Project-Based Homeschooling book now on the Kindle

Published by Lori Pickert on September 16, 2012 at 10:22 AM

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners is now available on the Kindle!

Getting the book formatted for the Kindle was no easy task, and I have been typesetting books since the dinosaur days of the desktop computer, so that’s really saying something.

Whatever doesn’t look quite right, just assume it’s the Kindle software’s fault. Because it is!

Now to conquer iBooks…

Ask your library to buy Project-Based Homeschooling!

Published by Lori Pickert on July 26, 2012 at 05:21 PM

Help us get the word out (literally!) by asking your local library to order a copy of Project-Based Homeschooling for their shelves.

Most libraries today have an online purchase-request form; you can probably search your library’s site and find it. Or, the next time you’re at the library, ask if you can recommend a book!

They should only need the following information:

Title: Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

Author: Lori Pickert

ISBN: 978-1475239065

Thanks for helping us share these ideas with more homeschoolers!

Book sale: paperback 28% off on Amazon

Published by Lori Pickert on July 16, 2012 at 06:35 AM

The great and powerful Oz, I mean Amazon, has put my book on sale for 28% off: Order Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners for only $9.68. (U.S. version only so far, unfortunately.)

I had nothing to do with this price markdown and had no idea it would happen — and I have no idea how long it will last! But now would be a great time to get the book at a bargain price, buy it for a friend, or buy it for your library. Please pass the word along!

Edited to add: The book is now also on sale at Barnes & Noble.

Project-Based Homeschooling, the book

Published by Lori Pickert on June 29, 2012 at 01:15 PM


See it on Amazon

See it on Amazon UK

Welcome to the new site!

Well, friends, as you know, I’ve been working on this for quite awhile (I think we’ve stretched the definition of “long-term project”), but it’s finally ready to show you.

Thanks for sticking with me, reading, and e-mailing your questions and your encouragement over the years. Your kind words kept me working and helped me finish.

Along with the book I’m also going to be rolling out some free e-books, and I’m finishing up a parent handbook & idea book that will be a companion to this first book. If you want to be alerted when things are ready, please make sure to join our mailing list. And yes, we have e-mail subscriptions at last! (And there will be posts to read as well!) Electronic versions of the book are also in the works — I’m currently proofing the Kindle version — so if you prefer to e-read, we’ll soon have you covered as well.

Another big thing: we finally have a working forum. It still needs some work, and you’ll notice some things changing (and hopefully improving) over the next few weeks, but there’s a place to go to ask questions and have conversations. Huzzah!

Thank you again (and again) for your support. I cannot overemphasize how much it has meant to me. Your encouragement is what made me stick with this until it was finally done. My sincerest wish is to pay it back with interest.

Edited to add: It looks like the book should be available on in — wah wah wahhhhh — six to eight weeks. I love you, Canada — sorry for the wait!

Golden Book of Birds

Published by Lori Pickert on February 3, 2008 at 04:33 PM

Great holiday books for kids: holiday favorites

Published by Lori Pickert on November 28, 2007 at 05:11 PM


I've had such a great response to the last two days of book posts that I decided we'd have more book talk today! (It doesn't take much convincing to get me to talk about books. Anyone want a cup of hot chocolate?)


I have a few less familiar (I hope) holiday books to share with you. Of course, I love The Polar Express. We read it every Christmas Eve. I love love love it. But everybody's heard of it. Maybe some of these will be new to you.


We love this beautifully illustrated book of Robert Frost's poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. The dust jacket is vellum, with the cover gorgeously illustrated in a way that is simply uncommon today. This isn't a terribly long poem, but we read it very slowly, to enjoy looking at each picture. This book makes a lovely hostess gift; it can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.


Another book with a vellum dust jacket (co-inky-dink) is Abbie Zabar's A Perfectly Irregular Christmas Tree. It's unfortunately out of print, but that won't stop me from bringing it up. It tells the story of a tree chosen for Rockefeller Center, and we love her illustrations.

(Abbie's book The Potted Herb makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for a gardener, and it's still in print.) Country Living magazine did a layout on Abbie's house and Christmas decorations a gazillion years ago and I've never forgotten it. In fact, I still have the issue! If I can find it (ha), I will share.


Back when the boys were small, some dear friends gave us Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy. The title sounds a bit ominous, but it is really a sweet story illustrated with gorgeous photographs of snowy woods and woodland creatures. The boys loved it.


Is everyone in love with Toot & Puddle, or is it just me? We don't even have all of their books; the boys are a little too old to snuggle down with one these days. I love I'll Be Home for Christmas.


Oh, okay, one more mention of a pure classic before I go. No, not Snowy Day, although, hey, that's another good one! I'm giving a shout out to Katy and the Big Snow. I love all of Virginia Lee Burton's books, I think. What a great bundle to give a favorite little — Mike Mulligan, The Little House, and Katy and the Big Snow! (Is The Little House out of print?!) And just to round things up by getting back to the obscure, have you ever seen her book Life Story? No, it's not her autobiography — it's an amazing picture book telling the story of evolution.

Time to put the winter- and holiday-themed books in the basket by the wood stove, dig out the flannel lap quilts, and wait for the first snow.

Great holiday books for kids: read-alouds

Published by Lori Pickert on November 27, 2007 at 10:59 PM


Okay, you aren't going to believe this, but once again I managed to piddle away the day and forget to take my photographs before the sun slipped away.

It was a beautiful day, too! Warm, and we continued trying to winterize the Airstream so it won't bust a pipe over our cold midwestern winter.

Thank you everyone for your book recommendations re: yesterday's post! We have an absolutely enormous home library, partially due to the fact that we are out-of-control biblioholics and partially due to the fact that when we closed my school we brought home a good section of the library (including doubles and triples of our favorites, because why not?).

Today I thought I'd continue the bookish theme and list some of our all-time favorite read-alouds.

Of course, these books are just as enjoyable read to oneself, but you know, there is just a perfect read-aloud book. Mm, what are the criteria. The chapters must be long enough that one or two make a good evening's read. Not too much cliff-hanging action at the end of the chapters, causing undue agony to small ones writhing in their beds begging to read "just one more!" (Mommy needs her sleep.) I like a read-aloud that sparks some good conversations. And, I suppose, the most important thing to me is that it be written beautifully, so that reading it aloud is a pleasure in itself.

Anyway, here are some of our top favorites. We've read all of these two or more times, no more frequently than once a year.

The Little House books. I've read all the way through the series three times. The first time I read them, Jack was so small (two, maybe?) that I didn't think he was really getting it, although he always lay quietly in the crook of my arm. Then one morning he told me he'd had a dream. I said, oh really, what was it? He said, "I dreamt Pa made eggs for me and Mary and Laura!" So I guess he was getting it, after all! Their top favorite of these books was Farmer Boy. I think my top fave is Little House in the Big Woods. The descriptions of the harvesting, butchering, and putting up stores for the winter! Farmer Boy is also a paean to everything gastronomical. My advice: don't read this if you're on a diet.

A farmer depends on himself, and the land and the weather. If you're a farmer, you raise what you eat, you raise what you wear, and you keep warm with wood out of your own timber. You work hard, but you work as you please, and no man can tell you to go or come. You'll be free and independent, son, on a farm.

Mother was frying doughnuts. The place was full of their hot, brown smell, and the wheaty smell of new bread, the spicy smell of cakes, and the syrupy smell of pies.

One of my favorites from my own childhood: Rabbit Hill. How I loved this when I was a child. I must have read it every year since I was five. The boys love it, too.

The houses were all asleep, even the Dogs of the Fat-Man-at-the-Crossroads were quiet, but the Little Animals were up and about. They met the Gray Fox returning from a night up Weston way. He looked footsore and sleepy, and a few chicken feathers still clung to his ruff. The Red Buck trotted daintily across the Black Road to wish them good luck and good morning, but Father, for once, had no time for long social conversation. This was business, and no Rabbit in the county knew his business any better than Father — few as well.

Another favorite from my own childhood (in fact, I read them my childhood copy) is Rascal. We have probably read this aloud at least once a year the last three or four years. They absolutely love this book.

My harmless skunks had further complicated matters on a recent Sunday evening. These pleasant pets that I had dug from a hole the previous spring were now more than a year old and somewhat restless. They were handsome, glossy creatures — one broad-stripe, one narrow-stripe, one short-stripe, and one black beauty with a single star of white on his head. All four had perfect manners. Having never been frightened or abused, they had never scented up the neighborhood.

But one night in June when Wowser must have been drowsing, a stray dog came barking and snarling at them through the woven wire, and they reacted predictably. Sunday services were progressing at the church not seventy feet from their cage. It was a warm evening, and the windows of the choir loft were open. For the first time in his life Reverend Hooton shortened his sermon.

I'm afraid they're perhaps (sob) getting a little too old for Winnie-the-Pooh, but we own the big treasury that has all the books and poems in one volume, and I have read it all the way through, front to back, several times. This book, by the way, would make a great baby gift.

By the time it came to the edge of the Forest the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, "There is no hurry. We shall get there some day." But all the little streams higher up in the Forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it was too late.

Already mentioned yesterday, but worth mentioning again, we've read aloud and loved (more childhood favorites of mine) A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. The rest of the L'Engle books they've read themselves, but these two we have read aloud several times.

"You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?"

"Yes." Mrs. Whatsit said. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."

This year we read aloud for the first time Treasure Island, and both boys absolutely loved it. I hadn't read it myself since I was a child and I had forgotten how exciting it was. A few weeks after we read it aloud, my older son sat down and read it again to himself.

He was plainly blind, for he tapped before him with a stick, and wore a great green shade over his eyes and nose; and he was hunched, as if with age or weakness, and wore a huge old tattered sea cloak with a hood, that made him appear positively deformed. I never saw in my life a more dreadful-looking figure.

Even though the boys are now 8 and 11, I still read aloud to them every night. They have been reading on their own for years, but they still love to be read to, and I love to read aloud to them. They also love to take their turns reading aloud. Sometimes meals (at which everyone is allowed to read, always — they were aghast to find out this wasn't allowed when I was growing up!) turn into a free-for-all with everyone trying to entertain everyone else with selections from their book.

I don't know what the secret is to growing great readers, but reading aloud can't hurt.

Great holiday books for kids

Published by Lori Pickert on November 26, 2007 at 11:07 PM


Well, it's five o'clock and all is dark in the midwest.

I didn't manage to photograph the thing I was going to post about today before the sun fell behind the trees, so instead, please enjoy these book recommendations from my resident experts.

The boys have just turned 8 and 11 in the past few weeks. If you have any middle-size kids to buy for this holiday season, even (or especially) those who hate to read, maybe these books will be just the ticket.

Of course the boys enjoy the Harry Potter series and D loved Lemony Snicket, although J found it too depressing. I have exposed D (now 11) to some classic fantasy fare like the Dark Is Rising series, which he enjoyed.

D loved Black Horses for the King, written by Anne McCaffrey.

Another classic series the boys both enjoyed was A Wrinkle in Time and the rest of the Time Quartet (which is strangely now the Time Quintet; they added An Acceptable Time — unfortunately quite a step down from the original three books, I think). The sets certainly are a good deal considering the cost of the individual books. However, the top two are definitely A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door.

They loved the Narnia series as well. I still have my original paperback set, and we must have about 12 copies of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. (Did you like the movie? I was disappointed.)

J (now 8) has just finished reading The Lightning Thief, book one in the Percy Jackson series which both boys have enjoyed.

Speaking of which, D really liked Eragon (which, God help me, I read aloud) and its sequel Eldest (which I made him read to himself). Christopher Paolini, the smart and talented homeschooler who wrote these books as a teen, can get a little long-winded. If you are going to try reading these books aloud, I suggest throat lozenges.

Another favorite fantasy series was The Great Tree of Avalon and itssequels.

Your middle-size kid not a fantasy lover? You can't go wrong with the Wayside School boxed set. Or practically anything by Roald Dahl. Kid humor.

(Their favorite Roald Dahl book? The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More.)

Our favorite poetry book (though it's hard to choose) is The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury. We've been reading aloud from this book since Dominic was two. We usually end our before bed read-aloud time with two or three poems; we pull favorites from this book most nights. (It has great illustrations, too.)

Classics? They both love The Phantom Tollbooth. (Who doesn't?) D urged J to read The Indian in the Cupboard and its sequels. Actually, D collected about a dozen books that he thought J should read this year and made a special shelf for them in their room; his picks included Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Story of King Arthur, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Treasure Island, Kidnapped and King Solomon's Mines.

Finally, D’s favorite read this past year, real-life adventure Kon-Tiki. J’s favorite: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Holiday gift ideas for your child artist

Published by Lori Pickert on November 19, 2007 at 03:05 PM


In the coming week, I'm going to focus on the art studio, our basic inventory, more advanced inventory, and how to store and display your materials.

Most of the large art-supply stores offer weekly coupons in the newspaper and online; they also honor each other's coupons! Tomorrow, my post will be about some nicer items you can add to your studio when you can take advantage of a sale or coupon.

Today, I have some suggestions for holiday gift ideas for your young artists. Another great use for the coupon!

sketchbooks (small for field work, larger sizes for working at home)

Bundle with a small field bag (you can sew yourself if you are handy), a plastic enclosed pencil sharpener, pencil case with pencils, small magnifying glass, a couple of small guide books, and you have one of my favorite presents of all time.

high-quality markers/marker sets

These markers will make everyone who sees them want to sit down and draw. They’re brighter and have more varied colors than typical children’s markers.

scratch-board kits with tools included

My sons love to do scratch art; the boards are kind of pricey and fall into special gift territory for us. You can also make your own boards once you have the tools.

small canvases with a set of acrylic paints

Canvases are available in every possible size and in bundled packages. Inexpensive craft-store acrylic paint sold in small bottles is fine for painting on these.

Stocking stuffer ideas:

multicoloredpencils.jpgmetallic pencils (for the best Star Wars drawings, robots, machine designs) (great on black construction paper)

glitter glue (a favorite of kids everywhere)

fat multicolored pencils

tiny sketchbooks

mini staplers with colored staples (great for tiny book-making)

fancy-edge scissors

Finally, here are some of my favorite children's books about art and artists:

The Yellow House

The Boy Who Drew Birds: The Story of John James Audubon

My Name is Georgia


Degas and the Little Dancer (and the others from the Anholt’s Artists series)

Story Painter

Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors

A Bird or Two

Tar Beach


Artist to Artist: 23 Illustrators Talk to Children about their Art

Leonardo da Vinci

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of our favorites!

Children's book beauty

Published by Lori Pickert on November 6, 2007 at 12:57 PM


All you collectors of vintage children's books and admirers of vintage children's book illustrations need to check out the eye candy at Book By Its Cover.