Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ten Musical Pieces from Baroque to Romantic

The high school students in our home school co-op just read a lesson from the Notgrass World History Curriculum about music history.   Here is a selection of 10 pieces from the composers featured in the chapter.  I haven't personally listened to all of these.  Some of them are full-length, and the students might want to just listen to several minutes.  I hope they will be inspired to look up more pieces for these composers and for other composers in these musical periods.  I will try to compile a list of 20th century links soon.
For more information, be sure to visit these classical music sites:




Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Using Free Kindle Books for High School Literature Classics

Dear friends,

Product DetailsI am learning to love Kindle for high school literature.  So far my son and I have read parts of the Iliad and more than half of Frankenstein.

No, I don't own a Kindle, but we do have a desktop computer, laptops, and two iPods.  You can get the Kindle apps free for any of these, as well as many other devices.  I don't know if you can do the same thing with a Nook or other e-reader.

My Top 10 Reasons for Reading High School Lit with Kindle
  1. You can get a huge selection of classic literature absolutely free.  Others are very inexpensive -- just a dollar or two.
  2. You can read wherever you go if you have a small enough device.  All of these books in one place!
  3. You don't need a bookcase for these books.
  4. Parent and student can read together on different devices.  As long as both devices use the same Kindle account, it should be easily available to both.  And if you paid for it once, you can read it off of multiple devices using the same account.
  5. You can adjust the font size, style, columns, color and background color to make it easy on your eyes.
  6. The device keeps track of where you left off.  Or you can hit the bookmark button to mark you spot.
  7. You can easily do a search on words that you need.  This is great if you have an assignment on a particular person or topic in the book!
  8. If you don't understand a word or phrase, you can highlight it and a definition will appear.  Or click on the More button and Google it.
  9. You can highlight good quotes that you want to remember.  Later, you can view all of your highlighted areas in one spot.
  10. If you will be answering literature questions or writing an essay based on the material, you can highlight areas that pertain to them, and then come back to them easily later on.  This cuts down on having to write things down as you go.  You can also take notes right in Kindle that will be linked to the relevant spot in the book.
I know there are other benefits to doing literature with Kindle, but for now I will leave you with a list of links free Kindle classics.  Please double check the free-ness of them before you order, just in case they decided to start charging for a certain title!  I'm sorry if any of these are in the wrong categories or if anything looks weird.  I don't have time to twiddle too much at the moment!

Please note that I have not read all of these books.  Use at your own discretion.  Some may have material that is unsuitable for your family.

If you find other free titles, please add them in the comment section!

British Literature

The War of the Worlds H. G. (Herbert George) Wells

World Literature

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Iliad by Homer

American Literature

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer's Comrade by Mark Twain 

Other related blog posts:

Web Sites for Free High School and College Level On-Line Learning

Have fun, folks!
Virginia Knowles

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What We're Doing for High School This Year

What We're Doing for High School This Year

Dear friends,

On my other education blogs, I've been posting about what we're doing for elementary and middle school this year. We also have two high school students.

My son, a sophomore, is continuing with our home school co-op. He is taking/using:
  • McDougal Littell Algebra II
  • Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistry, 2 Volumes, 2nd Ed.   -     
        By: Dr. Jay L. Wile
Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistrywe also purchased the optional DVD but haven't used it much yet – it will be more vital as the work gets harder
  • Exploring America: History, Literature, and Faith--Curriculum Package, Second EditionNotgrass Exploring World History for World History – I mostly like this publisher, which we also used for American History last year, but there are a few small things my son and I don't appreciate as much, such as the slightly condescending tone towards those with whom the author might disagree philosophically.
  • Christianity, Cults and World Religions (DVD and workbook) and other resources for a half credit in World Religions
  • Easy Grammar for English, along with a variety of literature, vocabulary, and writing assignments.  Many of the literature and writing assignments are associated with the Notgrass history curriculum.
  • Year Book
Away from the co-op, he will be taking a half credit each in Health and Computing. I haven't yet written out the agenda for either course yet, but he has already finished a lot of computing hours with an on-line curriculum, and I'm going to find a first aid & CPR class for part of the Health hours.

I enjoy learning along with my son for history and English. He likes to read aloud to me, so we have a chance to discuss his lessons. This is fascinating for me and I appreciate the one-on-one time I get to spend with him. His English class is now studying C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, which I had not read in several years. It's been a wonderful refresher and quite inspiring and challenging for me. Lewis has such a way with words and ideas, and my son often pauses to comment what a good point the author has made. (What makes it extra interesting is that the 5th-6th grade English class that I am teaching is reading Lewis's The Lion, theWitch, and the Wardrobe. I find many of the same themes there, just in fiction form.)

My husband tutors our son in Algebra 2 and Chemistry, and grades all of the assignments for those two subjects. This is a huge load off of my plate. I couldn't even imagine doing that right now, plus home schooling three of his four younger siblings.


My daughter, a senior, was enrolled in public school for her sophomore and junior years, excelling as an AP and Honors student and active in theater cast and crew. This year, she wanted to dual enroll full time at one of the local colleges, but the public high school would have restricted the number of courses she could take. She decided to re-enroll in the home school enrollment program from which her four older sisters graduated. At the college, she is taking General Physics, Analytical Geometry & Calculus, Technical Writing (on-line) and Ceramics. The only classes she is taking besides the college ones are AP Government and Economics on-line with Florida Virtual School. These courses are free for Florida residents; she has taken Web Design, Latin 1 and Algebra 2 from FLVS before. I will probably not help her with any of her classes this year, as she is already far beyond me in all of those subjects. :-)  See: Making the Transition Into Public High School or College.

So that's what we're doing for high school next year!


Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Web Sites for Free High School and College Level On-Line Learning

Dear friends,

These web sites are recommended by my second cousin Margaret, who is home schooling a high school student this year.   I haven't explored them thoroughly, but I'm sure you'll find something really interesting, either for you or your students!  Christian home educators should be aware that these are non-religious sites, so use at your own discretion. -- free online college-level courses on all sorts of topics. -- they have recently revamped the website and have incorporated a bunch of stuff from Khan Academy MIT's Open Courseware  

Thanks for the info, Margaret!

What are your favorite web sites for this?  Leave a comment below!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Quotes on Books

Quotes on Books

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend; inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” Mark Twain

“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think.  No book in the world equals the Bible for that.” McCosh

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”  Francis Bacon

“A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors.” Henry Ward Beecher

“But if you love your children, let the simple Bible be everything in the training of their souls; and let all other books go down and take the second place.” J.C. Ryle in The Duties of Parents

“That is a good book which is opened with expectation and closed with delight and profit.” Amos Bronson Alcott

“Master books, but do not let them master you.  Read to live, not live to read.” Bulwer

“When I get a little money, I buy books; if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” Erasmus

What are your favorite quotes about books?  Add them in the comment section!

Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

High School Literature

Dear friends,

Oh my, it's been nine months since I last posted on this blog!  I guess I've stayed busy enough on my other ones, though.

What prompted this post, after my long hiatus, is reading an article by Glynn Young called: The Business Case for Reading Fiction.  He writes about an article that he read recently in the Harvard Business Review called "The Business Case for Reading Novels."   Apparently reading fiction can improve social skills, which in turn translates into more effective communication for business.  Columnist Ann Kreamer writes, "Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness."  Mr. Young, an author and professional speechwriter, reflects on this article and adds his own thoughts about the effect that great classic fiction has had on his own life.  He writes even more about his high school literature experience here: Miss Roark and Louisa May Alcott

I enjoy reading fiction, but don't read too much of it at the adult level just for lack of time.  Most notably, I read half of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy last year. I teach middle school English, so I'm more "up" on that level.

As I look back on my high school English classes, I don't remember a lot of specific titles.  For the first two years of high school, we read mainly shorter selections from literature anthologies.  We moved the summer before my junior year, and started at a new high school with a bazillion choices for English classes, and not all of them were heavy on the literature.  I don't think we read anything notable the semester I took a Mass Media class from Mr. Yiasemedes.  I know that when we read a play by Oscar Wilde in my Critical Reading and Writing class, I impressed with my classmates with a British accent while we were reading out the script in class.  That's also the year that we read poetry, and I wrote an essay which you can see here: "Christ Came Down" poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti -- and a High School Poetry Critique and Analysis Essay.
I also took a Bible as Literature class (even in public school) and we read The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  It was about two Orthodox (maybe Hasidic?) Jews in New York, and the concept I recall was that one read the Scriptures very deeply to extract as much meaning as possible, while the other read as much of it as he could, so he could catch the breadth.  There is a time for each.  I'm glad for that lesson in literature.

My sixth child (and first son) started high school this year.  In his co-op English class, Mr. Lang is having them read a lot of classic fiction, some of it on-line and some not.  My son asked me to get him a copy of Animal Farm by George Orwell for his homework assignment.  My favorite used bookstore, Brightlight, had several in stock for a good price, so I decided to buy one instead of going to the library. He read five chapters last night and says it's pretty good so far.  On hearing this, his older sister, who is a junior in public school, asked me to take her to the library to get Orwell's 1984 just so she could read it, not because it was assigned.  She grabbed another copy of Animal Farm while she was there so she wouldn't have to compete with her brother for it.  

My older girls all like a variety of fiction, some of them more into Brit Lit than others.  I wasn't really the one teaching them literature in high school, since they were mostly enrolled in home school co-op classes, dual enrolled at the community college, or taking classes on-line with Florida Virtual School. They are quite proficient in writing essays on literature, and continue to read good books on their own, so I guess we didn't go too far wrong with our educational choices.  Sad to say, though, I'm not exactly the expert on high school literature.  However, my friend Cheryl Bastian has links to book lists on her web site's high school page: 

Cheryl also has an extensive list of links in her sidebar for Glencoe free study guides for books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, Julius Caesar, Animal Farm, 1984, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Canterbury Tales, The Tale of Two Cities, Hamlet, Frankenstein, and so many more.  Check them out in the sidebar on this page: Cheryl's high school page.   If you have younger kids, Cheryl has a lot of other goodies on her web site,, and her blog,

What are your favorite high school level fiction books?

Virginia Knowles

P.S. FYI, I found Glynn Young's blog via My Eavesdropping Eyes at Godspotting with Sheila which I subscribe to in my Google Reader.  I'd say it was quite a profitable bunny trail I took today!