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School will be starting next month over here at The Best School Ever, but we are starting to get our ducks in a row for the roadschooling we’ll be engaged in, come October when we hit the road again.

The Best School Ever will be working with us on a homeschool curriculum for the kids (- Micah and Moxie, both) – I’m working on uploading books to kindle, getting apps in order, figuring out how to integrate the sweet businesses of travel and education.

One of the biggest things on my mind has been books.

Micah is 6, he will be entering first grade. But as an advanced reader, he’s stuck in this quagmire of being able to read at a higher level, but the content in higher level books isn’t always appropriate. Also, he likes pictures – don’t we all! – so there’s that. He loves good stories with lots of visual detail.
I went and asked the Facebook hive mind for suggestions and the results were so good, so rich, so worthwhile, that I feel like I”d be a crappy friend if I didn’t post the whole list here for you too – so here it is, with special thanks to Megan for really going above and beyond with the suggestions.
* THIS IS A KINDLE-HEAVY LIST * – We simply have to have kindles and books need to be on kindle right now for us. It’s a must. More on Kindles at the end of the list…
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Magic Tree House Series

This was recommended by more than one person, and the funny thing was, I went over to Amazon, checked it out and purchased books 1-4 on kindle. Then I showed it to Micah as a surprise. He said, “oh, you bought me a Magic Tree House book? YAY! I LOVE THE MAGIC TREE HOUSE!” – it turns out that he read the newer books at school but not the beginning of the series.
Good job. He’s psyched.

The Boxcar Children Books 1-4

This series goes through 12 books? I’m not totally sure, but I do know it’s a classic, it’s very well loved, full of magic and adventure and it’s on kindle. That means it’s part of our library now, ready to be read on the road!

How to Train Your Dragon

I just ordered it as it’s on kindle and I know it’s going to be a hit with him. It looks like it’s a 4-book series, full of pictures and great adventure. Yay and yay!

Adventures of Tintin

This is a call-back from both Mikey and my own childhoods – we both read Tintin in the comic form as kids and LOVED THEM. I want to say – if you do order these off of Amazon, be careful because there are some “Amazing Adventures of Tintin”, etc that are about the series; they are not the actual comic books. There are some movie tie-in books too – those aren’t the real deal! Make sure whatever you buy is written by “Herge”

The Golden Compass

Confession: Chris recommended it and I went and bought it for myself, not Micah… it looks really great and I’m tired of everyone getting killed in Game of Thrones. If it’s suitable, I’ll share with Micah..!

Encyclopedia Brown

Super awesome! Another mystery series. What is it about that age and mysteries?!

Roald Dahl

this link is the page where there are a lot of Roald Dahl books: James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach and the big Phiz-Wizzing box collection (- all his kids books, together). I’m not going to be introducing Roald Dahl to Micah/the kids for a while because I think there is some pretty mean stuff in there that I don’t want to get into or have them reading like it’s fun

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1)

YES!! My goal this year for Micah definitely includes this guy from Hogwarts! Oh yeah. I think book one will be perfect for him, and I may very well get it on Audible too (see below)

Little House on the Prairie

I want to introduce these books to the kids but I don’t think the timing is right (- they are not on kindle and I couldn’t find them on Audible either). I think next summer in real-print-book form is what we’ll need to do. But for sure: the adventures of Laura and her family will dovetail pretty nicely with our own

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet Book 1)

This is my all-time favorite book series. I re-read these as an adult (- A Wind in the Door still blows my mind). I’ve got these on the short list for this year. I think Micah will be able to *get* it so long as we read it together and work through some of the concepts (- night time talks about tesseracts on the beaches of Mexico!)

Pippi Longstocking

Fun!

Who Was Helen Keller? (Who Was…?)

This is a whole series – “Who Was” – Dr. Seuss, Anne Frank, Jane Goodall, etc. It looks pretty cool

The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Ralph S. Mouse Book 1)

Micah started this last year and LOVED it. We just got the paper book, but I see it’s on kindle – yay!

The Borrowers

I read this when I was a kid – and there is a Japanese anime movie based on this book (The Secret World of Arietty). It’s an awesome series – little tiny people who live in the houses of big people and “borrow” everything. Kind of like our mice. But a lot nicer. Oh, and the series is very British.

The Littles

Sort of like the American cousins of the Borrowers! Another great series that I’ve got on his list

Stuart Little

Mysteries and small creatures for this age, huh? But yeah. This is a great one. Same goes for Charlotte’s Web

Audible/Kindle Classics

We downloaded these on Audible for Micah:

We subscribed to Audible when we were on the road. The kindle book automatically downloads too if you get the Audible version. So Micah would listen to the stories while driving, then he’d be so into them that he would continue when we arrived somewhere, and usually would pull out his ipad with kindle app and read along while listening. THIS IS GOLD> an absolutely excellent way to help your kid with the big words, to read for hours and thoroughly enjoy stories, inside out. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

When we hit the road in October, I’ve got these ready for him:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia

Even though this is also an Audible/Kindle purchase, I’m putting this by itself. The Chronicles of Narnia are simply a *must* as I see it – I think the Audible/Kindle option will be perfect for Micah and the road, but if we were able to sit down and read it with him via a paper book, I’d do that. He’s at a good age for this stuff and this series is simply the best, isn’t it?

 Mrs Piggle Wiggle

I adored Mrs Piggle Wiggle when I was a kid – this quirky lady who lives in an upside down house and has these amazing “cures” for kids who have issues. FUN STUFF! – Not available on kindle though

and books by:

Bill Peet

My buddy Megan recommended this and I want to check them out but they are not on kindle, so I’m going to wait until school starts and then head for the school library. They look really cute – great pictures
 Red Sings from Treetops: My buddy Laura recommended this and it looks lovely (- plus, she said it makes her cry when she reads it to her daughter – I love that kind of book!). It’s almost $10 on kindle though, so I’m going to check it out at the library first

 The Truth of Me: A “poignant story celebrates how our unique “small truths” make each of us magical and brave in our own ways”. Short and full – I haven’t read it, my friend Sue recommended it, so it’s going to be read!

 MORE RESOURCES:

Scholastic Book Wizard: search for books by level, books similar to, etc.
Best Sellers in FREE Amazon Children’s eBooks – a collection that is updated daily based on what is going hot on Amazon. All FREE!

International Children’s Digital Library – you read the books on the site, but very cool stuff here

Children’s Story Books Online – more free books to read on the site. Focused a little more on beginning readers

Public Library/Overdrive – Overdrive is the free e-book system that works with the public library. I got really excited about this before but, WHOAH, long waits for many, many books! I’m talking, six months, “long waits”, it’s kind of ridiculous. Check it out though and see if the wait times with your local library are shorter because if they are, it’s an awesome resource

Aquila Magazine – my friend Yolanda’s daughter reads this and it looks really awesome. I am not sure if it is possible to get it in e-zine form, it looks like it’s just print. But WOW, looks like a lot of fun for a kid to read.

A Mighty Girl: Books for Smart, Confident and Courageous Girls: I don’t know about you, but I want my sons growing up to be feminists and I think having them read books for smart, confident and courageous girls is one way to go. These book lists are massive and well organized and categorized – definitely worth a book mark and long look-see.

Newbery Medal Winners for Grades 3-5

The link is to books set for Grades 3-5 but if you look around the site, it’s a chock-filled with good books.
It seemed to me that a lot of those classics are really sad (- anyone remember ‘Where the Red Fern Grows‘?!!!!), but at the same time, boy, they sure do stick with you. Rich stories.

Oyate Catalogue: fantastic catalogue for finding Native American stories for children (and adults)

Chinaberry Catalogue: beautiful books (and other stuff too) for the whole family. Real-book focused, I didn’t see any e-books there

A Read-Aloud Book Share: This is a link to a blog in which teachers linked to their favorite read-aloud books. There is not a huge selection represented, but I haven’t heard of some of the books, so I’m looking forward to checking them out

Summer Reading List for Children: developed by the American Library Association, these lists are divided into grade levels

 

…Now Tell Me, Please:

– what should be added to this list?

PS.

Another note on Kindles:

Like I said, this is a kindle heavy list. It needs to be since we will be traveling and there is no way we can bring all those paper books.

We also like the versatility of kindle: anytime, anywhere, even in the dark. We bought this one:
Kindle Fire HD 7″, HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers – it is a fire, which means full colour (- perfect for kids’ books). Let’s see. What else. Oh right – we also got these Moxie-Proof Cases for the kindles and also the screen protector

Groupon often has Kindles on sale. I bought ours with a Groupon from Kansas, I think (- just google “groupon kindle fire” – it doesn’t have to be with your local area). Amazon also has frequent sales – and Zulily also has them for sale from time to time. Check it out.

Kindle Unlimited: this is a fantastic-looking program of $9.99 a month for all the books you want. It’s like the netflix of books, basically. We haven’t done it yet because for a lot of these great books we’ve purchased, I want to own them; not just rent. But we will do be doing this when we hit the road and Mikey and I get back into Dean Kootz or whatever.

It’s all-in-all a good deal if you are committed to e-books and if you travel a lot. Another thing I like about the kindle? It downloads FAST with an option to download the book to the computer and to transfer from the computer to the device. This was very handy while we were in Mexico – or even here, on the Lost Coast, with super slow internet connection.

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xulily

Speaking of Back to School:

Win $500 in zulily’s Back To School Giveaway

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

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Today we went to look into the local school for Micah.

MmmmHmmm. Yes, you read that right: school for Micah.

We were chancing on being The Worst Parents On Earth, enrolling him in school for the very first time ever in APRIL of the school year ending mid-June. I could just see him lying on the therapist’s couch in the future all, “YEAH, they had me start kindergarten in APRIL….”

So…… we were going to dip our foot in the water, see if he liked it – if he did, we’d try it out, if he didn’t, we wouldn’t make him go, totally up to him. This is all about what he wants, because we trust him to know what’s best for himself in this. He can decide.

My mom was visiting so she drove us to the school, which is about 10 winding, country one-lane miles away from us. We aren’t able to take Myrtle (our F350) because I am scared terrified to drive her on these roads (- something about not being able to see the road from the steering wheel, and the road being on steep switchbacks over long drops does that to me).

And where were we here? Right. I was telling you that we were headed to the school to check it out.

We drove around the school – it’s tiny! – past the high school greenhouses and little buildings, parked, and started to look for where we should be. Moxie saw the playground and went nuts trying to get to it, signing “play! Play!”- we kept a firm grip on her. MacQuinn was simply round eyed. Micah looked kind of hungry.

We found the principle, who also teaches high school, a pretty awesome looking lady with white hair and sensible glasses. Earth brand shoes 🙂 Super laid back vibe around her. She took us over to the class that would be Micah’s, but she kept on talking about a class for Moxie as well, the preschool which was the room next to Micah’s. I wasn’t particularly interested in putting Moxie in school, but she did keep talking about it and mentioned meeting the teacher and so forth.

We went into Micah’s room and, oh man…. those kids! There are under 10 students, mixed grades – kindergarten through 2nd grade. It seemed like everyone was missing teeth. They were so excited to meet our boy, welcoming him with “yay!” and big bright smiles. Happy questions and chatter.

The teacher looked like someone I’d like to be friends with. She had the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen and was relaxed, friendly, professional. I immediately warmed to her.

…. and it was kind of surreal. I told her we have been traveling for half the year and will leave in September to travel again, “no problem,” she said, whipping out a curriculum from the closet, “this is our homeschooling curriculum – you can just follow this and stay in touch and come back to school when you can.”

gulp. Okay.

The class was an outstanding mix of the high and low tech: I saw new looking computers with apps that we use on our ipads with barrels of beautiful books, arts and crafts materials, maps and more. I was thrilled.

We went outside for recess, the kids were catching a frog – for real! like who actually catches frogs in school anymore?! -, we went through the school, the kids have a garden, they learn to grow food, she said the preschool does too, they have a gorgeous space just for them, then she told me something about the preschool:

The preschool teacher concentrated in Special Education. I told her that I’m deaf and that Moxie has Down syndrome and she smiled and said that the school custodian has Down syndrome, he went through the whole school system right there and he comes into both Moxie and Micah’s class to teach ASL.

I couldn’t believe it.

Just then the preschool teacher came up with the class, introductions were made and I asked her about her concentration and she said yes, she majored in Special Education and she practices Horse Therapy too… only she doesn’t have any clients…. I said, “you do now” and then bust into tears, those big, fat happy, embarrassing tears of just, it’s just too much, you guys are so perfect and how can this happen in this crazy, magnificent world? How do we come on a school so tailor-made for us, utterly fitting in every regard for me, for my kids, for our family, for all of us, how does this happen, after we give up everything and leave and travel and then decide to be responsible and come back to work? And how is it that the best stuff is supposed to be in the city, in Berkeley, in San Francisco, in these places of ivory-tower-intellect and yet it’s NOT, it’s in the isolated rural areas like the Lost Coast in which the thrilling education is really taking place?

I cried.

As I wiped my tears, the teacher was calling to Moxie who was watching the preschool class from the safety of her slide. They were all on the round circle thing you spin (I don’t know the name for it?) and she invited Moxie to come. After some hesitation, Moxie came, clambered up, they started spinning, Moxie wanted to push it, they stopped for her and Moxie got off and helped push. The kids were looking at her and she was looking at them and I’ve never seen my girl so interested in other kids, other kids so obviously interested in her.

It felt right.

A few more tears may have slipped out.

In a nutshell:

  • Micah can start school whenever we get our transport arranged
  • Moxie can too – IEP’s weren’t mentioned at all – if we need an aid, they said, they’ll get an aid, they know all about this, it’s not a big deal. Nothing is a big deal. They are just happy to have her
  • I can be there all day if I want, it’s an open-door policy for parents, and I can bring MacQuinn too
  • The entire school is probably 50 kids?
  • It’s all mixed level rooms
  • The older kids all read to the younger kids and interact with them. So the high school kids read to Micah’s class, Micah’s class reads to Moxie’s.
  • There is even some ethnic diversity there
  • The kids bike and garden!
  • The community is integrated with the school: they have car building and racing, egg hunts, etc. It’s kind of the way I think America was once, before towns exploded and people got nuts with suing and insurance and bullshit.

 

Both Micah and Moxie wll be attending now – we’ll be there as soon as we get a smaller truck or car to drive there.

Which can’t really be soon enough in my book.

 

We’re fully on board the homeschooling boat. The local preschools are either crap, really expensive or we can’t get in (despite waiting over a year). Caught between a rock and a hard place, we’re turning to ourselves. I am, after all, a trained teacher with nearly a decade of teaching experience! This should be easy, right?!

Right. No. Wrong. It’s not.

This process of figuring out ‘homeschool’ seems to me to be about finding a groove, a rhythm. It’s about the easier pieces like curriculum development fitting with the harder ones like time, forgiving myself for not being 110% perfect and present – there are very few breaks in this for me, after all. I don’t go out to a cafe with friends after a day of work, as I once did, have a cigarette, swirl the foam around my latte and talk about what the kids did that day. No. I am home. I remain at home, from a day of work at home. I wait, exhausted, till My One True Darling returns right before 9pm and pray that he’ll put the kids to bed all by himself, and that’s generally “it” so far as the unwinding, relaxing and space between my workplace and my home lies.

This process is about figuring out what to do with the kids’ very different styles: Micah with his love of structure and Moxie, who just likes to demolish it.

It’s about finding helpful websites that aren’t too crunchy and don’t depress me with their magical goodness, ones that seem helpful with easy activities to line up and integrate.

It’s about finding a tribe that we can connect with.

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Did you know that these homeschooling networks are huge?! I sure didn’t. They are all over the place. It’s incredible. They have these things called “park days” in which you gather and play, socialize. You could easily belong to more than one group, but I think it might get overwhelming – picking one,  maybe two, seems to make the most sense. So, you have to go to each group – more than once, in most cases – and really meet and greet. It’s more than a mom-date: it’s a mom date, parks date plus a kid (s) date.

Sometimes I cry before I go because it’s every kind of stressful for me to find the damn parks (they are all over the Bay Area, most usually at places I’ve never been to before), to hear anything once I’m there WHILE I’m trying to connect with Moms and keep an eye on the kids. The bits about disability – Moxie’s Down syndrome and my own deafness sometimes hang out around in the air like an enormous hairy pink elephant. Sometimes I call it out and sometimes I don’t.

I like the groups that make me feel relaxed enough to bring it up off the bat – HEY! Look at that there PINK ELEPHANT! Wanna ride it with me?

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Time is fluid at home. Counted more in the measure of the weight of an eyelid, in increments between naps, meals, than it is counted in  hours, minutes.

I feel like I am looking through collages of jigsaw puzzles, trying to assemble pieces that fit and will make a harmonious picture. Something that is not completely weighted with me – I will crack – something that’s not too weighted on Mikey. I feel like a beginning teacher again in many ways, and the words of an early mentor reverberate in my head – words about not worrying too much about every single minute, every single worksheet or whatever; it’s really all a cycle anyway. Learning is like a spiral shell, layering upon itself.

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We swapped what would have been the chicken coop for a schoolhouse.

Painted the outside yellow, the inside with chalkboard paint

It was sure messy. And crazy-fun watching those kids with the rollers!

Moxie helped her Daddy move it

Little Man helped set up the space. It was a family affair.

Was it ever worth it.

 

There are still edges that beg to be painted and details like desks (that fit) to be worked out.

But it’s definitely a space that suits the kids.

It’s a start.

A good one.

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