Friday, September 28, 2012

Autumn Traditions at Our House

With cooler nights and shortening days, we are gradually moving to our autumn traditions and activities, and enjoying every moment. The list-making begins for the projects that we enjoy—making gifts, preparing special treats that will keep in the freezer, and coming up with ideas to bless others and meet their needs. From making blankets for the abused children’s shelter to helping stock the local food bank, there have been so many great service projects that started on autumn evenings around the fire.

We created our traditions when our children were very young, building them up as time went on. We lived far from family and grandparents, and we wanted our children to have family traditions to treasure and savor in the years ahead.

Autumn is a great time to kick off a few new traditions in your own family. From autumn star-watching to s’mores over a campfire—the possibilities are there, waiting!


Amanda B.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Autumn Has Arrived – Finally!

Happy autumn! At long last, autumn is here, the leaves are beginning to change, and we have already made a trip to the apple orchard. The cider is sweet and the apples are perfect, and our hearts help get our minds ready for a new season. Planning, learning, and investigating receive more of our attention—along with projects around the farm and the need to split and stack firewood to get ready for cooler weather.

We have many traditions that have developed over the years for season changes, and a toasty morning fire after the weather turns cool is a fun one. We also collect gourds, pumpkins, and squash that are the end-of-season garden picks for Dad to make a fall sculpture down the driveway to greet our guests. This is a big tradition in our area of the country. People work on some amazing autumn lawn displays from their produce, mixing in chrysanthemums and other autumn treasures. It is fun to cruise the country roads to see the creations.

What kind of autumn traditions do you and your family enjoy? Come on, share!


Amanda B.

PS - Don't miss our Autumn Kickoff this week, we have great deals on our fall favorites!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Seasons are changing, time to kick up some autumn fun . . .

What special memories of autumn have you made with your children? This season is full of treasures--start exploring them today!

Cool, crisp mornings, vibrantly colored leaves raining down, the delicious scent of fresh applesauce simmering in the slow-cooker, and weekend football games in the yard . . . these are the things that say autumn to me. 

Begin building family memories of your own with a few studies that are perfect for this time of year. Autumn Treasures and Tremendous Trees open your eyes to the wonders of this special time of year and help young children understand how God designed some trees to put on a dazzling display for us. Then spend a week with Football Frenzy so even the youngest members of the family can play along or follow a favorite team. And Digital Photography will help you document your family's fun throughout the year.

Children grow up so quickly--start making autumn memories today!


Amanda B.

P.S. Wish you could be here in the kitchen with me to smell this delicious applesauce that is simmering in my slow cooker! Here's the recipe if you want to try it out at your house:
Crock Pot Applesauce. Join in on more fall fun throughout the week -- "Like" USAB on Facebook or follow #FallFun on Twitter to find and share more autumn ideas!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Views from My Rearview Mirror - Part Five

And what about you, the homeschooling parent – what happens to you when you work yourself out of a job? So often I hear parents lamenting over eventual empty nest syndrome—what to do when the kids graduate and move on—and I am amazed. Through the homeschool years, we have not only developed a wonderful understanding of our children and developed priceless relationships; we’ve also been given the perfect opportunity to explore our own gifts and talents, discovering new areas of interest to pursue in the coming years. Blessed to be a blessing—that describes our homeschool adventure in a nutshell.
Homeschooling has provided the opportunity for each of us to become who we were meant to be. For example, I obtained a degree in engineering because I was good at math and science, not because I had a burning passion to pursue that course of study or profession. Given some encouragement to follow my dreams, I would probably have chosen art or perhaps journalism or writing. Homeschooling has given me a second chance in that area of my life.  As a result, we build the future together, with the freedom to pursue all of our interests and help others along the way. According to Albert Einstein:

"The only rational way of educating is to be an example."

You keep learning as they learn. Be the example that gives them the courage to follow their dreams and do what the LORD created them to do! Pray for direction, wisdom, and a clear path – He’s there just ahead, waiting to lead.


Amanda B.

Did you miss Part One or Part Two , Part Three , Part Four?  You can read them now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Monarchs, Butterflies, and Horse Piles – What a Combination!

With the recent launch of our newest DNG title, Incredible Insects, I thought this might be a good time to remind you that this is the time of year when butterflies are in abundance in many parts of the country. They provide a great way to learn about insects, are easy to catch and release, and are fairly easy to locate right now.

I had to laugh the other day as I drove along our country lane and saw MANY butterflies, all grouped around horse droppings! ☺ Can you imagine these beautiful creatures, fighting to find a place on top of the horse piles? Really! Anyway, you can find butterflies in your local parks and garden centers, as well as in some of the Discovery museums.

Keep an eye out for the migration of the Monarch butterflies right now. Here’s a link that shows the paths they typically travel from September through November. We have always enjoyed watching for them. They look so much like the red and orange autumn leaves drifting through the countryside!

Enjoy these beautiful creatures—just watch where you step.


Amanda B.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lunch in the Snowball Cafeteria

One of my favorite childhood family destinations was our yearly trek to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. We went camping there and made so many terrific memories. Just as soon as the campsite was set up, we would all pull out sweaters (it is cool down in the cave!) and head off as a family to hike the cave. We went at every opportunity, listening to the ranger’s educational presentations, touching the stalactites and stalagmites, sitting down by the streams in the cave, and watching the ranger’s flashlight play over the blind cavefish. We loved every moment of it—we were captivated!

However, the coolest visit was the time that we got to take the tour of the cave that ended with lunch at the Snowball Cafeteria. It captured our imagination. The entire ceiling of this cold cafeteria was covered with stalactite-looking formations that looked like snowballs! J We sat and talked about all that we had heard and learned, and then we wondered about how far the cave branches reached. Did they reach all the way to Ohio or Alabama?

Celebrate these days of adventure with your children. Check out our brand-new title, Cavernous Caves, and dig in! Let the exploration begin, and the learning will go hand in hand with the curiosity!



Amanda B.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bats and bugs and blind cavefish!

Incredible Insects and Cavernous Caves
Insects and caves--two of our new hot topics that capture the curiosity of kids around the world! With these new titles in the Download N Go® series, they can explore these creatures and places in amazing ways, and the adventure can begin today! Incredible Insects will lead them on a fascinating journey, spanning the world of insects:
  • Launch into each day with exciting new videos like Bug Parade
  • Chan's walking stick--an insect that is over 19" long
  • Songs of the Insects Jukebox
  • Daily Insect Safari
  • And plenty more!
And Cavernous Caves will take them virtually bounding through caves around the globe, investigating:
  • One new cave a day, beginning with Mammoth Cave in Kentucky
  • Cave creatures, like the blind cavefish, bats, and blind shrimp
  • Sea cave kayaking in Santa Cruz
  • Spelunking and all kinds of cave adventures!

I love to share the awesome corners of the universe with kids, and with these studies, you can take your children on an expedition of learning they will never forget. From bats to bugs, cave crickets to fireflies, watch them grow as they explore and wonder! We are working hard to help them discover the wonders of God's magnificent creation--one topic at a time. Go ahead and ask them about caves and insects, and watch their interest in learning take on a whole new perspective.

For more fun this week, follow #Caves4Kids and #KidsNBugs on Twitter, or "like" USAB on Facebook!


Amanda B.

P.S. In case you are new to the Download N Go series, in addition to the interactive study, a simple-to-make lapbook is included with each study. What is a lapbook, you ask? Check it out here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Views from My Rearview Mirror - Part Four

It’s been great to share and talk about homeschooling helps and perspectives over these past few weeks. Now, try to relax, take a deep breath, and remember that you are not alone. To better focus your efforts, consider:

·         Where are you starting from and where are you going?

·         What would you like to do with this opportunity?

·         What would you like the finished product, your educated child, to be like?

·         What should they know?

·         What should they value?

·         What should they think of themselves and of others?

How can you reach your educational goals? I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember much of anything that I learned from textbooks used in my many years of education. Instead, I remember the people who took time to help me grow and wonder and question, stretching my imagination and challenging my abilities.

Our children are going to remember the time we spend with them—the time we listen, the time we encourage, and the moral support we offer as they test their wings and ideas, and begin moving on their dreams. Now that’s an education!

Enjoy this great adventure, and thanks for being a part of this series!


Amanda B.

Did you miss Part One or Part Two , Part Three  - you can read them now.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Gift from the Astronauts - Part Two

Did you miss Part One - you can read it here.

One of the best blessings from our frequent visits to the Cape came from the astronauts themselves—yes, the men and women who live, breathe, eat, and sleep their dreams of going to space. They devote much of their time to their space training and their own families, but they do make a special effort to share their stories and dreams with children of all ages. They always take time to reach out to children, and what a legacy of influence they have left us!

We met many of the astronauts, attended their presentations, watched home movies of their childhoods, and heard them share some of their own experiences of growing up. We always came away so fired up about space and each child's opportunity to follow his or her dreams. These astronauts demonstrated their commitment and love of their work in all that they did, and I am so thankful that they shared this with children.

You see, they very carefully shared their own stories, with the emphasis on "whatever your dream is—follow it!" They stressed the importance of doing your best, studying hard, and not giving up, demonstrating the meaning of commitment by their own efforts. Our children have autographs of many astronauts, but what they hold in their hearts are the astronauts' stories, hopes, and words of encouragement.

I thank God for our astronauts—for those that we have lost and for those that will now carry on the adventure. They will motivate unknown numbers of children (and many adults) to follow their dreams and strive to do their best, and somehow, coming from these people who know what it means to do just this—it is a priceless gift, indeed.


Amanda B.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Gift From the Astronauts - Part One

With the recent passing of astronaut Neil Armstrong, many people have asked what I thought about it, having spent so much of my life in the shadow of NASA’s space program. I have been on this planet long enough to have experienced the thrill of watching the program grow and change—from hearing the tinny voice of John Glenn as he orbited the earth to watching the first steps of Neil Armstrong on the moon, seeing the first launch of a space shuttle, and so much more.

When I first married, right after graduation from college with a degree in engineering, I received some mail from NASA. They were looking for candidates for the shuttle program—for "shuttle specialists." Wow! I had always dreamed of space travel and star-watching from above the earth! However, I was newly married and moving in a different direction with my life, and I was happy to be where I was. But the fascination with space and space travel was never far from my mind.

Years later, we began homeschooling, and we were blessed to be living on the Space Coast of Florida, just south of Cape Canaveral. One of the first unit studies that I wrote for our crew was Space; I figured that even if I really messed up, NASA was right up the road and they could fill in the blanks!

We spent ten years there and loved every launch and every moment of space news and space talk. The kids grew up thinking that the swing set was MADE for watching space shuttle launches, and that everyone in the world watched launches with the same enthusiasm and excitement. Whenever we could, we would get launch passes to go wait with the crowds for the launches, bringing blankets and picnic baskets and binoculars.

Amanda B.

 Come back tomorrow for Part Two!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's Patriot Day!

Today is Patriot Day, and here at our house, we celebrate hometown heroes. From firefighters to policemen, and all of our first responders that save lives and make a difference in our American communities, we honor them all. Our family knows the importance of these heroes firsthand, and are so grateful for their courage and willingness to do whatever needs to be done. Make sure that your children know just how brave and heroic these folks are - real heroes AND patriots!


Amanda B.

P.S. Today, we're honoring heroes everywhere with a special savings on our Heroes for Today series! Our children are looking for heroes and need them for many reasons: to learn from them, emulate them, and be encouraged by their character qualities, as well as their adventures. For today ONLY save 50% off any Heroes for Today products (Heroes for Today Collection or Individual Heroes Products) when you use coupon code: RememberTheHeroes 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Classic Earth Science and Astronomy Resource Library - An Adventure of Discovery!

Begin the adventure of a lifetime, discovering the secrets of
God's fascinating creation.

Get your
Classic Earth Science and Astronomy Resource Library

God's creativity in forming the heavens and the earth is far beyond anything we can imagine, and so much of it is unknown to a child. Take your family on an expedition of discovery with the Classic Earth Science and Astronomy Resource Library.

Begin your adventure into the hidden parts of this beautiful world God created just for us with the newest Download N Go, Cavernous Caves. A thrilling adventure awaits you and your children as you explore the many types of caves around the world, squeezing through small crevices, or scuba diving in the world's largest underwater cave, Sistema Sac Actun. You'll learn cave terminology as well as caving safety, and you'll meet some amazing animals who call caves their home!

Discover the tiny creatures living inside Sunny Seashells, and be captivated by the expansive heavens surrounding our Magnificent Moon. Find out how Twisting Tornadoes form, and make your own tornado in a bottle. What is "Tornado Alley"? Take a helicopter flight over one of earth's many Volatile Volcanoes, and watch the hot lava run down the sides in glowing, smoking rivers. Where does the lava come from? Discover the secrets of earth's two extreme seasons in Summer Sensations and Winter Wonders. Where on earth does the sun shine for half the year?

There is so much to learn about the earth and space, and children are naturally curious about it all. Whether caves or volcanoes, tornadoes or the moon--it's time to go investigate the unknown!


Amanda B.

Don't miss this fantastic giveaway . . .

This week our friends at Home Science Tools have generously donated a $50 gift card for our giveaway!

Founded in 1994, Home Science Tools is a resource for parents, teachers, and kids who want a better experience with hands-on science. Frank and Debbie Schaner started the company when they realized the difficulty finding the right supplies for doing science at home with their four children. Since then, they've been committed to making science both fun and accessible for families and classrooms. While Home Science Tools' microscopes have been its top-seller since their introduction 10 years ago, the company also offers one of the most comprehensive selections of science supplies online. For a free catalog, please visit:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Views from My Rearview Mirror - Part Three

Today, let’s look ahead for this upcoming year at your house. Here are a few ideas for your homeschool efforts from our experiences as a homeschool family—I hope they are helpful:

1.    I wish I had known to relax and enjoy the time together as a family more. In the beginning, we were so nervous about covering everything, using all of the workbook pages, filling up the plan book ahead of time and sticking with it rigidly; so much stress, so little long-time learning, and so little enjoyment of the educational process.

2.    Buy plenty of world globes at garage sales—put the world in their hands. For under $1 each, I purchased several globes this way, and everyone had their own globe to study and spin when learning about a new country or perhaps listening to the evening news. The world is “getting smaller” with advanced communications these days, and it is a leap ahead to be able to hold the world in your hands as you learn where a missionary in Cambodia is, how far they are from home, and where the special friend is currently stationed in the military. Hands-on learning at its best—expand their horizons and concepts of the world.

3.    Put the ideas, Scripture, or passages that you would like for them to learn right where they can see it. For years, I printed these items and posted them on the doors of the kitchen cupboards, over the kitchen telephone, and in other conspicuous places that the children faced several times a day. Exposure is key—curiosity takes care of the rest.

4.    The more we homeschooled, the broader our interests became. No longer pursuing narrow, society-defined topics alone, we enjoyed the freedom to investigate topics like horticulture, sports fitness, glass painting, business and economic concepts for kids, personalized pursuits of art, music, and so much more.
5.    Read classic literature with a new eye—finally having the time and curiosity to “see” what the author was saying, and how it fits in with the big picture. When we read The Swiss Family Robinson aloud, and what an eye-opener it was after living out here in the middle of nowhere. While studying lighthouses, we learned that Rudyard Kipling wrote Captains Courageous while living in a lighthouse off the New England coast. This classic took on a whole new meaning with this knowledge.

6.    You will never be able to completely fill their minds with absolutely every bit of available information—but you can teach them or learn with them about how to find all kinds of information that they might need to know—research skills are vital for this next generation. The overabundance of information on the Internet is so overwhelming, and at the same time, provides priceless access to things that we could never have found through a local library. Give them the gifts of thinking skills and research ability.

What one idea are you going to implement this coming year?


Amanda B.

Did you miss Part One or Part Two - you can read them now.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Davy Crockett and an Unforgettable Museum Visit

History was never as interesting to me when I was a child as it was for my children! By teaching them history with unit studies about real people, the page was turned and the subject became captivating. Our kids will never forget that the name of Lewis and Clark’s dog was Seaman, or the fascinating drawings and journal entries that told the stories of their days and adventures as they journeyed through uncharted territory and met some amazing natives. Making history come to life this way made it indelible in their minds.

I will never forget one of our field trips to the Davy Crockett Cabin Museum in Tennessee, and neither will anyone else that happened to be in the museum that day. We were all spread out in the cabin, reading the various exhibit signs, sharing discoveries, and having so much fun learning about this American hero. All of a sudden, I heard our oldest son shout, “Mom! You aren’t going to believe this—Davy wasn’t any taller than YOU!” He was dumbfounded. I imagine that to an 8-year-old boy, a hero like Davy must have been at least 6 feet tall, not a mere 5’ 8”. Everyone in the museum started giggling, then laughing, and we all had a great time that day, learning together and sharing what we learned with others. Now THAT is what I call real learning.

By using real people from history and helping the children learn about their lives and adventures in real time, the lessons are priceless and unforgettable. They never had to memorize specific dates of wars or other bits of tedious information that made their eyes glaze over. They learned about the path of people and events through God’s plan and time. And that is the goal as they learn—letting them see His fingerprints as they explore!


Amanda B.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

American History Resource Library - Unbelievable Characters!

Would you like to make American history truly come alive
for your young students?

Get your
Classic American History Resource Library

Have you ever noticed that your children love to hear stories about when you were a kid? At first it seems odd to them to think of you as a child, but it helps them relate to you when they realize that you were once a kid too.

It is the same when learning history. Children love to learn that famous people were KIDS way back when. They want to know about the events that happened in their childhoods that made them into the famous people they became. Once they can relate to the people of history as REAL people, the story becomes much more interesting!

Introduce famous Americans to your children in a way that will make them come alive for your kids. How old was Amelia Earhart when she first thought of flying a plane? Was she afraid? What made Ben Franklin so curious? Travel through the wilderness with Lewis and Clark  and ride along on the hot, dusty journey across America with Prairie Pioneers. Did the pioneer children play while they were traveling? All these people started out just like we did--as children. Now your family can learn together about the events that destined them for greatness!

Be ready to bring history to life with the Classic American History resource library, no prep required. Make this a living history year for your children, and just watch them get excited about learning!


Amanda B.

Don't miss this fantastic giveaway . . .

This week the folks at have generously donated a $100 gift card for our giveaway! Whether you're shopping for curriculum, music, fiction books, or even gifts, has a HUGE selection of wonderful products.