A Binge-Reading Book List From My 9 and 11 Year Old Readers… to Yours.

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My boys and I love a good book series. We didn’t start our reading journey searching for a series. Early on, they became a welcomed surprise at the end of listening to or reading a book we didn’t want to end. “There’s more!” “Another book!” The binge-reading/listening began. A neighbor mom reminded me of this family-favorite past time when sharing her search for more titles to feed her 9 year old reader’s voracious appetite for book series’. I thought, “How many other moms could use a binge-worthy book series list to introduce to their own readers, especially during the “stay at home” order?

Brothers hanging out!

I was inspired to commission my two sons to take a trip down binge-reading lane. They put together a list of the book series’ they binged over the years. To aid in their remembrance of the audio books, we visited our library app’s history. We use Hoopla and Libby. The others were borrowed directly from the library and required a recall of storylines and events that correlated with the reading. At 9 and 11, much like the “good problem” the mom I mentioned above has, my boys’ appetite for reading and listening to books has grown, due in part to the power of the book series. A book series is not only an effective way to extend one’s time within the wonderful world of the writer and characters, it also encourages an appreciation for storytelling, literature and independent reading.

I asked my sons to rate their 5 favorite book series and share a short blurb on why. Chai changed it to Top 7. Cool. Some of their faves made it to both lists. May that be an endorsement to the appeal of those books for their age group. Perhaps there are titles here that will whet your reluctant or voracious reader’s appetite as well.

Top 7 Book Series List


“There’s a cool friendship between a cricket and a cat.” 

Chai loves action adventure themes and have read or listened to the following from Age 7 Yrs -9 Yrs. His thoughts are in italics under each title.

1. Wings of Fire, by Tui T. Sutherland

I like the adventure. The dragons are trying to stop a war. 

There are a whopping 13 books in this series plus spin offs and graphic novels to boot. My boys were obsessed.

2. Green Ember, S.D. Smith

It’s a story about mice. It takes place during the Medieval times and does not have an obvious storyline. It’s also action and adventure. 

I heard so much about this one, so I introduced it to him because he gravitates toward animal heroes. There are 3- 4 books in this series.

3. Diary of an 8 Bit Warrior, by author, gamer and Minecraft super-fan Cube Kid

The Minecraft characters come to life. A Villager wants to be a Warrior. This book series is funny. 

Brilliant idea for the person who put this series together. I wish I would have thought of it. Chai found this one on his own and I am sure was attracted to it because well… Minecraft. Very few 7-12 year olds are not fans of Minecraft. There’s a 6 book box set if considering it as a gift.

4. Masterminds, Gordan Korman

The subject is science related- cloning and DNA!

I had never heard of this one and had to look it up. Apparently there’s a message about not judging a book by it’s cover.

5. Hardy Boys, several ghost writers under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon.

I like the way they explain how they solved the mysteries. 

I introduced these classics to the older son to encourage him to read on his own. Chai joined in on the audio versions. Hardy has a mammoth collection with 3 different series including Hardy Boys Adventures and Mysteries.

6. 39 Clues, by Rick Riordan

I like the way it mixes history with fiction.  

I must say I like the way it mixes history with fiction too. Great way to dive into Quicksand Learning. Check out my post to learn more about how “Quicksand Learning” works.

7. The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden

There’s a cool friendship between a cricket and a cat. 

This is one of my favorites and glad it made his list. I enjoyed reading this one to my boys and learning there was another book, “Tucker’s Countryside”, brought us all delight that our lazy summer day readings would continue. We stopped at the the first two, however, I learned there are 7 books in this series.

Top 5 Book Series List


Ashar loves suspense with humor and action thrown in. His thoughts are in italics under each title. 

The main characters travel to different places around the world where they find clues.

1. Hardy Boys, by several ghostwriters under the collective pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon

I like that it’s full of mystery, action and adventure.

I introduced these books to Ashar at 9 years old as a way to encourage independent reading after observing his interest in mystery and action and seeing zero options with black boys as the main characters. It was a hit. As an African American mom , the book covers bothered me. Quite honestly, I wanted to shield my son from them so that he could visualize himself. I struggled with this series but erred on the side of his interest in mystery. I later learned the books debuted in 1927 and had to be revised to eliminate the racial stereotypes, according to Wikipedia. I wasn’t far off with my trepidations. On the other side of this, my son says he knew it wasn’t people of color in the storylines but wasn’t fazed by it. The story kept his interest.

2. Wings of Fire, by Tui T. Sutherland

I like how the dragons have their own unique powers. 

I found Wings of Fire in my Costco magazine. Upon reading the summary, I knew my boys would be intrigued at the least. They became obsessed.

2. 39 Clues, by Rick Riordan

The main characters travel to different places around the world where they find clues. I like the suspense too.

Everywhere you turn in the library was 39 Clues. Eventually, we gave in and started the audio on car trips. They began to listen at home on their own time. Tied #2.

3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

I like the way the main character complains about things in his life. It’s funny and interesting. 

Later, he discovered the movie series and binged those too.

4. Paws vs Claws, by Spencer Quinn

There’s situational irony between the dog and cat characters. 

Another filler for a car ride turned into a Winner.

5. Masterminds, by Gordan Korman

I like the science in this book series. 

They found this on their own. It is the fruit of my early introductions to reading that has them searching for the next good book.

5. Secrets of Bearhaven, by K. E. Rocha

I like that it’s all about bears. 

This was a fun, shared listen. Had no idea Ashar liked it enough to tie as his #5.

MORE binge-worthy book series’ that did not make their top 7 but are good reads nevertheless. The ones with asterisks are Mom’s Picks.

*City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau

*Bravelands, by a team of authors under the pseudonym Erin Hunter

Warriors, by a team of authors under the pseudonym Erin Hunter

I Survived…, by Lauren Tarshis

*Poppy, by Avi

Frog and Toad, Arnold Lobel

Zapato Power, by Jacqueline Jules

Spy School, by Stuart Gibbs

Are there any other titles you’d like to add? We will never tire of a good book series to binge.

Check out great Book and Movie combinations on our Instagram @that_homeschool_life


Oh The Places You’ll Go/ Limitless Learning

Learning how to read opens up one’s eyes to all the world.

Quite literally in this case.

As a result of my son’s newfound reading ability, we stumbled into a fun activity that turned into an interactive, educational expedition around the world (while at home). Let me tell you all about it.

(Think:  “If You Give a Mouse A Cookie” Storybook by Laura Numeroff)

My son began reading the “made in” labels on the back of his toys— because he could. (Cool.  Sparks).  That lead to reading the labels of his stuffed animals (more sparks), then his clothes (more sparks).

Because most of the labels read “Made in China”, he had questions like “Why is everything made in China?!”, “Why isn’t anything made in the USA? ”

(I smell smoke).

Good questions son.

(Time for mama to fan the flame.)

I answered his questions and made a few suggestions that involved competition and counting. (Remember, I’m the fanner of the flames.)

“Let’s make a chart. How many things can you find that are made in the USA?”

“Let’s locate the places you find on the map.”

He began to expand his search around our home for “made in” labels. (Even his little brother got in on it.) They found places all over the globe. It was eye opening to find things from Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, India, El Salvador, Vietnam, Philippines… from clothes to shampoo bottles, we were living internationally without having stepped outside. (He found 3 “Made in USA” labels and 20+ international labels in our home.)

Of course that lead us to locate each place on the globe,

then to write down and tally our findings,  

which lead to a comparison chart,

which has the potential to lead to probability and percentages. 

You may also dive into categorizing the items found by how they are used or materials,


You may look into the manufacturing process: the steps it takes to get into an American store. 

You can also learn the number of languages in each country, a day in the life, their money system, gross national product.

The possibilities for exposure and learning are non stop. It’s what I call a “limitless learning” opportunity because it has no end.

I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time but from that one activity we covered reading, geography, math, economy, manufacturing, mass production, social studies, research and statistics.

Not bad for a day’s work. This was a Saturday by the way.

There are still more places to go with this activity for beginner readers testing their skills to teens interested in global economics.

That’s what a child’s interest or sparks does, it takes them places.

As a homeschool mom, I’m so glad I get to be the tour guide & (fanner of the flame.)

Where has your child’s curiosity taken him or her?

What limitless learning experience you encountered that was sparked by an interest? 



We homeschool throughout the summer.  It’s the time I use to experiment with ideas I have during the fall and spring sessions.  One of those ideas included a Cars Movie Unit Study.  I created this study last year and fumbled through it with the boys that summer.  My then 3 year old was and IS still obsessed with Lighning Mc Queen and the band of characters connected to the fictional town of Radiator Springs.  I admit I too love the movie and have watched it probably 1,000 times between both boys.  Although the 7 year old has out grown Lightning to some degree, we all embrace the joy it brings to the youngest of the house.  At any given time, you will catch us quoting lines from the movie to fit circumstances. It connects us in that annoying yet personal insider family way.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Cars film, check out the plot here.

“If I was you I’d quit yapping and start working”. – Doc

I watched how my kids quoted lines from the movie, retold and performed full scenes while playing, made connections to real life .  Light bulb moment = Unit Study.  There are so many rich moments in this movie.  It is full of opportunity for teaching from Math to Geography to Reading/ Writing to Character study.  I have compiled a PDF list of fun activities and resources to launch into a unit study of 11 subjects.

Think of the list as a buffet where you pick and choose what meets your child’s appetite.  It is a work in progress as I will add to the study over time (Ex. Worksheets) (make sure you check back for updates) but wanted to make it available to you creative mamas & papas looking for a relaxed, cool way to keep learning alive during the summer for your 3-8 year olds.  You are able to adjust the ideas to meet your child’s age and level of interest.  We were very laid back and more project focused with an emphasis on play. We worked on a subject 2x a week. Your child may be more of a reader, history buff or arts and craftsy.  Whatever their bent, It’s all in the study with enough ideas to fill an entire summer.

Let me know your thoughts and how your kids liked learning through CARS in a creative way.

Below I have included a link to the Free Download plus pictures of a couple of the activities we enjoyed:



What are your plans to keep learning alive this summer?

Keep Calm, It’s First Grade: My First Attempt at a 1st Grade Curriculum

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What if this year I allowed my 6 year old son to  choose his own curriculum?  What would it look like? Well I asked him and this is what he said.

α  I would like to learn how to draw.

β  How to do cool moves on my bike.

γ  Learn to swim and go swimming.

δ  Build stuff with my tools like a little barn or using things around the house to build my    brother a toy car for his birthday.

ε  Do science experiments that will explode.

ζ  Visit the science center more often.

Now what if I incorporated reading, writing and arithmetic into his 6 year old interests?  It’s an idea, experiment I am willing to try. I am looking forward to trying. I am actually excited and thrilled about trying—next year.

You see it didn’t occur to me to think of his interests when planning his 1st grade curriculum.  I thought only of what I must do based upon my own upbringing and experience in traditional school.  I forgot I was now a homeschooler and that I had options; crazy, cool, creative options to teach, explore, discover, wonder and learn with my sons.  I forgot that I didn’t have to follow the boiler plate grade-level workbooks my gracious mother in law sent to (help).  I forgot I am not trapped by standardized tests and common core.  I forgot I live in  America where making a living doing what you love is not only possible but proven.  I want to teach my children they can do what they love and make a living from it; They were born with gifts and talents that are meant to be their contribution to perhaps solving some world problem, however large or small instead of set aside as extra curricular, elective or 2nd fiddle to a “box education”.  I want to provide environments where they grow in their confidence, dismiss the status quo, and acknowledge and encourage others. Beginning with their interests in mind just may be the launch this mission needs.


It didn’t occur to me to consider my son’s opinion.

Why would I?  I am the parent/ educator here.  It’s my husband and I job to adequately prepare and guide our sons. They’re kids-blank palates waiting for paint- which is rendered through the experiences and exposure we allow, in part, as parents. By nature, I am not that parent that allows my child to dictate his day and much more his education.  That’s hard for me to do which is why I called this interest-led  idea an experiment. By no means,  is it a new idea.  Many in the homeschool world use this approach for their schooling.  However, it’s an alternative approach I am definitely game to try especially after doing “school” my semi-formal way for 1st grade.   Below you will find a short description of what I planned for 1st grade.

After much toiling, researching and soul searching,  I arrived at a 1st grade curriculum based on what I deemed as important for my son to learn. Hopefully you are inspired by it in the development of your own curriculum.  It’s just I felt like I was planning college courses, hence the title, “Keep calm, it’s just 1st grade”.  Just like all parents, I want the best for both my sons and homeschooling makes room for that in so many crazy, cool, creative ways.   Education can be customized. On the other hand, it can also become very consuming.

Would you like one choice to make or 1,000,000,000 choices to make?  Welcome to my brain.

There are non-negotiables in life like wearing a seat belt, maintaining good hygiene, telling the truth, etc. I agree that in education there are non-negotiables as well, such as reading, writing and math but how we arrive at those non-negotiables, I am learning, are up for experimentation.  Outside of reading, writing and math, education is quite subjective. Since I am committed to carrying out these basics, I give myself permission to allow the subjective to actually come from the subject, himself…next year.

As you browse my 1st Grade Fall and Spring curriculum know this:  My son took to some parts and not so much to others.  Our schedule was flexible and not everything was tackled consistently, exactly as described nor perfectly.  Some of this list became more of a wish list. (Regardless, I believe in always writing down my plans whether I follow it to a T or not because things written live to see another day.) Tweet that.

Interestingly, our real challenge has been with the non-negotiables.

The more I think about it, it seems a natural strategy to use he and his 4 year old brother’s interests in these early stages as a stealth way to master the basics.  

We shall see— next year!

As of this year…


BIBLE STUDY:  I create my own lesson plans around the book of Genesis and Exodus. It’s a daily study that includes games, reading, writing, video, narration and suspense.

READING:  Early Learner Readers from the library are read daily, aloud with me -*after we completed Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons which he started in kindergarten.

MATH: Life of Fred: Elementary Series plus living math books from the local library with a focus on the history of counting, numbers, money, etc.

BLACK HISTORY:  Read elementary age biographies of African American explorers, inventors and scientists weekly.

GEOGRAPHY: Explore the continent of Africa with a focus on North Africa and it’s countries through digital puzzles, art, video and hands-on map games.

DEVOTIONAL: I created an interactive devotional which involves physical activity, art exercises and journaling to introduce the design and purpose of God’s masterpiece—the human body.

SCIENCE:  A store bought science kit (which was given to me by a neighbor) with everything you need to conduct @20 experiments.

PIANO:  Weekly lessons.

CODING:  Hour of Code program plus various other apps such as Hopscotch, A.L.E.X. done weekly.

FILMMAKING:  Plan, shoot and edit his own movies using the iPhone and iPad. Involves storyboarding, voice over, sound and visual effects and filmmaking vernacular.

ENTREPRENEURIAL WORKSHOP:  Learn about kids who have started their own businesses via internet news.  Create entrepreneurial opportunities of our own. Every time he shows an interest in something, say, “Somebody came up with that idea” and proceed to research that person and thing.

COMMUNITY:  Connected to the entrepreneurial workshops, the goal is to expose him to the behind the scenes by touring local businesses in addition to other community places like firehouse, postoffice, police station, college campus,etc.

If you are interested in more information about any of the subjects above, let me know in comments and I will gladly create a post describing a more detailed account of our experience with each.

Also, I am working on making the bible study and devotional curriculums accessible to those who may be interested.  In the meantime check out our Alphabet and Handwriting workbooks.


The Elephant In The Homeschool Room

I came across this interesting article, “Confessions of an Unsocialized Public Schooled Child”,  by Eliza De La Portillia, via HuffPost Parents at thee perfect time. For weeks, I have planned (in my head) the words to write for a post of my own on it’s very subject…



For the first time in my homeschool journey, (a whopping 7 months now), I was asked about socialization. It was by a well-meaning, dear friend, who I have known since grade school. City girls, she and I watched our single moms work 2 or more jobs to provide for us outside of the home.  School/Career/ Work was our immersion program.

Getting married and having children were rarely apart of our childhood or young adult conversations, although we both are married with kids now.  Much less, staying home with our kids.  Much, much less, (like never) HOMESCHOOLING!  Who?! is going to do What?!  The tradition of school and friendships are ingrained in us.  After all it was through school that we met and remained friends these many years. So I understood her reaction to “homeschool” with a question about socialization.

Yet, I felt unprepared and offended.

Feelings of defensiveness rose.  I replied to her query in my best matter-of-fact, nonchalant way.  The truth is socialization never really played apart in my husband and I decision to or not to homeschool.  It is a non factor.  It is something I read about on other homeschooler’s blogs but never concerned myself with personally.

This direct question about socialization and the timely HuffPost Parent article was my call to action.  Not as you may suspect.  It woke me up to the need to educate myself on this subject further for the sake of those who are allowing it to be the elephant in their homeschool rooms or on their long distance phone conversations, as it related to me.  It’s probably the #1 question any given homeschooler is asked by a new, non or anti-homeschooler.  It’s time to demystify this reactive argument that is often bait for anxiety and worry.

There’s a popular saying: “The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time”.  While I work on cutting up that elephant, why don’t you take a gander at Confessions of an Un-Socialized Public Schooled Child originally posted on www.TheTattooed Homestead.com. Perhaps you will be inspired by her perspective on socialization as I am.

Thanks for reading.



Taking Flight on Paper Airplanes


We all know a paper airplane can only fly but so far, except in the hands of a 5-year-old.

Daily reading lessons with my five-year old son is so much more bearable (for him) when he has his newly made paper airplane in hand.  He plans flights all over the world when a nearby dresser top is not enough.  He takes flight to places like New Zealand, Africa, and Asia, making emergency stops in the middle of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  This is the method we use to break the monotony of our 30 minute reading lessons. Short breaks are necessary particularly for a child who prefers moving around, telling imaginative stories and pretending to pilot a jet airliner over repeating short vowel sounds.

The symbolism of the paper airplane is not lost on me.   I see how excited he is when the airplane leaves his hands and into the air for .2 seconds before either gliding or doing a nosedive into a nearby bed.   I see his passion for explaining to me about rocket boosters and engines.  I see it and it connects me to my imagination and passion.   As I teach him to read,  I imagine with excitement the day he will take flights to faraway places through books.  As his mom, I imagine the many times I will, by God’s grace, get to release him from my hands to  glide over the deep waters of life or nosedive into them.  Like a paper airplane in the hands of a 5-year-old, he may look like an average kindergartener boy to the naked eye but in my heart and mind he is already that pilot, secret agent, engineer and world traveler.

That 5 year old grew up!  Read his Binge-Reading Book List at 11 years old.