter, which involved lots of snuggling in Mom’s large comfy bed (as we don’t quite fit on a chair anymore). It was a lovely full­-circle moment, but I’m happy to report that there’s no end in sight to our read­aloud journey. I look forward to sharing more of our favorites for reading aloud or reading anytime, ­­and I can’t wait to hear about yours. Happy reading! 

This column was originally published in our very first issue of HSL, back in spring of 2014.

Stuff We Like :: 2.3.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Around the Web 

Guys, I’m having a difficult relationship with the internet right now. It’s important to me to stay connected and engaged with what’s happening—but it’s also important for me to stay upright and to hang out with my kids on occasion, instead of crawling under the bedcovers for the next four years or so, which is what I feel like doing every time I fire up Facebook or Twitter. Even my favorite non-political pop culture sites have almost daily WHAT THE @%*& IS HAPPENING posts, which I appreciate because we’re all in this together, but which makes it difficult to surf on those days when I just can’t handle another newsflash. So the web pickings are a bit slim this week, but I’m hoping that if we all share strategies and support each other, we can figure out how to stay engaged AND stay sane. Comment if you have suggestions! 

Here’s a great list of children’s and young adult books on refugees and what the refugee experience is like. I’ll be adding some of these to our bookshelf. (We also have a big list of immigration books, which includes books about the refugee experience, in the winter issue.)

If you’re in the middle of a comfort re-read of Harry Potter (and isn’t it always a good time for a comfort re-read of Harry Potter?), be sure to check out Sarah Gailey’s Women of Harry Potter series which is WONDERFUL and inspirational and may possibly make you cry a little bit (looking at you, Molly Weasley) but in a good way, I promise.

Thanks to the Boy Scouts of America for giving us some good news to celebrate this week! 


at home/school/life

on the blog: Obviously you're going to want to add all of Suzanne's Hamilton fan reading recommendations to your library list. Because you never know when you might get stuck in a library with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

one year ago: We kicked off Black History month with a great high school unit study on the Harlem Renaissance.

two years ago: Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: Better Homeschooling After the Fact

three years ago: Quick ways to cut the stress on hard homeschool days


Reading List

I’m currently teaching a Hamilton History class (aka U.S. History 1765 - 1800), so I’m brushing up on my Revolutionary reading. I’m only a short way into Janice Hadlow’s A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III, but it’s fascinating so far. 

In honor of the new Shirley Jackson biography ( Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin), I’m reading/re-reading my way through Jackson’s works. My favorite “discoveries” so far: the recently published collection Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings, and her novel The Sundial, which I’m totally adding to my Apocalypse Lit curriculum. 

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele (a Jane Eyre homage), and now I’ve moved on to her Timothy Wilde series, set in 1845 New York City—the first book, The Gods of Gotham, was excellent!—and have just begun her Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper novel, Dust and Shadow


At Home 

I know I talk about The Good Place every time, but the season finale was AWESOME and I’m now rewatching all the episodes on Hulu and you should watch them too because if it isn’t renewed for a second season it will be a small tragedy.

Big weekend coming up: Daughter #2 turns 14, Husband #1 turns 48, and the Falcons are in the Superbowl! I predict a lot of chips and dip and birthday cake in my immediate future. 

So, my Christmas tree is still up. Is that bad? Between “I just don’t have the energy for this” and “the twinkly lights are so soothing and friendly” we haven’t managed to dismantle it. (Family of asthmatics = artificial tree, so at least it isn’t a fire hazard.) I’m sure we’ll have it down by Valentine’s Day. Probably. Maybe.

Reflections on Mentorship (with a Little Help from Harry Potter)

Reflections on Mentorship (with a Little Help from Harry Potter)

When I was young, I benefited from the encouragement of some really wonderful mentors. They helped me see possibilities that I didn’t know were there. They were the models I emulated as I tried to figure out who I wanted to be.

They were also human beings with their own prejudices and weak points, just like anyone. Looking back, I can see that in my eagerness to please my mentors, I often forgot that they might not know everything, or that their advice might not be a perfect fit for me.

As my kids hit their tween and teen years, I find myself thinking a lot about how to help them get the most out of working with the mentors in their lives. How can I help them sift through mentors’ advice to find what’s relevant to them? How can I help them remember that mentors make mistakes and shouldn’t be treated as infallible oracles? 

I mentioned my train of thought to a friend, and he mused that the Harry Potter series offers great examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to mentors.    

I loved the idea of exploring mentoring through the lens of Harry Potter, so I came up with a few Potter-infused principles of mentorship that I hope I can pass on to my kids:

  1. Good mentors admit their own biases and areas of ignorance. I want to encourage my kids to be skeptical of authority figures who offer up blanket advice and who assume that their advice will always apply to everyone. Good mentors will hedge their advice with phrases like “This is what worked for me” and admit their mistakes and the things they don’t know or understand. The best mentors (think Albus Dumbledore and Remus Lupin) have a sense of humor about themselves. They’re open to the possibility that they might not know everything and are willing to listen to a young person’s ideas and approaches, too. 
  2. Good mentors ask the people they’re mentoring about their goals, hopes, and dreams and help their mentees to work toward those goals. Harry’s career counseling session with Minerva McGonagall in Order of the Phoenix is a good example. McGonagall took Harry seriously when he said he wanted to be an Auror, and she told him exactly what classes and grades he’d need in order to accomplish that goal. She saw him as someone worthy and able to do what he set out to do and offered him the tools he needed to get where he wanted to go. Of course, it worked in Harry’s favor that McGonagall was trying to score a point off Dolores Umbridge—yep, mentors are human, all right.
  3. Good mentors understand that their mentees aren’t simply younger versions of themselves. Remember Sirius Black and the way he sometimes confused Harry with himself and Harry’s father when they were teens? These kinds of mentors make the mistake of assuming that their mentees want exactly the same things that the mentor wanted at that age—or they assume that their vision of a young person is the only or best option for that young person without really seeing the young person for the separate, unique person they are. I hope my children will know it’s OK to speak up about what they hope to accomplish and to say no to serving as a mentor’s mini-me.
  4. Good mentors encourage their mentees to dream big dreams, but they also help them set realistic, do-able goals along the way. Ideally, mentors will encourage kids to shoot for amazing things, but they’ll also help lay out small, specific steps young people can take to move toward those goals. I’m thinking, for instance, of the careful, gradual way Dumbledore shared information with Harry about Voldemort’s horcruxes, letting Harry process things bit by bit rather than overwhelming Harry with too much information at once. Another example of the kind of mentoring I’m thinking of is the gentle, encouraging way that Remus Lupin helped Harry master summoning a patronus over several sessions. What a contrast to the way Severus Snape threw Harry into learning the difficult, scary work of occlumency without offering the slightest hint of kindness or emotional support! I want my kids to know that if they feel confused, overwhelmed, or stymied by advice their mentors give them, that it’s all right to ask for help breaking down big goals into smaller components, and that there’s no shame in asking for more directions along the way.
  5. Good mentors don’t play favorites or encourage cliques—or if they do, we mentees don’t have to let it distract us from our own intentions and purpose. We’ve probably all encountered the Horace Slughorns of the mentoring world at some point—the teachers, coaches, or bosses who cultivate an in-crowd of followers. If you’ve been invited to be part of an in-crowd, you know it can be flattering, but that it can also inhibit your ability to think clearly about what you really want and who you want to be apart from the group. On the other hand, if you’re not part of the in-crowd surrounding a coveted mentor, it can make you doubt your abilities and feel like a loser. I want my kids to be on the alert for either situation and to know that sadly, sometimes mentors use kids to feed their own egos. If my kids ever happen to be among the chosen few, I want to encourage them to resist the lures of an in-crowd and work toward staying true to themselves. And if they’re not tapped for the inner circle, I hope they’ll recognize that that doesn’t mean they’re destined for failure.
  6. Mentors aren’t always what they seem. In the fourth book of the Harry Potter series, Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Mad-Eye Moody isn’t the person he appears to be, to put it mildly. I want my kids to know that it’s OK to trust their intuitions if they’re getting bad vibes from an authority figure. Often, really manipulative authority figures will do their best to turn kids’ intuitions against them; I want my kids to follow their gut when they sense that an authority figure may not have their best interests at heart or is not being honest about their intentions.
  7. Last but not least, good mentors deserve our gratitude and appreciation. I think as a young person, I didn’t always fully appreciate the extra time and attention that mentors were giving me (I’m still working on making sure I properly acknowledge my mentors’ kindness now that I’m an adult). As a kid, I didn’t realize just how busy adults were and what a gift it was when they were willing to offer me something extra to help me grow. I try to encourage my kids to show appreciation for their mentors, whether it’s writing a note after a teacher has been especially helpful or just saying, “Thanks! That was a great class!” as they walk out the door. I’m not asking them to name their kids after their most admired mentors the way Harry and Ginny do in Deathly Hallows, but I do want them to let their mentors know that their mentoring efforts mean something.


We adults talk a lot about the value of mentors, but I don’t think we coach kids as much as we should on the art of being coached. Equipped with this kind of knowledge, hopefully they’ll be better prepared to survive the Slughorns and Snapes of this world and to make the most of the Lupins and Dumbledores.

Stuff We Like :: 9.2.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

This week's Stuff We Like is brought to you by Suzanne, who always finds the best stuff!

Around the Web

So, did you hear the one about the racist sexist trolls trying to take over science fiction’s Hugo Awards because the awards are sometimes given to non-white non-male authors writing on topics that the trolls aren’t interested in?  No?  Well, count yourself lucky (it’s not always easy being a sf fan <sigh>), but read this heart-warming article anyway: How a Self-Published Writer of Gay Erotica Beat Sci-Fi’s Sad Puppies at Their Own Game (I’m serious!  It’s heart-warming!  You’ll thank me!)

Just Say No: How to Actually Talk to a Woman Wearing Headphones

Laughed so hard I did a spit-take with my morning mug of ‘Man Tears’: Today’s Vagenda

It’s been kind of tough out there lately, so I like to remind myself that sites like this exist: Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life


Reading List

More Neil Gaiman!  I’m sloooowly reading my way through The View From the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction because I want to highlight every page and write “Yes!  I feel the same way!  That’s it exactly!” in the margins.

Favorite dystopian-near-future-of-economic-and-environmental-collapse novel of the month: The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber.  Runner up: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood.  LEAST favorite: The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver (NOT recommended, boo)

For when you’re sick and tired of reading about a dystopian near future of economic and environmental collapse: Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files

Favorite podcast-turned-into-a-novel: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor


At Home

Were you wondering what Thor was doing during the events of Captain America: Civil War?  Us too!  So the whole family had to stop what we were doing and watch this: Team Thor

We would also definitely watch this version of a Full House reboot: Avengers: Full House (with an Olson sister and everything!!)  

Are you a fan of Harry Potter? And podcasts about critical analysis? Would you enjoy a discussion of Hagrid and performative masculinity? OF COURSE you would, you right-thinking person you, so I can recommend this podcast, which I’ve been enjoying immensely: Witch, Please (NOTE: I would highly recommend this podcast to interested tweens and teens, but please be aware that the delightful hosts use four-letter words when appropriate and sometimes discuss adult situations.)

Dragon Con is this weekend!  I won’t be there this year (though I did attend the very first one in 1987), but by the time you read this assorted friends and family will be in downtown Atlanta hobnobbing with superheroes, aliens, and cartoon characters. If you can’t make it to the Saturday morning parade, you can watch it live on Atlanta’s local CW station, as it’s being televised for the first time ever!  YAY, NERDS!


at home | school | life

on the blog: I’m pretty intrigued by Rebecca’s review of Layers of Learning—I’m always looking for things my 9-year-old and 14-year-old can do together!

on the website: Now’s the perfect time to recharge your homeschool with our workbook. (It’s free in the subscriber library, but you can also pick up a copy here.)

in the magazine: Group subscriptions are open! Now through September 30, you can subscribe to HSL for a bargain $10 per person if you subscribe in a group of at least 20 people. (This is such a good deal! You should get your homeschool group to sign up!) Email us if you're interested!

one year ago: We rounded up readalikes for The Mysterious Benedict Society.

two years ago: Shelli and Amy met up at the NASH conference. 


notable sales

fabric.com has some awesome discounts going, where you can save big if you buy multiple yards. (This Amy Butler floral print seems to have jumped into my shopping basket.)

This Carol Feller shawl kit is on my birthday wishlist. (In espresso and coffee, please!) Her gorgeous Mendel sweater is one of my all-time favorite knits.

Stuff We Like :: 4.8.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

What a whirlwind week! We got back from the beach, launched our new subscription system, and got the spring issue of the magazine out. Now I think I need a spring break to recover from my spring break.

around the web

I’ve had some issues with identifying as a Southerner in my life, but I’ve always been thankful to have a handy second-person plural pronoun to pull out. Thanks, y’all.

I apologize in advance for the giant time suck that is this Tumblr imagining the life of a Muggle IT guy at Hogwarts. (But it’s hilariously awesome!)

Further proof that librarians are the greatest people in the world.

I am a little bummed that my first fictional crush (Jeff from A Solitary Blue, if you want to know) didn’t make the list, but you know you want to read about what your first fictional crush says about you.

Relevant to my interests: How to be a Tudor by Hillary Mantel in the London Review of Books (That’s practically Amy bingo if you work knitting in somewhere)


at home/school/life

at the magazine: Our spring issue is out, and I think it’s so great! 

on the blog: Get inspired with ideas for every single day of National Poetry Month. (We're also looking for a couple of new bloggers to add their voices to the blog.)

on instagram: Gratuitous beach photo


reading list

Thanks to Suzanne, my son is completely obsessing over Ottoline and the Yellow Cat. (She’s got all the Chris Riddell-illustrated books you need on your shelves in her column in the spring issue.) Also on his night table: The Warriors Greystripe's Adventures manga trilogy

My daughter refuses to give back my advanced reader copy of Click Here to Start, so I’m assuming it must be good. (She’s comparing it to Ready Player One.)

I love books about women in research science, so I was happy to pick up a copy of Lab Girl, a memoir by research scientist Hope Jahren.


at home

We took a road trip to Tybee Island to get a little beach time. I was worried about the weather, but it was actually perfect—warm enough to play in the water and read in the sand. (I navigated the terrain fairly well, but there were a few places where I was balancing on all three of my family members. My mom bought me some super-supportive sandals, though, which proved invaluable.)

I’ve been wanting to knit a summery little sweater, and I think Helene may be just the ticket.

Jason and I watched Mr. Robot in a couple of big binge sessions. Have you seen this show? It’s so weird and completely engrossing. (I am a sucker for an unreliable narrator, though. Also for Christian Slater, who is basically J.D. from Heathers-turned-hacker in this show.)

Stuff We Like :: 2.12.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

After a couple of fun but way-too-busy weekends, I am looking forward to a completely lazy couple of days off this weekend. I'm enjoying getting (literally) back on my feet, but I need a recharge.

around the web

Obviously I am going to get excited if J.K. Rowling decides to reveal details about other wizarding world schools. (I’m sure my letter just got lost in the owl post.)

Now I really want a custom library tailored to my own weirdly specific interests, don’t you?

I can never get enough of weird Edgar Allan Poe theories.(This time: time-traveling!) 

This reimagining of the Doctors Who as American actresses of the same time isn’t new, but it’s new to me—and it’s awesome. (And now I want a Tina Fey Doctor SO BAD.)


at home/school/life

in the magazine: We’re so excited about our fall class line-up! (And we’re taking class proposals.)

on the blog: Everything you need to prepare for the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend.

on pinterest: I’d love to recreate this adorable fox sweater for my daughter.


reading list

Like practically everyone else in the reading world, I couldn’t resist picking up Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, a story about a 19th century English girl who gets caught up in the era’s intellectual battle between evolutionary theory and traditional faith when she sets out to solve the murder of her priest/amateur archaeologist father. I had some nits to pick, particularly with the resolution, but this one’s totally worth reading.

I am completely obsessed with Plotted: A Literary Atlas. Get on the list for it at your library now if you haven't already—it’s gorgeous!

My son and I have been reading Sees Behind Trees as part of our Native American study, and it’s one of the first books that he’s gotten completely caught up in. I love that he wants “one more chapter” every time.

I have a strange love of housekeeping books (strange because I do not have a love for actual housekeeping), and Erica Strauss’s The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping is my new favorite. (My old favorite is the great Home Comforts, in case you wondered.)


at home

My daughter is so inspired by these anime-ed Harry Potter characters that she’s been anime-ing versions of all her favorite literary characters, from Daphne Grimm to Heidi. (They are pretty adorable, though, aren’t they?)

I’ve been recycling some of our old art projects into notepads with the good scissors and some padding compound, and I’m kind of addicted. I think I’m going to make my daughter’s lab sheets into a pad so that she can just tear them off, and I’ve already turned my weekly menu-planning printouts into a pad, too.(If you haven't used padding compound, which is basically the glue that sticks pages together to form a pad, you should try it—it is one of the easiest ways I know to feel productive and industrious without having to be productive or industrious.)

Now that I can hobble around, I am looking forward to (finally) seeing the Iris van Herpen exhibition at our local art museum.

Stuff We Like :: 12.4.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

It’s Jason’s birthday today and Hanukkah starts on Sunday, so it’s a party weekend here at Casa Sharony. I hope your family has plans for fun, too!

around the web

I may be obsessed with the education system in Finland—but articles like this make it seem kind of like learning paradise, don’t they?

“You're not irrational, you're just quantum probabilistic.”

This list of volunteer work for loners has some great ideas.

I am not surprised (but I am pleased) that Buffy kicked Dawson to the curb in Vulture’s best high school show battle.

You should know that my holiday menus will be inspired by Hermione Granger, Ramona Quimby, and Harriet Dufresnes , thanks to this guide to cooking like your favorite literary heroines.


at home/school/life

in the magazine: We’ve got so much good stuff coming up in the winter issue: a readaloud guide to Chinese history, inspiration for imagining your life after homeschooling, snow day science, the best winter field trips, and lots, lots more. (This looks like it’s going to be our longest issue yet!)

on the blog :Rebecca’s found a way to slow down and enjoy the holidays this year.

on pinterest: I wish someone would make me a batch of these salted caramels.


reading list

I discovered the Kindle edition of Greensleeves and spent a delicious evening rediscovering one of my favorite books from middle school. I had forgotten how much I loved this book.

I am on a cookbook buying spree, apparently: I picked up Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix, NOPI, Genius Recipes, and Gjelina. (At least a couple of them are for other people, I promise.) What’s on your cookbook radar these days?

We have commenced our annual December readaloud of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I thought about switching it up this year and reading something different, but the kids were having none of it. And now that we’ve started, I’m glad — it wouldn’t feel like the holidays without it.


at home

We’re definitely deep into holiday making mode. Like a lot of people, we follow the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” plan for minimizing stuff, but we also allow unlimited homemade gifts, which I like because they make everyone more excited about giving than getting. (Plus the “Keep Out” signs the kids come up with for their bedroom doors every year really crack me up.) I usually make one big knitted gift per person (this year, as you know, it’s sweaters for the kids and a scarf for Jas), a notebook of poetry, quotes, cartoons, memories, little notes, etc. for each person that I add to sporadically all year (I use these notebooks), and some kind of plush for the kids. This year, thanks to my forced downtime, I actually finished my making early for the first time ever.

And speaking of the holidays, few things are more fun than breaking out the Menorasaurus Rex for the first night of Hanukkah.

I’m so happy that the second season of Broadchurchis finally on Netflix. And people keep telling me to watch Jessica Jones—is it really that good?

I want to make this super cute Missoni-ish scarf so much. How cool is that a basically one-row pattern turns into such a cool chevron design?

Monday Pep Talk No. 18

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Happy Thanksgiving! This is one of my favorite weeks of the year—how can you go wrong with food and friends and pausing to appreciate all the really good stuff in your life? But it’s still Monday, so we’ve got a few ideas to kick your week up a notch.

3 fun things to do this week

Make your own Thanksgiving Day parade: Buy a bunch of helium balloons and decorate them during Thanksgiving cooking breaks. (There are some really cool balloon decorating ideas here.) You could even make balloon tributes to each of your Thanksgiving diners, and tie the decorated balloons to their chairs instead of using traditional place cards.

Put your Thanksgiving leftovers to work in the lab with one of these Thanksgiving science experiments. (I think we’re definitely going to do the butter versus whipped cream experiment.)

Monday is Fibonacci Day. Learn more about this ubiquitous number sequence by watching National Geographic’s video and studying the information on the Math Is Fun Fibonacci page, then get hands-on with some of the activities in Fibonacci Fun: Fascinating Activities With Intriguing Numbers.


3 ideas for this week’s dinners

When you realize that all your cooking efforts for Thanksgiving have not alleviated your family’s need to eat dinner on Wednesday night (or basically on any night when you can’t believe that people just keep wanting to be fed all the meals), this Welsh rarebit grilled cheese will save you.

When you get burned out on turkey sandwiches and potato croquettes, whip up a batch of leftovers nachos with your Thanksgiving extras.

Have an easy soup for dinner: Italian bread and tomato soup (better known as ribollita) is a one-pot meal that’s ideal for pre- or post-feast meals.


one great readaloud

I was going to recommend Animals Charles Darwin Saw, a really lovely science picture book, to commemorate the anniversary of the day Darwin published his theory of evolution (Nov. 24, 1859), but Audible has the Harry Potter series now, and I can’t think of a better soundtrack to Thanksgiving prep work, can you?


one thought to ponder


in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

glissade chocolate pudding

Stuff We Like :: 11.13.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

This week's Stuff We Like is brought to you by Shawne, who always finds the coolest stuff.

around the web

I can’t get enough of Humans of New York. Seriously, this site (and the corresponding Facebook page) just keep getting better and better.

I’ve been couponing since last spring, and have saved over $500 so far (all on things we would have bought anyway). This site has been especially helpful in getting me up to speed and keeping me informed on where the savings are.

I found this post comparing a middle school reading list from 100 years ago to reading lists from today to be really eye-opening.


at home/school/life

in the magazine: The fall issue is blowing me away! Of course, I’m always excited to read the tech column (and not just because it’s written by my adult, homeschool graduate son), and this one is no exception. But I also really, really love this issue’s holiday gift guide, the whole inspiration section, and Amy’s “Time for an Upgrade” article.

on the blog: I’m finding Shelli’s Achieving Homeschool Academic Goals to be so helpful right now.


in the kitchen

I made a version of these yummy pinwheel sandwiches for a family reunion recently, and they were a big hit. They’re so versatile and easy to make, I think we’ll be taking pinwheels with us for lunch at the park (and to our homeschool classes) fairly often over the next few weeks.

I also made these delicious Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies last week, and had trouble stopping myself from eating them all. I added golden raisins and chocolate chips to kick it up a bit, but they would be just as good without.


at home

We are still on an old-school Disney movie kick with our youngest son. Most recently we’ve watched the 1960 version of Swiss Family Robinson, and the Kurt Russell/Disney trilogy – The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Now You See Him Now You Don’t, and The Strongest Man in the World. Surprisingly, the six-year-old loves these movies, and I love the nostalgia factor.

My husband and I finally binge-watched Ricky Gervais’ show Derek. Its subject matter may not be for everyone, but we found it to be a wonderfully written, sincerely acted, hilarious and often heartbreaking examination of relationships, aging, and simple life-lessons.

If you’re in the mood for a cute and quirky, beautifully filmed movie about a 10-year-old boy who leaves home to travel across country to the Smithsonian, to accept an award for a perpetual motion machine that he invented, then you’ll want to watch The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. Be aware that, even with the PG rating, it may not be a good fit for some families. (One of the characters dies [it happens off-screen, but is still really sad], and one of the adults uses some bad words towards the end). My husband and I watched it alone, but I imagine our six-year-old may want to check it out when he’s a little older.



I can’t begin to express how excited I am that J.K. Rowling has released a new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I pre-ordered this book as soon as I read about it last January, and it finally arrived last week. And with over 100 gorgeous, full color illustrations by Jim Kay, I was not disappointed. I’m thinking of buying a 2nd copy just so I can frame some of the pages and hang them in our homeschooling nook at home.

My six-year-old has discovered The Notebook of Doom series from Scholastic, and can’t get enough. He chose book #1, Rise of the Balloon Goons, for his kids book club meeting last month, and now we’re moving on to books 2 and 3 and beyond.

Stuff We Like :: 11.6.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

How is it November already?

around the web

I’m sorry, J.K. Rowling, but I cannot get behind “anti-maj” as the American version of “muggle.” (I will, however, be happily lining up to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

“People confuse encouraging kids with telling them you can be anything you want to be… People think they’re the same thing and they’re not.” Really thought-provoking read.

I may be a little obsessed with this: Six Degrees of Francis Bacon


at home/school/life

on the blog: I just love this post from Shawne about navigating beyond fear in our homeschool lives.

on pinterest: These puppy puppets may possibly be the most adorable way to recycle toilet paper rolls.

from the archives: Every time I start to feel insecure about my kids’ social lives, I reread Idzie’s post on how unschooling shaped her social life, and I feel a little better.


reading list

As part of my quest to read all the Alex award winners, I just finished Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril by Timothy Ferris, and I’d recommend it to any tween-teen-ish reader who’s interested in citizen science or astronomy. It’s all about amateur astronomers and their contributions, and it really is an engaging read. (I think I have enjoyed every Alex-award winner I’ve read so far.)

We liked Three Times Lucky so much that we’re about to start Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. Fingers crossed that it’s just as good—the reviews seem to be mixed.

I am not saying that James Marsters’ narration is the only reason I decided to listen to Storm Front (the first in the Harry Dresden series), but it is definitely the reason I am sticking with this book through its uneven patches.


at home

I’m almost done with my holiday Boxy (just the sleeves to go!) and about to start work on a striped version of Ecken+Kanten, which seems like it should be such a fun knit.

I’m really bummed about having to order Thanksgiving in this year—I won’t be back to full cooking capacity in time to tackle the turkey. If you could only make one component of your Thanksgiving dinner, which would you pick?

Empire is not a great television show, but oh my gosh, all you Cookie lovers are right. She is awesome.

Monday Pep Talk No. 13

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled dose of Monday inspiration—last week, we needed all the inspiration we could get to finish up our fall issue. (Have you read it yet? Because there's lots of inspiration in there to carry you through to the holidays.)  

3 fun things to do this week

If your clan is getting super-excited about the new Star Wars movie (please don’t screw this one up, guys!), perhaps you should get started on a Death Star piñata to tide you over.

What better way to celebrate Apple Day (Oct. 21) than with a trip to your nearest pick-your-own orchard?

Make your own Hogwarts library with this tutorial for making wizard school textbooks. (Don’t you think a fancy Arithmancy cover would make your geometry book seem 20 percent cooler?)


3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Beans on toast is one of those dinners that you can throw together on particularly harried nights, and this garlicky white bean version is particularly yummy.

Celebrate Octoberfest with bratwurst with creamy apple compote. (Save the leftover compote to serve with pork chops later.)

Use your pastry blender to mix up the ingredients for these easy black bean burgers. (We like ours with sweet potato chips.)


one great readaloud

By Eva Ibbotson

In the spirit of Halloween, pick up Eva Ibbotson’s delightful Dial-a-Ghost: A mistake at the ghost assignment agency sends the screaming evil ghosts to a nunnery and the friendly family of ghosts to a country house—which is lucky for young Oliver, whose guardian plans to scare him to death so he can seize Oliver’s inheritance. Of course, hijinks ensue.


one thought to ponder

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

Stuff We Like :: 8.21.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Shelli's taking a break from her busy week of birthday fun to round up some of the things that are making her homeschool life happy right now.  

at home

I’m in the midst of planning my soon-to-be-6-year-old’s birthday party, and I thought this nature-themed party I found online was adorable.

We just finished a short “staycation” of sorts, and we renewed our love of taking day trips to places we’ve never been before. We took three within a week and a half, and it was very relaxing to come home, sleep in our own beds, do minimal preparations for the trips, yet we have a handful of new memories to cherish. If you need some inspiration to take your own day trips, see Seven Reasons You Should Take a Day Trip.

I’m not much of a cook, but finding Alton Brown’s salsa recipe has given me another feather in my chef’s cap. (But I use only one jalapeno, 2 garlic cloves, 1 Tablespoon of dried ancho chili powder instead of fresh ancho chiles, and cilantro is always a must.) And that salsa made this Crockpot Mexican Tortilla Lasagna from weelicious.com even tastier.


at home/school/life

on the blog: I think these Gold Rush readalouds all look great.

on instagram: I love this quote.

from the magazine: There is so much practical inspiration for planning your homeschool year in this excerpt from our first issue.



We are still making our way through Wildest Africa Series 1 and Series 2, and I don’t think we ever watch it without saying, “This is so good,” and “I never knew that place existed,” and “Other documentaries about Africa never show you this.”

We also began our first documentary about human history with a docudrama about the history of archaeology and ancient history in Egypt. Egypt is fascinating, and it’s so well acted that it feels like watching a movie.I’m happy to say that my eight-year-old is enjoying it, and up until now, he’s had little interest in history that didn’t have to do with animals. It’s probably a little hard for my five-year-old to understand, but since watching documentaries is a daily ritual for us, he’s patiently watching it too.


in our homeschool

I finally managed to get Mathematicians are People Too, Volume 1, from the library, and now I understand why everyone wants to check out this book. My 8-year-old and I are thoroughly enjoying these mini-biographies of famous mathematicians.

One of my goals this coming school year is to get my 8-year-old to start reading silently to himself by finding books he’ll really love to read. Well, my husband took care of that by buying him several vintage comic books for $1 each in some antique stores we shopped at while on our day trips. I would have never guessed that all the cartoons I grew up with – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Donald Duck and others– would someday motivate my son to sit down and read without being asked! So check in some antique stores, if you’re looking for some fun comics. (But be sure to check their prices. Some vintage comics can be quite pricey!)

My 5-year-old is all about birds lately, and I’ve been delighted to spend every evening with him perusing our iBird app in lieu of reading a bedtime story.


reading list

I'm thoroughly enjoying reading, for the first time, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum to my eight-year-old. I watched the movie multiple times as a child, and though the book is different, it's proving to be just as delightful.

I'm a little jealous that my husband snatched the first Harry Potter book to read to my son. I wanted to read it to him! Oh well. From their glowing reviews, I can tell I'll enjoy it whenever I get the chance.

As for me, I recently finished reading the adult novel Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and I loved it. It had been on my bookshelf for only 15 years. Why did I wait so long?

Speaking of neglected books, I'm determined to read those other books that have been on my bookshelf awhile, so I just picked up Lalita Tademy's Cane River, another adult novel that is fiction yet rooted in extensive research of Tademy's family history. It’s a family saga of four generations of women born into slavery in Louisiana.

YA Bookalikes for Summer Reading

Not sure what to recommend next for your teen? These in-the-adult-section novels are great follow-ups to classic kid favorites and great YA books to read this summer.

Never Let Me Go
By Kazuo Ishiguro


CHECK OUT: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

There’s a reason utopia means “nowhere.” The perfect world always comes at a cost. Lowry’s starkly beautiful dystopia reads like a little sister to Ishiguro’s lyrical science-fiction novel about an idyllic English boarding school where special children are groomed for a bleak future. The same questions resonate through both books: Who decides how the truth is revealed? What does it mean to have free will? What makes a person alive? And in both books, the answers are complicated.


IF YOU LOVED: The Harry Potter series

CHECK OUT: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Just like the indomitable Mr. Potter, Brooklyn teen Quentin Coldwater finds himself enrolled in a school for magicians. But he quickly discovers Brakebills Academy is quite unlike Hogwarts and that being a magician isn’t a cure-all for dissatisfaction with everyday life. Quentin doesn't share Harry's likable heroism, which makes him a more complicated protagonist.


Sideways Stories from Wayside School
By Louis Sachar, Julie Brinckloe

IF YOU LOVED: Sideways Stories from Wayside School

CHECK OUT: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Heller takes a darker view of human nonsense in his World War II classic, but there’s plenty of similarity between characters like the major who never sees anyone in his office when he’s in his office and the teacher who sends herself home on the kindergarten bus for (temporarily) turning evil.