Curiosity Stream: A Little Review

We have been greatly enjoying Curiosity Stream in our homeschool these last few months, and I wanted to pop in and share a bit about it.

What Curiosity Stream is

Curiosity Stream is a documentary-streaming service — yes, all documentaries! There are tons of kid-friendly choices, so it’s fabulous for homeschooling. I’m truly sorry that I did not find this resource earlier. There are documentaries about all sorts of topics —science, history, technology, and nature, to name a few.

The best part is that Curiosity Stream is only $2.99 a month (or $19.99 for a year, which is the way I chose to go). It has definitely been a worth-while item in our homeschool budget, especially since we often watch three times a week or so.

How we use Curiosity Stream

We use Curiosity Stream in a few different ways in our homeschool.

  1. To supplement other curriculum

For example, my 8th grader has been studying forensic science this year and has read through most of the (age-appropriate) books on the matter. A quick search on Curiosity Stream turned up two documentaries for him to add to his study.

He watched:

Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time 

and

Catching History’s Criminals: The Forensics Story (a 3-part documentary)

He watched these solo, then told me a bit about what he learned.

As another example, my 10th grader is working through Apologia Biology, but he was finding the plant module rather dull. Curiosity Stream to the rescue! Rather than struggle through the the module (and possibly come away with the impression that plants are boring), I asked him to watch a few documentaries. He watched the the three-part series How to Grow a Planet and found it fascinating.

2. To kick-off our morning routine

Another way we use documentaries is to start our day. Yes, we often start our day with a short documentary! We just finished watching The History of Food and I highly recommend it! Next up, I’m planning to watch the Deep Ocean series with the kids.

3.  Blah days/sick days

Curiosity Stream is awesome for those days when I just don’t have a lot of energy to plan something, or when people are sick (we are in sick mode right now with some of the kids and myself). I still feel like we are “doing homeschool” but all I have to do is click, sit, and watch.

Here are a dozen titles I have lined up to watch with the kids:

The Secret Life of Dogs

Age of Big Cats

Global Food

Dazzle: The Hidden Story of Camouflage

Pioneers in Aviation

What Animals See

Infinite Rainbows

Spiders

Secret Life Underground

The Gettysburg Story

Big World in a Small Garden

China’s Great Wall

Want to try it out? You can visit Curiosity Stream to watch 18 free episodes!

How to Introduce Kids to “A Christmas Carol”

I love A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I re-read it every December and I enjoy it more each time. So naturally, I wanted that book to be part of our holiday homeschooling.

Here are some stepping stones (plus resources) that I found helpful when introducing my own kids to A Christmas Carol — I hope you find them helpful as well!

These are roughly listed from “easiest” to “hardest”.

  1. Listen to a short story version of the classic

A Christmas Carol and Other Favorites (Jim Weiss) — This CD includes A Christmas Carol, The Gift of the Magi, and Dick Spindler’s Family Christmas.It’s a great way to lightly introduce Dickens to younger kiddos, especially if you are a Jim Weiss fan!

2. Find a fun first way to “watch” together

A Muppet’s Christmas Carol — I have seen several adaptations of A Christmas Carol, both for kids and adults, and this one will always have a very special place in my heart. It’s tons of fun, has great songs, and isn’t too scary. If the Ghost of Christmas Future bothers kiddos, they can “check out” with the narrators (who freely admit to being frightened of that scene) and return when Scrooge is safely back in bed.

3. Dive into a beautifully illustrated picture book

A Christmas Carol adapted by Adam McKewon — This version has lavish illustrations and  keeps plenty of Dickens original wording.

4. Explore an adapted version (or two) of the tale

A Christmas Carol by Stephen Krensky — This is my favorite adapted version — the illustrations are fabulous!

A Christmas Carol (Great Illustrated Classics) — If you have a fan of these adapted classics at home (we do!), this one’s for you.

5. Listen to the original

A Christmas Carol by Tim Curry — We are currently working our way through this one, and it’s so good!

6. Watch the movie

A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart —This is my favorite version, which I watch each year without fail. It’s best for ages 11/12 and up, but if your child is sensitive you may wish to preview first.

7. Read the original

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens — The first time we read the original aloud, we read for just 10-15 minutes each day to help my younger kids stay focused on the story. I read it aloud first to kids between the ages of 7-14 (or so). I think it took us a month to get through the book. It helped that we watched the two film versions above during that time — I think it renewed everyone’s interest in the story!

Finally, if you want something fun to read (for you, the parent) I just finished Mr. Dickens and His Carol and loved it!

Thanks for stopping by! If you have a great Dickens resource that I didn’t mention, please let me know in the comments!

Twelve Favorite Christmas Books for Older Readers

Today, I’m sharing 12 Christmas-themed books for kids who are ready for longer Christmas stories. Many of these would also work for younger kids as read-alouds, and some of them include projects that would work for a wide range of ages.

The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas StoriesThis one is out-of-print but available used (and at our library at least). It has several familiar tales — like the scene from the Cratchit’s Christmas dinner — but also some tales that will be new.

The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak — This is a great book to hand off to an older Nutcracker fan, or to read aloud over a period of several days.

Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book — I’m excited to see that they have reissued this collection because I spent hours pouring over my (older) copy as a child. It is full of illustrations by Rockwell, as well as unique Christmas stories, songs, poems, and even some recipes (we’ve never tried them, but they are fun to look at!).

.

Christmas Around the World — We used this book as the basis for a month-long Christmas study one year. It discusses holiday traditions from twelve different countries. Very interesting!

Celebrate Christmas Around the World — We used this book alongside the above book. Not only does it include traditions and customs from countries around the world, it also has activity suggestions, recipes, and craft projects. Fun!

A Pioneer Christmas by Barbara Greenwood— Out-of-print, but worth checking your library for. This book lets your family follow along with a pioneer family as they prepare for Christmas. Along the way, there are crafts, activities, and recipes to try. There’s a Thanksgiving version, too!

Santa Comes to Little House by Laura Ingalls Wilder— I waffled on whether to include this one in my picture book list. But my kids did better with this story starting around age five and up, so I put it here. It’s a longer read (a whole chapter unabridged from the Little House series). I adore this story and was so excited to find it in this format. The illustrations are simply gorgeous.

Twenty-four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L’Engle — Another book to check your library for (it’s sadly out-of-print). If you like Christmas stories with a gentle, old-fashioned feel, this one’s for you. The Austin family has lots of exciting things planned for Christmas —including the possibility of a new sibling. In the meantime, they focus on doing one special Christmas activity together each day. A good reminder to us all to take the season slow and simple.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig— This is a new title to us this year, straight from the December Family Reading Crate! I haven’t had a chance to read it myself, but my ten year-old daughter adored it!

The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri Smith — Another book from our Family Reading Crate. We haven’t gotten to this one yet, but it looks awesome —it’s a retelling of the Nutcracker! I think we’ll enjoy it.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever — Of course, I must mention the Christmas book that was my all-time favorite as a child. In our family, this book worked best for ages 7 and up. It’s a fun one with a great message, but the kids in it are not the nicest, at least to begin with, so I think it “plays” better with kids old enough to “get” that aspect of it.

Do you have any longer Christmas books your family loves? I’d love to hear!

Thirty-One Favorite Christmas Picture Books

I have a thing about Christmas picture books — we have tons of them!

I typically set them out a day or two after Thanksgiving ~ usually in a big basket on the floor. Today, I’m sharing thirty-one of our favorite Christmas picture books.

Here we go!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss— This one is a classic and usually the first Christmas book we read each year.

The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer—This one has a lot of nostalgia for me, because I remember having an old version of it in the house as a child. Happily,it’s still in print!

Night Tree by Eve Bunting— I adore the bright, woodsy art in this picture book. It’s a charming story about a family who decorates a Christmas tree each year for the forest animals. It’s a little oasis of calm in the middle of their busy season!

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson— This is one of those books I can quote from heart because we read it so much when the kids were younger. Bear is ready to hibernate — can he stay awake long enough to celebrate Christmas?

The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel— The subtitle is A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree. It follows the story of a boy who receives the gift of a warm home one Christmas — and how he gives a similar gift to a needy family when he is an elderly man.

Jingle Bells by Kathleen Daly— Another classic from my childhood reprinted! A rollicking, overstuffed sleigh ride that ends up filling a very important role when Santa’s reindeer catch colds!

 

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola — A very special story about how one family prepares for Christmas during a difficult time, and how the poinsettia came out of all their troubles.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard andTanya Simon — This is a new-to-us book this year (thank you Family Reading Crate!). It’s takes place on the seventh night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve 1938 and shows how tiny acts of kindness can make anyone feel welcome — especially a child in a strange, bustling, city.

Berenstain Bears Save Christmas by Jan and Stan Berenstain — This is my all-time favorite Berenstain Bear’s book because of it’s lovely, gentle rhyme, it’s heartwarming message, and the bright, colorful illustrations.

Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear — Brother and Sister are ready for Christmas, but their lists are more than a bit too long and they need a little help finding the true meaning of Christmas. Our copy is absolutely worn to shreds — it’s a classic!

The Cat Who Climbed the Christmas Tree — This one is, sadly, out of print, but it’s worth checking your library for, especially if you’ve got a cat-lover at home! It’s interesting to think about what that little cat might get up to when the family is tucked in bed!

The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren—This is not strictly a Christmas book, but we keep it and the book below with our Christmas picture books because they are winter-themed and so fun to read. The Tomten is a legendary creature who guards the farm at night. Lovely illustrations and a wonderful message (winters come and winters go).

The Tomten and the Fox —The fox is hungry — can the Tomten continue to protect the farm and all of its creatures?

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg— If you have only seen the movie, it’s well-worth getting the book as well ~ I remember, when we got our copy, that I was absolutely amazed at how faithfully the movie brought the illustrations in the book to life!

The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Mary Engelbreigt — This is one of my favorite picture book versions of the classic story. The illustrations are absolutely jam-packed with fun, colorful details ~ we have been reading this one on Christmas Eve for years!

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston—This is one of those books with such a perfect ending that it makes me tear up every time. It’s Ruthie’s family’s turn to provide the Christmas tree for their tiny Appalachian church, but her Dad is away fighting in the war.

Froggy’s Best Christmas by Jonathan London— My kids loved all the Froggy books when they were younger and many of them are practically worn to shreds. This one is no different. Froggy isn’t usually awake at Christmastime — but his friends are determined to introduce him to the holiday anyway!

Spot’s First Christmas by Eric Hill— My toddlers loved on this book so hard that only a couple of flaps remain, but it has an honored spot on our shelf. An ideal first Christmas book — especially if you can get the board book version!

Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett— I adore the Jan Brett books at Christmastime, even when they aren’t strictly Christmas-related because the illustrations have such a homey, holiday feel about them. This title is a fun twist on the story of the Gingerbread Man.

 

The Berenstain Bears Trim the Tree by Jan and Mike Berenstain — It’s A Berenstain Bears lift-the-flap book! What’s not to love!?

The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia Scarry—We are on our third copy of this book because my kids scratched and sniffed all the smells a bit too much! This book is an absolute blast from the past for me and on my absolutely-must-read-each-season list. I will say though, that the scratch and sniff stickers on the newer books don’t last nearly as well as I remember my old childhood copy lasting.

Christmas Trolls —This was my younger daughter’s favorite Christmas book the year I purchased it. Like all of Jan Brett’s books, a child can spend hours pouring over all the intricate illustrations. The story, about a pair of greedy Christmas trolls, is fun too!

 

A Pussy Cat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown —If you have a cat (or a cat lover) at home, this book is a must! Cats can get into plenty of mischief at Christmas, but they have their own special ways of enjoying the season. It is a simple, sweet story, beautifully told. The illustrations are delightful too!

Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish —This one is so much fun, especially for kids old enough to understand the humor. In typical Amelia Bedelia fashion, one Christmas task after another —from decorating the tree to stuffing the stockings — takes on a new, unintended meaning!

The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes and illustrated by Tasha Tudor —I’m a Tasha Tudor fan, so I had to have this one. If I were choosing favorites, it would be in my top five. It’s about a tiny little cat alone in the woods on Christmas, and a very special stranger who takes care of her. Magical!

 

The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown — This is a very sweet tale about a little fir tree who longs for something special and a little boy who grows strong right along with “his” tree. Very sweet!

Christmastime is Here by Lori Froeb—This is another ideal “first Christmas book” —it’s a lift-the-flap board book centered around the Little People and their holiday celebration (and their search for a missing Santa).

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Rick Bunsen — I think the television special will always have the top place in our heart, but it’s fun to have the storybook version to dream over as well!

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett — This is my youngest child’s all-time favorite Jan Brett Christmas story. Teeka has to get the wild reindeer ready for Christmas — can she wrangle them in time?

The Shepherd Boy by Kim Lewis — My kiddos were big fans of all of Kim Lewis’s beautifully illustrated picture books when they were younger. This lovely, gentle story about a special Christmas wish was no exception!

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe — This is another Christmas book that makes me tear up when I read it! A Christmas tree that has never been chosen has grown too tall for anyone’s house. Will it ever get its special wish?

If you have a favorite I haven’t mentioned, please share with me in the comments — I’m always looking for a new Christmas book to add to our collection!

I’m planning another post soon with Christmas books for older readers. Stay tuned, and thanks so much for stopping by!