What We’re Watching (And Reading!)–Rick Steves’ Europe

This year’s summer school is going to be a little different, because instead of focusing on books, we’re going to be focusing on episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe. Here’s a look at all the shows we’ll be watching (you’ll have to wait and see all of the different European recipes we’ll be trying to go with our viewing!):

  • Rick Steves’ Europe: The Blu-Ray Collection (70 shows!!!)
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: The Complete Collection (Which I only got because it was super marked-down, and contained some episodes that neither the blu-ray collection nor our other discs had).
  • Rick Steves’ Travel Extras
  • Rick Steves’ European Easter
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: 12 New Shows 2015-1016
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: 10 New Shows 2017-2018
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: 12 New Shows 2019-2020

Of course, there will be some books, too:

  • Europe Through the Back Door
  • Travel as a Political Act
  • London
  • French, Italian & German Phrase Book
  • Rick Steves’ European Christmas
  • Rick Steves’ European Easter
  • Rick Steves’ European Festivals
  • Rick Steves’ Europe Planning Map (yes, not technically a book, but I didn’t know where else to put it!)

And even a CD (perfect for Christmas in July!):

  • Rick Steves’ European Christmas CD

For fun, because I always like to have something hands-on as part of summer school, I got the Lego Architecture Paris skyline set for us to build. We’ve collected quite a few of these skylines now, in addition to the Eiffel Tower model we have, and I think it will make a nice addition to our display!

I also got the children travel journals to go with our viewing. My plan is to have them keep one page for each episode, and list specific places they would like to visit in the future if they are able for each location Rick highlights. My hope is that they will keep these journals, and someday, when they hopefully travel to Europe, they will already know which are must-see locations for them.

I’m really excited about this year’s summer school, and quite honestly, I don’t know why it took me so long to come up with the idea, because I’ve been a fan of Rick Steves for quite some time!

What We’re Reading–Medieval Times

I came up with the idea for this year’s summer school way back at the end of last August, while we were still only in the second week of school. This reading list came together very quickly after I came up with the theme, and we already had many of the books on it. I have to admit that it’s rather heavy on the British history side of things, but I tried to find at least a few things from other countries, too. Aside from Olympic years, I have definitely never planned summer school this far in advance, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to get started for months! (As always, at the end of the list, there are few non-literary items that fit the theme.)

What We’re Reading–All About South Korea

Some of the books we’ll be using to learn about South Korea during this year’s Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang have already been covered in our “Learning About Asia” book list. I looked for some new titles (many by Linda Sue Park, who is of Korean heritage), with good reviews though, (to be honest, however, we don’t have them all at home, and I don’t know yet if we’ll be able to get them from the library), and also found a new cookbook, so we’ll be trying some Korean cuisine, as well!

What We’re Reading–Reformation 500

I’ve mentioned books we’ve read during October to learn about the Reformation, as well as books we’ve read to learn about our Lutheran heritage from time to time, but I’ve never put a list together in one place. In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this month, here’s our list…books about Martin and Katie Luther, (and some of their contemporaries) and the Reformation itself, as well as books about and/or by other notable Lutherans, and books about Lutheran theology, for pretty much all ages:

The Basics:

Children’s Books:

Advanced Readers/Adult Titles:

School Resources:

No “What We’re Reading” list would be complete without a few non-book items, such as CDs and DVDs!

What We’re Reading–Learning About Asia

I haven’t shared our full curriculum list for the 2015-16 school year yet, but our elective subject has a much shorter list, so I thought I’d start there. Turkey asked if we could learn about Asia this year, so on Fridays, we’re studying various Asian countries (so far this includes China, Japan, Korea, and India). I’ve tried to include some non-fiction, some folktales, and some award-winning books set in Asian countries. This study also involves some fun, hands-on activities. It’s still something of a work in progress, but here’s what’s in our book basket so far:

  • All About China
  • Eyewitness: China
  • Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities, and Recipes
  • D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet
  • All About Japan
  • Japanese Traditions: Rice Cakes, Cherry Blossoms, and Matsuri
  • All About Korea
  • A Grain of Rice
  • Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog
  • The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration
  • Clueless in Tokyo
  • Squeamish about Sushi
  • Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun
  • You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Samurai
  • You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Ninja Warrior!
  • A Treasury of Japanese Folktales
  • Suki’s Kimono
  • Haiku
  • Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
  • The Story about Ping
  • You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Great Wall of China!
  • Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
  • Li Lun, Lad of Courage
  • The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
  • The Drum: A Folktale from India
  • My Dadima Wears a Sari
  • Chinese Fashions
  • Samurai Warriors Coloring Book
  • Fashions from India
  • Origami for Beginners
  • Calligraphy for Kids
  • Tangrams
  • Wooden Sushi Slicing Playset

The Top Five–Children’s Books

I’ve shared my top five books list before…I thought I should also share my five favorite children’s books (there is one books common to both lists!):

  • The Phantom Tollbooth–This is my absolute favorite children’s book, and one I enjoy as an adult, as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished I could visit Dictionopolis for myself!
  • Ramona the Pest–I’ve read this book so many times, I can no longer tell what I’m remembering from my own kindergarten experience, and what is just in the book. I think it is the definitive book on being in kindergarten!
  • Henry Reed’s Journey–I read all of the Henry Reed books as a child, and enjoyed each one. This is the one that I really looked forward to reading to my children, however, because I love the Reed/Glass adventure across America.
  • The Monster at the End of this Book–I remember this book from my childhood, and then again as a teen and young adult when I would babysit. Now I read it to my children. I still laugh every time!
  • In Grandma’s Attic–Really, I could just list the entire Grandma’s Attic series, but if I have to pick one, it’s the first in the series, and the first one I read. I still remember where I purchased it, and where I was when I read the first chapter.

I read many, many books as a child, and even more as read-clouds over the years to my children, so it was hard to narrow it down, but these are my absolute favorites!

What We’re Reading–All About Illinois

This year’s edition of summer school is focused on learning all about Illinois: the history, people, and regions of our fair state. I found a curriculum (the first six books on the list), as a starting point, and I’m also adding books about famous Illinoisans, as well as (mainly fiction) books set in our state. We’ll also spend a decent amount of time focusing on Chicago, as it is the biggest city in the state, and the city by which I grew up. How do you learn about your home state?

I also highly recommend the book There Are No Children Here for high school students. It’s a book I read almost two decades ago, and it had a profound impact on me.

I’ve got several fun field trips planned, as well. Stay tuned for details!

Christian Fiction – Sisters of Katie Luther

Christian fiction looks great on the surface. The material is clean—no foul language or smut to worry about. As a matter of fact, it can be very easy to grow complacent and assume that just because something is sold in a Christian bookstore, or has the imprint of a Christian publisher, that it’s great material for us, or for our children, to read and enjoy.

via Christian Fiction – Sisters of Katie Luther.

I had another post published on the Sisters of Katie Luther site today. While you’re there, take a look at some of the other great articles that have been published recently!

What We’re Reading–Black History Month

I have a confession to make…I’ve never really done anything for Black History Month, or even black history, in school. Sure, we’ve learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, and we’ve studied slavery and Civil Rights in relation to American History, but it was more of a blip than an in-depth study. After we learned about the Negro Leagues last year, and following local events here in St. Louis, I realized that I was doing my children and history a disservice. So I resolved that this February, we would add black studies to our history lessons every week. I looked for books from familiar series (If You Lived, Hero of the Faith, and Childhood of Famous Americans, for example), biographies and autobiographies, and award winners in the Newbery and Coretta Scott King categories. The reading list I came up with starts at the beginning of America as a country, and goes through the Civil Rights Movement. It includes books for early elementary through adult reading levels. Of course it doesn’t cover everything (we only have a month!), but I think it’s fairly comprehensive, and will give us a better understanding of black history in America


What We’re Reading–The Fourth of July

Every summer around Independence Day, I like to make sure that the children are learning about the time of the American Revolution (and the time from about the French and Indian War until about the time of the War of 1812, just to provide some context), even if we’re also doing something else in summer school. We’ve found quite a few books that we all enjoy that focus on that period of time, as well as American symbolism and history in general:

Of course, we have to add a few DVDs to our studies:

And a few CDs, as well:

While we don’t have lots of special activities and crafts in school for this holiday like we do for Thanksgiving or Christmas, it is one of my five favorite holidays of the year, so I like to make sure we’re at least doing a little something special! Stay tuned for details on our Fourth of July tea party!