Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thinking Tree books in Categories! (& Ideas for using them!)

 We have loved using the Thinking Tree books for over a year now (and longer if you include the Dyslexia Games books that we have used on and off for about 3 years too!  Which started back when I was learning about Right Brain dominant learners.)

There are SO many books by them and they are a different style than we are used to seeing (great for the right brain dominant learners!) But that can make it confusing to know which to pick.  I thought it would be helpful to share some ideas about the types of books (in categories) and a few ideas on how someone could plan to use them.

Many people have wondered how these books work and how they can use them.  I've broken the books down into a rough 8 categories to make it easier for people to see what types of books are available.

To make the links in this post easier to see, all words with links to books will be in red and all links to blog posts will be highlighted in pink.

This first category of books will easily fit with other curriculum choices and I am going to call them the "Add on" subjects.

The "Film Study" is an example of a book you could add on to any curriculum.  You can use documentaries or educational shows that fit with whatever you are currently learning and one page will have prompts to write the title, write a review, do some coloring and so forth.  Similar to this one is the "Reading Time" book that is also a place to jot down some info about any books your children are already reading.

The "How to make Money" book has practically every job you can think of depicted in a comic style drawing on one page with thoughtful questions on the other page to think more about each job.  It might take some google searching to learn accurate answers to some of the questions, and this could fit into the "math" section, but it feels more like an "Add on" type book to me than a core.  This is geared towards teens, but there is also this one "99 Occupations an educational coloring book" which is for ages 5 to 14 and has many of the same coloring pages and brings a place to talk about different jobs and what the world would be like without them.  SO you could have the older kids use the first book and the younger kids use this one in a year as a family social studies sort of project.  You might even want to go on some field trips to see some of the jobs in action.

The "United States" book has a few pages for each state and can be used with books that you already have as you learn about the U.S. or you can use this as you are going on a road trip, or use this as a spine to create your own study on the U.S.A. where you would get books from the library or do google searches to find out more information about each state.

For World geography study I recommend the book "Travel Dreams" which would be great to use along with world history or geography books you already have or as a fun thing for an older child to use on their own.  These books could be worked through in order (from the first page to the last of each book) if you wanted and filled up in one school year, OR you could use them over several years and do the pages out of order depending on what location you were learning about at the time.

In the video I also show a bit of the inside of the "Picturing the Past" book which is great to use for an art study!  It could stand alone without adding any other resources or you could add field trips and other resources to this or even add in your own projects to use various art media to try and recreate the pictures shown in the book.  This one as well as some of the others can be shared between students or used with the whole family.  I am planning to have my girls write down their answers (or I will do that for them) on a different sheet of paper as we talk about the questions.  If you were trying to copy some of the art as well, as you work through the book, you could have the kids put their completed pages into a little binder or something like that.

There are a few others that would fit into this category, but I don't have them all!

There is a "Make your own Timeline of World History" and for a helpful blog post review check out check out this "Homeschooling 6" post showing the Picturing the Past book as well as the Make your own Timeline book.

Another one is this "Science handbook and portfolio" book and again, most of these books are designed to be a place to write or draw what you are learning.  They will sometimes have info and often have some questions to get the child going, but they are very open ended.  You can buy these and then get all your "text books" from the library or online and field trips, or if you already have a curriculum going you could use one of these books along side it (like ignore the canned questions at the end of the chapters and let them use these books instead... maybe to copy the paragraph with the information they found the most interesting! Or skip around the Thinking Tree book to the parts that you are studying about already and eventually you can have them get to the parts of the book that your curriculum didn't cover.

(I call these "add ons" because I can't imagine trying to do all of these subjects on an every year basis as a homeschool mom with more than one child to teach.  Rather, making it work for all the ages and just choosing one, like the U.S book, to do in one year seems a bit more dooable.  Or, with that one maybe even spreading it over all four years of highschool.  Basically, whatever works for your family is the right choice.)


The type of books next are the spelling and writing books.

 The spelling books - "Seasons Spelling time" - "Teach your child 100 words"- "Fun-schooling Spelling" (not pictured) - and "Spelling Time, Master the top 150 most commonly misspelled words" (not pictured)  are all stand alone spelling books.  They teach spelling words in context and in visual ways rather than boring spelling lists.  Coloring in the letters for instance is a great right brain dominant way to get the right spelling of words to stick.  The first three of these books also teach many of the spelling words in the context of a poem so you can use these with a Poetry Tea time!  Which I have also talked about in past posts.

The "Poetry Writing Journal" - "All about Animals" - and "A Coloring Book for Two" can all be used for copy work or for putting a "final draft" of original writing into, or for taking dictation from a child of something they especially want to keep.  They all have pages to color and inspire through out.  The coloring for two also has some questions you could ask and use as jumping off points to write and talk about.  I use that one with my 5 year old and we color together and I will sometimes write what she and I say to each other.

Some other books in this category that I don't have pictured here are these - "Creative Copy work Journal" - "Creative Writing Journal" - and "Hobby Time Adventure Journal" The Hobby time one I use for my 5 year old, but it could be used for a wide range of ages.  It has a place for comic book style art and writing as well as room to draw and write stories and color lots of fun drawings.

There is a "50 Creative Writing promots for teen girls" book.
Also, "50 Creative Writing Prompts -Danger Mystery and Adventure" which came out WHILE I was writing this blog post for ages 10 and up.  It says for boys, but my daughter would probably like this as she loves Nancy Drew stories.

All of these could stand completely alone and would probably be the easiest to add to any curriculum you are already doing if you were looking for some extra spelling practice or need a bit of pixie dust sprinkled onto the copy work or writing time in your school.

 The coloring pages and beautiful books really help to make this subject more palatable for kids (or anyone!) and I have seen all my girls thrive with the Brave Writer lifestyle of writing which has a lot to do with honoring a child's writing voice and the developmentally appropriate place where we see them in their reading/writing journey fit beautifully with these resources that inspire creativity!

 But of course because these are open ended books you can really fit them into other teaching philosophies or simply let a child use them like a journal for their own free-writing.

Three other books that fit into the SPELLING category are these three books, but I am doing them separately because they can also be used to learn GEOGRAPHY, MUSIC study, and ANIMALS!

There are three levels to this book and the picture above shows the size difference of each.  The video below shows the insides of each and what is different about them and also how I plan to use them with all of my kids together!

Easiest version is "Do-it-together spelling time for two" -
Next up is the "Do- it- yourself fun spelling time"
And the largest for 10+ is this one "Spelling Time volume 3"

You can use these sorts of books for one child just like the spelling books above that I talked about or you can use these all together with all your kids by just getting the book that fits their level and working on the pages for that animal/instrument in the same day (or over a week) as a group thing.

  You can listen to music featuring the instrument while you work and gather extra information about the animal or country that each letter highlights.  They probably wouldn't work as well to be used in succession with the same child in 3 years, unless he or she just REALLY liked this book.  But it would probably work really well to use the first level when a child is small and then wait to use the 3rd volume when the child is 10 or older.  Hopefully they would have good memories about the book and enjoy coming back to it in more depth since it has been so long for them.


Next section of books is all on MATH!

These are intended to be math practice type books.  They don't necessarily teach math concepts like a text book would, but rather have practice problems and logic games and such.  The parent can have the kids practice what they've already learned from whatever math curriculum they are using, or the parent can teach the kids the concepts independently during or right before the kids do the problems in these books.

Pictured above in order of difficulty level (roughly, but of course that partly depends on what is hard for a particular child) is-
"Teach your child to count to ten" This is in full color and could be used as a picture book after you work through it with your child!

"Tiniest Math book" Because this is so tiny it is a great challenge for helping children to write neater and smaller.  The tiny size of it also seems to be a friendly size for children who don't like math (my 8 year old definitely fell into this category!)  The number families of adding and subtracting can also be figured out logically with how it is presented in this book, and the repetition helps with memorizing basic adding and subtracting.  And of course like all thinking tree books there are sweet drawings to color.

"Comic Book Math"  This also has basic adding and subtracting practice but in addition to math it has pages for beginning story writing.  This would be great for kids who like math but NOT writing because the writing sections are quite friendly and interesting for kids.

"Foundational Math Skills 100 Numbers" - has 100s charts and an animal or nature picture all through the book and it has various activities to become more familiar with the patterns of the numbers (skip counting and such.)  I show this better in the video below.

"Multiplication Games" - basically has two page layouts that have a grid on one side to fill in a multiplication chart and on the other side a logic puzzle drawing where you figure out the pattern and then complete the pattern by filling in the missing parts.  There are a few hundreds charts to complete as well.  I've talked about this book before and how I have my kids use it with Usbornes Times Tables book and a game called "X from Outer Space!"

The following two are a few math books that aren't pictured, and they don't fall under the "practice" math in my mind as much as into the math in real life sort of section.  Yes they are practice, but they aren't work sheet or problem style repetition.

"Fun-schooling Math Mysteries" It just came out!  This one utilizes all four processes in the "math mysteries" and I just ordered it so can say more about it when I get it in the mail.  You can get a peek inside this book here.
"Are You a Math Genius" This one has fun "invention" type pictures with little workers and asks word problem questions that the child will have to figure out.  I don't have this one yet so am not totally sure, but I believe it is things like finding out how much you would have to pay your workers if they got so much an hour and they worked for so many hours (and then you would have to count how many workers are in the picture with the silly invention to figure out the answer.)

Then there are several early math type copy books that would be slightly harder than the "Teach your child to count to Ten" in the video below.   Learning numbers from 1 to 10 and how to write them with cute pictures to color and such for children just starting to do real school.

"Count and color for girls" -
"Count and color for boys" -
"Kitty Doodle Math" -
"Teach your child to count to Ten" -  These are all at the same level so you would just pick the cover that appeals the most to your child.  These are the most "traditional" math type books that the Thinking Tree has from what I can tell.  I have seen similar ones to these in stores but nothing like all the others!


Next section is the "Journal books" from the thinking tree.  One of these can be used as the spine to creating your entire curriculum for the year!  OR as a summer delight directed learning activity book for independent readers.

The idea with these is that you can learn what you need to learn for school with subjects that interest you.  So the child will get to choose the subjects that sounds interesting to them (cats, clouds, rocks?) and get books from the library about their chosen subjects, educational movies, or other text books or "living books" that you might already own and use those stack of books to work through their journals.  (See the video below to understand more of how this works.)  I love these because they have a good amount of repetition without it feel boring or all the same!  The pages in these books often come in a different order as well so even though the film study page (for instance) will repeat through out the book it won't come after the copy work page every time (for instance) so there is a fun element of surprise as you work and get to see what the next thing is for the day!

As far as curriculum goes, using The Thinking Tree books is on the cheapest end (if you just get what you are going to use instead of buying all the extras like me!) because you can start with one journal per child and add a math program of your choice (or one of the math books) and possibly a phonics program or spelling book.  All the text books and information books can come for free from the library!  If you already have a curriculum with text books that you like you can add these in to bring some enchantment back into the work so it doesn't feel as dry to your kids as the typical work book often does.

From (pretty much) youngest to oldest are
"Fun-schooling journal" (bunnies on the cover)
"Ages 6 - 9 fun-schooling journal" (single bunny on cover)
"My fun-school journal" (weasel on the front)
"My fun-school journal" (Not pictured, but has tree houses on the front)
These three are very similar inside, so go with the one that the child likes the cover of the most (because the coloring pages inside will tend to match the idea of the cover.  Also, there are others very similar to the ones above so if you especially like the inside of these ones just know that there are several more with different covers and some different pages to color inside to make it fresh yet continue with the same feel.  These are good for kids who can't do as much writing, but the age is quite wide, from 3 years old (with some help) to 9 years.

There is also this one "My first Fun-school journal for tree climbers and fort builders"  (not pictured above) that has a slightly different art style and would appeal to kids in roughly the same age range as the ones above, but who are into comic style drawings to color.  Typically this one would appeal to boys more.

"Laura And Leah's Fun schooling for two" is a little tricky to place in age/level because it is designed for a child and parent or a younger child with an older sibling to work together.  My 8 year old middle daughter is using this one with me because she is always feeling like "the middle child" and wanting more mommy attention and feeling like she doesn't get enough.  So, this has been a special book to work on together.

"My First Fun-Schooling for Princesses and Ballerinas" would be great for any girl 10 and under who adore princesses and ballerinas!  My 8 year old fashion conscious  daughter is interested in doing this one next.  The age range is so wide because it really depends on what books you use with these journals.  Also, does the child do the reading or do you read out loud to your child?  They can write more or less or you can take dictation from them to help them work in their journal.

 For some children using these journals will open up a whole expanse of self directed learning and for others rather than being more independent they might be a tad more dependent at first, but I've noticed that my girls are more interested and engaged in what we learn about.  We go deep into a subject rather than shallow, and these have made my job as teacher more enjoyable too.  I have especially noticed how much happier and calmer my 8 year old is when she can color in between spelling and math times.

"Horse Dreams Fun-schooling journal" for kids who love horses!  There are a few other journals with horse themes as well, but this one has whimsical drawings that I love!  This book also has some cursive writing practice page which is really wonderful.
For kids who are older or who want to learn how to draw horses realistically you can choose this journal "All about Horses homschooling journal" (not pictured)

"Kitty Doodle Homeschool Curriculum" has date to date pages that I show in the video below.  There are a few other journals that have the date to date pages if you like that style best.  As the title might indicate this one is all about cats!  Great for boys or girls who love cats and again the age range is very broad.  I'd say from 8 to 15 but it depends on the kid for sure.  There is more room for writing in this one so that can be a good or bad thing depending on what the child is needing.

"Do it Yourself Curriculum Minecraft journal" is great for any child who loves playing minecraft!  There are minecraft type math problems and that sort of style of drawings to color through out, but there are also pages that ask questions about mining in the real world and have room to write down what the child discovers when they do some research.  Note, it doesn't have the answers in the book as it is not a text book.  Like many of the thinking tree books it is open ended so that you can choose your own text books or mode of research to come up with your own answers and insights and thoughts to write.

My 10 year old thinks that this one is actually easier than the Kitty Doodle one but I think it's because the date to date pages makes it feel too long to her.  I usually only have her do two pages from this book in one day and that takes around an hour or more depending on the pages.

For some more journals in the middle to older age range check out "All About Animals"  which might be my new favorite!  See this blog post to look inside it.
Also other new ones in that range are the (birds on cover) "Homeschool Pocket Journal"  and (boat on cover) "Homeschool Made Simple Pocket Journal"

There are SO many of the thinking tree books that fit in this journal category that I really can't list them all here.  If you are looking for something specific that I haven't listed ask in the comments and I will see if I can find a journal that would fit!  And if it isn't already there I am sure the author will make it in a few months anyway because that seems to be how she rolls. ;)

Some people assign a certain amount of pages for their child and some people have a time frame (school is between these hours for working in the journals, or has a timer set for one hour or something of that nature) so that the child can research as deeply or read as long as they like or spend extra time coloring and do their best without feeling like they should rush to finish all the pages or be made to feel like they have to spend all day on it.  I do a little of both.  Sometimes it's a page count and sometimes a time limit but I mostly have gotten to where I know about how long it will take and can balance the two.  We aren't in a hurry to finish the books!  I would rather have them learn deeply and do their best job than learn at a surface level and rush.

There are also the 10 and 12 subject portfolio style books that were designed for teens.  Similar to the journals for younger kids except that it could be used to house their "best work" over several years and be used as a type of record for what they have learned.  Here is a link to one of those books.  I don't have these books yet but you can search for them on Youtube and get a peek inside to decide which might work best for your kids.


Next group is the Bible verse / Study /Devotion type books.

There are some of the journal styles like in the previous section that have Bible verse copy work built right into the journals, I am pretty sure the description will say if they are Bible based and if they aren't then it won't have "Bible Based" in the description. (Just something to be aware of that could potentially save money if you wanted to get more in one book.)

"Bible Bunny" teaches 30 verses - to read, write, spell, and memorize.  Plus little activities and drawing challenges to go along with each verse.  My 8 year old can't seem to do all 6 pages in one day for each verse so when we all sit down to do this she usually just does a two page spread at a time and saves the other pages for later.  She has a hard time flipping back to be able to copy the verse so I have sometimes written it for her very lightly in pencil and then she will trace over what I wrote.  Doing that technique helps develop good handwriting as she traces my writing and it keeps her from getting too discouraged.

"100 Bible verses to copy" are all Psalms and all of these appear to be NKJV version except that the "shall" will be a "will" instead which I think is a good thing.  I let all my girls pick out their own NKJV Bible from Amazon so that for every verse they copy they get to find it in their Bible and highlight it!  I really love this simple method of Bible study at their age.  And they have a greater sense of ownership by being so apart of the process.  This book also has some cursive practice near the end of the book.

When I have my girls work in these books I will sit with them and copy their verses into my own journal as well (and sometimes copy one of the cute bunnies!) and color as we talk about the verses.  I bought a bunny book for my 5 year old as well, but it was a little too hard for her and so I copied a few of the pages for her to use for now until she is old enough to work in the book itself.  She likes tracing the bunnies and filling in the letters of the verses so that is the sort of page I copied for her.  She wouldn't have gotten as much out of this if I'd let her scribble in the book itself, BUT she likes getting to join in and she is loving the Precious moments Bible that I let her choose so she could highlight her own verses just like her big sisters.  Her Bible and two other books are now her favorite books that she likes to carry around.
"Tea Time prayer and devotional" book was made for teen girls and their moms.
 The video below shows this one pretty well.

There are more in this category that I don't have yet.
There are three similar to this one "The Joyful life Bible study guide"
Also one set up like the spelling book style books "Bible time vocabulary 100 words"
Also, "Just for teen girls quiet time devotional coloring book"
I know a lot of these would appeal more to girls but there is this one too!  "Bible time kids" 


Learn to draw series and DIY books.

There are several books on teaching how to draw certain animals.
"Teach Yourself how to draw Cats"
"Teach Yourself to Draw- Horses, Ponies, Donkeys"
"Teach Yourself to Draw Bugs and Butterflies"
"Teach Yourself to Draw Birds
"Teach Yourself to Draw Kittens"
"Teach Yourself to Draw Amazing Animals"
There are more than what I listed above but if you follow the links you will likely see the other suggestions for more of their Teach Yourself to Draw books.

Those are not to be confused with the ones that go WITH the books above called "Research Handbooks" such as, --
"Bugs and butterfly Research Handbook" which has places to answer questions (you would do your own research to come up with your own answers to write down.)
"Beautiful Birds research Handbook"
 "Wild Cats Research Handbook" (See the video below to look inside this one.)
"Horses, Pony, Donkey- Research Handbook"
And again this is not a complete list but just a place to know what to look for.  If it has "Research Handbook" on it than it is one of these and I think there is a research one to match every "Teach Yourself to draw" book.  They wouldn't have to be used together, but it's nice to know you could combine them if you wanted.

The two DYI books that I show in the video below are these (but there are more!) "DIY book of Cooking tips and ideas"  and "DIY Field Trip Journal"


Coloring type books - Just for Fun!

You could use the "Sketch Book Notebook" from this category for school for middle school(ish) age kids, and possibly the "Ember's Favorite Things to Color" for school for kids 6 and under, but mostly these fall into the FUN category!

My middle daughter who is interested in learning how to sew and design clothes and draw fashion pictures loves the book "To Wear or Not to Wear"

My 10 year old who adores all things cats is really enjoying the "Cat Coloring Book"

All three girls have their own "Favorite Things" coloring book.

And since I have three girls the "Big Sister And Little Sister - Coloring book for Two" has been shifted around to share coloring with all of them.  I show the insides of all of these in the video below.

These books make great gifts and get a lot of love in our house as they work on the coloring - especially when we do our read aloud basket time.


The final category that I will talk about is the MOM books!  Also for Dads, Grandparents, and caregiver.  A few can be used by Teens or make nice gifts. 
This includes some coloring books as well and the video explains a bit of how I use them for me.

I have blogged about some "mom school" books in the past, but have given away all the ones that I am not using so they aren't in the video below!

I am halfway through the "Homeschooling Handbook for Moms" and just so you know, I don't do all the pages in order... I usually have about 4 pages that I jump between until I feel like I am ready to move on and some pages I don't finish.  If you are averse to owls you should choose a different mom journal to buy, but there are several!  Like this one that I think works especially well for moms with kids 10 and younger.  And this one which is especially great for moms who love their morning coffee.   :)

I forgot to take a picture of this tiny Product Details "How to Homeschool" book, but it is lovely and thoughtful and something that might join me in the form of a brand new copy every few years when I go to plan our school year.  Even if you are a veteran homeschooler it is just a great little book to help with the planning process.
The "cafe coloring calendar" book is another one you can use with planning.
Also in the planning section are two daily planners that were intended for kids and teens I think, but I would use them for myself!  "Eclectic planner" and "180 day planner and Organizer"

The book I use the most is the "Secret Village, sketch, coloring, journal" Makes a great scatter book!  If you just want the coloring book of that it is at this link.

"A Day Like Tomorrow" I talk about in the video below.
I have blogged about the "Escape the Digital World" book if you want to know more go to this post.

The "Fun-schooling Preschool" book is not a coloring/ writing/ activity type book like almost all of these.  It was written by the authors mother and has some great advice on how to talk to young children.  Wonderful for new parents or people that want to improve their relationship and communication with littles.

I have also blogged about the "Dad time" book which, unlike the mom books, is meant to be used WITH the kids!  It really could be used by anyone, but is nice for the Dad that wants to do some of the homeschooling but needs a bit of a guide that can be used on an irregular (or regular) basis and still be fun and work well with everyone together.

A newer book that I don't have yetProduct Details is this lovely "365 Day Thanksgiving Journal"   It would probably appeal most to teen girls or Moms and could be used like a devotional journal type book or even possibly as a family group thing where the Mom could ask the kids questions and write down what they say and what she wants to remember.  Got to share this one since it is almost Thanksgiving and seems like a good time to start something like this.

The Author of these books also wrote a book about her life and journey from struggling in school as a child to being homeschooled and being an artist, growing up, getting married and having kids and how that all turned into coming up with the Dyslexia Games books and this curriculum which she originally designed all for her own kids!  "Windows into Our World" I have this on Kindle so can't make a video of the inside but you can peek inside on amazon.

If you want to look inside these books more you can go to this youtube channel- "Mountain Meadow" and take virtual tours through most of the Thinking Tree books all in separate videos.

I hope all of this is helpful!  

Comment below if you have questions or are looking for something that I haven't put a link to in this post.

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