January is a pretty terrible month for weather here in Saskatchewan. Looking at my temperature gauge right now I can tell you it is -35C (-31F) and -50C (-58F) with the wind.
Needless to say we don’t venture outside much in January and we all start to get cabin fever a bit.
With the cold weather also comes a bit of the winter blues and a bit of a homeschool winter slump.
Knowing this would happen (because it happens every year) back in July, when the sun was shining and the air was still warm I decided to be proactive and I asked for some ideas over on Instagram on what you all like to do when the winter slump occurs.
Oh, now we’re down to -52C (-61.6F) . . . after writing this post out I’m going to have to use some of this advice and do some of these in our homeschool today!
Because my Instagram followers are awesome they shared all sorts of ideas. I am going to share a lot of them here but there were so many you can check out the original Instagram post for all the ideas.
Ideas to Help You Homeschool In a Winter Slump
Also, one thing to note: adding hot chocolate to any of the following suggestions always makes things even better!
The winter is a great time to pull out all the books you’ve collected over the year. There were a couple of people who gave ideas for specific author/book studies they were going to be doing this winter:
I mean, Lego is just an everyday activity here but even more so in the winter months.
We love listening to audiobooks in our home (we usually listen while we are eating our meals), you can check out all my audiobook tips, including the various apps we use for listening to audiobooks here and a list of the best audiobooks here.
This was a great suggestion but one we’ve never really done. If you have some great historical documentaries that are good for kids I would love to hear them!
It not only warms up the house but they learn math and you get something delicious out of it at the end! It’s a win all the way around.
Crate subscriptions can be a lot of fun and the winter is the perfect time to try them out. We’ve had Little Passports before as well as Kiwi Co.’s Tinker and Doodle crates and the kids have enjoyed all of them! If shipping wasn’t so crazy expensive to Canada I’m sure we would get more of them!
The winter is the perfect time for all sorts of handicrafts. My daughter really wants to get better and sewing so a few months ago I made a list of ten beginner sewing projects she can pick from this winter.
Learn a new skill
Potentially in relation to handicrafts is to learn a new skill! But you don’t have to limit it to handicrafts, you could work on a new language, learning to code, there are tons of different options!
This one is an easy one that kids love and there so many options for! Some of our favorites include:
While technically not a “game” I also like pulling out a big puzzle to do as a family in the winter (usually one between 500-1000 pieces).
We have a few different indoor “museum” type places we like to visit and we often save these visits for the winter.
We take out over $20,000 a year in library resources (and that doesn’t even factor in our audiobooks via Libby and Hoopla), so obviously we love the library! There are a number of resources available besides just books and they often have some great programming available for kids.
While I love the idea of art tables, laying out all sorts of craft supplies for kids to use as they wish, I’m honestly a little too OCD and a perfectionist to actually allow it. But I wish it was something we did here!
Mini unit studies
I had plans to do weekly mini studies this year and while we haven’t had them quite that often we do really enjoy them when we do them.
If you have some favorite picture books that were published in 2019 that I didn’t share here I would love to hear about them!
THE BEST PICTURE BOOKS PUBLISHED IN 2019
Ame Dyckman is turning into one of my favorite picture book authors. Wolfie the Bunny is still my favorite of hers (because: adoption) but this one was funny and yet educational – the kids had fun retelling some of the shark stats they learned to their Dad at supper.
Last time on Underwater World with Bob Jellyfish…
“SHARK ATE ME! Now get me OUT, Shark!”
“That’s strange! I can hear Bob, but I can’t see Bob!”
This hilarious follow-up to Misunderstood Shark by New York Times bestselling duo Ame Dyckman and Scott Magoon tackles what it really means to be a good friend. Bob is already irate that Shark has eaten him, but when Shark doesn’t admit to eating him, Bob is so mad he declares that the ocean isn’t big enough for both of them! Friends Don’t Eat Friends is exploding with over-the-top humor and awesome marine facts! For example, when Shark overdoses on Finilla Ice Cream after fighting with Bob, we learn that shark teeth are coated with fluoride. Lucky for Shark, he can’t get cavities! Join Shark and the gang for another story and find out if Shark learns his lesson about friendship, or if he really is just misunderstood — again!
The illustrations in this book remind us so much of Julie Morstad’s (my daughter even noticed it without me pointing it out) and we love a book with so many possibilities.
How many things can you make in a day? A tower, a friend, a change? Rhyme, repetition, and a few seemingly straightforward questions engage young readers in a discussion about the many things we make–and the ways we can make a difference in the world. This simple, layered story celebrates creativity through beautiful rhyming verse and vibrant illustrations with a timely message.
Animals can be sneaky. But do you know who is especially sneaky? Undercover ostriches! They’re everywhere, and they’re masters at going undetected. You’ve probably seen one and just assumed it was another woodpecker or owl. The narrator of this book is on the case, following a single ostrich on his many adventures. Not until the final twist does author and illustrator Joe Kulka let the readers in on the narrator’s true motivation: a peanut collection mission involving undercover elephants.
I love the words in this book but also the diversity in the colors of the children. The cover is my favorite because it looks like my two kids!
With lyricism, whimsy, and heartfelt emotion, Matthew Paul Turner reveals the tender emotions connected with watching a beloved child grow up and experience the world. Paired with Kimberley Barnes’s vivid and playful illustrations, When I Pray for You is a beautifully affirming book, in which children and parents will see their own stories come to life.
When I Pray for You celebrates the dreams, hopes, and longings parents pray over their children, and shares with the little ones how much care and concern a loved one feels for them.
I’ve had a desire to have backyard chickens for years now, though I’m not sure if I would like it if they would be able to talk . . .
Step one: fill the bath Step two: put the cat in the bath Step three: put shampoo on the cat Step four: rinse the cat Step five: dry the cat
Seems simple, right? One problem: the cat has no intention of doing ANY of these things! Watch as the steps keep changing, the cat keeps escaping, the girl keeps eating cookies and the mess keeps escalating. Soon it’s not just the cat who needs a bath–it’s the whole house!
This spoof on an instruction manual features an increasingly bewildered human, a nonchalant cat and a know-it-all narrator . . . who really doesn’t know it all. How DO you give a cat a bath? Read on to find out!
Every single morning, the overseer of the plantation rings the bell. Daddy gathers wood. Mama cooks. Ben and the other slaves go out to work. Each day is the same. Full of grueling work and sweltering heat. Every day, except one, when the bell rings and Ben is nowhere to be found. Because Ben ran. Yet, despite their fear and sadness, his family remains hopeful that maybe, just maybe, he made it North. That he is free.
An ode to hope and a powerful tribute to the courage of those who ran for freedom, The Bell Rang is a stunning reminder that our past can never be forgotten.
From their failed endeavors, obstacles to overcome (bunnies that eat everything!), and all the knowledge they’ve gained along the way, the Gaines family shares how they learned to grow a happy, successful garden. As it turns out, trying something new isn’t always easy, but the hardest work often yields the greatest reward. There are always new lessons to be learned in the garden!
You and your children can learn all about the Gaines family’s story of becoming gardeners in Joanna’s first children’s book—starting with the first little fern Chip bought for Jo. Over the years, the family’s love for gardening blossomed into what is now a beautiful, bustling garden.
A solitary polar bear travels across the sea ice in pursuit of food. As the ice melts and food becomes scarce, she is forced to swim for days. Finally, storm-tossed and exhausted, she finds shelter on land, where she gives birth to cubs and waits for the sea to freeze again.
Informed by the author’s background in marine science, Sea Bear is a vivid and moving page-turner with a vital message about our changing planet. Thisis a gorgeously illustrated book, with the perfect marriage of scientific fact and poetry, that shows the reality of climate change and how it poses a threat to animals of the Arctic.
If you have some favorite picture books that were published in 2019 that I didn’t share here I would love to hear about them!
This last year I have gotten more into seasonal reading. Last year I shared monthly themed picture book lists here on the blog and this year I wanted to share seasonal chapter book lists.
Most of the books on these lists will be what are considered “middle grade” reads which are generally for 8-12 year olds. My daughter is currently nine and she either has read or I would be okay with her reading all the books on this list. That being said, there can be a big range in ability and maturity when it comes to putting an age range from 8-12 so use your own discretion.
Also, let me just say, I’m in my 30’s and have read most of the books on this list (the ones I haven’t read yet I hope to get to this year) so I’m not saying people over 12 won’t like the books. Usually when a book is classified as “middle grade” it means the main character is somewhere around the ages of 10-13 (give or take), it doesn’t mean that if you are not those ages you won’t like the book.
When it comes to books that I would consider a good winter read they generally either take place in the winter or have some elements that I think would make them good to read curled up with a blanket. There are quite a few fantasy books on this list because for some reason fall and winter just seem like good times to read fantasy to me.
BEST MIDDLE GRADE CHAPTER BOOKS TO READ IN THE WINTER
With all the references to the weather and drinking hot chocolate this is a great book to curl up with in the winter.
It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.
I loved this book and think it would make for an excellent winter read.
With the rise of the Berlin Wall, Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.
But one day on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Gerta concludes that her father wants her and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?
We listened to this book as a family for the first time this winter and it was such a great listen. It has Penderwick vibes but while those are definitely books to read in the summer this is a winter one.
The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.
This book sounds great and the synopsis gives me Greenglass House vibes, I can’t wait to read it!
Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms―most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself?
Orphaned as an infant, young Harry Potter has been living a less-than-fortunate life. Belittled by his pompous uncle and sniveling aunt (not to mention his absolute terror of a cousin, Dudley), Harry has resigned himself to a mediocre existence in the cupboard under the stairs. But then the letters start dropping on the doormat at Number Four, Privet Drive. Addressed to “Mr. H. Potter” and stamped shut with a purple wax seal, the peculiar envelopes are swiftly confiscated by his relentlessly cruel family. But nothing stops Rubeus Hagrid, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man, from kicking down the door and bursting in with astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard-and not only a wizard, he’s an incredibly famous wizard. Hagrid spirits him away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, setting into motion an incredible adventure
Winter is the best time to read this book, after all, it’s set in a place that is always winter and never Christmas.
Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.
This one is a tear jerker. I listened to the audiobook the first time around (which was great) and now I want to get my hands on a hard copy so I can read it again.
Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
One of L. M. Montgomery’s lesser known series’ is Emily Starr. She’s similar to well-known Anne but without the eternal optimism and I think a little more like L. M. Montgomery’s real life.
Emily Starr never knew what it was to be lonely—until her beloved father died. Now Emily’s an orphan, and her snobbish relatives are taking her to live with them at New Moon Farm. Although she’s sure she’ll never be happy there, Emily deals with her stern aunt Elizabeth and her malicious classmates by using her quick wit and holding her head high.
I have to admit, I have not yet read this classic tale! I have heard so many amazing things about it though and it is near the top of my list for this year!
Little House in the Big Woods takes place in 1871 and introduces us to four-year-old Laura, who lives in a log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. She shares the cabin with her Pa, her Ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their lovable dog, Jack.
Pioneer life isn’t easy for the Ingalls family, since they must grow or catch all their own food as they get ready for the cold winter. But they make the best of every tough situation. They celebrate Christmas with homemade toys and treats, do their spring planting, bring in the harvest in the fall, and make their first trip into town. And every night, safe and warm in their little house, the sound of Pa’s fiddle lulls Laura and her sisters into sleep.
One of my absolute favorite middle grade books! This one is written in free verse (a form that I love) and it’s reminiscent of Laura Ingalls books, but with a lot more struggle.
I’ve known it since last night: It’s been too long to expect them to return. Something’s happened.
May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again.
This is on it’s way to becoming a classic. Personally, I like the first book the best and I think it’s the best one to read in the winter!
The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.
I read this book last winter and it was the perfect time to read it, I felt like I could feel the cold that was making David shiver.
David’s entire twelve-year life has been spent in a grisly prison camp in Eastern Europe. He knows nothing of the outside world. But when he is given the chance to escape, he seizes it. With his vengeful enemies hot on his heels, David struggles to cope in this strange new world, where his only resources are a compass, a few crusts of bread, his two aching feet, and some vague advice to seek refuge in Denmark. Is that enough to survive?
This is a book I have heard nothing but praise for. I have not read it myself yet but it’s on my list for this winter!
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each with an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
My only issue with this book is the cover. It makes the book look like it would be a typical princess story, I never would have picked this book up when I was younger because of it. The main character is small but tough and if you have kids that would be turned off by a normal princess story I beg you to give this one a try.
Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince will choose his bride from among the village girls.
The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess. Soon Miri finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires. Winning the contest could give her everything she ever wanted–but it would mean leaving her home and family behind.
This is a great reworking of a not-so-well-known Grimm fairy tale, once again Shannon Hale knocked it out of the park.
Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. As she grows up, Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but she never feels quite comfortable speaking with people.
So when Ani’s mother sends her away to be married in a foreign land, she finds herself at the mercy of her silver-tongued lady in waiting, who leads a mutiny that leaves her alone, destitute, and fleeing for her life. To survive, Ani takes on work as a royal goose girl, hiding in plain sight while she develops her forbidden talents and works to discover her own true, powerful voice.
This year is the first year in awhile where we’ve had a toddler to shop for. Because we had no idea we would be doing this toddler thing over again we had to pretty much start from scratch and I have to admit, it was fun looking through that section of toys again. Plus I feel like I have more knowledge on what toys kids actually play with and are also not annoying to adults.
This is the last installment in my educational gift guide series, here’s the full series:
Speaking of tower building, these are one of the most popular toys in our house, so much so that we put them on the gift list for the toddler because we could use more! It would help if the three, six and nine year olds weren’t always trying to use them to building things when the one year old is playing with them . . .
I am sure these kinds of puzzles was how my oldest learned her letters and numbers. I have a cute picture of her as a one and a half year old putting the number one on her dolls lap and pointing to the space in the puzzle where it went.
Our toddler’s second birthday is a few weeks after Christmas and right now a wooden train set is at the top of my ideas for him. I like that it seems like just a fun toy but works on those fine motor skills as they put the track together, put the trains on the track, etc.
These are my favorite take along coloring books for little kids. The magic marker only colors on the pages in the book so you can take them to church or in the waiting room without worrying about your little one coloring on things they shouldn’t.
Looking for some books for your toddler? Check these out:
We’ve had a virus go through our house in the last two weeks that has slowly hit one kid after another and as a result it through off my December homeschool plan a bit.
Thankfully I didn’t plan for an intense academic month, my main focus for the month was the Christmas season and we have been able to do that. But because of the sickness I thought it would make sense to put our light two weeks into one review.
Also due to the sickness we relied more on technology for our academics, I am thankful that we have the ability and resources to turn to things like YouTube when kids are lying on the couch recovering from fevers and we all learn a lot.
OUR HOMESCHOOL WEEK IN REVIEW
For reference, here’s the low down on all the kids:
The Daughter – she’s 9 and in grade 4 The Son – he’s 6 and in grade 1 The Preschooler – he’s 3 The Toddler – he’s 1 (almost 2)
Here’s a recap of our week:
+ I wanted to learn about stars a little this month, nothing too in-depth but the topic just seemed fitting with Christmas, this is when we relied heavily on YouTube, here are some of the videos we watched:
+ We played Castle Panic with the fourth and first graders one afternoon. It was difficult with the little boys around but we managed to play, though we did die to the monsters so maybe we can blame that on the distraction the little ones cause.
+ The six and three year old each drew Batman. Because the three year old has only been with us for a month and a half I wasn’t sure how it would go for him (skill wise) and it was pretty hard so I ended up just putting my hand over his and we drew Batman together, he was so proud of his drawing when we were done.
+ The fourth and first graders both worked on math most days. It was almost always in their workbooks but one day I wanted to take my son to the chalkboard and show him how easy it was to add 10 with a one digit number, it was something that wasn’t coming quickly to him but once we started doing a few problems and I showed him the pattern he totally got it.
+ After the light week we had I wanted to create a bit more of a plan. I like to just use a notebook or a piece of paper and write out all the things I want each kid to accomplish. Honestly, we didn’t even get all that I had listed done this week but I am okay with that because we also added some things in that I didn’t plan for. Oh, and that Danger on a Silent Night book I had planned for my daughter to read over the course of a few days? She read it the first day, she also requested we get more of the Imagination Station books.
+ The toddler has been big into building towers out of blocks and the preschooler has been going through some of our wipe clean books, his current favorite is one I got from the dollar store years ago.
+ Also big on the preschooler’s radar right now is StarFall. I bought the full version for the year and the nine and six year olds are also playing it, probably partly out of nostalgia because I bought the full version for each of them when they were four.
+ My daughter spent some time doing some Draw So Cute videos, truthfully, sometimes they stress her out and she usually doesn’t like the look of her drawing while she’s in the middle of it but by the end she is smitten. I think her Hermione is adorable.
I know we did more in the last two weeks but this is all I can remember at the moment. We’re going to have a pretty light week next week and the week after we’re going to take off completely for Christmas. I doubt I’ll post a review next week, if I don’t the next one will be right around the new year, crazy to think about!
In case you noticed, I didn’t post a homeschool week in review for last week. We ended up having some sickness go through our house so we didn’t do a lot on the school front so I figured I would combine two weeks and so I will share the next update at the end of this week.
Today I am continuing on with the educational gift guide series, here’s the list of the posts in the series:
We have borrowed this kit from our library before, there are so many possibilities with the kit, you can even make bananas into a piano! The kit is something I want to buy my science loving boy when he is a couple years older.
I actually own this watercolor book myself and I plan on going through out it with my daughter soon. The pages are thick so you can watercolor directly in the book but I prefer to work in a separate book. It is a gorgeous book and includes a number of different watercolor tips and techniques. Also, she just came out with an ocean version!
This is one of our newest games and we are all really enjoying it. It’s fairly quick to set up (after the first time where you have to assemble the trains), quick to play (I think it’s 15-20 minutes) and yet hilarious and fun. If you are against robbing trains and punching and shooting people this isn’t the game for you, but if it sounds like a smashing good time I’d highly recommend it. I think this is a game that everyone in our family enjoys a lot.
We bought the kids this one for Christmas last year and it’s quickly becoming my favorite game. It’s a co-op game and all your cards are laid out for all to see which means even younger kids can play. We have the Wizard’s Tower expansion and really like what it adds to the game (we also have Engines of War and aren’t big fans of that expansion).
Code names is a fun team game where you have to help the members of your team guess which squares are yours only using one word at a time. There are a few different varieties of the game, I’ve personally only ever played the pictures version and really like it. We play it as a family sometimes and there was awhile a few months ago where all the middle school kids in our church would play a few rounds before church started.
This is a new game that we bought for Christmas for our daughter this year. I really don’t know a whole lot about it myself, my husband is the researcher, especially when it comes to games, but it sounds like it can be played with one or two people, all the characters are girls and they are not “scantily clad”. It sounds perfect! I’m looking forward to playing it.
If you have an avid reader I think a Kindle is a good option. If Kindle’s were a thing back when I was in school it would have saved me some definite muscle pains. I remember toting a lot of books in my backpack because my bus ride was a hour each morning and an hour each afternoon and I needed to make sure I had books to see me through! If I could have had a Kindle with a whole library of books that would have made my load a lot lighter.
If you are looking for some books for the middle schooler on your list (always a good idea), here are a few lists to choose books from: