Our Family Preparations for the Jewish High Holidays

Sorry for the technical difficulties last week!  Hope this posts today.

In a recent post, I referenced how busy the fall season is for our family.  Each year we kick off the fall with the Jewish High Holidays.  Two years ago, Megan Rose Wilson, from what at the time was Whole Family Rhythms, interviewed me about our family traditions in September.  I was happy to share how we celebrated!

Here are links to the interviews:

Simple Preparations for Rosh Hashana

Simple Preparations for Yom Kippur

And here is a cute video of my kids singing a simple Rosh Hashana song a few years ago.

Shana Tovah to anyone celebrating soon!

Seasonal Homeschool Prep

One way I love to keep homeschooling magical and special is to include special learning experiences for seasons and holidays.  It’s extra work for me but to be honest I love it and the kids do too!

Each year in August I check around online for resources.  Then I print, laminate and cut anything I want to use for Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas.  This way when the busy-ness of fall is upon us I have everything organized and ready to go.

Seasonal/ Holiday Resources

I absolutely love using the monthly and seasonal guides from Meghann, creator of Rooted Childhood!

Here is a link to see her guides:


Each guide comes with poems, recipes, songs, finger plays, book lists and crafts.  Using her guides, we have created so many beautiful decorations for our home that I will always treasure.

I also love the Montessori seasonal or holiday bundles that are advertised on Instagram this time of year.  I have a few from Every Star is Different that we love!  I also love that any work that I take time to print and laminate for Ethan can be re-used for Lillian.

My kids also love the holiday printables from The Moffat Girls at Teachers Pay Teachers.  Again, I love that whatever I purchase for Ethan can be reused for Lillian.


I also always make a list of any crafty supplies that we will need and put in an order either to Oriental Trading or Michaels.

I also love Pinterest for hands-on learning activities!  We still love sensory bins and fine motor work even at 7.5 and 6 years old!

Are you a holiday homeschooler too?  Or do you stick to your regular routine?

What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Fall

Is it too soon?  Or are you one of those people who, like me, can already smell the pumpkin spice?

Here are some of our favorite books about the fall season:

The Very Busy Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri – This book is great for the younger set but, I guarantee my kids will still ask me to read it out loud 100 times next month!

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert – This is such a beautiful book.  And kids of all ages will love making a leaf man when you are outside.  Simple fun at its best.

Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington – Great book about apples for city kids! Find out how the apples get from the farm right into the city farmer’s market.

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hills – Another great book for the younger set that I know I will still be reading out loud this year. Some of these “baby books” are just too good to pack up just yet.

Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell – This is one of our top favorites!  Follow along with a boy and the life cycle of a pumpkin.

We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger – Great book to inspire an outdoor fall adventure!

Apples by Gail Gibbons – I love Gail Gibbons nonfiction books!  Great illustrations and detailed information.

Apple Picking Day by Candace Ransom – A sweet simple story about a family who goes apple picking!

Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber – Who doesn’t love to jump in the leaves?!

You can download the full list here:

Children’s Books about Fall

Do you have any favorites we should check out this year?  Let me know in the comments.

I’ll put up some other posts about specific Halloween and Thanksgiving books that we love soon.

What We are Reading Wednesday: 2020-2021 Chapter Book Read Aloud Calendar

Last year I planned out a year long calendar of chapter books to read aloud.  I didn’t stick to it 100% but I really liked the idea of planning out the books in advance so I can coordinate them with certain months/ seasons or to coincide with other things we will be learning.  I decided to do it again this year and wanted to share our calendar and plans on the blog:

Chapter Books for 2020-2021

Here are the books I plan to read aloud to the kids:

Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

The Vanderbeekers of 141st St by Karina Yan Glaser

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dagliesh

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

The Tale of Desperaux by Katie DiCamillo

Guns for General Washington by Seymour Reit

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Poppy by Brian Floca

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

I put a lot of thought into the books we will read each year.  I want to introduce my children to heroes, to beautiful stories with a benevolent worldview and I want to help them fall in love with reading.  Of course there comes a responsibility with reading classic books to children in today’s society.  We have plenty of discussions as we read and I am careful to present historical context.

I created the read aloud calendar using Excel.  I added in the pictures of the book covers simply because I like the way that looks.  It’s completely unnecessary!  I print this out and keep it with my homeschool records.  I check off each book after we read it or I cross out a book and replace it with a new title if I need to.  This is also a helpful tool when filing homeschool reporting information.

Homeschool Plans and Curriculum Choices for the 2020-2021 School Year – 1st and 3rd Grade

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I recently shared our 2019-2020 wrap-up and curriculum review.  I am excited to share what we will be doing this year!  First, we have actually already started.  Since we are home so much because of Corona, I decided to get a jump start on the new year.  Hopefully this will give us a chance to take off a big chunk of time during the holidays where we can bake and make crafts, all with zero guilt.

This year Ethan (7.5) will be in 3rd grade and Lillian (6) will be in 1st grade.  Here are our plans by subject:


1st Grade


We will be using Master Books Math:  Lessons for a Living Education Volume 1.  I loved Volume 2 for Ethan last year.  I think Lillian will love the story portion of the lesson, the color pictures and the gentle pace.

Along with the gentle pace comes plenty of time for her to use our Montessori Math Materials.  We will be using the Addition Strip Board, Teens Board, Tens Board, Hundred Chain, Thousand Chain, 45 Layout Mat and the Stamp Game.

3rd Grade

This will be our first year using Beast Academy Math.


I purchased both the online version and the workbooks.  At first we started with just the online version.  But I think since we are very low-tech, Ethan was struggling a bit with solving his problems on the computer.  So I ordered the workbook so he has an area to practice with paper and pencil too.  Although in a little over a week, he has really already improved with using the computer.

I love the challenging aspect of Beast Academy and I think using Montessori materials prior to this helped him develop a super strong number sense.  He is doing great with the challenging problems on Beast Academy because his fundamental math skills are so strong – particularly place value work.

I probably never would have chosen a curriculum called Beast Academy if I did not have a 7 year old boy.  The name probably would have turned me off.  But I get it now and the monster appeal is huge!


We are using the book Addition Facts that Stick by Kate Snow as part of our Morning Basket.  So far this is just review for Ethan but I don’t mind the extra practice and it’s been great for Lillian.

English Language Arts

1st Grade

I am going to useThe Good and The Beautiful with Lillian this year.  This will be our first time trying out one of their products.  Since we are a secular homeschool I know I might have to change or omit some things but I’m really not worried about that.  We will also continue to work with Montessori Language Work, read BOB books and continue using Spelling You See Level B Book 1.


3rd Grade

This is a real hodgepodge but I feel will be best for Ethan and the learning goals I have in mind for him this year.  We are using:

Comprehension Skills:  Short Passages for Close Reading by Scholastic

Grammar Tales by Scholastic

Daily Word Ladders Grades 2-3: Word Study Lessons that Boost Reading, Vocabulary, Spelling & Phonics by Scholastic

Spelling You See – Level B Book 2

We may also use the The Brave Writer Dart Program single issue in May.



I read aloud daily 2 picture books, 2 poems and a few chapters of whatever chapter book we are reading.  Both kids also love listening to audiobooks and read independently every day.  We have Poetry Tea Time once a week and the kids enjoy using Reading Eggs/ Reading Eggspress from time to time.


Both kids are going to continue with Handwriting Without Tears.  If Ethan moves quickly through his book, we will add in Keyboarding Without Tears when he is finished.

History & Geography

We are moving on to Story of the World Volume 2.  We loved Volume 1 and are excited to continue with this program.



Our science plans in the past have usually all been outsourced:  forest school, Brooklyn Robot Foundry and Boat Building Class. But this year I am going to try an official Science curriculum for the first time.  We will be using Pandia Press Real Science Odyssey – Astronomy.  It is Level One for Grades 1-4.  I’m a little nervous about finding the time to add this in but also excited to have found a secular science program that looks awesome! It includes lessons, lab experiments and worksheets.


We are trying something new this year!  I purchased 2 Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason.  We are going to study Vermeer and Michaelangelo.


We are using another product from Simply Charlotte Mason called Music Study with the Masters to study the composers, Schubert and Lizst.

Outside Activities

Oh, are the choices slim this year thanks to Corona.  We are going to continue meeting with our Wild + Free Group for free play in nature with friends and Zoom Tae Kwon Do lessons.


I always leave time to add in special studies of what each child is interested in and will accommodate that through the books I choose to read aloud, copy work, art projects, field trips or Outschool classes.  We also always incorporate special seasonal studies for fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas.  I will make a post about this seasonal schooling soon!  And of course, just like everyone else, I have no idea how Corona will impact or change any or all of these plans!  Will museums be open?  Will we want to ride the subway?  And the list goes on and on.

But, this is our plan as of right now!  One of the best parts of homeschooling is the ability to adapt, change and evolve whenever you need to do so.


What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Sharks

My son, Ethan, who is now 7, went through a serious shark-loving phase.  We have SO many books about sharks in our home!  Do you have a shark lover in your house?

Here are our favorites:

Smart Kids: Sharks: And Other Dangers of the Deep by Priddy Books

National Geographic Readers: Sharks! (Science Reader Level 2) by Anne Schreiber

Sharks (Discovery Kids) (Discovery 3D Readers) by Discovery Kids (This book comes with 3D glasses!  I had to tape ours together because they were falling apart from so much use!)

I Survived: The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Scholastic

Hammerhead vs. Bull Shark (Who Would Win?) by Scholastic (This Who Would Win? series was so appealing to Ethan as a 5 and 6 year old!  He loved these books so much.)

Amazing Sharks! (I Can Read Level 2) by Sarah L. Thompson

Fly Guy Presents: Sharks (Scholastic Reader, Level 2) by Tedd Arnold

Uncover a Shark: An Uncover It Book (Uncover Books) by David George Gordon

These are actually just a few of our favorites!  You can download my full list of recommendations here:

Children’s Books about Sharks

Early Reading Work: A Free Download

Today I wanted to share with you a fun way to practice reading with your young children who are just beginning to read short words.  Once my kids had learned their letter sounds, they loved reading Montessori-inspired Command Cards.  After they read the card, they enjoyed doing the action they had just read.  This is a fun way to bring movement into reading!  Below are some free printable command cards that you can simply print and cut.  Store the cards in a basket where your child can access to enjoy some silly, action packed reading practice!

You can also easily create your own command cards and adjust them to your child’s reading level.  On the printable, I have tried to include some simple commands that only contain CVC words like “hop” as well as longer commands with phrases like “get a book.”

Free Printable Command Cards


What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Evolution and Early Humans

When Ethan turned 6 years old he began asking a lot of BIG questions…

  1. How was the Earth formed?
  2. Who was the first person?
  3. How did the first person get here?

I found some great books that helped answer these questions with science in a kid-friendly way.

Here is what we read, and what I’m sure we will be re-visiting soon as Lillian nears her 6th birthday.

One Day a Dot by Ian Lendler

The Story of Life:  A First Book about Evolution by Catherine Barr

Big History Timeline Wallbook by Christopher Lloyd

Have you read any good books about evolution to your children?  I have my eye on Grandmother’s Fish by Jonathan Tweet.

Here is a link to download a list of even more books about the Big Bang Theory and evolution:

Children’s Books about Evolution

Do you have any books that you would recommend?

Creating your IHIP (Individualized Home Instruction Plan) for the NYCDOE

It’s almost time for NYC homeschoolers to send in their Individualized Home Instruction Plan or IHIP.  The IHIP is due on August 15, or 2 weeks after you send in your Letter Of Intent if you decide to homeschool mid-year.

This year will be my 3rd year submitting an IHIP for Ethan and my first year for Lillian.  It will be my first year for submitting 2 IHIPs!

Here is how I have approached the writing process:

Since all forms are to be submitted electronically either as a Word or PDF attachment or typed in the body of the email, I open a blank email for each child.  I title the email:

2020-2021 IHIP of (insert child’s name here)  NYCID XXXXXXXXX

Since Lillian does not yet have a NYCID, I only titled hers 2020-2021 IHIP of (name).

In the body of the email I include the necessary personal information that can be found on this form:



First Name

Last Name

Date of Birth

School Year/ Grade Level

9 Digit Student ID

Next, I add in each subject are that is required to be taught/ reported:




English Language




Health Education


Visual Arts

Physical Education

And beside each subject I included the name of the curriculum we will using or the books we will be reading.

I then detail when I will be submitting my Quarterly Reports – I simply stick to the schedule outlined by the NYCDOE.

I hope to have a post up soon with my curriculum/ book choices for 1st grade and 3rd grade!

I know lots of families in NYC who unschool who probably approach the IHIP differently but this is what I have always done.

I plan to submit my IHIPs on August 15th.  I always print out a copy and put it in my planning binder.  I like to have a paper copy because it makes it much easier for me to complete the Quarterly Reports where you document the progress that you have planned for in your IHIP.

Do you have questions about the IHIP?  Need help?  Send me an email or post in the comments.

3 Friday Finds for Anyone Who Will Be a Homeschooling Newbie this Fall!

Here are some links to great articles and information that might be helpful as you begin your journey:

Veteran homeschool mom and creator of Read Aloud Revival, Sarah Mackenzie, shares six things she things she will focus on for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade this year and what she has learned about this age range from having older kids.  It’s a quick read and very insightful.



Are you looking for a way to incorporate seasonal crafts, recipes and poems and songs into your homeschool?  We love Rooted Childhood’s monthly collections!



Looking to make meaningful connections with your kids outside this year (especially since indoor activities like museums and shows might not be happening)?  Check out Wild+Free mama, Greta Eskridge’s new book, Adventuring Together.  I am planning to start reading it this weekend.

Happy Friday!