Our May Bookshelf

Our May Bookshelf: Fifteen monthly suggestions from the Milk and Cookies bookworms

Monthly suggestions from the Milk and Cookies bookworms

From Mom

The+Yellow+RoomBooks from Mary Roberts Rinehart: This author is dubbed as the American Agatha Christie. I’ve read so many Agatha Christie books over the past year, that I decided to go hunting for similar authors. She came up very high in the list of recommendations. I am on my second book and am very pleased! I would love more recommendations for similar mystery authors.

Pirate QueenPirate: I love everything Morgan Llywelyn writes and this book was no exception. It tells the story of Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen and most feared woman in Ireland. Heading a large army and a fleet of ships, she lived by trading and raiding and demanding tribute from all who sailed through her territory. This story features her infamous meeting with Queen Elizabeth as well.

FirstFirst Generations: Women in Colonial America: Carol Berkin’s multicultural history reconstructs the lives of American women in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries-women from European, African, and Native backgrounds-and examines their varied roles as wives, mothers, household managers, laborers, rebels, and, ultimately, critical forces in shaping the new nation’s culture and history.

HoneyHoney for a Teen’s Heart: I have had this book on my Kindle for several years, but kept putting off looking at it for one reason or another. I am so happy that I finally did. The suggestions in this book are fabulous.


From the teenager

OzThe Wizard of OZ series: Did you even know that there are FIFTEEN Oz books? I saw the prettiest paperback set at the bookstore a couple of months ago and bought it just because I liked the way it looked. My son was intrigued and started reading them one day, only to end up flying through the whole series. The books are creative and very silly.

JPJurassic Park series: This is another example  of a book that I purchased because I like the way the fancy, leather hardback copy from Barnes and Noble looks. It was really interesting to hear my son talk about the differences between the movie and book.

For the homeschool

LitThe Literature Book: The greatest works of literature, from the Iliad to The Great Gatsby, are described in detail in this book. Novels, short stories, plays, and even poetry are included. Everything you could possibly need to learn the basics about the world’s literary masterpieces are in this book. Of course, it cannot replace reading the actual books, but I highly recommend it for high school, to give your student an overall idea of the concepts and meanings contained in books that they might be required to read in high school or college courses.

(FYI – As part of a week long celebration, iHomeschool Network is giving away a set of DK books that includes this one. Enter before 6/5/16.)

LibAre You Liberal, Conservative, Confused?: Richard Maybury has become one of our favorite authors. He writes in such a clear-cut and easy to understand manner. This book discusses political labels. What do they mean? Liberal, conservative, left, right, democrat, republican, moderate, socialist, libertarian, communist what are their economic policies and what plans do their promoters have for your money?

JusticeWhatever Happened To Justice: Another book written by Libertarian Richard Maybury. This one discusses what has gone wrong with America’s legal system and economy and how to fix it.


*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

A Peek Into My Planner

Peek into my Planner

I’ve mentioned before that we haven’t used a homeschool schedule in many years. I am a Type A, INTJ, Ravenclaw rolled into one, so not obsessively creating a detailed homeschool schedule was hard for me in the beginning. When something is really important, like my son’s education, my inner Leslie Knope wants to come out with a massive 500 page, color-coded binder full of year-long meticulous schedules.

I couldn’t do that with an advanced learner like my son. I never knew how fast he was going to go through a book or what his next interests were going to be, so creating a schedule was waste of time. Instead of planning what he would be learning, I made sure that he had loads of resources at this fingertips and I started keeping track of what he had learned.


This is an example of my planner template. This is exactly what it looks like this week. All of the subjects are listed on the left. I’ll then write down exactly what he did each day for that subject. It gives me a nice broad picture of what he is learning. He knows the subjects that he is required to learn and he knows which resources are available to him. Beyond that, it is pretty much up to him how much he wants to do in a day.

The subjects in the left column change so often that I rarely print more than 3 weeks at a time. Just last month, it had economics, programming and vocabulary in the subject list. Starting next week, it will change again to add in the upcoming dual enrollment college courses. The Other box may contain logic, chess, robotics, a unit study, artist study, or random notes about what we did that day. This includes fun rabbit trails like watching Bob Ross on YouTube for 2 hours.

One day a week is completely blocked off with no school because he volunteers at our local science for 4 hours.

My other planner, the one that my son has never even looked at, is an Excel spreadsheet and is my baby. It has 9 tabs:

1.  History Timeline

This page has my list of people and historical events that we will study and how. I currently have to the year 1750 planned out. The columns represent: Year | Event or Person | Book or Title | Location | Link

Here are some examples:

  • 1682 | Johann Sebastian Bach | The Composer’s Specials  | have dvds
  • 1687 | Isaac Newton | Isaac Newton: The Last Magician | Curiosity Stream | https://app.curiositystream.com/#/video/476
  • 1687 | Isaac Newton | Mathematicians 1 page 63 | have book
  • 1688 | The House of Orange | Awakening of Europe | on Kindle
  • 1688 | James II—William the Deliverer | Our Island Story | on Kindle

2.  List of Book Ideas

Books I want my son to read.

3.  List of Timeline Figures

List of timeline figures to print out.

4.  List of Ancestors

Our ancestors that we can incorporate into history.

5.  List of Documentaries from Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube, Curiosity Stream, and DVDs

We have so many in our watch lists, that I don’t want to accidentally forget something, so I typed up a list of titles.

6.  Transcript/Credit Tracker

This is the unofficial high school credit tracker. It looks messy because my random notes and links are everywhere.

7.  Official Nice Looking Transcript

This is the official transcript that will eventually get notarized and used for scholarship applications.

8.  CLEP tests

This page has a list of available CLEP tests and my notes on whether or not my son should take them.

9.  Other Random Ideas

These are the random ideas that I think would be fun if we have time. Most of them come from Pinterest.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

5 Unique Books to Thrill Your Scientist

For when you run out of books to give your scientist...5 Unique Books to Thrill Your Scientist

Car Science (DK Publishing)

Car SciencePhysics comes alive when it’s unveiled beneath the hood of the coolest, fastest science book around. Written in a no-nonsense style, this user-friendly science book features kids’ favorite cars and contains experiments that readers can try at home. Written by Richard Hammond, one of the internationally famous for Top Gear hosts.

This book will be a hit with anyone who has an interest in learning more about the engineering and mechanics of cars.

Purchase on Amazon


Forensic Science (DK Publishing)

Forensic ScienceThis age-appropriate book takes a fascinating look at the tools and techniques used by forensic scientists in solving crimes–from fingerprint analysis to DNA testing. Like most DK Eyewitness books, it come with a 22 x 31 inch poster and a CD full of clip art.

This book will be a hit with anyone who loves crime, police work, private investigations, or Sherlock Holmes!

Purchase on Amazon


Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

Elements BookOne of the most eye-catching books I have ever seen! This book has not left my son’s section of the couch for months. It has become an international sensation, with over one million copies in-print worldwide. An eye-opening, original collection of gorgeous, never-before-seen photographic representations of the 118 elements in the periodic table.

You can also purchase a card deck and a poster.

Purchase on Amazon


The Way Kitchens Work: The Science Behind the Microwave, Teflon Pan, Garbage Disposal, & More

The Way Kitchens WorkIf you’ve ever wondered how a microwave heats food, or why aluminum foil is shiny on one side and dull on the other, or whether it is better to use cold or hot water in a garbage disposal, you should read The Way Kitchens Work. Modern kitchens are hi-tech marvels, with more machinery than any other room in the house. Each of the 50+ entries includes its history, interesting trivia, and a discussion of the technology involved.

Readers will also enjoy reviewing the utensils’ and appliances’ original patent blueprints, as well as photos of the “guts” of these culinary tools. The author even includes odd side stories, such as how the waffle iron played a role in the founding of Nike, how you can reset a turkey timer, and why socialite Josephine Cochran really invented the dishwasher in 1886–it wasn’t because she wanted to ease the burden of her servants, but because she wanted a device that would avoid the unsightly chips associated with hand washing.

Purchase on Amazon

Robot Building for Teens

Robot Building for TeensRobotics–the design and creation of robots–is one of the most exciting and fast-growing areas of technology today. If you’ve ever thought about building your own robots, this book will teach you how to get started. The projects in this book include the “Digital Brain Robot,” the “Bug Bot,” and even a robot on wheels. You will learn how to design your robot, how to create a prototype, where to buy parts, how to program your finished robot to perform tasks, and more. This book’s companion website includes software program files, parts lists for each project, and links to online parts suppliers.

Purchase on Amazon

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Minecraft Math Cubes

FREE Minecraft Math Cubes

This is another set similar to the Minecraft Story Cubes I posted a couple of weeks ago. Again, I honestly wish I would have thought of this idea when my son was younger and needed help practicing math facts.

There are 3 cubes and the goal is to use them to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Throw the cubes into the air, see whatever topic appears, and then let your imagination take over. Example from the cubes above:

10 divided by 2 =

Here is another example:

Minecraft Math Cubes 1

12 + 4 =


Download free Minecraft Story Cubes

cut and fold math

Download free Minecraft Story Cubes

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Chewbacca Rug

The official term for Chewbacca’s well-recognized shoulder belt is bandolier. It has never been discussed in any of the movies, but various books and websites explain that the pouches on the bandolier contain small tools and ammo cartridges.

DIY Chewbacca Rug

I saw a really big version of this rug for $150 on Etsy and knew I wanted to recreate it.

It was super easy, only took me a few minutes, and ended up being less than $25 for a 2′ x 3′ rug!

Chewbacca Rug2

After finding a 2′ x 3′ furry brown rug that I was happy with, I drew a pattern of simple rectangles in the Silhouette Cameo software to match Chewbacca’s bandolier.

I used the machine to cut them out on white heat transfer material.  Since the shapes are simple rectangles, you really don’t need the machine. You can easily cut them by hand.

Chewbacca Rug3

Being very careful not to keep the iron in one place for too long, I ironed the material onto the rug. I use 3 pieces of regular printer paper as a barrier between the iron and the material. The last step of using heat transfer material is always my least favorite part…peeling off the top plastic. I am always worried that I didn’t iron it for long enough and will have to reflatten it out and start over again.

Overall, this was one of the easiest projects I’ve ever done. And I have one happy son who loves it!

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

STEM: Incorporating Math and Geography

STEM: Incorporating Math and Geography

Welcome to part 4 of a series about incorporating geography with STEM. In part one, I wrote about studying science and geography together and in part two, I shared ideas for learning about technology in conjunction with geography. Part three taught about engineering with cartography. The final part in this series moves onto the M in STEM: math.

Math and maps…two of my favorite things on the planet. You may be wondering what math has to do with geography.

Why is math important in the field of geography?

  • Math is used in map creation.
  • Math is used in surveying land.
  • Math is used in city planning.
  • Math is used to create GPS software.
  • Math is used to plan trips.
  • Math is used to create population and census tables.
  • Math is used to analyze problems caused by changing geography.

Now you see how important math is to the study of geography. Scientists and engineers who specialize in geographical fields often need at least 8 different college level math courses. But, in simple terms, how can we incorporate math in our everyday homeschool study of geography?

The tools you need

There is one simple method and all you need are 3 tools: WonderMaps, a ruler, and a pencil.

One of the earliest geography experiences we probably all had was to learn how to measure distances on a map using the map legend scale and a ruler. I’ll never forget the silly joke my teacher told us, “Where can you find two cities within an inch? On a map!!”

Terms you need to know

  • The graticule is the imaginary grid that is formed by latitude and longitude lines. You’ll see the term graticules as one of the layered features that you can turn off and on in WonderMaps.
  • Latitude lines run east-west, parallel to the equator.
  • Longitude lines run north-south, from pole to pole.
  • This whole system of lines is also known as a geographic coordinate system.

Calculating the distances on maps can be quite complicated if you want to be perfectly precise. Just look at the formulas in this Wiki article. Daunting for even a high school student! What if your student is interested in just seeing a simple estimate of how far Ohio is from California? Or how far Ireland is from Denmark?

Remember, you shouldn’t always rely on the Internet or Google maps. This is where the ruler and pencil come in.

What to do

Since WonderMaps by Bright Ideas Press is my complete go-to map program, I’ll demonstrate this using one of their printable and personalized maps for the United States. If you have the program, print out your standard US map. If not, what are you waiting for…go buy it. During the month of May, you can use the code 5dollars2016 to receive $5 off WonderMaps. The final price would only be $44.95 and you can download it right away.

The distance between each degree of latitude is approximately 69 miles. Longitude is trickier because the lines do not run parallel and the distance shrinks as you get closer to the poles. (The widest point, 69 miles per degree, is at the equator and the lines shrink to zero when they reach the poles.)

You can use latitude lines as a guide to measuring anything on Earth. (Remember, these measurements will be a rough estimate. There are free calculators online if you want to be 100% precise.) Since printed maps vary in size, you should use a ruler to measure the distance between two latitude lines.

Math and Geography2

As you can see in my photo above, the distance between 30-degrees latitude and 40-degrees latitude is exactly 2-inches on my ruler. This means that our guide for measuring is 2-inches = 690 miles. 690 miles is the distance between latitudes 30 and 40.

Math and Geography3

Now I can flip my ruler and determine that, based on its measurement of 5.75 inches, central Ohio is roughly 1980 miles from Los Angeles, CA, if you keep in a straight line.

Again, remember that doing manual calculations of distances on a map is a great way to teach your children the skills of measurement, estimation, and multiplication. Not to mention memorization of place names!

Have fun with your maps and don’t forget to use your Bright Ideas Press discount code before May 31.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.