Best of the Best Home School Book List

We are getting hit with a major blizzard today! This sunflower is a teaser photo! Yes, spring will come, but it sure is taking forever! More teasers………
My long awaited book list! This is really just a starting point, as I am sure I will think of more books over time. I have separated the list into age groups, and I will also have a separate list for general curriculum for each age group as well that I will add at a later time.
These are all books I have personally read and can vouch for. I did not include books we have read that we didn’t absolutely love. There are so many marginal books out there, only the very best ones are needed to complete your home schooling library. We have read through so many different book lists during our home schooling journey, not all recommended books are created equal! My criteria for choosing good books includes great artwork, well developed story lines, lots of action, interesting plots and characters, good morals and biblical values. I will be adding books over time so be sure and stop back! This list will be filed under the My Book List page for easy reference.
Beware, these little ones love to read the same stories over and over again! Invest in a few great books and they will be happy for ages!
Little Readers
Moo Baa and Fa, La, La and other books by Sandra Boynton
Jingle Bugs and other pop up books by David A. Carter
Orange Tomatoes, Blue Potatoes by Rosalind Creasy
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone and Micheal Smollin
Theodore the Tug Boat Series
Original Thomas the Tank Stories by Rev. W. Awdry
Strega Nona and other books by Tomie de Paola
A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer
Berenstain Bear Stories by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
Poems for the Very Young by Michael Rosen
Vos Story Bible by Catherine Vos
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
Make Way for Ducklings and other books by Robert McCloskey
Policeman Small and other books by Lois Lenski
Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Good Night Moon and other books by Margret Wise Brown
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christletow

Don’t be surprised if you find your kids wanting to read these books all the time!
Young Readers
Nate the Great Books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Enclyopedia Brown Series by Donald Sobel
Mr. Putter and Tabby Books by Cynthia Rylant
Clifford the Big Red Dog Books by Norman Bridwell
The Wreck of the Zypher and other books by Chris Van Allsburg
A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy and John Steven Gurney
Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Delvin
Santa Snow Cat by Sue Stainton and Anne Mortimer
Paddle to the Sea and other books by Holling C. Holling
Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi
The Magic School Bus Books by Joanna Cole
Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osbourne
The Complete Tales of Whinnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Paddington the Bear and other books by Michael Bond
The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord and Mark Simont
Hank Zipzer Books by Henry Wrinkler
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
D’Aulaires’ History Books by Ingrid and Edgar D’Aulaire
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
The Three Investigators Mysteries by Robert Arthur
Sugar Creek Gang Stories by Paul Hutchens
Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Roman Ransom by Henry Winterfield
Adventures in Odyssey Series Books by various authors
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Chet Gecko Private Eye Series by Bruce Hale
Sir Cumference and the Knight of Angleland and other books by Cindy Neuschwander
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork
What’s Your Angle Pythagoras? By Julie Ellis

These are the books that kids love to read under the bed covers at night with a flashlight!
Proficient Readers
Hatchet and other books by Gary Paulsen
39 Clues Series by Rick Riordan
Shipwreck and other books by Gordon Korman
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Runaway Ralph and other books by Beverely Cleary
Stormbreaker and other books by Anthony Horowitz
Percy Jackson and the Olympian Series by Rick Riordan
The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Heidi by Joanna Spyri
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
Treasure Island and other books by Robert Louis Stevenson
Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Mara Daughter of the Nile and other books by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
My Side of the Mountain and other books by Jean Craighead George
Island of the Blue Dolphins and other books by Scott O’dell
Original Hardy Boys Mysteries by Franklin W. Dixon
Original Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyne Keene
Narnia Series and other books by C.S. Lewis
Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris Tibbets
At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
The Dragon and the Raven and other books by G. A. Henty 
Carry On Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
Vocabulary Cartoons by Sam Burchers
I am Number Four Series by Pittacus Lore
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and other books by Jules Verne
Eragon and other books by Christopher Paolini
The Eagle of the Ninth and other books by Rosemary Sutcliff
Insearch of a Homeland: The Story of the Aeneid by Penelope Lively

High school reading selections can involve an increased knowledge of the world. It’s time to introduce more complex moral subjects while your children are still at home to discuss them with you.
High School and Adult
The Robe, Magnificent Obsession by Loyd C. Douglas
Keeper of the Bees and other books by Gene Straton Porter
Horratio Hornblower and other books by C.S. Foster
The Hobbit and other books by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock
Little Women and other books by Louisa May Alcott
Little Britches Series by Ralph Moody
Father Brown Mystery Series by G.K.Chesterton
Death on the Nile and other books by Agatha Christie
Tom Sawyer and other books by Mark Twain
The Chase and other books by Clive Cussler
The Elements by Theodore Gray
Romeo and Juliet and other works by Shakespeare
Pride and Prejudice and other works by Jane Austin
The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan
The Count of Monte Cristo and other books by Alexander Dumas
A Christmas Carol and other books by Charles Dickens

Don’t forget to check back for updates! Also, be sure and register for this week’s give away, you won’t want to miss this great Old Testament study package!
Linking up today:

Designer Mom

How to make a High School Transcript

It’s kind of funny, when I look back and think about it. High school transcripts, that is. It’s funny how my home schooling friends and I totally stressed out about this for such a long time. We used to talk about it and wonder, how will we do that? Will college’s accept them? Will I be able to calculate cumulative grade point averages without loosing my mind? Which format is best? Do I include my child’s activities on a transcript? What format should I use? Will my child have enough credits to graduate?
We even had dinner parties to discuss it. Then we tried watching a series of DVD’s on making home school transcripts. We all came out of there completely over whelmed and confused. I even bought a fancy computer program to organize all my kids home school grades to make it easier. The thing was, I couldn’t even figure out how to turn the dang thing on. It was awful! That was the last of it, I finally decided I just wouldn’t worry about it anymore. Then one day, someone said ” Why don’t you just try Teascript?” Huh?
We currently have 3 boys in high school. Our oldest son needed his first transcript when he made the move into the public school system as a high school Sophomore. Only then did I figure out the transcript secret. It’s  far easier than I ever imagined. Why did it stress me out needlessly, for SOOO long?
So here’s the secret. It’s called Teascript. And to keep you from stressing out and having panic attacks for the next 15 years during your home school experience, I have decided to make one with you right here. You will see how easy it is and will never have to worry again. Ready? Here we go!
Start at the Teascript website. Creating a new account is free. Teascript allows you to make one free transcript without any commitment. For only $5.00 you can join for a whole month and create up to ten transcripts. Either way, you will need your students name, a password and an email address.
Create your account or login.
The first screen to come up has your settings. Here you can decided how to list the courses, either by year (which is the most common), or by subject. You can also choose which school year you are making the transcript for and font.
On the bottom half of the screen you can add your school name and address. Then click save.
Then Teascript will ask for your students name. After entering, select create transcript. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that it can’t possibly be this easy. But, it is!
The next screen tells you your transcript has been created. At any time you may choose to create another new transcript or change your settings by clicking on the buttons at the top.
Under student information, click on the blue field to enter student contact information.
Put in your students info. Be sure and use their full legal name. It is important for Financial Aid and college admissions that you are consistent in this. Also enter their social security number for the same reason. Then fill in the address, state, city, etc.
At the bottom, you can fill in their anticipated graduation date. Then click save.
Teascript automatically puts it in the right field and makes it look great with no stress on your part. I love that! Then click on Add Courses under the Courses field.
The first field to come up is for how many credits the course is worth. As a general rule of thumb, all core subjects such as English, History, Math, Science and Foreign Language will be worth 1 credit for the school year. Elective subjects like Music, Art, Computer courses and gym are generally one semester courses and are only .5 credits. Not sure what your class qualifies as? Check the curriculum guidelines, all most all are labeled from the publisher with the amount of credits the student will receive.
The next field is for the grade the student received in the subject. Select a grade for each subject.
Then you can select what type of class the course is. Regular, Honors, AP, Dual Enrollment, Continuing Education, In Progress or Pending are all options. If the class is still in progress, select IP. You may also choose “pending” if you prefer, and the grade can be entered at a later time by clicking on the edit pencil icon. Be sure and give the course a specific name so you can remember what it is. For example, Algebra I, Biology I, English Literature-American Studies, Ancient History etc.
The last field is for the category of the class. Here you can be exact:. Math, Science, English, Foreign Language, Music, Computer Science, Social Studies, etc.
Courses can be deleted by clicking the X on the right. Easy huh? Teascript automatically does all the math. Is that awesome or what?
Standardized test scores are up next. If your student has already taken the tests, you can enter their scores here.
Move on to the Activities/ Honors field. Put down absolutely any extra curricular activities you can remember your child has been involved in during their entire high school years. I also included a few items from middle school such as our son’s Mission Trip to Peru. List other significant awards they may have achieved like earning a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, being 1st chair in the community orchestra, Youth group leader etc. More is better in this category, so load it up!
Be sure and include sporting activities, but also put them under courses as Physical Education. There is no reason why you can’t list it both places. I made this mistake on my first transcript. Our athletic son who played on a National level soccer team for years had to take gym credits in public high school because I didn’t think to list it as a course. Count your credits, be sure all subject areas are significantly covered.
Under notes, you can list any additional skills or information that makes your student special. I like to add a phrase like “Comprehensive reading list is available upon request.” Make a separate list of all the books your child has read during his/her high school experience. I also have a separate list of curricula that we used, but so far no one has needed to see it. You just never know, so it is best to be prepared.
If you are organizing your transcript by subject, you may wish to include a phrase like “Mastery of all subjects is required before moving on to more advanced studies.” Public schools do not necessarily require mastery, but move the kids on anyway to the next level. Let the transcript readers know how your school works. It may be to your advantage to say something like “All texts are 100 percent completed before moving on to the next level.” This is also different from how schools operate. They don’t finish everything each year, but continue on the next year at a more advanced level regardless of where they left off. Tell them how your home school is different.
Then there is nothing left to do but select print. You can print in either Landscape or Portrait format. Try them both and see which you like the best. Teascript stores your transcripts, you can print additional copies or add more information as needed. Your transcript will also automatically be saved on your hard drive in PDF format.
An official signature and date are all that’s required to finish your transcript.
There are other formats and websites where you can do transcripts on the web, but I love Teascript because it is so easy to use. It automatically calculates grade point averages, which is fabulous! It also looks professional and has great options for customizing to your students needs. We have presented our transcripts to several high school councilors and college admissions directors. They have been very impressed with the results.

Designer Mom

Ginger Foot Bath

We have spa day at our house about once a week during the winter time. Everyone gets a treatment or two that help to keep us healthy. One of our favorite home treatments is the Ginger Foot Bath. This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!
We all look forward to this time each week. You might think this is odd coming from someone with a family of boys. I consider myself a spa connoisseur. My sister runs a beautiful little spa in California, and she has long educated me on the health benefits of spa treatments.
Ginger Foot Bath

Supplies Needed:

foot bath (order through my Affiliate link HERE)

•powdered ginger

•tea tree oil 

•Epsom salt


Ginger Foot Bath ingredients


•Fill your little tub with hot water.
•Add 2 tablespoons powdered ginger (you can also use powdered mustard) to relieve nasal congestion. I know this sounds weird, but you just have to trust me.
•Add a few drops of tea tree oil for it’s amazing anti-fungal properties.
Ginger Foot Bath
This is what you bath will look like. My son graciously offered to be my model for this demonstration. Besides, I told him he would automatically pass health class if he did. He is such a good guy.
He did not exactly approve of towel turban I made him wear, but you don’t get the full effect of the nasal cleansing bath without it. For some reason, the towel on the head is critical to clearing the nasal passages. It will always be a mystery to me. Sit and relax for 10-15 minutes or until your water goes cold.

Foot bath Benefits

One of the benefits of doing this on a regular basis, is foot inspection. I often inspect my kids feet for issues like athletes foot, warts, cracks, ingrown toe nails and the like that can lead to bigger health problems down the road. Doctors are expensive, it’s best to head things off when you can. My son couldn’t wait for me to put this picture of his feet on the internet. He thinks he will be famous.
Everyone gets a turn, changing water and towels between each person. They like it so much, they don’t want it to end.
During foot inspection today, I found a nasty little unhealthy culprit……athletes foot. The peeling skin and whitish dry skin are definitely fungus. This is what happens when your shoes don’t breathe, you forget to wear socks, and you are living in Wisconsin in the winter time. During the summer, it’s never a problem. There is a fungus among us.
Fortunately it can be cured by soaking in the tea tree oil bath (with or without the ginger) daily until healed.
Now if I could just get a pedicure!
Designer Mom
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Kitchen Pantry Decor

Career Exploration: Youth Apprenticeship

Years ago, I wandered into our local Chamber of Commerce to pick up some brochures on things to do in our area for some visitors we were having. I happened to find a brochure regarding the Youth Apprenticeship Program. It described how high school students can learn a career choice while on the job, and receive both high school and college credit. I knew right then and there that this would be a part of our family’s future. What a great opportunity!

In Wisconsin, the Youth Apprenticeship program is part of the state’s Work Force Development department. They work in collaboration with the US Department of Labor to offer the program in more than 25 states and territories. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they also have specific programs for students with disabilities. More than 950 different occupations are currently offered nationwide. Incredible!

The ultimate question for us was, can a home schooled student be a part of this program? In our state it is decided by each school district. Our Madison area district allows home schooled students, but some of the suburban districts do not. I would encourage you to apply regardless of the local policy. We have friends who applied, were turned down for no other reason other than they were home schooled, appealed, and then were accepted into the program. You just never know, so be persistent.

Interestingly enough, the College Board website (, which administers the SAT, CLEP, AP and PSAT tests, recommends an internship program as one of the best ways to get into college. Job skills and college credit are extremely important, especially for a home schooled student who may not have the traditional academic record a public school student has.

In our city of 233,000 people, only 25 students were registered for this program last year, but there are more than 70 applicants for next year. I can’t believe more people aren’t taking advantage of this program. But, it is definitely growing.

Part of the reason our son entered public school was to learn auto mechanics. We knew this was an area he would probably have to learn from someone else. The Auto Mechanic Technician position is just one of the career choices the Youth Apprenticeship program offers. Here are some of the other options:

Auto Collision
Drafting and Design: Architure, Engineering, Mechanical
Graphic Arts: Printing
Health Services
Hospitality, Lodging, Tourism
Information Technology: Computer Science, Networking
Industrial Equipment
Logistics (Freight Movement)
Production Agriculture: Animals, Soils and Crops

There is a great need for students to enter into these programs, particularly in the automotive field. This is our son in his Honda uniform, I love guys in uniforms, did I mention that? Anyway, there were only a couple of applicants in the automotive area, so he was able to get a job right away. Some of the other students are still awaiting job placement in more popular areas such as Engineering. Due to the slow economy, it would be beneficial to contact your local representative to find out which career areas have the most likely job placement.

So how do you apply for the program? Students fill out an application in March of their sophomore year. Two letters of recommendation are required with submission to the local Chamber of Commerce Coordinator for approval. After acceptance, there will be an informational meeting, and then the applicants are forwarded to local businesses for interviews. This is also a great opportunity to learn interview skills!

Employers will work with the schools to design a work schedule that works for them. Students are required to work 12-15 hours per week, and have specific skill requirements they will learn on the job. Home schooled students have an advantage with flexible schedules. Our son was able to work with the school to re-arrange his class schedule around his work schedule. He works before school until mid-morning, then goes to classes so he can still participate in after school sports. He has taken 2 automotive classes during the last year (some in the evenings) and next year will have a class at our local technical college. When the two year program is over, he will have a certification as an Automotive Technician. Cool, huh?

How much does this program cost? Get this, NOTHING! It’s all funded by universities, schools, businesses and the Department of Work Force Development. We have not had any fees at all. Amazing! However, as a home schooled student, this may vary.

Another fabulous way to learn so many important skills for students. Getting both high school and college credit is such an added bonus. Our son was interviewed for the local paper and this is what he had to say regarding the program:

“Serving as an Automotive Technician has taught me how to get along with other people on the job, and allows me to apply what I have learned in the classroom.” What a great experience!

You can read more about the Youth Apprenticeship programs at the following websites: This is the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship Site Lists all the available career options in WI This is general information regarding the program for students with disabilities.

Additional program information can be found through your local Chamber of Commerce, public school district, or on your state’s government website.

Designer Mom

DIY Flower Pens

I have had this little pot of flowers on my desk for a long time. It’s one of my favorite things. My youngest son made it for me some years ago. You see I was having a problem with my pens walking away all the time, later to be found in massive heaps under my children’s beds or beneath the cushions on the couch. But, since I received my pot of pens, I have never lost a pen.

You or your children can easily make these, and you too will never again loose your pens. All you need is a few plastic flowers with stems removed, floral tape, your favorite pens, a small clay pot, and some dried beans.

Line up the base of the plastic flower with the end of the pen, tape with the floral tape. Be sure to cover the entire pen so it looks like a stem to the flower.

Add the beans to the clay pot, and stick the open end of the ball point pen into the beans, they will hold the pen in place so nicely! We used dried pinto beans because that was what we had on hand, but you could also use dried black beans which really look like soil.

We made some of these for my Grandmother at age 101. She loved them, she couldn’t get used to the fact that they were pens. Who knows, after a while everyone may just for get that they are pens and you can just enjoy the flowers.

Designer Mom