Books & Film - Reviews and Recommendations, Our Homeschool Curriculum/Mid Year Check Ins

Look It Up!

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I have a beautiful aqua bookshelf that I keep some of my favorite things on.  Books.  There’s a section dedicated to the kids larger history and science books that are heavy and clunky.  There’s a section that contains a few of my personal books that I have not yet read, or that I am keeping handy for reference later.  My husband has part of it filled with Bible study materials.  There’s even a shelf for the dog that contains her toy box.  I want to zoom in on the bottom self.  This shelf has books old and new that I’ve collected over the years.  They are not part of our curriculum, although we can use them for most of our subjects.  It’s what I call our Reference Shelf.  It’s where the kids go to when they hear three words, “look it up.”  

While we are all used to using Google to find out about anything, unfortunately,  it’s not always the best way for children or teens to find information.   I can’t remember the word I was looking up the definition for the other day, but Urban Dictionary seems to always appear in my top three to four entries whenever I Google a word.  If you’ve never used it, DON’T.   It should make you blush.  It’s terrible, and the preview on the search engine shows more than you want to know, without even clicking on it.  Just to verify, I tried it as I typed this post.  I looked up the definition on Google three things that I was currently looking at.  Coffee, backpack, and a pencil.   Here’s what I got:  Top definitioncoffee drugs … Legal crack. If I don’t have my coffee today, I’m going to kill someone. …  (that one may be debatable, ha, ha). Backpack referring to a female bike whore, Usually named Edina.  Pencil was just ridiculous and inappropriate.  Do you see what I mean?  And I didn’t have to scroll to see this – it was in the first few entries on my laptop screen.

Let’s zoom in and take a look at what’s on my reference shelf:

  • Dictionaries – I have a Webster’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, and an Oxford English Dictionary that I picked up literally for spare change at our local library book sale that is held twice a year.  I also have a Usborne Illustrated Dictionary we still use occasionally.  It is more advanced than a “first dictionary”, but contains simple definitions and over 1,000 fantastic illustrations.
  • Thesaurus – In addition to the one that is in Webster’s, I love the Usborne Not Your Everyday Thesaurus – I even use it myself.  This thesaurus lives up to it’s name!  What makes it different is that it is set up by theme, rather than alphabetically.  For example, there is a double page layout just on action words, a page of noisy words, seaside words, and sports words.  There are also helpful writing tips scattered throughout.
  • Usborne Illustrated Grammar and Punctuation –  Nouns, verbs, clauses, quotation marks – it has it all in true, colorful, Usborne fashion with examples of when and how to use grammar rules.
  • Hymnal-  While they may not be readily available in many churches these days, I refuse to let them go, or to be replaced by the hit song of the day projected on a screen.  The one I have is the hymnbook from the church I grew up in.
  • Big Bible Guide - Creation & Animals–  I picked up this little book at Ollie’s a few years ago for $2.99.  The illustrations were beautiful throughout.  We used the second half of the book one year as a fun supplement to our Bible class.  It features 99 animals mentioned in the Bible, along with other details.  If only I knew then what I know now, I could have created an entire elementary curriculum from this little gem!
  • Who's Who & Where's Where In the Bible for Kids–  this is another great book I purchased at a used book sale.  I love the conversational tone of this book, and it has so much information on the colorful pages.
  • The Periodic Table–  If you’ve never seen a Basher Book, you are in for a treat!  Small, concise, simple, yet so informative!  I have a few, and this one is my favorite!
  • The Ultimate Guide to Your Microscope-  While this doesn’t get a ton of use, it is one of the best microscope books ever!  Not only does it have the basics, it is full of fun projects (41 to be exact).  Thumbing through today, we are so going to have to do a unit study with this one soon!  It is awesome!
  • Usborne World of Animals and Usborne Living World Encyclopedia—  You can’t go wrong with any Usborne Encyclopedia.  Especially these two if you have an animal lover.  They are broken down into bite-size chunks, and known for their lavish illustrations.  I really like the Quicklink feature.  It is their very own type of search engine where you can find out more, watch video clips, play games, and take quizzes on the particular topic you found in the book.  It’s much safer than Google.
  • The Secret Life of Backyard Bugs –  Here in the south, bugs are commonplace.  In the book, you will find out about most backyard bugs.  I thought the photographs were stunning, and the information was just right.  Not as technical as a field guide, and very readable.
  • The Student Bible Atlas – This is a great little reference book that contains so many more maps than what is in the back of your Bible, as well as brief explanations of each map.
  • The United States of America – I have had this one awhile.  What I love about it is the beautiful artwork.  It looks like watercolor, or colored pencil drawings with just enough detail on the map without overcrowding it.  I also love that in addition to the usual, it has interesting facts about each state that are illustrated the same way.
  • Desk Atlas of the United States– It is published by Geography Matters, and is one of my favorites!  The atlas has a double page spread of each state on thick, glossy pages.  From the state quarter, to famous folks, and places to visit, these are just some of the fabulous features of this book.
  • Children's Atlas of God's World–  This one was part of a geography curriculum from Master Books.  Although the kids have completed the course years ago, I kept this book.  It is a large hardback, and inside are large, easy to read maps.  What makes this one unique are the pins with information about Christian history, people of faith, or Christian traditions around the world.
  • The Usborne Encyclopedia of World Geography– this is the boss of geography books!  It not only has maps, but people groups and culture, volcanoes, glaciers, monsoons, and more!  The internet links are throughout, and the pictures are stunning!

Most of the books on our reference shelf will probably keep their places long after I’ve finished homeschooling.  Have you got a reference shelf full of treasured books?  I’d love a peek at yours!

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