Around the World in 80 Books (Part 2)

Welcome back to the second part of Around the World in 80 books!  If you haven’t read Part One, click here

passport booksGet your passport!  This month, we are off to explore South America, Europe, and the Middle East – one book at a time.  If you can’t physically visit a country to immerse yourself in their culture, the next best thing is to immerse yourself into the life of a person from that country.  Whenever our family has a chance to talk with a friend or a family member who is from another country, we invite them over for tea and conversation.  One of our favorite tea times was with a friend of mine from Bible study.  As usual, my friend who is from Malaysia arrived in traditional Malaysian clothing and was bearing yummy gifts for the kids and my hubby.  Christy loves to cook, so we invited her to our home to share stories of her growing up and to cook lunch!  (Yes, I actually invited a friend over and asked her to cook our lunch!)  The kids and I had a blast!  She brought authentic spices from Malaysia and even produce from her own garden.  She invited the kids to help her prepare the meal while she explained what the foods and spices were, some of her favorite childhood stories that revolved around the meal she was preparing and even taught us some Mayla words.  Christy also brought pictures and books and told us all about her home town, her family, and her country.  She even taught us how to play one of her favorite Malaysian games.

suitcase booksIf you don’t have any friends or acquaintances from far away and exotic lands, the next best thing is to become friends with a character in a book.  We can learn so much about a country and its culture through the eyes of someone who lives there (fictional or real).  This month, let’s explore South America first and visit the Carnaval in Brazil!  (Hey, I am from N’awlins after all!  We love a carnaval!) It was hard to choose, but here is a list of our top ten favorite books about South America, Europe (so, so, so many to choose from) and the Middle East.


  1. Cassio’s Day:  Brazil by Maria De Fatima (This is a great non-fiction, photographic book series)  (Brazil)
  2. Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood  (Paraguay)
  3. From Dawn to Dusk:  Enrique’s Day by Sara A. Fajardo  (Peru)
  4. My Name is Gabriela by Monica Brown  (Chile)
  5. The Lost City:  The Discovery of Machu Picchu by Ted Lewin  (Peru)
  6. Treasure Hunters:  Quest for the City of Gold by James Patterson (Peru)
  7. Nate Saint:  On a Wing and a Prayer by Janet Benge (Ecuador)
  8. Up and Down the Andes by Laurie Krebs (Peru)
  9. Cameron Townsend:  Good News in Every Language by Janet Benge (Central America)
  10. Waiting for the Bibloburro by Monica Brown  (Colombia)

**Don’t forget about the Count Your Way Through series.  Count Your Way Through Brazil by Jim Haskins was one of our favorites.



  1. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (Denmark)
  2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (France)
  3. The Adventures of Robin Hood (England)
  4. The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning (Germany)
  5. D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire (Greece)
  6. Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco and Patrick:  Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola (Ireland)
  7. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (Italy)
  8. Heidi by Johanna Spyri (Swiss Alps)
  9. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (Europe in general)
  10. The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson (Austria)

**Han’s Christian Andersen’s Fairytales are full of European imagery, folktales, and landscapes.  You must check out my favorite art series, Katie and the Sunflowers (and the other Katie books)  by James Mayhew.  Katie has the ability to jump into masterpieces and interact with the painter and the people in the painting.  These are great books to read while studying Europe and its great masters.  ***



  1. Arabian Nights:  Retold from the Classic Tales by Classic Starts (Middle East)
  2. The Legend of the Persian Carpet (Persia / Iran)
  3. Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco (Israel)
  4. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson (Pakistan)
  5. One Grain of Rice by Demi (India)
  6. Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn (Afganistan)
  7. Just So Stories and The Jungle Book by Kipling (India)
  8. Who is Gandhi? and Who is Mother Theresa? (Who is Series)
  9. The Librarian of Basra:  A True Story from Iraq by Jennette Winters
  10. The Hungry Coat:  A Tale from Turkey by Demi

**Don’t forget about the Count Your Way Through series.  There are many Middle Eastern and European countries in this series.  Count Your Way Through Iran by Jim Haskins is a more recent publication and is beautifully illustrated.



indian food.jpgThe best part about “traveling” around the world is trying new foods. Make sure you try out some local ethnic restaurants in your area and attempt to make authentic recipes from around the world.  We even tried to find markets and grocery stores that specialized in a particular culture. This way we could try some of the spices, produce and goodies a country was known for.  When my family and I started “traveling around the world” as part of our Year One cycle, I needed to purchase cookbooks.  Today, delicious ethnic recipes are just click away on the internet or just ask Siri.

Enjoy your homeschooling adventures this month!  Check back next month for Part Three.  We will travel to Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Sayonara, adios and aloha,

Carrie De Francisco

***Mark your calendars for March 27-28th.  If you live in the southern California area, we would love for you to join us for our next homeschooling mom event:  Homeschooling Adventures:  A Weekend to Refresh, Rest and Rejuvenate.  It will be a weekend of encouragement, refreshment, and fellowship.  During our Saturday morning session, Passport to Learning, we will share more on the topic of how to travel the world (literally and figuratively) through books, field trips, games and family vacations.   For more information on the event and sessions, visit our tab “Upcoming Events.”  Make sure you “like” and “follow” our blog for monthly topics on Christian homeschooling and for updates on our registration for our homeschooling mom event in March.***

Check out our Upcoming Events Tab for details of each session and links to register.  See you in March!

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Around the World in 80 Books (Part 1)

Get our your passport and come take a literary and memorable trip around the world with me!  A little background info before we embark.   Our family loosely follows the classical approach.  I have always loved the idea of learning history in chronological order, so when we began our homeschooling journey, we started at the beginning.  However our very first year of homeschooling, I was inspired by My Father’s World:  Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum.

Before we embarked on learning about ancient history, I wanted to spend an entire year “traveling the world” and learning about the places and the unique geography of the places we would study in later years.  So during our first year of homeschooling, we embarked on an adventure to learn about the 7 continents, the major countries and cities throughout history, and the cultures, people, and landscape of the beautiful places found in ancient, medieval and modern history.  I made “Passports” for each of us, and we spent the year “traveling the world” through books, song, food, festivals, field trips, music, and art.  Our classical homeschool cycle looked like this:

  • Year One:  “Travel the World”
  • Year Two:  Ancient History (Creation to Christ)
  • Year Three:  Medieval to Modern (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation & Exploration)
  • Year Four:  US & Modern World History (1700’s to current)

During our “Traveling around the world” year, we started in North America and focused on the United States first!  We learned about our home state, California, and then we worked our way across America.  (FYI- If you are looking for a comprehensive interdisciplinary literature-based curriculum for California History, check out CA Out of the Box!)The first time we did Year One, we focused on national parks as we traveled the US.  The second time we did Year One, we memorized the states and capitals.  The last time we did Year One, my son was taking a culinary art and cooking class as well as a few art classes, so we focused on the unique foods prepared and served in different parts of the United States.  Yes, we ate our way around the US!  Additionally, we also spent the year learning how to draw and label the United States from memory.

After a month of “traveling” the United States, we worked our way up north to Canada and then went south of the border to Mexico.  From North America, we explored the richness of South America and many of its culturally and historically unique countries.  We then moved across the pond to study Europe.  We often spent way too much time in Europe but some of my favorite inventors, artists, musicians, and political figures are from European countries.  Next, we crossed the Ural Mountains and explored Asia and the Middle East, which is the cradle to civilization (and the focus of most current event news stories).  We moved across the Strait of Gibraltar into Africa and then finished our travels in Australia and Oceania.  Some years we had time for Antartica and some years we didn’t.

This is how our Year One “Travel Around the World” was generally organized:

  • September:  United States
  • October:  North America (Canada, Mexico & Central American countries)
  • November:  South America ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • December:  Learned about how Christmas is celebrated around the world
  • January:  Europe ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • February:  Europe & Middle East  ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • March: Asia & Middle East ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • April:  Africa ( Picked 4 countries to focus on)
  • May:  Australia and Oceania Countries

Since we cycled through Year One every four years, we would focus on different countries each time we “traveled the world.”  For example, the first time we did Year One and Europe, we learned about Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, and Italy.  The second time we did Year One, we learned about Scandinavian countries, Greece, Austria, Poland, Croatia, Czech Republic, etc.  By the time, we cycled through Year One three times, we learned about the majority of countries in Europe. As we “traveled” to different continents and countries, we read  A LOT of books!  Read alouds are not only a great way to learn together but a great way to explore the world without ever leaving the comfort of your home (and Pj’s).

This post is Part One of a series entitled “Around the World in 80 Books.”  Before we read our way around the world, let’s start with some great books to introduce maps, geography and God’s marvelous creation around the world.

BOOKS #1- #10 Atlases Galore

  1. The Travel Book:  A Journey Through Every Country in the World by Lonely Planet Kids
  2. The Scholastic Atlas of the World by Scholastic Publishing
  3. Children’s Atlas of God’s World by Craig Froman
  4. The Natural World:  Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia (Animals around the world)
  5. Draw Write Now Series:  #4, #6, #7, & #8 by Hablitzel and Stitzer
  6. Geography From A to Z:  A Picture Glossary by Jack Knowlton
  7. The Baker Book of Bible Travels for Kids by Anne Adams
  8. Window on the World: When We Pray God Works by Daphne Spraggett
  9. How to Make Apple Pie and See the World by Majorie Priceman
  10. How to Make Cherry Pie and See the US by Majorie Priceman

Books #1-3 are “must have’s” in any homeschool library!  The Travel Book and Scholastic Atlas are divided into continents.  Then in each continent section, there are two-page spreads about each country located in each continent.  The two-page spreads have colorful maps with pictures, illustrations, and fun facts about each country.  If your child is a trivia buff or likes to read a lot of info in little bite-sized nuggets, he will love these books. They are great for research too!  Books #4 and #5 are great for naturalist and animal lovers.  Similarly, these books are divided into sections by continents and regions but explore the animals and ecosystems unique to each area.  Books #7 and #8 focus on Bible lands, ancient history, and missions around the world.  Finally, my two favorite picture books are #9 and #10.  My family read these books over and over and enjoyed the culinary connection to the cultures and countries mentioned in the books.  They are super fun and a great way to start any geography unit of study.

BOOKS #11-#20 United States

  1. A is for America by Devin Scillian (and its counterpart P is for Passport)
  2. If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern
  3. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  4. Ben and Me:  Astonishing Life with Ben Franklin by Robert Lawson
  5. Little House in Big Woods Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  6. Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
  7. Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
  8. Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt or Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  9. American Tall Tales
  10. How Many Days Till America:  A Thanksgiving Story & Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

**There are so many picture books, classics and Newbury’s to pick from and read.  I just listed some of our family’s all-time favorites that appealed to both my book-a-holic daughter and my super active son.  The following four books are wonderful books to read about the pre- and post Civil Rights Movement:  The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Bud Not Buddy, Ruby Bridges Goes to School, and Sounder (a favorite for dog lovers).***

BOOKS #21-30  Canada, Mexico, and Central America

  1. Count Your Way through Mexico & Count Your Way through Canada by Jim Haskins (Get the whole series!  There is one for just about every country!)
  2. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  3. M is for Maple:  A Canadian Alphabet by Michael Ulmer
  4. Dear Primo:  A Letter to my Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh
  5. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz
  6. Borreguita and the Coyote by Verna Aardema
  7. The Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson & Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel
  8. The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
  9. Abuela’s Weave by Omar Castaneda
  10. Come Look with Me:  Latin American Art by Kimberly Lane

**Don’t forget to learn about a country’s culture, values, beliefs, and folktales by reading its version of Cinderella.  Mexico’s version is Adelita:  Mexican Cinderella Story by Tomie dePaola.  My daughter, who is a Disney freak, loved reading and comparing the different cultural Cinderellas.  Check out Yeh Shen (China), Rough-Faced Girl (Native American), Domolita (Mexican), Cendrillion (Caribean), The Irish Cinderlad (Ireland), Egyptian Cinderella, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (African), Korean Cinderella, Persian Cinderella, and The Golden Sandal (Middle Eastern)**

Happy Travels and check back next month for “Around the World in 80 Books”  Part Two.  We will explore South America, Europe, and the Middle East – one book at a time.

Carrie De Francisco


***Mark your calendars for March 27-28th.  If you live in the southern California area, we would love for you to join us for our next homeschooling mom event:  Homeschooling Adventures:  A Weekend to Refresh, Rest and Rejuvenate.  It will be a weekend of encouragement, refreshment, and fellowship.  During our Saturday morning session, Passport to Learning, we will share more on the topic of how to travel the world (literally and figuratively) through books, field trips, games and family vacations.   Make sure you “like” and “follow” our blog for monthly topics on Christian homeschooling and for updates on our registration for our homeschooling mom event in March.***

Check out our Upcoming Events Tab for details of each session and links to register.  See you in March!

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Summer Time Science: NATURE STUDIES

feet in the sand.jpg.600x315_q67_crop-smartAh, summertime sun and lazy days at the beach!  Some of my favorite times during the year.  Besides relaxing at the beach and sleeping in,  I had the honor and privilege this summer to speak at Christian Homeschool Education Association (CHEA) convention in Southern California (Pasadena, CA to be exact).  It was a blessed weekend of wonderful reminders of why we homeschool and how to follow God’s leading as we live out this call to homeschool.

This mid-summer post is a continuation of one of the sessions I presented at CHEA on “Nature Studies for the Nature-Deficient Family.”  Whether you were able to attend the session or not, I pray this blog will help you “Jump Start” your science studies this year!

If you are looking for a way to do science this year that is stress-free, text-book free and guilt-free,  try Nature Studies!  If you are looking for a way to do science this year that doesn’t require an expensive curriculum or expensive outside science classes, then I strongly suggest you do Charlotte Mason style Nature Studies this year!

What are nature studies?  In a nutshell, it is using God’s creation as your inspiration for scientific exploration.  No boring textbooks are needed.  No expensive science curriculums are needed.  No hectic outside science classes are needed.  It’s you, your kids, a backpack, a few journals, and the great outdoors!  (Click the Nature Explorer handout for ideas on how to put together a nature study backpack: Nature Explorer’s Handout )


  1. Explore nature (backyard, neighborhood walks, parks, gardens, zoos, hikes, etc).
  2. Stop, sit, and draw what you see.
  3. Learn about the plant/animals you saw when you get home.
  4. Add info to your drawing (facts, labels, quotes, verses, thoughts, etc)

Yep, it really is that simple!  If you are not sure how to get started or you have always wanted to do nature studies with your family but haven’t tried it yet, summertime is the BEST time to try it out!  If you plan on doing nature studies for the first time this coming school year, summertime is the BEST time to ease into this new and fun way to learn science.

sea gullsBEACH DAY:  First, plan a day at the beach!  Any beach will do.  It can be a coastal beach, the shore by a lake, or even a stream in a local canyon.  Actually, plan to spend the day at a local beach once a week for the rest of the summer (or as often as you can).  Even though that sounds like a lot of time at the beach, trust me! It is well worth the packing, the sand in your car, and the extra meal planning.  Your kids will love you for it (and you will thank me later).

kelp-on-beach-2EXPLORE:  Don’t bring your nature study backpack with you.  It’s ok.  (If you are new to this, you probably don’t have one yet anyway!)  Just leave it at home as you start learning how to do nature studies.  The whole idea is to get you and your kids used to exploring nature for fun (and seeing God’s handiwork and handprints everywhere)!  Besides, you are still in summertime “non-school” mode.   No need to turn beach day into a school day!

  1. Pull up a blanket, slap on the sunscreen, and start splashing in the waves.
  2. Build sandcastles (and your kiddos will notice some very interesting little critters in the sand).
  3. Collect sea shells (and bring them home).
  4. Pick up the washed-up kelp on the beach (and let them “pop” the blooms).  Search through the mounds of kelp.  You will be amazed at how many little animals live in it.
  5. Notice the sea birds flying overhead (and trying to eat your picnic lunch).  Take pictures of the different birds you see with your iphone.

DRAW:  Once you come home (or the next day if everyone is sun-whipped), pull out your child’s nature journal.**   Ask your child what was her favorite thing she saw while at the beach.  Whatever it was, have her draw it in her journal with colored pencils.  If she liked the shells the best, she can simply put some of her favorite shells in front of her and draw them.  If it was the squishy kelp, you can pull up a picture of kelp on the internet and let her look at it while she draws.  If she liked one of the sea birds, let her look at the photos you took on your iphone.  The drawing doesn’t have to be perfect!  Drawing in her journal should be just as much fun as playing on the beach and collecting the seashells.  If your child wants help or is older, here are a few online instructions, worksheets, and  book resources she can use.


INVESTIGATE:  One day during the week, investigate the item she drew.  There are tons of online sources, field guides, and books you can use.  Your library will have TONS of Audobon and DK collector guides.  Amazon has some great books too.  There are laminated field guides specifically for California birds, seashells and marine life.  The internet has some great online classification guides as well to help you and your child identify the beach object she drew.  There is even an app you can use on your phone.  Just take a picture of the shell, and the app gives you the name, classification, and description of the shell.


WRITE:  Keep this simple and keep it age-appropriate!  If your child is younger, she can just write the name of the object next to or under the drawing.  If your child is a little older, then she can write a sentence or two about the object.  It can be a description of it or it can just be where she found it and why she likes it.  Older students can label the drawing, include its scientific name and classification and more details about it.  For added fun, you can search for a bible verse or a famous quote that relates to water or the beach to add to the page or you can find a poem about the item to write next to or below the drawing.


READ:  Get your hands on as many picture books and/or information books as you can and share them with your family.  During the summer, libraries and book stores have numerous beach and water-themed displays.    Read, read, read and have fun!


START OVER!  Yep!  That’s it!  Start over!  Spend another day at the beach.  Build sand castles, collect seashells, interact with the birds, squish those sea kelp buds, and have fun in the sun.  When you get home, start all over.  Pick something to draw.  Learn about it.  Write a few things about it and read a few more books about the beach.  You are dipping your feet into the cool and relaxing science “curriculum” of nature studies.  Once you get your feet wet this summer, you can dive right into making nature studies your whole family science curriculum for the year!

May God richly bless your summer exploration for His glory,


**Nature Journals:  All you need is a notebook, journal or sketchbook for each child (and yourself).  The $1 store has old fashion lined composition notebooks.  Michael’s sells sturdy spiral art sketchbooks, which you can usually find on sale.  Bookstores like Barnes and Noble sell beautiful lined and unlined journals.  Make sure each child picks out his/her own nature journal.  If you don’t have colored pencils, pick up a pack while you are at the store.  Don’t use markers or watercolor.  They bleed onto the other pages.**


MARK YOUR CALENDAR!  We hope you can join us for our annual special weekend for homeschooling moms on March 28th-29th, 2020.  Visit our “UPCOMING EVENTS” tab for more information on the weekend and how to register!

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Holiday Homeschooling: The 12 Days of Christmas

nativityDecember is here and the holiday season has officially started!  Chances are your days will be filled with all things Christmas, which leaves very little time for schoolwork.  I would like to propose a radical idea:  take a break from doing math textbooks, workbooks and worksheets the month of December!  Yes, you heard me correctly!  Take advantage of all of the real-world math applications that are already present in your week during the holiday season. Money skills and decimal concepts will be reinforced every time you shop.  Spatial problem solving and geometry will be practiced every time they wrap presents.  Computation skills and fraction concepts will be reviewed every time you cook and bake.  There is no reason to spend precious holiday time laboring over math workbooks.  Instead, shop, wrap, bake, and spend the month playing fun math games instead.


12daysofChristmasDisguise your math time in the form of fun and games.  Your December break is the perfect time to catch up on game time!  For twelve days in December, play tons of fun math games.  During the month of December, pick one of the games below to play.  I promise.  You and your family will have so much fun, you might find yourself playing them again and again even when your Christmas vacation is over!  For most of the games, no investment is needed.  All you need is a deck of cards and a few pair of dice.  Many of the games come from the book Lessons for Decimals and Percents ( De Francisco, 2002) and  TheMath FUNdamentals Series (De Francisco, out of print).


christmas ornaments (8)1st Day of Christmas:  Go Fish (Traditional & Math Fact Version) 

If your child is in PreK, K or 1st grade, play Go Fish with a deck a cards as often as they ask!  This traditional game helps students build number sense and number recognition.  The best part about playing cards, your little one can count the hearts or diamonds if needed.

ten go fishIf your child is in 1st-4th grade, play a version of Go Fish that will help them learn basic addition facts.  Let’s say your child is having trouble remembering the addition facts for 10.  Play Go Fish 10 to help him remember!  First, remove all of the face cards.  They won’t be needed.  Aces are #1’s.  Deal five cards to each player and then spread face down the remaining cards (just like you do for Go Fish!).  Players take turns asking for a number card except in this version, players are trying to make a pair of numbers that add up to 10.  For example, Player A has a #1 in her hand so she asks her opponent if he has a #9 because 1 + 9 = 10.  If the opponent has a #9, Player A makes a pair and takes another turn.  If the opponent does not have a #9, then Player A “goes fishing”.  Now Player B’s takes his turn.  The winner is the player with the most pairs at the end of the game.  ** Older students- These are great games to play with younger siblings.  Not only does it help the younger one learn his/her facts but it helps reinforce speed in older students.**


christmas ornaments (8)2nd Day of Christmas:  Memory (Traditional and Math Fact Version)

If your child is PreK to 1st grade, play Memory (or Concentration) with a deck a cards as often as they ask!  This traditional game helps students build number sense and number recognition as they try to match numbers together.

ten go fish w: unoIf your child is in 1st -4th grade, play a version of Memory that will help reinforce the basic addition facts.  Rules are the same as the traditional game of Memory and set up is the same as Go Fish (Math Facts Version).  Let’s say your youngster is having trouble remembering the addition facts for 6.  Before play begins, remove all face cards and number cards 7-10.  They will not be needed.  Next place all remaining cards face down in between the players.  To start, Player A turns over two cards.  She is trying to match two cards that add up to 6.   She turned over a #2 and a #3.  Since 2 + 3 do not add up to 6, she turns them face down and loses her turn.  Now it is Player B’s turn.  He turns over a #4 and remembers where the #2 card is. He successfully finds it and turns it over, thus creating an addition pair that adds up to #6.  He then keeps the pair and takes another turn.  You can play this game for any addition facts 10 or under.  The winner is the player with the most pairs. at the end of the game  ** Older students- These are great games to play with younger siblings.  Not only does it help the younger one learn his/her facts but it helps reinforce speed in older students.**


christmas ornaments (8)3rd Day of Christmas:  Battle / War (Traditional and Math Fact Version)

If your child is PreK to 1st grade, play Battle (or War)  with a deck a cards as often as they ask!  This traditional game helps students learn to compare and order numbers while playing this face-paced game.

math-card-games-1If your child is in 1st -7th grade, play a version of Battle that will help reinforce the basic addition or multiplication facts while building computation speed.  Rules are the same as the traditional game of Battle.  Deal all of the cards face down between two players.  At the same time, each player turns face up the top card of his pile. If they are playing Addition Battle, the object of the game is to be the first person to mentally add the two cards and yell the sum.  The player who correctly yells first the correct sum, wins the two cards.  For example, Player A turns over #6 and Player B turns over #4.  The first player to yell “10”, wins the round and the the two cards.  If they are playing Multiplication Battle, the rules and set up are the same except the players are racing to see who can call out first the correct product.  In the previous example, the first player to yell “24” wins the round and the two cards (6 X 4 = 24).  Since it is a fast paced game, it helps build speed and quick recall of math facts.   If your child is still learning the facts, slow the game down but turning over two cards each.  Each player takes his time adding his two cards together.  The player whose pair of cards has the greatest sum, wins.

5 +2If your child is in 7th-12th grade, play Addition Integer Battle (or Multiplication Integer Battle).  In this version, set up and play are the same except the red cards are negative numbers and the black cards are positive.  Each player turns over a card.  The first person to call out the correct sum (or product), wins the round and the two cards.  For example, Player A turns over a black #5 and Player B turns over red #2.  If you are playing Addition Integer Battle, the first player to yell “3” wins the two cards.  (-2 + 5 = 3).  If the players are playing Multiplication Integer Battle, then the first player to call out “-10” wins.  (-2 X 5 = -10).  This is a fun and quick game to reinforce the rules of adding and multiplying positive and negative numbers!  You might even enjoy Algebra while playing this fast-paced game.


christmas ornaments (8)4th Day of Christmas:  Greatest Number (Decimal Place Value)

To set up this game, you will need a pair of dice and the score sheet.  (CLICK HERE).  The object of the game is to build the largest decimal number possible.  Each player takes turns rolling the die and then decides if he will use the number rolled or reject it.  If he chooses to keep the number rolled, he then decides which place value to put the number.  He can write it in the tenths spot, the hundredths spot or the thousandths spot, however, once he chooses the place value spot, he cannot erase or move it.  Each round, each player is only allowed to reject one number.  This is also a strategy game so players must take turns.  This allows the player to see his/her opponent’s number as it is being built.  For example, Player A rolls a #3.  He decides to keep the 3 and place it in the hundredths spot.  When it is his turn to roll again, he rolls a decimal place value dice game#1 but decides to reject it.  At his next turn, he rolls another #1 but since he has already rejected a number, he has to use the #1 this time.  He records it in the thousandths spot.  On his fourth and final roll, he rolls a #5.  The only spot available is the tenths place so he records the #5 in the tenths spot.  At the end of round 1, Player A has built the decimal number .531.  In the meantime, his opponent built the number .541.  Since .541 is greater than .531, Player B wins the first round.  Play continues for five rounds.  The player who wins the most rounds wins the game.

dice-place valueIf your child is in 1st-4th grade, remove the thousandths place on the score sheet.  This way they are creating money notation.  This is a great way to reinforce decimals and money notation especially with 2nd graders.   Another simplifier version  is to just remove the decimal point altogether and then play the game.  Now the players are building whole numbers instead (ones, tens and hundreds).  In the previous game example, Player A built the number 531 and Player B built 541.  Player B still wins!  To make it more challenging, add more decimal places.  The older your student, the more places you can add to the score sheet!  Students can build numbers up to the millions!  This is a fun and easy way to teach and reinforce place value concepts.


christmas ornaments (8)5th Day of Christmas:  Twenty One

No, I am not encouraging gambling, BUT, the game of 21 (or versions of Black Jack) are great mental math card games.  For this game, a traditional set of cards are needed.  Keep all of the cards and remind your student the face cards equal #11.  As  usual, Aces are #1.  Play the traditional game.  The object is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over.  For younger students, play 15.  Each player gets two cards: one face up and one faced down.  The object is to keep receiving cards to get as close to 15 as possible without going over.  For older students, play 50.  Same rules and set up except the players are mentally calculating cards till they reach 50 (or as close as possible without going over.)


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6th Day of Christmas:  Knock Out

For this game, you need a deck of cards and a pair of dice.  Using the deck of cards, each player places face up in front of him the numbers #1-#10 (Aces are #1).  The object of the game is to “knock out” as many number cards as possible.  Players take turns rolling two or three dice.  Using any combination of numbers, order of operations and computation (+, – , x, /) each player tries to create an equation that equals each number (#1- #10).  For example, Player A rolls a 2, 3, 5.  She can “knock out” or remove all of the cards except 9:

#1 card:   (3 – 2 =1)

#2 card:   (5 – 3 = 2)

#3 card:   (5 – 2 = 3)

#4 card:   [ 5 – (3 – 2 ) = 4 ]

#5 card:   ( 3 + 2 = 5)

#6 card:   (3 X 2 = 6)

#7 card:   ( 5 + 2 = 7)

#8 card:   (5 + 3 = 8)


#10 card:    [ 5 + ( 3 + 2) = 10]

1280px-Dice_(typical_role_playing_game_dice) **If you want to make this more difficult, than purchase dice that have numbers greater than 6.  (Click Here to order)


7th Day of Christmas:  Play the card game,  24 

8th Day of Christmas:  Play the dice game, Farkle (Great for Addition)

9th Day of Christmas: Play the board game, Sequence Dice (Great for Addition facts up to 12)

10th Day of Christmas:  Play board game, Cubes by Jax (Great for mental addition and subtraction)

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11th Day of Christmas: 

Play ANY board game that requires rolling the dice to move.  As your family plays their favorite games, they are practicing adding with each roll of the dice.  For older students, multiply the dice but move tokens the number in the one’s place.  For example, Player A rolls a #5 and #7.  She multiplies the numbers to get the product of #35.  This is too many spaces to move on the board so she moves the number in the one’s place. In #35, 5 is in the one’s place so she moves a total of 5 spaces.  Using these rules helps reinforce place value skills and multiplication facts.


christmas ornaments (8)12th Day of Christmas:  As a family, do the 12 Days of Christmas activity.  Try to figure out how many total gifts are given by the end of the twelfth day!  One year when my kids were older and doing addition, we attempted to figure out just how many gifts were given in the song 12 Days of Christmas.  (Here are the answers in case you attempt the problem too!)  One year when my daughter was learning Algebra and my son was experimenting with patterns, we did the 12 Days of Christmas again, but I taught them about Pascal’s Triangle and how to use it find the total number of gifts.  (Here is a great video for an explanation: Pascal’s Triangle


and-the-angel-said-to-them-fear-not-for-behold-i-bring-you-good-news-of-gre-esvOf course, don’t forget to celebrate the reason for the season!  Even if you do not get to play any of these games, make sure you take the time to go caroling, serve your neighbors, and spread the good news of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection this holiday season.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,


MOM conference building 2019**If you enjoyed the games shared in this Christmas post, join us in March, 2019 for our Homeschooling Mom’s Weekend Event.  Our second session on Saturday is Gameology! Creators of The Games Curriculum,  Martin and Carolyn Forte, will share TONS of games that can be played to teach any and all subjects!  Carrie De Francisco, author of Math FUNdamentals series and founder of FUNdamentals Wednesday classes, will also share many of the math games in this post with the participants.  In this session we will learn how to put the FUN back into learning the FUNdamentals.  ***  For more information, visit Upcoming Events.




SCIENCE: Textbook & Stress Free

Genesis_1-31Don’t let teaching science this year stress you out and don’t let it  break your pocketbook!  Teaching science doesn’t have to be expensive, stressful or boring!  And it certainly doesn’t have to revolve around a dry textbook or a commercial curriculum either. Spend the year learning about God’s marvelous creation while exploring God’s creation. Doing science at home with the entire family can be as easy (and as fun) as child’s play!


wild-animal-parkBuy a family pass to a local attraction.  Don’t invest in an expensive science curriculum. Use those budgeted funds to purchase a family pass to local zoo, aquarium or park.  We live in Southern California so we have a plethora of choices.  One year we bought family passes to the L.A. Zoo.  Another year we purchased a family pass to the Long Beach Aquarium.  Some years we got a family membership to the local Arboretum or the Natural History Museum.  Most museums, zoos, and aquariums also offer monthly classes or homeschool days and labs.  As a family, we would use our pass at least once a month, and we would try to take advantage of as many classes or workshops offered.   One year, we didn’t have enough money for a family pass, so we went hiking once a month in local wilderness park and spent numerous hours at the beach.

Pick a topic to explore each year.
 Every year, my husband and I decide which area of science we will focus on in the coming school year.  Throughout the years, we have spent an entire year learning about zoology and animal studies.  We spent one whole year learning about marine animals and oceanography.  Another year we focused on just astronomy while another year we tackled machines and magnets.   One year we even spent the entire year learning about horses!  We connected it to our study of knights in Medieval times.  My favorite year was when our family spent the entire year learning about human anatomy, nutrition, and diseases.  One year the kids really wanted to get annual passes to the local amusement park so we decided to learn about physics and laws of motion that year.  We attended every educational class the amusement park offered, designed our own roller coasters with an online simulation and of course, experimented with Newton’s laws of Motion and Kepler’s Laws while riding the rides!

Use your library card instead of a textbook!  We used our library card to check out all kinds of books about the science topics we were studying.  We read some of the books together during our science time and then each child independently read the books they checked out of the library.   With some guidance, the internet is a fabulous resource.  As the kids grew, we incorporated a lot of research into our science studies.  The older students would research topics of interest and would either write a report or teach the information to the younger children.



Don’t forget about creating nature journals!  No need to buy science textbooks when your students can create their own!  Each year, each child received a brand new art journal.  As they got older, I let them pick it out.  It would be their nature journal for the year.  When we would use our family pass or go on nature hikes, we made sure to bring nature-spreadour science backpack and nature journals with us.  In our backpack, we would have each child’s nature journal, tons of pens, good quality colored pencils, a magnifying glass, a few field guides, a pair of binoculars, and my iPhone (for taking pictures).  Wherever we would go, the kids would pick one or two things they they wanted to draw.  We would sit, observe, and sketch.  If the kids couldn’t decide, I would take a picture of the animals or plants so they could sketch them and research them when we got home.  Another advantage to getting family passes to one place each year is you can take your time and explore every section of the museum, zoo, park or aquarium.

Incorporate as many games as you can into your science studies.  You will be amazed at how many fun and educational science games there are on the market.  You just need to know where to look.  See the list and links below for some of our favorites.


Don’t feel guilty about doing science only one day a week!  
Most traditional schools only do science once or twice a week.  Spend a day using your family pass or go hiking with your nature journals.  Go to the library and pick out books or at home spend an hour reading aloud from the books you borrowed.  Have your kids spend the day researching a topic or preparing to teach the rest of the family something they learned.  As a family, play a science game or watch a documentary related to the topic you are studying that year.

tb-moms-morning-time-basketIf you incorporate Morning Time in your schedule, put a science picture book, science game or your nature journals in the basket for rotation.  Every couple of days, you will cover some science in your Morning Time.  If you really need a teacher’s guide to help you organize your lessons, then I highly recommend Apologia’s Young Explorer Series.  This series uses a whole year to delve deep into one area of science.  They also incorporate the “notebook” method as well as tailor to multi-age students.  The program is designed for homeschooling families.  It even gives suggestions for easy hands-on experiments that can be done with common household or kitchen supplies.

Consider supplementing with an outside class or participate in a science co-op.  In Southern California, we also have a wide selection of outside science classes for the homeschooling community.  If you feel you need to supplement your home studies or your older student needs a little extra challenge, consider enrolling in a once a week hands-on science class.  If you live in Southern California, I highly recommend Science 2 U with Jill Wilcox.  Science 2 U has awesome hands-on science classes in Torrance, Westminster, Monrovia, Rancho Cucamonga, Anaheim, Burbank, Costa Mesa, Lakewood, Murrieta, and Riverside.  She even has a marine biology and surf camp in the summers at Seal Beach.  If you don’t live in Southern California, I’m sure you can find a hands-on science class in your area.  If you cannot, then do a science co-op with a friend or two!  Find some homeschooling friends who are learning about the same science topics as your family.  Meet once a week or once a month.  Take turns teaching a topic and facilitating experiments.  Go on a few science related field trips together.  I found that the years we participated in a co-op, I was held more accountable and we definitely completed more science activities and units!

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being.” Rev 4:11

May God richly bless your scientific discoveries this year for His glory and may you discover God in a new way as you explore His creation,

Carrie De Francisco

MOM conference building 2019**If you like these ideas and would like more of them, attend our next homeschooling mom event:  Building Hearts & Home(Schools) for Christ.  It will be in March, 2019 at the Pasadena / Monrovia Marriott.  Check out what we have planned:  Upcoming Event




Into the Forest (Family Fav!)

Onto the Desert

Animal Tracks

Professor Noggins Card Games (All Science topics are fun!)

Animalopoly (or any science -olopy game!)  These versions have a shorter game time!

Wild Life Safari

Elemento (great for learning the periodic table)

Valence (molecule game)

Quick Pix Animals (faced paced and fun!)

Somebody (great way to learn human anatomy!)

Brain Race (great for older kids)

Science Bingo (or any Bingo / Jingo science topic games)

Roller Coaster (great for laws of motion!)

Herd Your Horses (hours of fun the year we studied just horses!)