About Build Your Library Curriculum

Build Your Library – secular homeschool curriculum, literature based – building young minds, one book at a time!

Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history? What about a secular science that is mostly literature based in the elementary years? Well, you have come to the right place! Welcome to Build Your Library Curriculum!

I am a homeschool mother, not unlike you. I spent years searching for a curriculum that fit my needs, and having to tweak each program to death to make it work for my family. Then one day, I realized it would be simpler to just write my own program. That is when Build Your Library was born. I thought I must not be the only one looking for a literature based program that was also secular. So I set to work to create a homeschool curriculum that would fit many needs.

I wanted a curriculum that was rich in great literature, not just old fashioned tomes, but modern children’s literature as well.  I wanted a curriculum that was history based but didn’t drown you in historical fiction. I wanted to make narration a priority, but in a way that was fun and easy. A curriculum that took passages from the books you and your child are reading and turned them into copywork in the elementary years and dictation at the middle school level.  I wanted to incorporate art study that was connected to history and included fun art projects. And I wanted to include science – literature based in the elementary years, and I use Elemental Science’s logic stage program in the middle school years.  It was a tall order – but our children are worth it.

I hope you will try out a program and join the Build Your Library family, – building young minds, one book at a time!

Current Full Grade Level Products Available for Purchase:
Kindergarten – Grade 1 – Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4 – Grade 5 – Grade 6Grade 7Grade 8Grade 9Grade 10

Current Unit Studies – Supplemental Educational Products Available for Purchase:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Unit Study
History of Thanksgiving Unit Study
A Jan Brett Christmas Unit Study
Winter Holidays Around the World Unit Study
The Hobbit Unit Study
Darwin and Evolution Unit Study
Sharks! Unit Study
World War II Unit Study
Prehistory Unit Study

Other Educational Products:
Narration Cards
Book of Centuries and Timeline Figures

NEW:
A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling (Paperback)

A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling (Kindle Edition)

 

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Homeschooling: Keeping it Simple

I remember when I first started homeschooling. My oldest was four, and I excitedly poured over dozens of homeschool catalogs. There were so many options and all of them seemed necessary if I wanted to have a well rounded student. So, I bought way too many things and didn’t even use half of them. This same scenario would play out year after year until I finally had an epiphany.

I don’t need to cover everything every single year.

Let that sink in… because it took me a while to really let myself believe it. But it’s true. You don’t need to cover every single subject every year.

One of the things I adore about the Charlotte Mason style of education is that you can present your children with a wide array of beautiful ideas, with short lessons and in a way that connections are easily made. We don’t need to spend hours studying grammar and spelling and handwriting and reading comprehension and vocabulary and writing every year, because we can cover those things through reading, narration, copywork and dictation. That doesn’t mean that we never have to study grammar in depth – but you certainly don’t need to every year. We can let the literature, science, history and art blend together as one easily flows into the other. To me, this style of learning just makes sense.

20140812_111230One of the things I often hear from people, is that they aren’t sure if they are doing enough. How does one define “enough?” When I look at a typical course of study for each grade level, it can be intimidating. There is just so much there! And when it comes to science and social studies especially, the subject matter can seem choppy and scattered. How can one teach all of those subjects within a cohesive framework? This type of homeschooling leads to a long list of items that must be checked off each day. It leads to tedious busy work and overwhelmed mothers trying to make sure they cover everything.

Rather – I look at the overall goal: what do I want to cover over the course of their school years? What do I want them to care about? What books do I want them to read? What is important to my individual child? There is no one size fits all when it comes to education! When you look at their education as a whole – everything makes more sense. The pieces all fit together, like a puzzle.

So what does a simplified Charlotte Mason style eduction look like?

Literature is the foundation – reading great books can fill your child’s mind with ideas, leading down rabbit trails into other subjects. Reading a wide variety of great books will set the tone for your schooling. Your child will narrate what they read – first orally and eventually in writing, leading them to learn to craft essays and begin to analyze literature. They’ll learn vocabulary in context and use passages from literature as copywork and later dictation.

You study history chronologically so that you can begin to see the flow of centuries and how one leads to another. We aren’t memorizing dates and names, we’re watching the pageant of time unfold before us, finding out about the people that really lived and how they changed our world. You’ll learn geography as it pertains to history, watching empires rise and fall and seeing how the maps change through the course of time. You’ll get a glimpse of life in other cultures through beautiful stories and well chosen documentaries and movies.

Art and literature both tie into your history – you’ll see the art work that came out of the turbulent times in which the artists lived, and read books that will allow you to “visit” those time periods.

You’ll focus on only one or two science topics per year, really digging in and exploring with well written books, fascinating documentaries and enlightening experiments.

With this type of schooling, you’re using the best resources so that while you aren’t checking off endless boxes each day, you’re still giving your children a powerful and thorough education. Each piece of the puzzle brings it’s value and worth to the table. There is no busy work to “get through.” Your child’s time is more important than that.

DSC04267When you simplify – you give your child freedom. You can do your lessons in the morning and leave your afternoons open to explore, to play, to daydream. You’ll give your children time to try new things, time to just be. In this world of rush, rush, rush, it’s a real gift to allow our children that space to just breathe.

So yes, mothers, you are doing enough. You are giving your children a beautiful education, filled with ideas, and heroes, the poetry and lyricism of language and and exploration of the world around them. You’re giving them the freedom to imagine and explore. What could be more important than that?

See Related Articles: Can I Combine My Children in One Program?


For more simplified homeschooling – check out Build Your Library’s full year curriculum guides – Kindergarten – Grade 1 – Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4 – Grade 5 – Grade 6 Grade 7  Grade 8Grade 9Grade 10 as well as our wide variety of literature based Unit Studies


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?



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Back to “Home” School Series (B2HS)

back2homeschoolThis past week I ran a series of articles helping you (and me!) get ready for the new school year. Personally, I love this time of year – like Anne Shirley, I excitedly look forward to a whole new year with no mistakes in it yet. We collect our materials, plan our schedules and get everything ready.

This school year, I’m going to have a high school senior, two 10th graders, and a very bouncy and chatty 3rd grader. That should make for an interesting year!

Here is a recap of all of the articles from the Back to “Home” School series, collected here for easy access.

I hope you all have a wonderful school year and a great first day back!

Back to “Home” School Series (B2HS)


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?



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B2HS: Tips for a Great First Day

This is the 5th and final post in my Back to “Home” School blog series. So far this week, I’ve given advice to the new homeschooling mother, helped you to get your school materials organized, and given you tips to avoid burnout, and shown you a variety of ways to make your own timeline. Today I’m going to give you some tips to have a great first day of school!

back2homeschool

Is there anything more exciting than the first day of school? All those new books and shiny new school supplies…it’s pure joy. I don’t know about you, but after a long enjoyable summer, it’s still a huge relief to get back to our normal routines.

Many families have special traditions for the first day of school. My goal every year is to make this a special day, one they’ll look forward to at the end of summer. Here are a couple ways you could choose to make your homeschool opening day great:

313323_2276889077568_4088768_n1. Make a special breakfast treat. I know I can’t be the only one with kids who love junk food for breakfast. I usually try to keep meals healthy, but on the first day back to school we splurge. My children LOVE monkey bread. It’s been our go-to 1st day breakfast for the past 7 or 8 years. Maybe you could make chocolate chip pancakes or french toast with syrup and whipped cream… or even better – go out for breakfast to your favorite diner or restaurant. 

309665_2276889597581_201391_n2. Take first day of school pictures. Every year, I take a first day photo of each of my children. Since we rarely get professional portraits done, these are special treasured photographs of my children as they grow up. I love looking back at older 1st day pictures to see how they’ve matured. They each pick out a special “first day of school” outfit to wear and if the weather is nice, we go outdoors for our pictures.

58838_4426125767142_329765418_n3. Do some fun things first. Start your year off with something they are already excited about. Is your child really into art? Begin with a fun art project. Does she love science? Start with a science experiment. Begin with a new read aloud, a nature hike, an exciting field trip… whatever gets you and your children excited to jump back into learning mode. One year, we started off with a Harry Potter theme. All of the spelling words were from the books (pensieve, lumos, wizard, etc.), we made wands, read aloud one of the books, wrote copywork and dictation from the books, did some chemistry experiments (potions class!), and sorted ourselves into Hogwarts houses (thanks to Pottermore). You could do the same by starting off the year with one of our Harry Potter unit studies!

4. Complete an “All About Me” survey. This is a fun thing you can do every year just like pictures. It’s a great way to get another form of a snapshot of your child right now. It can be great fun to go back and see how they’ve changed over the years.

Download All_About_Me Survey

5. Go out to dinner. If you didn’t already do it for breakfast, consider going out to eat dinner as a special treat. It can be a great time to reflect on our first day back, discuss goals for the year, and just kick back and enjoy time out as a family when no one has to be in charge of either cooking or clean up.

6. Go on a Field Trip: What could be a better way to celebrate the start of a new year than taking a trip to the beach, a state park, or a local museum. Not only will you get to do something fun, but the crowds should be minimal, because everyone else is back in school.  Pack a lunch and make it a picnic – for some reason my kids think simple pb&j sandwiches and juice boxes taste better when eaten on a blanket at the local park. 😉

It can be easy for us moms to get wrapped up in the curriculum, the schedule, the dailiness of school. But by just working in a few simple things, we can add meaning to the day and make special memories in the process. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

I’d love to hear your first day of school traditions! What do you do to kickstart your school year?

Related Article(s): Back to “Home” School Series (B2HS)


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?

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B2HS: Build Your Own Timeline 101

 This is the 4th post in my Back to “Home” School blog series. So far this week, I’ve given advice to the new homeschooling mother, helped you to get your school materials organized, and given you tips to avoid burnout. Today we’re going to talk about timelines!

Timelines are essential when it comes to showing your children the grand scope of history. They help your children see connections, giving them a way to visualize when events overlap that they may have not realized when just reading about them separately. It is one thing to know that something happened in a particular year – memorizing dates is helpful for test taking, but if you want your children to have a deeper understanding of history, you really want to show them events on a timeline.

For instance, did you know that both Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were born in 1929? We may think of them as living in distinctly different time periods, but they would have been contemporaries, had Frank lived passed childhood. Timelines can bring these kinds of connections to your children’s attention.

In this post, I will show you the basics, as well as give you some examples of different ways you can make a timeline work in your homeschool.

But how do you create a timeline?

857000_10200317515356377_1699091222_oExample 1: Timelines can come in many shapes and sizes. When we first started out, I went the easy route. I bought the largest  tri-fold display board from our local Staples for about $5, pulled out a yard stick and divided the workspace into sections, drew colored lines and labeled dates. When we got to an event, we colored in the timeline figure, cut it out and used a glue stick to attach it to the board. As far as a “functional” timeline goes, it fit the bill. It was also portable as it folded flat and could be stored out of the way when it wasn’t in use. Was it the prettiest? Nope, but it worked.


Example 2: Eventually our first couple kids outgrew the large wall-style timeline and switched over to a 3-ring binder Book of Centuries, available for purchase at BYL. This was also neat, portable and worked well.

 


Example 3: But now our youngest is coming up to the year where she will start her timeline project. I told my husband a few weeks ago that I really wanted to put together a wall timeline for her. She’s a very visual person, and I wanted something we could keep out all the time. We have a large section of blank wall space in our school room (or kitchen as it is also known). I expressed a desire to utilize that real estate in some manner, but was quickly shot down by my husband who was hesitant to let me start taping papers to the paint and use my meager art skills to come up with something. So I dropped the project into his lap since he is much more artistic and tasked him into coming up with a visually appealing timeline that he would approve of…

He said he would think about it and a week or so later we noticed two good sized bulletin boards sitting out at our local recycling center. After a minute of quick brainstorming, we both knew that this would be the basis for our wall timeline and grabbed them. Originally I was thinking we could just give the boards a coat of fresh paint and use some sort of paper boarder strips for the lines and thumbtack the figures on. But then while they were resting against the bookshelves waiting to be cleaned up, my husband got a better idea. He looked up some old style maps on Amazon and found one that was just a few inched bigger than the boards.

20150821_155947Two days later after Amazon Prime shipping and a trip to Walmart, we were ready to create the “timeline masterpiece” in my husband’s mind. We gathered our materials – 2 “free” 23″ x 35″bulletin boards (notice they are kind of beat up), two 24″x 36″ antique style map posters ($9.55 each), 1″ colored scotch tape in 4 colors ($2.25 each), a Sharpie marker, ruler and thumb tacks. Not pictured are post-it notes, a pen and our handy-dandy label maker.

20150821_171817We removed the frame from the boards so the edges were way up under the molding and cut the maps to fit. Then we tacked them on with  thumb tacks. When we replaced the frame, we made sure the posters were smooth and tight inside the frame. Now we were ready measure out the spacing to add the tape lines to mark the time periods.

When you create a timeline, you want to differentiate the major time periods. For an 20150821_175913elementary student, you can simplify it into four categories – Ancients, Middle Ages – Renaissance, Early Modern and Modern. I like to color code these categories. It really doesn’t matter what colors you use, as long as they are different. Once you have your categories, you can start to place your dates. I used colorful scotch tape for our categories. They just happened to have 5 different colors of masking tape at Walmart, so we picked 4 of them. We measured to make sure the periods would be evenly spaced – it will depend on how large of a surface you are working with. We ended up with about 4 inches between each category.

Once you have your colored categories, you can start adding your dates. This is the part that caused me most stress to lay out. When you are creating a historical timeline, it can be difficult to figure out when to begin, how much space between dates, and how many dates. I like to keep things fairly simple – I look at what the earliest event we’ll be covering in history will be, and that’s our starting place. So for our timeline we started at 5000 BCE. Then the distance between dates will change depending on how many events you expect to add. These are the dates I used on our timeline:

Ancients                  Middle Ages – Ren         Early Modern              Modern

B.C.E.                                    C.E.                                      1600                                1860
5000                                       25                                        1625                                1870
4000                                      75                                         1650                                1880
3000                                      100                                       1675                                1890
2500                                      200                                       1700                                1900
2000                                     300                                        1725                                1910
1500                                      400                                        1750                                1920
1250                                      500                                        1775                                1930
1000                                     600                                        1790                                1940
900                                       700                                        1800                                1950
800                                      800                                        1810                                1960
700                                      900                                         1820                                1970
650                                      1000                                      1830                                1980
600                                      1050                                      1840                                1990
550                                      1100                                       1850                                2000
500                                      1150                                                                                2010
450                                      1200                                                                               2020
400                                      1250
350                                      1300
300                                      1350
250                                      1400
200                                      1450
150                                      1500
50                                        1525
.                                           1550
.                                           1575

20150823_115023I started adding temporary date markers with post-it notes so that it would be easy to adjust them as needed to be sure they all fit. You could add more dates if you have a larger space to work with, but I find these dates sufficient for the elementary aged child, and they fit nicely on a tri-fold display board or my two bulletin boards. Once I arranged the spacing to my liking (about an inch or 2 depending on how many dates I was trying to fit), I created the permanent date stickers with my label maker.  You could just as easily write them on the tape with a Sharpie, but we were aiming for pretty on this project. Since this timeline is hanging prominently in our kitchen where we spend a lot of time, we wanted to make it look as nice as possible. My handwriting is not the greatest, so we broke out the label maker. 😉

This is our finished product (along with my 6 year old who will be the main student using the wall timeline this year):

20150823_144747The maps are purely decorative and will eventually get covered up by timeline event figures, but doesn’t it look nice? 🙂

This is just one way of making use of a timeline. Not everyone has wall space for something like this, or the patience to put it together. For some more excellent ideas, I asked some Build Your Library customers to send me pictures of their working timelines so that I could share some of their creativity with everyone for some further inspiration.


Example 4: This timeline was created by Annie. She says:

AncientTimelineCollage“The cover and banner are from notebookingpages.com and the images were free printables from http://tendingourlordsgarden.blogspot.com/2012/05/story-of-world-timeline-cards.html, but I don’t have a color printer.  I just trimmed and taped together file folders, and guessed at most of it. It will be on a wall once we move, but for now it is folded on a bookshelf when not in use.”


20150824_103033Example 5: This timeline was submitted by Diana. She says:

“We used index cards paper-clipped to yarn on our dining room wall. It makes it easy to add additional cards later and gives us a room for a little review info (especially helpful for my husband and I!). It has led to lots of good dinner conversations and games. Our favorite is trying to guess which time line card someone is describing.”

 


timelineExample 6: This is how Amy set up her timeline. She says:

Here’s a photo of a timeline my daughter, Ava (age 8), and I have been working on.  As I read from Story of the World, she draws a picture.  She then narrates a short sentence or phrase to caption the picture.  We did a timeline for Book 1 about 18 months ago then put it away (attached).  This week, we took it back out to review before starting Book 2.  Although I wasn’t sure what some of the pictures were about, she was able to tell me exactly what they were and how they each tied in with the event!  This is a favorite part of our week for me.


Example 7: Finally, here’s Claire’s wall timeline. She says:We will be starting this week so there are no figures on it yet. I wanted to have the whole thing fully visible so I used an 11 foot long piece of paper and hung it in our hallway.”

TimelineCollage

Thanks Annie, Diana, Amy and Claire!

So as you can see – timelines can be as simple or elaborate as you want them to be. I hope that I’ve taken some of the fear and confusion out of the process.

Do you have any creative Timelines you want to share? Send us a message or leave us a comment and we can add your creation to the list above. Thanks!

Related Article(s): Back to “Home” School Series (B2HS)


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?



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B2HS: Tips for Avoiding Homeschooling Burn Out

This is the third post in my Back to “Home” School blog series. I’ve given some advice to new homeschooling mothers and helped you to get your materials organized for a great year. Today, I’m going to give you some tips to avoiding burn out.

avoiding burnoutWhether this is your first year or your 13th, no one is immune to homeschooling burn out. It can strike at any time, but for many, it hits right around February, when you are smack in the middle of the winter doldrums and everyone is getting tired of the same routine.

How do you know you are experiencing homeschooling burn-out? Well, let’s take a look at the signs and symptoms:

  • Are you feeling like maybe it’s time to just send your children to the local public school?
  • Do you want to toss your school books out the window?
  • Do you find yourself feeling irritable at everyone all day?
  • Are you feeling overwhelmed?

If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, then you are probably experiencing burn out. We all question our decision to homeschool at some point in time, but if you step back and re-evaluate and realize that you did make the right decision, then it’s time to dig your way out of the quagmire of fatigue.

Get inspired with a good book.

Here are a few of my favorite go-to homeschooling books:

  • The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home You really can’t go wrong with The Well Trained Mind – it’s probably my all time favorite homeschool read. I also adore Susan Wise Bauer’s Audio Lectures – and she even has one on avoiding burn out!
  • Learning All The Time – really any of John Holt’s books are a great place to go in order to remind yourself of why you are on this journey in the first place. I first read this book when my oldest was about 7, and I’ve returned to it several times since. I would never consider myself an unschooler, but I love the idea that learning is always happening, and that children naturally want to learn.
  • The Three R’s and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8 Ruth Beechick’s books were some of the first I read when I began homeschooling. She lays out a great foundation for the K-3 years in The Three R’s and then extends it with You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, which covers grades 4 – 8. There is a bit of Christian content in You Can Teach, but it’s easy to skip over.
  • A Literary Education  How could I not include my own book! If you are looking for practical advice for implementing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy in your homeschool, then this is where you should start. My goal in writing this book was to give you practical tips and tricks, rather than just the philosophy. This is 14 years of my experience in a book.
  • Drive: 9 Ways to Motivate Your Kids to Achieve I came across this book when I was looking for a way to inspire my oldest child to be more motivated about her education.
    This book is full of great ideas and tips on how to help your children become motivated and inspired. I’ve read this book a couple of times over the years and I actually just added this to my To Read pile again, because it’s been about a year since I read it last and I feel like we all need a motivation boost.

Change up your academic routine.

Sometimes burn out happens because you have gotten your homeschooling into a rut. You could try changing things up with a unit study. Build Your Library has several to choose from. Unit studies can be a great way to combat burn out, because it gives you the opportunity to change up your studies for a brief period of time. Then, when you return back to your regular routine, it will feel fresh again.

Or why not have a read-a-thon where you spend a whole day or even week just reading lots of great books. Curl up with blankets, hot chocolate, finger food snacks, and piles of books.

If you live somewhere that get’s snow – do a bit of nature study focused on winter and snow!

If you’ve gotten behind in a particular subject – say science or art, spend a few weeks just focusing on that particular subject. My kids love it when I surprise them with an Art week or a Science week.

Get out of the house.

Go on a field trip, or just get out of the house for a walk. A bit of exercise and fresh air, even when it’s cold and snowy, can really do wonders for your outlook on life. Especially if you’ve been cooped up for an extended period of time, you will all benefit from a fun field trip.

Take care of YOU!

Sometimes burn out has nothing to do with homeschooling. When you spend all of your time doing things for everyone else like planning lessons, cooking meals, or running the kids back and forth to activities, you can lose yourself a bit in the shuffle. Do something just for yourself. Get a haircut, spend some time alone and read a good book, take a relaxing bath, eat some chocolate – I’m convinced all problems can be solved with chocolate. 😉 Be sure you are taking care of yourself – drink enough water, eat well, get enough sleep, and try to fit in a little exercise (I say this as much to myself as I do to you). When you take care of yourself, you’ll have the energy to face everything else.

Clean something. 

I know this sounds counter-productive – if you are burnt out, you’re too tired and overwhelmed to clean! But seriously, pick a spot that you see regularly, and get it pristine and organized. This will become an oasis of sorts. Having at least one area of my home completely cleaned and organized makes me feel better and gives me the energy to tackle anything else that comes my way. Even if it’s just walking into the bathroom to gaze at the neatly folded towels in the linen closet.

Know that Burnout can strike anyone…

Even the most enthusiastic among us. Having some tricks up your sleeve can alleviate things before they get to the point when you are ready to throw in the towel completely. Sometimes, just knowing you aren’t in this alone can be enough to pull you out of the doldrums. Find a community of like-minded parents who you can talk to. Did you know that there are Build Your Library groups on Facebook? You can join the Build Your Library Families group to get inspiration or just chat with other parents who are using the same curriculum. There are sub-groups for each grade level as well linked in the main group!

Related Article(s): Back to “Home” School Series (B2HS)


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?



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B2HS: Getting Organized for the New Home School Year

This is the second post in the Back to “Home” School series. Yesterday I gave some advice to new homeschooling mothers, and today, we’ll be discussing how to get organized.

So you bought your curriculum and you went school supply shopping… Now what? If you are like most homeschooling parents, you are hoping to find a way to keep your materials both organized and accessible. I’m not claiming to be any sort of organizing guru, but I like to think I have at least managed to keep our homeschool materials in order. Today I’m going to share some tips to help you stay organized all year!

I am always working on creating and perfecting a system that works for us. I’ve long thought that workboxes looked like the perfect way to keep our daily work organized, but until recently, I never had the space to make it work. Now that I have my bookshelves, I was able to put something together that I believe will work for everyone.

My youngest has six drawers in which I will put her daily assignments. Each drawer will be a subject and when she’s completed each drawer, she is done for the day.

My twins will have a similar system, though to save space I am using crates with file folders. Each folder is essentially a “box” with an assignment to complete.

One thing I am always asked is how to organize all of the papers that go with Build Your Library’s curriculum. We keep our work in the binders. As they complete their daily assignments, I’ll file them behind the appropriate tabs in their binders. The twins have 3 binders – a history/language arts binder, a science binder, and a Book of Centuries timeline binder. At the end of the year I go through and choose their best assignments to add to a portfolio notebook that I am creating for them.

If you want to know more about what curricula we’ll be using this year, you can watch this video:

I keep all of our books that we’re studying for the year on their own shelves, so that everything is easily accessible. There is nothing more stressful than trying to hunt for a book you need the night before you need it!

My 8-year-old is studying Build Your Library Grade 2 this year. Here is her shelf:

My twin’s will be studying Build Your Library Grade 10. This is their shelf: (disregard the Magic School Bus kit – it didn’t fit neatly on any other shelf!)

Beneath my daughter’s shelf is where we keep the bulk of our school supplies. I have two lazy-susans where we keep things like pens, pencils, color pencils, glue sticks, etc. in recycled cans. Beneath that (not shown) is where I keep a third 3-drawer-bin for drawing paper, lined paper, and other paper odds and ends.

Lastly, I have my two composition notebooks that will serve as my lesson-planners. This is where I write down our daily assignments, make notes about when we need to borrow materials from the library (as well as when things must be returned), or note special materials I need to pick up from the store to complete science experiments or art projects. I write their daily checklists in pencil, then the night before I’ll set up their assignments in their “workboxes” for the following day.

And that’s how I keep our little homeschool running. There are numerous pictures on Pinterest and other websites with gorgeous school rooms and a thousand different ways to organize every single thing. But do what makes the most sense for you and your children, high style or high function. Just because an idea works well for someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will fit into your household, or that it will work for you every single year.

 

 

What are some of your best homeschool organization tips? I’d love for you to share any tidbits on what works for you in the comments below!

Related Article(s): Back to “Home” School Series (B2HS)


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?



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B2HS: Advice to the New Homeschooling Mother

This is the first post in the Back To “Home” School blog series. Stay tuned this week for more inspiration for the new school year.

Advice4NewHSMomsI remember back when I first started homeschooling my children… I was in my 20s and didn’t really know anyone else who was doing this crazy and rebellious “teaching their own children” thing. I was completely overwhelmed. What was I thinking taking on this much responsibility? What if I totally ruined my children? What if they turned out weird?!

Well, 15 years into this adventure, I am now a lot less overwhelmed, my kids have not been ruined, and weird is really a relative term, isn’t it? When we first started out, I was always worried that people would ask one of my kids a “simple” question and discover they didn’t know the answer. I would be proven an incompetent teacher and I was very uptight and  obsessed over doing everything the “right” way. Trouble is, there is no such thing. I eventually learned to relax, and allow for the inevitable gaps that would appear in my children’s education.

No one can know everything, and education isn’t about memorizing every fact possible. That might work for a Jeopardy contestant, but that isn’t what educating your children is about. I don’t claim to have it all together or even be an expert – I haven’t even graduated a student yet (two more years to go!), but I do wish I could go back and offer some advice to my younger self to calm those “first-time-homeschool-mom” jitters, or even the “been-doing-it-a-short-year-or-two-and-am-still-uneasy-mom”. So here is some of the best advice I can offer:

1. RELAX. It’s going to be OK – really. Homeschooling is a lot of responsibility and a lot of work, but it’s also really fun. Relax and enjoy your children. One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is getting to spend more time with your kids. Instead of having to squeeze in your family bonding time on the weekends, you can relax and hang out with your kids all the time. I know that sounds like a blessing and a curse, but remember – you don’t have to entertain your kids 24/7. Teach them how to work independently and entertain themselves, and you can still have time to read, bake, knit, even clean.

2. Make reading aloud a priority. I say this all the time, but reading to your kids is one of the most important things you can do. Whether they are 4, 10 or 16, everyone enjoys a good story. When I look back on our years of homeschooling, I can say that this is one thing I’ve done right. Even my boys, who are reluctant readers and if asked, will say they don’t like to read, will still quote books we’ve read or debate favorite characters. We have inside jokes about the stories we’ve shared, like how we can’t see rabbits without someone saying, “Hazel, we have to leave the warren! It isn’t safe!” or as soon as someone says “I have a question…” someone blurts out “42!”

3. Don’t compare. Your child is unique, and has his or her own timetable for learning. You are unique, and will come to teaching your own child in a way that suits you best. There is no one way to do anything. Just because someone’s child is reading Shakespeare and studying Algebra at 6, doesn’t mean something is wrong with your child. I have had both early and late readers, and at the end of the day, they all learned to read, and read well. You know your children far better than anyone else. So go your own way and forge your own path. I promise – the grass on the other side of the fence is just as green as yours.

4. Keep it simple. Especially if this is your first year and your are starting with very young children. In the early years, the only thing they HAVE to learn is how to read, how to write their letters well, and basic math skills. Everything else is gravy. Your first grader does not need to study a foreign language or grammar or even history. So if you’ve planned any of those things, and a few days or weeks into the school year, you or your child feel stressed out about the work load, drop some of the non-essentials. Cover those 3R’s and read aloud great literature. That really is enough in the first few years.

5. Don’t Over-schedule. This goes along with keeping it simple. Sometimes when you are first starting out, people will ask you the dreaded question, “What about socialization?” So you’ll overcompensate by signing your children up for every activity – karate, co-op, art class, soccer, book club, music lessons, scouts etc. While they all sound fantastic, too much activity means not enough time doing lessons. It means all of time spent driving to and from these events could have been spent on a nature walk in your neighborhood, or just playing Legos or relaxing at home.

If you find that you have to squeeze school work in between activities, classes and errands, then you need to step back and re-evaluate. Over scheduling your days will lead to burn out for you and your children. Every year, my kids are allowed to choose two activities outside of the house. This year, it’s music lessons and First Robotics for the older children. My youngest will be starting music lessons, and we’ll decide later in the year if we want to add a second activity. These activities are in the late afternoon and evening, so it won’t take away from our school day.

6. Be Kind. Homeschooling is hard and there are days when you want to quit entirely. You’ll be sick of being around your children all day and you’ll consider picking up the phone and registering them at the local public school. When you are having a bad day or week like this, drop the books, go outside and play at the park, take a fun field trip, or just cancel lessons and watch movies all day.

Love your children, even when they get stuck on the same math problem for the millionth time, even when they “forget” how to read or diagram a sentence. You might feel like losing your cool and yelling at them for making the same mistake AGAIN. But instead, take a moment, count to ten,  and love them instead. Show them kindness, and force yourself to be patient. They grow up fast, so just recite the mantra, “This too shall pass,” and then go love on your babies.

7. Homeschool doesn’t have to look like public school. Public schools were set up to teach hundreds of children the same material so that everyone could be educated. The methods that work in a classroom, are not necessary in your home. You will be less of a teacher and more of a mentor, or guide. Often, you will learn right along with your children! There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. Just because the public schools may cover the American Revolution and Botany in 1st grade doesn’t mean you need to cover the exact same materials.

Do what makes sense to you and to your children. Study what interests both of you. Don’t let the curriculum control you. If you are studying Ancient History and your child can’t get enough of Ancient Egypt, then follow that rabbit trail and spend another few weeks focusing on that topic. Don’t worry about getting off schedule. You aren’t tied to a specific school time table, so if you need to work into the summer, you can. If you want to take a month off in the middle of the year, you can! You are in charge, and you make the rules for your own homeschool.

8. Don’t listen to the haters. It’s human nature to care what other people think. But those who aren’t familiar with homeschooling will not understand what you are doing. They will question your parenting choices, sometimes pretty rudely. You do not have to answer to these people. Don’t let others, who aren’t directly involved in your parenting choices, dictate how you homeschool especially if all they know is public schooling methods.

If they tell you that your kids are going to be weird, or that your child will never get into college if they are homeschooled, just let it go. That’s their wrong opinion. Don’t take it personally, and don’t stress yourself out about it.  If they are always negative, try to avoid them for a while. Homeschooling is hard enough without someone dumping negativity all over you every chance they get. You do not have to ensure that your child is the poster child for homeschooling, or prove anything to anyone.

9. Mistakes are OK. Whether it’s a mistake made by your child or yourself. Maybe that math book isn’t working out. Ditch it and find something else that does work. Maybe your 7 year old is struggling with narration. Stop asking for narrations for a month or two. Giving your child a safe environment to make mistakes without worrying about getting a bad grade is more important than struggling through something that isn’t working.

10. Don’t over-plan. Even if you know you are in it for the long haul, don’t try to plan little Johnny’s entire education from day one. Things change – circumstances might change, your child’s interests might change. Plan one or two years ahead, and that’s all. If your oldest child is only 8, don’t even worry about high school yet. Focus on the now. If there is a book you want to read to your child, but you’re worried it might come up in a much later year of curriculum – just read it. If is comes up again, read it in more depth and do different activities. You don’t want to miss out on the experience of reading that book with your children. Thinking too far ahead just brings stress into your life that you don’t need.

Homeschooling is a journey, whether you’re doing it for just a few years or their entire education. The days are long but the years are short. Try not to lose sight of why you chose homeschool in the first place. When things get hairy, and you have doubts, remember to take a step back and look at your child and who they are becoming. Give them a hug, love on them, and then set aside the school books to do something fun. Homeschooling is one of the most difficult and amazing things I’ve ever done, and while I’ve had some moments I regret, I can honestly say that I love that I get to do this. I love that I have given my children this life and this gift of time together. It’s been wild ride, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Related Article(s): Back to “Home” School Series (B2HS)


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?



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How to Hook a Reluctant Reader

Do you have a child who just doesn’t like to read? Maybe they had a hard time when they were learning to read and it burned them out, or perhaps they had a bad school experience with boring reading material. Whatever got them to this point, we need to take a step back and help them to find the joy in reading again.

That is why I made this video:

Some other tips and ideas:

Movie adaptations! Read the book first, then watch the movie together. Talk about the differences from book to film and what they would have done differently had they been in charge of the film. Sometimes just knowing that they will get to watch a movie is enough to motivate them to read the book.

Strewing –  The idea of strewing isn’t an original one. It has been a staple of unschooling for years. If your child balks at having assigned reading, just stealthily leave great reading material lying around. Choose books that you know they would enjoy or books about topics they are interested in learning more about.

Use screens! That’s right – I said screens. Let them listen to audio books on their iPhone, or read e-books on a tablet. Sometimes the different format is enough to engage them.

Start a book club – Invite a few of their friends to read the same book and then have a meeting where you enjoy a snack and talk about the book. Making it into a fun social experience can be really rewarding for your child. With younger children you might want to design some sort of art project or craft to go along with the story, but don’t feel pressured. I really like the book Deconstructing Penguins to guide you in discussing books with a group of children.

The most important tip I can give you is to keep reading a relaxing and fun activity.

If they don’t enjoy reading, making it into a “school” activity where they have to complete assignments based around a book will kill any joy they might have gotten from reading. Instead, read with them, leave books around the house that they might enjoy and then step back. Let them see you read, point them in the direction of books when they have questions they need answered, but don’t make a big deal about it. Let them come to it naturally. When you love books, and you show them how important books are to you, they’ll pick up on it.

Books mentioned in the video:

Other Related Article(s):


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?

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Free Earth Day Mini Unit Study

April 22nd is Earth Day, the annual celebration to inspire awareness about pollution and appreciation for protecting the health of the environment. This is a great reason to get outside, especially if you’ve had a long winter. I know you can probably all enjoy a little fresh air and sunshine today. Hopefully your weather is cooperating.

This day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement starting in back in 1970. Originally a grassroots movement, Earth Day eventually gained enough public support to pave the way for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contributed to the passage of several environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

With that in mind, I put together this fun little unit that you can do with minimal planning. Because, if you’re anything like me, you probably forgot to plan anything for Earth Day and are scrambling to throw something together last minute. No worries! I did the work for you. 🙂

You can do this on Earth Day, or turn it in to Earth Week at your house and spread out the reading and activities over the next couple days!

Earth Day Mini Unit Study:

Books to Enjoy:

For younger readers/listeners:

For middle grade and up:

Websites to Explore:

Fun Earth Day Activities:

Take a nature walk: you can use this nature scavenger hunt to help you look for interesting things.  Download the BYL Nature Scavenger Hunt Freebie here

Plant something! Go to your local garden store and pick our some new flowers, or plant a small tree. Buy some seeds and start your summer garden. Get your hands dirty and grow something!

Make trash art: use egg cartons, bottle caps, paper towel tubes, old newspapers or magazines, buttons, old greeting cards and other recycled objects to create a fun art project. Let your imagination go wild and create something new and beautiful with the garbage.

Clean up your neighborhood: take a walk around your block and pick up the trash. You might inspire some of your neighbors to join you. Talk to your children about why we need to keep our environment clean.

Learn about biomes and create a poster or a diorama of your favorite.

Feed the birds: you could make a simple pine cone and peanut butter feeder or a milk carton feeder, or just toss some birdseed in the grass and watch as the birds flock to your yard. Keep a small notebook by your window and make a list of the various birds that come to your yard over the next several days.

Watch a movie: There are a lot of fabulous nature documentaries out there. We have really enjoyed the Planet Earth series (which I believe is on Netflix right now). If you have younger children, this is a great time to watch Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax!


By making even the smallest changes to reduce your overall energy consumption and improving your environmental footprint, you can make a difference too. Turn off lights that are not needed and recycle whatever you can. Consider the lifetime cost and reduce your monthly utility bills by utilizing Energy Star and WaterSense certified devices and appliances. You can also purchase LED bulbs instead of incandescent or fluorescent lights and significantly lower your home’s energy use. You may even qualify for certain rebate programs or other incentives from local utility companies.

I hope you have a wonderful Earth Day with your children, enjoying nature and working towards creating a better planet for our children’s future. While officially celebrated for a day, the concepts should really be incorporated in to an Earth Day every day lifestyle. We only have one planet, and it would be great if we could keep it around for a least another 4.543 billion years. 🙂

According to the Earth Day Network, the nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities, there are over 1 billion people participating on or around April 22nd, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world.” How are you celebrating Earth Day? Let us know in the comments below.

Did you enjoy this free mini-unit? Why not give one of Build Your Library‘s literature based Unit Studies a try?

Related Article(s): Happy Darwin Day!


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.
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Learning Vocabulary in Context

“I would have children taught to read before they learn the mechanical arts of reading and writing… A child does not lose by spending a couple of years in acquiring these because he is meanwhile “reading” the Bible, history, geography, tales, with close attention and a remarkable power of reproduction, or rather, of translation into his own language; he is acquiring a copious vocabulary and the habit of consecutive speech. In a word, he is an educated child from the first, and his power of dealing with books, with several books during the course of the morning’s “school,” increases with age.” – Charlotte Mason

A wide vocabulary is a necessity to success in life – it will improve your child’s ability to understand other peoples ideas, to be able to read extensively (and comprehend what they read), and articulate their thoughts clearly to others. But I’m convinced that you do not need to purchase any additional resources in order to build your child’s vocabulary. All you need are well-written books. That’s it! I’m willing to bet you already have a library card and/or a well stocked home library.

You can easily develop your child’s vocabulary through great literature. When they learn a new word in context, and see it repeatedly over time, they’ll retain it and add it to their own vocabulary. Learning new words in context just makes sense. The words will come alive within a story and burrow into their mind.

For example – if I just asked my child to randomly define this list of words:

  • ominous
  • perilous
  • venture
  • slither

They would do the assignment, but within a few days, they’ll have probably forgotten those words entirely. But, if they were to read this wonderful passage:

“From there it’s a simple matter of entering the Mountains of Ignorance, full of perilous pitfalls and ominous overtones – a land to which many venture but few return, and whose evil demons slither slowly from peak to peak in search of prey.”          
– The Phantom Tollbooth

Suddenly, all of those words come to life and make sense. Now the definitions have a deeper and illustrated meaning beyond their standard dictionary entry. The words have a purpose. They will more easily become usable in their daily speech the more times they are heard in a good story.

Even before your child learns to read, you can begin to develop their vocabulary by reading the best literature you can find to them. But don’t just stop there – build your own vocabulary by peppering your every day chatter with big, delicious words. Instead of saying that you enjoy your meal, my might say that dinner is “scrumptious.” Or instead of asking your child to be nice, you could ask them to be more “courteous”, and rather than calling something beautiful, you might say it’s “ravishing” or “stunning.” I’m a big believer in not talking down to children – don’t be afraid of using big words – dialogue with them about anything and everything and explain when you use a strange word that they might not understand.

So how do I use the vocabulary words that come listed each day in the Build Your Library instructor’s guide?

For most of the day’s assigned literature (or read aloud), I offer a list of vocabulary words that I think will challenge IMAG2152your child. In the early years, I encourage you to just go over those words orally with your child, either before or after the reading. Keep it simple – just read over the word and the definition, maybe talk about how it was used in the story, or why the author might have chosen that particular word.

With an older child, you might want to do a bit more – some things that I’ve done over the years:

Write a few of the vocabulary words on a small white board or sheet of paper and just let them look it over before the reading. Let them guess what the words might mean. Then after the reading, have them look at their guesses, and decide whether they were right or wrong. Talk about what the real meaning of the word is and have them write the correct definition.

Give your child the vocabulary words to define after the reading, and then ask them to write them in an original sentence. Be careful not to do this too often, though, as it can quickly become tedious. I wouldn’t do this more than once a week.

You could also play computer games with the vocabulary words at Spelling City or Quizlet, both free.

Maybe your child would enjoy “collecting” new words. Give them a lovely bound journal and give them the task of writing down a new word that they learned each day. At the end of a school year they’d have a book full of new vocabulary words! And it won’t feel like a vocabulary study, because rather than giving them a word and definition to copy, you are giving them the option of choosing a new word on their own, as well as making it sound like an exciting task – what child doesn’t enjoy collecting new things?!

You could also use this notebooking page that I created:  Download Free Vocabulary Activity  Page

The most important thing, however, is to read, read, read! Studies show that an average child needs to hear a word 14 times in order to use it fluently. What better way to expose them to language and all of it’s nuances than by reading beautiful literature!

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I hope you will try out a program and join the Build Your Library family, – building young minds, one book at a time!

Current Full Grade Level Products Available for Purchase:
Kindergarten – Grade 1 – Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4 – Grade 5 – Grade 6Grade 7Grade 8Grade 9 – Grade 10 (coming soon)

Current Unit Studies – Supplemental Educational Products Available for Purchase:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Unit Study – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Unit Study – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Unit Study – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Unit Study – History of Thanksgiving Unit Study – A Jan Brett Christmas Unit Study – Winter Holidays Around the World Unit Study – The Hobbit Unit Study – Darwin and Evolution Unit Study – Sharks! Unit Study – World War II Unit Study – Prehistory Unit Study


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.


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