Thursday, June 30, 2005

Summertime Fun!

Summertime Fun With A Touch of Learning

Ah, the sights and sounds of summer crickets chirping and slamming screen doors, the sound of bare feet running through the house, the squeals and laughter as the children play in the sprinklers remind us of this season of fun and outdoor play as we
homeschool. For many families, the summertime is used for a rest for mom, and a time to let the kids unwind and interact with the neighborhood kids, attend Vacation Bible School, and perhaps go on vacation. Over the years, I have found that by keeping the learning process going, casually, through the summer has some valuable benefits.


Summertime learning can help keep their thinking skills honed, reading interests and ability don t go through the throttle up and down that is typical in a structured school calendar, and it helps direct their activities in more beneficial areas of fun AND learning.


First, understand that these suggestions are shared with the intention of lightening your load and enriching your family’s summertime learning - - NOT to give you more burdens! Take these ideas and custom fit them to your family's schedule for the summer. You will find that the "I'm bored, Mom!" isn' t heard quite as often, and trips to the library are more interesting than ever. So, with these things in mind, here are some ideas to get you started! Reading can be a custom-made hobby for homeschoolers and summertime. The child can read more using those times when it is too hot to play outside, too rainy, or while traveling in the car.


While some children look forward to reading, others drag their feet about it, requiring more motivation to get started. At our house, we have had both kinds of readers. Consider having them participate in a summer reading contest at the local library. If your library does not offer this type of program, how about designing your own family or neighborhood reading contest? Keep the prizes affordable and fun, something that everyone will enjoy. A few ideas include:

Pennies per page for the younger readers, along with weekly trips to the store so that the awarded pennies can be spent. Make up some coupons on the computer or with construction paper, and reward the reader with a coupon for each book completed. At the end of the contest, the coupons can be traded in for some fun treats rides at the amusement park, nights at the pizza parlor, a day at the water park, etc You might also consider having a reward system using items that your child already collects: baseball cards, Matchbox cars, doll clothes, etc.


Reading can be enjoyed as a family during the summer, too. What about all that time spent driving on vacation? I've heard of several families that use this time to read aloud to each other, making the miles go by while keeping the interest level high. Depending on the family members interests and ages, consider some of the classics like Swiss Family Robinson, Anne of Greene Gables, David Copperfield , etc. The book by Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook has a wonderful list of books to share during family read-aloud times. For those of you with readers that get car sick while traveling, consider getting some books on tape at the local library for your journeys. Also, one of our favorite traveling stops is at the many Cracker Barrel restaurants along the interstate. These restaurants offer a books-on-tape rental program and you can return the tapes at any Cracker Barrel along the way!


Now, how about math skills? You say that your child forgets everything he/she learns about math over the summer? Then summertime can be a great time to keep the skills honed while having fun. If you are planning a special vacation or trip, consider having your child or children plan the vacation, under your supervision, of course! After you explain the places that you d like to visit and the total amount of money that you can afford to spend, have them get busy planning the project. They can divide the budgeted amount up by day or by event. They will have to map out the route to take, calculate the mileage, estimate gas expenses, hotels, food, etc. Then they can develop a fairly complete vacation budget, and keep track of actual expenses versus planned expenses–what a valuable lesson!


For the older children, how about letting them plan the budget for the summer? Have them budget for all of the household expenses water, electricity, mortgage, food, gas, etc. Then, they can help write the checks and balance the budget as the summer progresses Perhaps they can earn a percentage of any budget savings they identify, too! Not only will they learn about the difficulties involved in managing family expenses, but they will also discover the importance of saving and planning ahead for the unexpected. If they are too young to manage the entire family budget, perhaps they can manage just the family food budget – smaller amount with plenty of interesting variables like food sales, coupons, and so much more.


For those of you with sports fans in the household, the mathematics of statistics can be explored through the baseball season of summer. The children can track the stats of their favorite teams and team members, posting them in the kitchen and getting the whole family involved in cheering on the team. If the children are involved in sports themselves, they can learn to calculate and track their own statistics! Terms like average and total and other math terms can be understood in a real way!


The time-honored summertime effort of working to save for a special item should not be overlooked, either. The child can plan to work to earn set amounts of money, saving and calculating how much more he/she will have to do to be able to buy that special bicycle, computer software, or whatever they've set for their goal. They can mow lawns, babysit, clean houses, etc. to earn money. They can watch the sales, determining the lowest price they will have to pay for the item. The lesson of working to earn what you want or need in life can be a lesson in life as well as one in math!


And now, for the most fun area of all to enjoy in the summer – SCIENCE! So many moms are so nervous about teaching science to their children, and summer can provide the perfect opportunity to overcome this fear while launching a child into the fun and excitement of discovering the world and all of it s wonders! A simple project like a small vegetable or flower garden can fill your summer with studies of insects, plant science and cook- what-you- grow ! Sometimes you can turn a picky eater into a vegetable enjoyer, and enjoy the summer, as well.


Summertime is also a wonderful time to volunteer to help nature groups counting migrating birds, manatee observation, and much more. The family can volunteer to help out together and you can all learn together. The nature study groups appreciate the help, and your children can learn more about wildlife firsthand. Summertime can also be a time of camping and nature observation. We've had some wonderful experiences camping star watching together, observing hawks and mining for rubies. We've also learned about respecting nature poison ivy, ticks, snakes, and more! <smile> From watching meteor showers to sitting quietly and watching a family of hedgehogs, the lessons don't come from a text book. They come from God above!


We've been slowly investing in a whole collection of field guides at garage sales, and these guides stay somewhere between the car and the family room and the creek. Nature provides some of our very best science lessons!


I hope that this blog has given you some ideas and motivation for summertime learning and fun. Explore the forces of gravity on a roller coaster ride and watch the effects of sun and rain on a row of sunflowers. Watch the growth of nature this summer, as well as that of your children!


Happy adventuring!

June Unit Study News

Unit Study News
June 2005

Copyright 2005 Amanda Bennett

Amanda's Corner

Happy Independence Day! I hope that you and your clan have a wonderful and memorable holiday, full of things that you all love to do together. We will be busy here with all kinds of company and kids galore, and it should be a weekend to remember. We are focusing on the freedom theme - T-shirts with flags, and red, white and blue everywhere. There's a red, white and blue kite hanging overhead in the living room, and all of our "Uncle Sam" collection is spread out around the house.


I receive plenty of emails and notes from all over the world, and often times I am reminded of just how blessed we are here in America. We can homeschool or send our children to the school of our choice, we can easily purchase books that we need, and we can go to town meetings and know that our voices will be heard. As I am learning from others around the globe, our freedoms are precious and rare -- and I want to make sure that our children realize this and never take any of our freedoms for granted. Many people have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf and that of generations to come, and we are so grateful. 


Here in our small hometown, the activities resemble a Norman Rockwell painting. There's a colorful parade through town and around the town square, and includes floats and local bands and tractors and trucks of all shapes and sizes. On the lawn of the courthouse, you will find all kinds of delicious food -- homemade ice cream, lemonade, and much more. Everyone will be decked out in red, white and blue, and the kids will be carrying flags and walking with pockets stuffed full of candy that was thrown during the parade. Smiles will abound and memories will be made. Later in the evening, everyone will gather in town for the annual fireworks, bringing lawn chairs and blankets for an evening of family fun. I've lived in many states and cities large and small, and it was always our dream to raise our family in a small town/farm environment. Never give up on your dreams -- God is good all the time.


Thanks for caring about your kids -- we all appreciate your efforts. Have a blessed Independence Day, and make some memories -- these are the special times!


Amanda B.



Check out my blog (short for web log) - a new world for this writer, and I'm having fun with it! I'll be writing about our adventures and including some of the great homeschooling finds that I come across in trials and travels. Here's the website:

Amanda's Weblog

Announcing the July Sale!

In July, you can take advantage of the sale prices on the Christmas and Thanksgiving Unit Studies to prepare for a very memorable and fun holiday season this year. Both of the studies are four weeks long, so that you can begin the Thanksgiving study at the end of October and work through November until Thanksgiving. Then, right after Thanksgiving you can jump right into the Christmas Unit Study to study through December. Some of our fondest memories have been made during these special seasons and studies. Plan ahead and take advantage of the July Sale Price!


ALSO -- FREE SHIPPING for the month of July!


Thanksgiving Unit Study - Only $9.95 in July (Regular price is $14.95)
History will come alive as the story of the Pilgrims, Strangers and Native Americans unfolds before you and your family like a good novel. Enjoy the study of this special holiday as the day we choose to show our thanks to God and share our bounty with those around us. Come relive the adventures of the Pilgrims, as well as learn more about their commitment, determination, and deep faith in God!


Christmas Unit Study - Only $9.95 in July (Regular price is $14.95)
Christmas – a special time of praise and rejoicing as we celebrate the birth of our King, the Son of God. Just as the stars lit the sky on that night in Bethlehem long ago, this unit study will light your way back to that time, to walk the streets of that little town, and to stand it its fields and groves...

Planning the Year

Many of you have written and asked about suggestions for planning the school year around unit studies, so I thought I would take a minute here to share my suggestions. Remember, these are just suggestions -- try to visualize what will work best for your family. (Don't forget to check out the Internet Set Specials on the website)


Oceans -- studying the oceans, marine biology and world explorers, which can lead right into

Sailing Ships -- studying the interesting world of ocean travel and the adventurers who dared to explore, which can lead right into

Thanksgiving -- which flows easily out of Sailing Ships right into the travels of the Pilgrims (remember the Mayflower?), from England to Holland to England and finally to Plymouth. Prepare for a memorable holiday for the whole family! When Thanksgiving is finished, jump right into

Christmas -- studying the birth of our Lord and Savior, along with the prophecies and much more. Let the whole family get involved as you prepare your hearts and home for the celebration of His birth. The family projects and learning will continue year after year, as the holiday is observed and the children grow older, creating memories to last a lifetime, and faith that is strong and well-grounded.

From Christmas, you can plan on many others - working them in around the study for Easter. Depending on when Easter is during the year, you can study Gardens (spring planting), Lighthouses (spring break travel), American Government, Baseball (spring training), and so on. The possibilities are endless, and you can always use Unit Studies 101 to create your own unit studies -- soccer, football, quilting, ballet, and on and on...  Have fun!

Learning Links:

Printable American Flag

Hear the Declaration of Independence Read Aloud

Declaration of Independence – Wordsearch Puzzle

Liberty! The American Revolution with information, games, and images

Washington DC Live Cam Online

Boston Live Cam Online

Kaboom! The Anatomy of Fireworks

National Council on Fireworks Safety

How Fireworks Work 

Fireworks for the Fourth of July - Boston


Announcing the new
Oceans Unit Study

The Oceans Unit Study is now out and getting rave reviews! Join in the summer fun and order your copy now. Follow this link to learn more about the study and remember, shipping is FREE for the month of July!    

Oceans Unit Study


From our house to yours:

Have a thankful Independence Day!


Getting Ready for Independence Day!


Hello there!


Here on the farm we are getting ready for a full house, as well as celebrating the birth of our nation. We've got family and friends arriving from around the country, looking forward to a fun weekend and an Independence Day to remember!


We decorate the house with red, white and blue -- from patriotic kites hanging in the living room, to flags in the geraniums, and a patriotic tablecloth on the kitchen table. We pull out my collection of "Uncle Sam" memorabilia (Sam is a family name - so we've got a history of Uncle Sams!).


Which reminds me -- take a minute to share your own Fourth of July memories with your children. The memories of families are a precious gift that used to be passed down from generation to generation - and in our day of hi-tech luxuries, we are losing the stories and memories that were once such an important part of family history. Turn the TV off and talk -- about homemade ice cream and watermelon-seed spitting contests. Share your summer memories, perhaps of waiting for the Bookmobile or the ice cream man's music! Talk about family heroes and brave deeds. Share the legacy and enjoy the telling as you help this generation develop their family history in their own minds for the next generation.


Here are a few fun links for Independence Day:


Fourth of July Crafts


Homemade Ice Cream,1-0,homemade_ice_cream,FF.html


Patriotic Wind Sock


Independence Day Crafts




Decorate Your Bike - Have Your Own Parade!


So, I'm off to help get out the decorations and get the grocery list ready. Folks start arriving soon, and we will have them help with the preparations! Thanks for your kind notes and emails about the blog and my photos. I hope to blog more frequently now, as I'm home for a few weeks of summertime fun.


Until next time,



Life in the Country





Friday, June 10, 2005

Books and Baggage

This is one of those days that brings back so many memories, and a sudden realization that time goes flying by as we homeschool! We are going through boxes and boxes of books that we have used over 13 years of homeschooling, now stored in the basement and taking up room in the soon-to-be "train room."


Like many of you, I began collecting "real" books during our early homeschooling days, and they have helped the children learn about many things in interesting ways and from people that were alive during those times -- MUCH better than dry textbook reading, in my opinion. How many times did you ever have one of your children pleading "please let me just read this textbook for 5 more minutes" when they were told to get to sleep?!


Tomorrow is the big Homeschoolers Used Book Sale here in Chattanooga, and it looks like we will have plenty to sell! It is sad to see some of these titles go, but many of them are duplicates, and I know they will be going to good homes. :-)


I have learned over the years that motivation is key in big, early-in-the-morning projects. Everyone is up and working this morning, and we are motivated to get this finished -- the funds that we make are going towards a trip to Italy for their grandmother!


So, while I plow through Landmarks and We Were There books, judging what to keep and what to sell, I am so thankful for having the chance to use these books and remembering the wonderful times we have had while reading them. Unit studies have helped us learn as a family, and good books have added so much to the process.


Off to the boxes, and a smile as we remember. Don't forget to enjoy these days and make some delicious memories that will be savored in years to come by generations that will follow!




Thursday, June 9, 2005

Hello from the farm!

What a wonderful thing -- blogging for homeschoolers! Many thanks to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for making this available to a rapidly growing population of homeschoolers.


Well, first I had better introduce myself. My name is Amanda Bennett, and I am a Christian wife, mom, author and speaker. And when I find some "free" time, I love to  wander around our Appalachian farm with my camera, capturing the amazing scenery and wildlife in print.


As an author, I have written more than 30 books, most of them are unit studies. My website is and if you would like to see some of my photography, check out the Life in the Country website at


My dear husband and I have been married for 26 years, and we have been blessed with three children, ages 12 - 23. The older two are in college and graduate school, while the youngest is still here at home, being homeschooled and enjoying life.


I am in the midst of homeschool convention season, traveling to speak around the country, and loving it. I have just returned from speaking at the Florida conference (FPEA) and what a convention it was! I heard that the attendance approached 10,000 -- lots of families having fun in Orlando. My next journey is to Gadsden, Alabama to speak at a homeschool gathering the last weekend in June.


Well, I had better sign off for now and help with packing tree orders -- things are never boring here. We grow container trees that ship all over the country for birthdays, weddings, memorials --  This is a brainchild of our oldest son, a homeschool entrepreneur and college kid extraordinaire.


I'll post again soon -- thanks for reading my ramblings!