Books!, Homeschooling

My Top 10 Usborne Books for Homeschooling- Part 1

(The following links go to my personal Usborne Books & More website, as a consultant I do receive commission on purchases)

My obsession with Usborne books came long before our decision to homeschool! I fell in love with these amazing books. My home has always been filled with books…picture books, fiction books, poetry…but never non-fiction! I am not sure why, I was just always drawn to fiction so that is what I filled our shelves with.

When I was first introduced to Usborne Books & More I was blown away at the high quality non-fiction titles! I was also blown away by my complete lack of non-fiction at home! How could a book obsessed Mama completely gloss over and entire genre of books? So, I ordered The Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia…among a ton of other titles! This book? This book is one of the reasons I became a book lady. It is fantastic. When you hear the word “encyclopedia” do your eyes gloss over? Yeah, mine used to as well! This encyclopedia…all of our encyclopedias…are fascinating, engaging, and FUN! Kids, and parents love these books! I loved this book so much….and then I discovered that it was Internet Linked…say what??? The book has safe links for your kids to go to to gain more information on a particular subject. Ah-Mazing! More on internet links another day…did I mention the ah-mazingness?

Long story short…my wishlist of books was ginormous…so I decided to become a consultant. I have never looked back. Love it! Again, story for another day!

SO! Over the course of a year I had accumulated an insane amount of books! When we began homeschooling I was SO excited to be able to put these amazing books to great use…and boy have we! I can honestly say that these are the books we use all day. I use them for lesson and unit planning, my kids use them for research, we use them for the internet links…they are a huge part of our daily life.

I want to share my favorites with you. Yes, this is much like picking a favorite child. I set out to share my top 5 homeschooling favorites with you…which of course turned into 10. This is just the tip of the iceberg…but these are the top 10 that I cannot live without! I have decided to break this down into two parts…because I am what you could call “long winded”…So…without further ado…my first 5!

1.) The Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia– I adore this book. It was the first Usborne book that I have ever purchased! (I later found out that some of my favorite baby books were also from Usborne Books & More…but those were gifts!) This book is internet linked and has QR codes that allow you or your child to simply scan the barcode on each page with a smartphone or tablet and instantly be brought to a child friendly website for more information. My husband and I spent 2 hours one Friday night visiting the various sites in the book…yeah, we are very exciting people! We took a tour on the US Space Station…given by an astronaut! He showed us how astronauts sleep, make food, and even brush their teeth. So fascinating. This book takes education to the next level!

2.) The Usborne Geography Encyclopedia– You guys…this book is gorgeous. If you are a geography nut like me, YOU.NEED.THIS.BOOK.  It is full of fantastic information and has excellent photos and illustrations. This book covers all aspect of geography! A bookshelf essential! Truth be told…I bought this book long before I started homeschooling…and I bought it for myself.

3.) The Usborne Science Encyclopedia– another must have. I use this book all the time. Not only is this one internet linked…but it has QR codes. You can just scan the barcode with your tablet or smartphone and it will take you straight to the Usborne Quicklinks site. TONS of amazing information. This book is wonderful for anyone interested in science or for planning science curriculum!

4.) The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History– much like the other encyclopedias that we offer, this is a must have for your homeschool! Internet linked and full of amazing information! It is the perfect addition to any homeschool bookshelf!

5.) The Usborne Art Treasury– my new obsession. This book is fun-tastic! Throughout its pages you will learn about different artists, their styles, and it will include a project based on that particular style. This is the book that I am planning my entire art curriculum on this year. It is awesome! Check out some of my blog posts on our art lessons…it is a lot of fun!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Top 10 favorite Usborne Books to homeschool with!!


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Visiting 6 Countries in 1 Day!!

disney, epcot, homeschool


Have you ever wished you could visit 6 countries in 1 day? Yesterday we visited Mexico, Norway, Germany, Italy, China, and the USA…all in one day!!! Impossible you say? Not if you live in the great state of Florida…and have an Annual Pass to Walt Disney World! Yesterday we visited one of my favorite places on the planet…Epcot! Our goal was to visit all 11 of the countries featured in The World Showcase at Epcot…but it was HOT, and crowded, and HOT…so our goal fell short! BUT, we did get to visit 6 countries and it was a blast!

For those of you who have never visited Epcot, it is just the best experience. When you travel through each of the 11 countries, you truly feel like you are a part of that country. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the tastes…amazing. It is one of the most beautifully themed places in all of Walt Disney World…and that is saying something! It is even more magical after dark…everything is so beautifully lit…I just love it.

Yesterday our goal was to finally get stamps in the Epcot Passports our kids got for Christmas! If you haven’t seen these, they are fantastic! Each country has its own page and the goal is to visit each country and earn a stamp. These feel like actual passports…my kids loved it! In addition to getting stamps at each country, the passport also comes with various stickers that the child can decorate each page with, The stickers show different parts of the country in Epcot as well as the flag of the country.  To earn your stamps all you have to do is visit the Kidcot stops located in each country. These are great places for the kids to stop and catch their breath, even if you aren’t collecting stamps for your passport. The Cast Member that works at the station will help the child put the stamp in their book and will usually add a drawing or the child’s name or a saying in the language of their country. We had so much fun! Many of the Cast Member’s will teach the kids a word or phrase from their country as well. Such an awesome learning experience! If you don’t have a passport, don’t worry!! You can either purchase one right at Epcot, OR each Kidcot stop has a paper version that you can get for FREE to put stamps in!!!

epcot, homeschool, disney


We can’t wait to return in a couple of weeks to collect the remaining 5 passport stamps! This is such an awesome addition to any world geography unit! Each country has an opportunity to learn about the culture, hear the music, meet the people, see art, try the food, and so much more! I may have had to taste a hibiscus margarita in Mexico…for educational purposes of course!! Two thumbs way up! I am looking forward to many more visits to Epcot in the future…especially as we begin to study all of the countries! If you have ever been to Epcot, which is your favorite country to visit?


epcot, homeschool, disney

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Finding Florida, Homeschooling

State Park Family Pass for the Win!

florida, homeschool, annual pass, passport

My fellow Floridians…are you aware of the sheer number of State Parks in this state?? My mind is seriously blown! They  are everywhere!! Not only are they everywhere…but they are amazing! Whether you are looking for a place to go biking, birding, snorkeling, camping, shelling, hiking, tubing, or just relaxing…Florida State Parks have you covered! The amount of educational opportunities at each park is mind-blowing…Florida is so full of nature and history it is a homeschoolers wonderland!

My family moved to the Sunshine State in January. We relocated from New Hampshire…cold and snowy New Hampshire. When we arrived, it was sunny and beautiful. One of our very first stops was to Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. It is one of the most beautiful spots I have ever visited in my entire life. If I didn’t know I was in Florida I would have thought that I was on a tropical island. White sandy beaches, turquoise blue water, and dolphins…there were actual dolphins swimming off the shore. Postcard quality gorgeousness! We decided that day that we would be needing an annual pass to the state parks…even if just to go to Honeymoon Island. While at Honeymoon Island you can also enjoy a nature center, walking trails, and an osprey trail!

honeymoon island, state park, annual pass, passport

We purchased a family pass for $120…for the whole year! The family pass allows us to enter the parks with up to 8 people, with the exception of Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee Springs which allows 2 people.  This is an amazing value…even if we only went to Honeymoon Island 15 times the pass would pay for itself.

It wasn’t until I began exploring the State Park website that I realized just how many places there are to visit. My homeschooling mind got extremely excited. There are so many historic sites to visit, nature preserves, archaeological sites, beaches to study sea life…and so much more! SO, we set up a little challenge for ourselves. We want to visit ALL of the Florida state parks…yes, all! I love a challenge, and this is most definitely a doozy. To make things even more exciting…the Florida State parks offer a passport program where you purchase a book and travel to each of the parks collecting stamps. If you collect all of the stamps you earn a free family membership for a year in addition to a $120 Florida State Park gift card good toward camping or cabin stays! What?!?! This is music to my ears! For more info on the passport book click here.

Challenge accepted!!! Our Passport just arrived in the mail and it is FABULOUS!

I hope you will join us on our adventures and learn a little more about the Sunshine State! If you aren’t from Florida, consider checking out the State Park website for your state!! I am sure they will be full of great resources. I guarantee the parks will be full of awesome adventures and learning opportunities for you and your kiddos!

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My Why…

homeschool, beach, florida, secular

This picture? THIS, is my why. Those 3 little beach bums right there. Getting to watch them learn and explore has made for a pretty amazing year. Is it always easy? Heck NO! Are there days where I want to hide? You betcha! Those hard days are worth it if it means I get to have days like this.

When we first started our homeschool journey I had no idea what to expect. You will notice that I tend to refer to homeschooling as “a journey”…that is because it is always changing. One day can look entirely different from another. We are always growing and learning and changing. So to, are our reasons for homeschooling.

Our reasons for deciding to homeschool and our reasons for continuing to homeschool are different. We began this journey as a way to get away from a new administration and terrible school board that were sending our school in a direction that didn’t fit what we wanted for our kids. We loved our school, but didn’t love some of the changes that were happening. This wasn’t an easy decision and it was most definitely not a popular decision among friends and family. But ultimately it was our decision to make and I am so glad that we did. It has been a perfect fit for our family.

So, Why? Why do we homeschool?

1.) Flexibility– We are a happier family now that we are the ones in control of our schedule. Mornings used to be a nightmare. The kids would wake up and we would race around to get everyone ready and out the door. It would be a miracle morning if we didn’t have at least one kid yelling and another one in tears. Our mornings are so relaxing now. We can all take our time to get ready for the day. The kids can have time to play together before we begin school. Sure we have mornings where we have commitments and have to get out the door, but we are in charge of when those happen. We also have the flexibility to have class when we want. If we want to take a Tuesday and go to Disney, we DO! If we have family from out of town come to visit we have the flexibility to take a week off and enjoy them and know that we can make up the work at another time. This has been a huge gift to our family!

2.) Time– We have so much more time to enjoy each other as a family. Our evenings used to be hectic and crazy. We didn’t have much quality time together. We had so many tears in the evenings because the kids were SO tired from a full day at school.  Now we spend our evenings together, happily! Some days we will drive my  husband to work so that we can pack a picnic dinner and head to the beach when he is finished with work. We have time to do puzzles, play games, watch a movie. We truly enjoy spending time with our kids, and I am so glad that we can do more of it!

3.) Curriculum Choice– We are absolutely loving planning our own curriculum. I love involving the kids in what we are going to learn for the year. We have enjoyed a very creative school year. My kids are so artistic and LOVE showing their learning through art. I am not a huge fan of tests…and I love that I don’t have to use tests to gauge my kids knowledge for something. When you are at the beach and your 6 year old picks up a seashell and says, “Mama, look, its a bi-valve”, you KNOW that he is learning. He is learning, he is remembering, and he is putting that knowledge to use! It is just the best feeling. I love that I can focus time each day on each child. If I see that one is struggling with a math concept, we can take time to work on it to make sure she gets it before we move on. If we get engrossed in a topic we can take as much time as we want to study it in greater detail.

4.) Happy Kids– See those kids in the picture…they are HAPPY. They tell me all the time how much they love homeschool. They are enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle where they get lots of input in what we learn. If at any time they told me they were ready to go back to public school I would honor that decision. I don’t anticipate that happening anytime soon, thankfully 🙂

So, why do YOU homeschool? What is your WHY?


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My Top 10 Homeschool Must-Haves!!

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1.) Coffee…yes, I am totally serious! My kiddos know that before we can start anything, Mama needs to have her coffee…with a side of quiet. I am not a morning person…at all. Coffee is the only thing that makes me feel like a human in the A.M.  My children take after their Dad…early birds…3 very perky early birds. Coffee is the start to our homeschool day…every day! No coffee…no teachee…

2.) Computer –  What did we do before computers? I cant even remember. I use our computer for everything! I search for lesson plans and unit plans (any Pinterest addicts out there?), I use it for getting our weekly spelling lists, I find supplemental math worksheets for my kiddos, the kids have several learning sites that they love, we use it for research, learning to type, and of course, YouTube…more on that later! With a computer and a good printer you are golden 😉 Which leads me to number 3…

3.) Printer – You guys…I LOVE my printer. LOVE! This is seriously the best printer. It prints, scans, faxes, copies…Its fab! It is just your standard all-in-one wireless printer from Brother…but I love it. The best part…I can get the ink for crazy cheap on Amazon. The ink for our last printer cost about eleventy-billion dollars…it was cheaper to buy an entirely new printer. We just bought a brand new pack of ink on Amazon…a 14 pack (5 black, 3 magenta, 3 cyan, and 3 yellow) for $13.49! Here’s what we use…it has worked amazingly so far!

4.) BOOKS! – For anyone who knows me, you will know that books are my favorite thing on the planet. I love everything about them. The sound they make the first time you open them, the way they feel in your hands, the smell…ahhhh! I LOVE books! We use books all day every day. I am lucky enough to be a consultant with Usborne Books & More, so over the last 2 years our home library has grown to insane proportions. We also read aloud every single day…it is one of my favorites parts of homeschooling. I also plan a great deal of our curriculum from books! I would be lost without them!

5.) Art supplies – We are art junkies. My kids are always doodling, drawing, cutting, pasting, painting…you name it, they make it. Art is integrated into nearly every subject we do. We like experimenting with new mediums, trying new brands, and finding out what works best for us. I will have a post coming up about our favorite art supplies and where we get them! Stay tuned!

6.) Laminator – Holy pickles do I love my laminator. Do you have a laminator? I love laminating anything and everything. Laminating is a great way to save things from year to year…for example, if you laminate a particular worksheet for one child, you can use it again the following year with someone else. Again, this is not a top of the line laminator. I ordered a Scotch laminator on Amazon for $20…works great! Whenever I see the laminating sheets go on sale I will be sure to order some…we wouldn’t want a lack of laminating sheet related emergency.

7.) YouTube – Now, I know I could have put YouTube in with the computer…but I feel like it deserves its own category. We LOVE YouTube! You can find a video, tutorial, lesson on just about anything…actually I am fairy certain you can find anything on there. We have watched videos on the blob fish from the midnight zone in the ocean. art lessons on how to paint like Picasso, learn how to finger knit lessons, sight word songs, geography lesson, videos on Osprey catching fish from the water…I would be lost without access to YouTube. It opens up an entire world of learning for my kids. My knowledge base only goes so far…with YouTube I am able to expand our lessons so much further! What are your favorite YouTube channels? I am always looking for new material!

8.) Whiteboard – This might sound like a basic item…but I use the whiteboard all the time! I seriously loathe chalk and chalkboards…I hate the way it feels on my hands…and the sound? Oh my gravy the sound sends a chill up my spine! Whiteboards are a thing of beauty! They are easy to write on, you can get a bazillion different marker colors, and they are easy to clean. I love having mini whiteboards for my kids too…they are perfect for working on math equations!

9.) Sticker Books – Confession? I am a briber. I bribe. My kids LOVE sticker books…especially the Sticker Dolly Dressing books from Usborne. These books keep them busy for hours…even my 6 year old. So, we devised a plan. They do their chores, they earn sticker books. Everyone wins! They will work on the while I read aloud, they will work on them in the car, they work on them at 9 pm when they are supposed to be sleeping (ahem…Max!)…they are so awesome.  Oh, and did I mention that many of them are educational? Shh…don’t tell my kids! #momwin

10.) Patience – Ah yes, patience. This is key. There are days (oh boy are there days) when patience seems to elude me. You know those days…everyone is cranky, no one wants to work, she stole my pencil, I had the rocking-chair first, but Moooooom, I don’t wanna do sight words…those days. Sometimes the only way for me to regain my patience is to call it quits on school for that day. That is one of the beauties of homeschool…if I sense that everyone has had enough, we just stop…give everyone a brain break and start again fresh the next day!

So there it is…my Top 10 Homeschool Must-Haves! What is on your list? Is there anything you just can’t homeschool without? I would love to hear your ideas!

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Year-round Homeschooling…say whaaat?

year round homeschool

With summer right around the corner (or perhaps already here for those of us who live on the sun…er…Florida) I have noticed a lot more discussions on whether or not to homeschool year round. Just like every other homeschool related topic, there are some very strong opinions both for and against year-round schooling. My stance on pretty much every topic will always be to do what is best for your family! Education is definitely not “one size fits all”! What works perfectly well for my family might be a terrible fit for yours! So, how do you decide what to do?

For my husband and I, this was one topic that we didn’t have to think too much about. We both agreed from the beginning that we wanted to homeschool year-round. Most of our reasoning behind this was that we wanted flexibility! We wanted to be in control of our schedule. This was part of the reason we decided to homeschool…we wanted to be in control of our life. We wanted time to do the things that interested us! Homeschooling year round is allowing us to do that! If we want to spend a beautiful day at the beach…we can do that! If we get involved in learning about a specific subject we can devote extra time to it and not worry about missing out on our math lesson for that day! If we feel the need to go to Disney on a Tuesday…we absolutely go! If we, oh I dont know, decide to pack up our entire life in NH and move to FL we can take a few weeks off of school to do so!

Another big reason for this decision was the desire to avoid the dreaded “summer slide”. I wanted to keep our learning momentum going. When we started school last September we had a lot of re-learning to do.  I am sure part of that was because it was our first year homeschooling and we had a whole different dynamic to get used to, but I also think that after 2 months of not practicing the skills they learned, they forgot a lot.

I know that a lot of people who are against year round schooling will say that the kids need a break to enjoy the summer. I absolutely agree! We will not be in school 8 hours a day 5 days a week…we don’t do that during the year! Our schedule will be very relaxed. We will have lots of beach days and pool days and pajama days! We aren’t burnt out from the year…I think that is in part due to our relaxed schedule! The kids are ready to keep going! We have loved our first year of homeschooling and are so excited to keep learning!

What are your thoughts? Do you homeschool year-round or do you take a summer break? What is your schedule like? How do your kiddos feel about school during the summer?


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All Things Art!, Homeschooling

Discount School Supply for your Artsy Needs!

art, supplies, homeschool, review

As a homeschool Mom, I always love hearing about tips, tricks, favorite supplies, and deals from other homeschoolers! I have found some of my favorite things based on the recommendations of others. So, I want to share with YOU my go-to online supplier of all things artsy!

When I was planning my first year of homeschooling I discovered Discount School Supply. I was busily ordering catalogs from any and every source I could get my hands on. When the catalog from Discount School Supply arrived I was excited to see what a wide variety of art supplies they had! Great selection and all different sizes to choose from. So I decided to place a small order to check them out! I ordered several liquid watercolors and some watercolor paper. They shipped extremely fast! Unfortunately when I opened my package, one of the bottles of liquid watercolor had leaked and gotten all over that bottle and seeped into the top several pieces of watercolor paper. I sent out a quick email just to let them know and to see if I could get the watercolor paper replaced. I received an immediate response asking which color leaked and which paper I had purchased. They were extremely apologetic and I had a brand new package of paper and a new bottle of watercolor within just a few days. That is A+ service in my book!

They carry very high quality products at really good prices! I just placed another order and was able to find a coupon code to save $10. You can even earn free shipping on all orders of $99 or more! Who doesn’t love free shipping?!?!

I am so excited for my new order to come in…they carry my favorite liquid watercolors, Colorations (stay tuned for another post about these!). I wasn’t able to find these paints on Amazon…which is my go-to for most things…I am an Amazon Prime addict. I was so happy to see that Discount School Supply not only had them, but at a really great price. So many sizes and SO many colors!

I will absolutely continue to use this company in the future…great products and wonderful customer service…that’s a winning combination in my book!

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Books!, Homeschooling

My Top 10 Usborne Books for Homeschooling- Part 2

usborne, books, homeschool, secular

(The following links go to my personal Usborne Books & More website, as a consultant I do receive commission on purchases)

It is time for the continuation of my Top 10 Favorite Usborne Book for Homeschooling! These 5 are equally as fabulous as the first 5…and I could have added so many more into this mix! So, here they are:

6.) 365 Science Activities– This book is so much fun! This is a great way to add hands on science experiments into your homeschool. This books is recommended for ages 6 and up so it works perfectly for all 3 of my kids. We are having a blast! We are going to be featuring many of our science projects in upcoming blog posts! So much fun!

7.) Illustrated Grammar and Punctuation– So, I bought this book for me. I absolutely LOVE writing…but my grasp of grammar and punctuation is seriously lacking!! I didn’t know the difference between a noun or a verb until I was in 10th grade…and I remember this because I was placed in an advanced English class and was LOST when it came to grammar and punctuation. Sure I was a great reader and creative writer, but what in the heck is an adverb? I was determined to teach my kids all about grammar and punctuation as early as possible…this book has been amazing!

8.) Beginners Non-Fiction – Ok, this is a total cheat on my part. We have over 40 books in this amazing series! I adore these books. They are the most economical powerhouse books! They are only $4.99, but they are packed with information. They have wonderful photos and illustrations, the picture to text ratio is perfect for children, and these books are internet linked! Best of all, we have almost any subject you can think of! If you have a child that loves elephants, castles, bugs, dinosaurs, weather, horses, cats…we have you covered! We have a wonderful box set now, our Beginners Animals Box Set is a a great way to start your collection!

9.) Usborne World of Animals– If you plan to learn about animals at any point during your homeschool years then I highly recommend this book. It is GORGEOUS! Amazing photographs of animals and tons of information. We adore this book. Like most of our other non-fiction books, this one is internet linked.

10.) See Inside series- again, I’m cheating…forgive me 😉 I just LOVE all of these books. If you know anything about Usborne Books & More you will know that we are known for our Lift the Flap books! Kids.Love.Flaps! We have lift the flap titles for all ages, but for the sake of this list, I will narrow it down to our See Inside series. These books are phenomenal. They are recommended for ages 7 and up, but my 6 year old loves them too. I use this as a supplement to many of our units. See Under the Sea was an amazing addition to our ocean unit, See Inside Weather in Climate was perfect for our weather unit, See Inside How Things Work was a gift to my 40 year old engineer husband…he loved it! These books are loaded with flaps…and kids retain information so much better when they are actively engaged in lifting a flap. SO much wonderful information. Love these books.

So there you have it…my Top 10 Favorite Usborne Books for Homeschooling! Trust me when I tell you that this list could have been SO much longer! Usborne Books & More are some of the most fun AND educational books I have ever had the pleasure of owning!! If you are ever looking for a recommendation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I could talk about books all day…in case that wasn’t obvious 😉


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