Morning Pages: Week 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts in which I am sharing the “Morning Pages” that I made for my kids when they were in early and middle elementary grades. There are 100 of them altogether, plus a bonus set for Christmas. Time permitting, I will try to post one or two sets per week. Here, you will find the fourth set of four worksheets.

There are two separate versions, one that is a little harder that I made for Kid 1, and one that is a little easier that I made for Kid 2. They share all of the “fun” content, but the core subject area content varies. You can click on the images below to download a .pdf version of the morning pages. We hope you enjoy them, and if you do, please let us know!

A Little Harder Version (middle-late elementary)
A Little Easier Version (early elementary)

We are happy to provide these resources for your own personal use or for use in your classroom. They are protected under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. This means that you can copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. We would like to continue to offer resources like these, so please show your support by purchasing or recommending our books.

Morning Pages: Week 3

Here is the third in a series of posts in which I am sharing the “Morning Pages” that I made for my kids when they were in early and middle elementary grades. There are 100 of them altogether, plus a bonus set for Christmas. Time permitting, I will try to post one or two sets per week. Here, you will find the third set of four worksheets.

There are two separate versions, one that is a little harder that I made for Kid 1, and one that is a little easier that I made for Kid 2. They share all of the “fun” content, but the core subject area content varies.You can click on the images below to download a .pdf version of the morning pages. We hope you enjoy them, and if you do, please let us know!

A Little Harder Version (middle-late elementary)
A Little Easier Version (early elementary)

We are happy to provide these resources for your own personal use or for use in your classroom. They are protected under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. This means that you can copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. We would like to continue to offer resources like these, so please show your support by purchasing or recommending our books.

Morning Pages: Week 2

Here is the second in a series of posts in which I am sharing the “Morning Pages” that I made for my kids when they were in early and middle elementary grades. There are 100 of them altogether, plus a bonus set for Christmas. Time permitting, I will try to post one or two sets per week. Here, you will find the second set of four worksheets.

There are two separate versions, one that is a little harder that I made for Kid 1, and one that is a little easier that I made for Kid 2. They share all of the “fun” content, but the core subject area content varies.You can click on the images below to download a .pdf version of the morning pages. We hope you enjoy them, and if you do, please let us know!

A Little Harder Version (middle-late elementary)
A Little Easier Version (early elementary):

We are happy to provide these resources for your own personal use or for use in your classroom. They are protected under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. This means that you can copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. We would like to continue to offer resources like these, so please show your support by purchasing or recommending our books.

Morning Pages: Week 1

This is the first in a series of posts in which I am sharing the “Morning Pages” that I made for my kids when they were in early and middle elementary grades. There are 100 of them altogether, plus a bonus set for Christmas. Time permitting, I will try to post one or two sets per week. Here, you will find the first set of four worksheets.

The kids worked on these worksheets first thing in the morning while I was cleaning up breakfast dishes and getting things in order for the day. The worksheets include a variety of different activities that span curricular areas, including art, math, language arts, geography, and more. There are two separate versions, one that is a little harder that I made for Kid 1, and one that is a little easier that I made for Kid 2. They share all of the “fun” content, but the core subject area content varies.

You can click on the images below to download a .pdf version of the morning pages. We hope you enjoy them, and if you do, please let us know!

A Little Harder Version (middle-late elementary):
A Little Easier Version (early elementary):

We are happy to provide these resources for your own personal use or for use in your classroom. They are protected under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. This means that you can copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. We would like to continue to offer resources like these, so please show your support by purchasing or recommending our books.

Free Reading Book Lists

or “What to Do If Your Kids Run Out of Books to Read”

I have two kids, both in the intermediate grades, who love to read. Kid One is very particular and prefers hard science fiction. Kid Two is not exactly particular, but loves high fantasy. At one point, a few years ago, they ran out of books to read. They perused the shelves at the library and announced they had read everything that caught their attention. There was nothing left to read. This was a real crisis because we spend a lot of time reading, and we all enjoy it.

Of course, there were still thousands of books on the shelves that they had never touched. I suggested they broaden their horizons and check out books they had not considered before. They were both willing to give it a try, but didn’t know where to begin. I helped out by making book lists for them. Each year, I make a list of about 25 books or so for each of them to read. I don’t require them to read these books, but when they don’t have anything else on their night stands, I suggest they choose one from the list. The kids have come to love these lists, even if they don’t love every book on them.

They are not necessarily all “great” books, but I think they are worth reading for one reason or another. Some of them are generally considered “classics,” and we often spend time talking about whether or not they deserve such recognition. Others were recently published, and some are award winners. In every case, the lists have helped to broadened my kids’ horizons and have introduced them to books, authors, and genres they would not have considered. The kids have also come to discover some new favorites that had been lurking on the library shelves all along.

You may notice that these lists skew heavily toward fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. There is some realistic fiction mixed in, too, but we all have a definite preference for literature that feeds the imagination. Right now, especially, we prefer stories that dwell in the land of make-believe. You will also see that some of my own favorite authors, including Ursula K. LeGuin, Jonathan Auxier, and Robin McKinley, show up more than once.

Below, you will find an overview of each list as well as a blank one at the end. They are very roughly graded based on length, difficulty, and complexity of ideas. There is also space on each list for kids to rate the books. The rating is the best part and often generates interesting, lively discussions.

Preschool and Elementary Author Study List

There too many wonderful picture books to fit onto a single page, so I created a list that includes many of the authors that we enjoyed when the kids were little. For many of them, including Mo Willems, Dr. Seuss, and Cynthia Rylant, we read everything or almost everything everything they wrote. There is space at the end of the list to add your own favorite authors.

Free Reading List 1: Early to Middle Primary Grades

This list includes short chapter books. Three Tales of My Father’s Dragons is one of Kid Two’s favorite books of all time. Kid Two also loved the Goth Girl books, which you should read if you are familiar with Victorian literature. There are countless allusions to everything from Jane Eyre to Vanity Fair.

Free Reading Lists 2 and 3: Middle to Late Primary Grades

These two book lists include many of our favorite longer chapter books. Some of them, including The Green Ember, and Over Sea, Under Stone, are the first books in a series. If the kids like the first book, they often go on to read the rest of the series. The lists also include a few series in their entirety, including The Chronicles of Prydain and Harry Potter.

Free Reading Lists 4 and 5: Intermediate Grades

These two lists contain books that are about right for kids who are transitioning to longer, more challenging literature, but who still enjoy a good story. The lists include sophisticated fairy tales, adventure stories, and books that challenge students to think about various social problems in nuanced ways.

Editable Free Reading List

In the event that these reading lists are not a perfect fit for your own kids, you can click on the image at left to download a blank reading list that you can edit in a .pdf viewer. Use our lists or your own preferences to put together recommendations for your own kids to consult when they think that they have read everything in the library.


We are happy to provide these resources for your own personal use. They are protected under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. This means that you can copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. We would like to continue to offer resources like these, so please show your support by purchasing or recommending our books.

Free Editable Weekly Planner for Kids

There are many ways to keep track of the chores, work, and other tasks kids have to do, but this spot chart has been a perennial favorite in our house. I created it when the kids were preschool age, and it has made its way back to our refrigerator almost every year since. The kids use bingo markers or dot markers to cross off the things they have done.

When the kids were little, the daily columns included things like “brush teeth,” “get dressed,” and “make bed.” These columns for my current middle schoolers now include things like math, writing, music practice, foreign language work, and exercise. The “Other Stuff” boxes in the lower right are used for things that they do once or twice a week, like “take out trash” or “music lesson.”

Kids Spot Chart Weekly Planner

We are happy to share these resources with you free of charge. We ask only that if you download and use them, you show your support by purchasing or recommending our books.

Free Editable Week Planner

Below, you will find one of our favorite weekly planners. It is a simple, flexible design that you can use to plan all aspects of your week. It includes spaces for lesson plans, activities, notes, a to-do list, dinner plans, exercise, or other aspects of your life that you want to track. You can print it out and fill in the spaces manually or edit it in a .pdf reader. You can download a plain (uneditable) planner page by clicking here.


We are happy to share these resources with you free of charge. We ask only that if you download and use them, you show your support by purchasing or recommending our books.

2020-2021 Master Calendar

Here, you will find our Master Calendar that can be used in concert with the Refrigerator Calendar and Menu. You can print the master calendar and keep it in a binder, and then use it for long-term planning and record keeping.

You can use the calendar at the top to keep track of birthdays, appointments, meetings, and events.

On the bottom half of the page, you will find a table for logging bills paid online, space to write in the names of you bank accounts and a check box to indicate that you have reviewed them for accuracy, and a checklist for household tasks that need to be done in a given month, such as changing the furnace filter, replacing batteries in smoke detectors, making medical appointments, and so on.

At the start of each month, you can transfer activities and events from this master calendar to the refrigerator so everyone in your family knows what is going on.


We are happy to share these resources with you free of charge. We ask only that if you download and use them, you show your support by purchasing or recommending our books.

2020-2021 Refrigerator Calendar & Menu

Plenty of people swear by one app or another to help them stay organized and on top of things, but we prefer the tried-and-true paper calendar. Click here to download our 2020-2021 refrigerator calendar and menu.

We keep them side-by-side on the refrigerator. The calendar gets filled in with birthdays, events, classes, meetings, and other activities. The menu shows our dinner plans for the week. In a future post, I’ll write about our process of menu planning, which usually happens one week at a time.

And here is the menu!

We are happy to share these resources with you free of charge. We ask only that if you download and use them, you show your support by purchasing or recommending our books.

Our Guiding Principles for a Happy Homeschool

One of the great benefits of being an independent homeschooler is that we get to develop an approach and a curriculum that is exactly suited to the needs of our children. We get to decide on our priorities, choose the materials that are a good fit, set our own schedules, and work out the details.

This approach is not without its challenges, however. With nearly unlimited freedom comes infinite choices. It is easy to second-guess the things we are doing, and when our days start to fall apart, we have countless levers and buttons that we can adjust when trying to set things right. It is not always clear where problems lie or how to fix them.

Over the years, I have developed a set of guiding principles that help me to refocus when things are not working. Generally, when something is not quite right, I can trace the problem to my neglect of one or more of the following:

Teach the Child in Front of You

Plan for and teach only the child(ren) you have before you. Do not teach the children you one had, the children you wish you had, or the children you hope they will become.

Safeguard Your Child’s Will to Learn

Help your children to embrace the process of learning. Once their desire to learn has been extinguished, it is extraordinarily difficult to rekindle.

The Best Curriculum Is the One That Gets Done

Choose curriculum that is doable. What “doable” means will vary based on your preferences and the needs and abilities of your children. If it is doable, it will get done. If it is not doable, it will not get done, and you should not stress about it. If you think it should be doable, rearrange your day or your priorities to make it work.

Also, be sure to have a core of easily doable things that get done with great regularity. For some, that might be math, reading, and writing. For others, the core could include music, foreign language, and math. On your busiest or most chaotic days, do these core subjects only.

Do Not Try to Fix Things That Are Not Broken

The grass is not always greener. If it works and is doable, keep going. Do not curriculum hop frivolously.

Expenditures of Time and Effort Pay Dividends

Days can only be easy when you have put in the time and effort to make sure they are so.

Evaluate and Assess Regularly

Do not plan too far ahead, and routinely evaluate what is working and what is not working for both you and for your kids.

Make Changes and Employ Exit Strategies When Needed

When something is not working, weigh the available options and choose a new course. Few decisions we make regarding curriculum or scheduling are irreversible, and we all learn a lot when we are willing to experiment and try new things.

Take Time Off

Embrace the full stop. You and your children need downtime in order to stay sane and productive. You will all be more clear-minded, relaxed, and ready to resume the hard work of learning.

Be Intentional and Thoughtful in Determining Your Path

When you articulate what you are doing and why, you will be less inclined to envy a fellow homeschooler’s journey, approach, curriculum, schedule, goals, accomplishments, and so on.

Enjoy the Journey

Remember, this is a path you have chosen, and it is one that you can change should should the need or desire arise. As long as you choose to continue, you should embrace it, enjoy it, and appreciate its many delights and challenges.