Category Archives for Literature + History

How to use audio stories in your homeschool

When kids hear the words “Once upon a time...” something magical happens. Find out how spoken storytelling remains one of the best ways to share knowledge and impart wisdom, not just in homeschool but in all of life.

Sparkle stories audio books for kids

By David Sewell McCann 

Stories are the most effective teaching tool there is — and audio stories make that tool as easy as pushing a button or opening a book.

That is a bold statement in this age of free downloads, interactive curriculum, and subscription teaching services — but it is undeniable when we acknowledge that storytelling is the language of children. How many times has a lecture or explanation been politely ignored? How often does attention drift in the middle of a set of instructions? How regularly do we need to say “just five more minutes” when explaining something to our kids?

Now ask yourself — what happens EVERY time you open a storybook or utter the words “Once upon a time…?” Eyes relax into soft focus, the jaw slackens, and your child becomes a willing audience to whatever comes next.

Children love stories. We all do.

We’ve all suddenly become alert during a boring presentation when the speaker says, “This reminds me of a story…” The speaker now has our attention because she has indicated she is about to speak in the way in which we are compelled to listen.

We are wired to pay attention to stories because it has been the medium for distributing valuable information since we developed speech. Stories were how our ancestors taught their children how to find food and water, how to be safe, how to manage the changing weather, how to live rightly.

Stories were how our brains adapted and evolved into incredibly capable processors of the unprecedented information overload that is standard in contemporary society.

Boy looking at iPad screen

These days storytelling comes in many forms: books, movies, video games, graphic novels, podcasts, and audiobooks.

Wading through the content can be a full-time occupation — but once we find “storytellers” we like, we tend to commit to them. We follow them.

We subscribe to their service. We even binge on their content because it feels uniquely reflective of who we are or who we want to be.

This is natural. This is how storytelling works.

So keeping that in mind, it only makes sense to bring storytelling into our homeschooling. Whether your child is struggling with math, history, grammar, self-esteem, conflict resolution, social inclusion, competition, and any other parts of life, storytelling is ready and available to help.

Here are a few ways you can use storytelling in your homeschooling:

1. Podcasts

The world of podcasting — or audio blogging — has blown up to the point where there is a podcast for every interest, subject, hobby, and perspective you can imagine. There are so many, however, that finding the most appropriate producers can be a massive undertaking. To make things a little easier, we have compiled a list of our recommendations of the best podcasts for kids.

Little girl listening to music on headphones

2. Audio stories

I can’t go much further without recommending Sparkle Stories, the audio story subscription service my wife and I started six years ago. We offer content for academic subjects such as history, as well as social/emotional pedagogy, learning differences, and developing empathy. Kids can listen while they're doing virtually anything: curled up on the couch, in the car, doing chores or colouring in. Our stories are created to be simple, delightful and to inspire children to marvel and wonder.

If you’re looking for places to start exploring, here are a couple of favourites:

“Martin and Sylvia” is a series of over 300 stories that follow the lessons and adventures of a homeschooled brother and sister who do their learning in the playhouse, the creek, the neighbor’s farm, and the downtown library.

“FIFTY” is a new series offering 50 fictional stories that focus on historic events from each of the 50 United States.

"How to Be Super" is a series for older kids that incorporates classic stories and Greek mythology.

Many Sparkle Stories include accompanying recipes, nature studies, crafts and tutorials. Sparkle are giving Mulberry readers an exclusive offer to extend the regular 10 day trial to 15 days. Just enter the code MULBERRY15.

*Code expires 1 March 2018.

3. Tell your children stories

When you tell stories yourself, you have command of the content, can adapt it to fit your unique listener, and can have a lot of fun at the same time.

The most difficult part of telling your own stories is overcoming self-criticism and fear of failing. We all tend to take storytelling far too seriously. 

Girl huddled with mother on beach

Yes, it is incredibly effective, but no, it does not need to be done beautifully. Well-intentioned and honest but poorly-told stories can be just as impacting — if not more so — than professionally told stories.

Before I became a professional storyteller, I was an elementary school teacher for many years. I learned through trial and error that stories could bring transformation to the most difficult situations: rowdy post-Halloween classrooms, dyslexic learners who did not want to be singled out, children with attention challenges whose behavior was disruptive, national disasters, and frightening world events.

We all tend to take our storytelling far too seriously... Well-intentioned and honest but poorly-told stories can be just as impacting — if not more so — than professionally told stories.

Before you employ the latest interactive app or youtube video or online game, consider pressing play on a podcast or streaming story — or open your mouth and say, “Once upon a time...”

How do you use storytelling in your homeschool? Tell us in the comments below.

Want to save for later? Share on Pinterest.

How to use audio stories in your homeschool
Jenny Diaz

David Sewell McCann

Chief Storyteller

Sparkle Stories is an audio story treasure chest designed to educate and entertain the whole family. Over 1,000 original stories can be accessed via the Sparkle app or website, and related crafts, recipes, and homeschool study pages help families make the stories come alive.

*Sponsored post.

Homeschool language arts made simple

From spelling, grammar and comprehension to phonics, handwriting and composition: here is the simple way to teach your kids language arts.

children reading together

By Kirstee Raki |

What is language arts? Well, you and I probably just called this English when we went to school.

Basically, the term language arts is a catch-all that encompasses everything from phonics and handwriting, to comprehension and composition. Vocabulary, spelling, grammar, punctuation - they're all in there too. Anything that relates to the five strands of English Language Arts is included: reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing.

PHEW! That's a lot to cover. But does that mean it's hard to do?

Well, yes and no. For us, if I put a lot of workbooks into our program, things become hard. If I put a lot of writing into our program, things become really tough, really quickly. Maybe your child is different, but these two things are definite no-nos with my kiddo. But with a little help from my friends Charlotte Mason and Rudolf Steiner, I've managed to come up with a plan that is working really well for us.

What we do in language arts

For context, Nikolai is currently in third grade. We take a holistic approach to home education and tend to combine elements of both Charlotte Mason and Steiner/Waldorf methodologies, but we aren't averse to pulling items from elsewhere if it's what best fits our needs at the time.

Morning Circle

I include poetry (memory work and recitation), introduction to Shakespeare and speaking work in the form of tongue twisters. FUN! Grammar and vocabulary related games come in here too.


I assign a classic novel and expect Nikolai to read a chapter at night ready for narration the following day. This only needs to be done when we have lessons the next day, so only three days a week. That's pretty low key. We are working on a second classic novel together. This one we do as a read aloud once a week and then follow up with activities from a Hearth Magic Unit Study. I get Nik to take a turn reading to practice reading aloud. He also reads aloud to his little sister, so we sneak some extra practice in that way. Free reading happens on top of this.


This is an idea popularised by Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. Basically, you have your child tell back what they have read (or have listened to) in as much detail as possible. We use this as a way to practice sequencing, recall, comprehension and the like. I also tend to include a conversation, always informal in our home, where we discuss what we liked (or didn't), why we think a character acted a certain way, what we would have done instead, etc. We practice this skill three times per week, using the reading Nikolai completed the evening before.


This term we are focusing on sentence structure, paragraph structure and summarising information. After Nikolai has delivered his narration (we do this orally) we sit together and I help him to pick out the main idea from the chapter. We look for the problem, the action and the solution which he boils down to 3-5 sentences, depending on the complexity of the chapter. Nikolai comes up with the sentences and I dictate them back to him slowly so that he can concentrate on the mechanics of writing without the distraction of trying to remember the words he wants to use. We have found this technique so helpful in reducing stress when writing.

Once the day's summary is written down, we flick back a page to the previous summary and go over it, looking for errors in spelling and punctuation, which Nik marks with a coloured pencil. Nikolai makes corrections and looks up any words he is unsure of in the dictionary. Why do this the next day? Putting that little bit of distance between the writing and the editing helps ward off feelings of inadequacy.

handwriting girl

Correcting straight after writing can feel overwhelming and demoralising to a small child (or let's face it, even certain adult bloggers who may be typing as we speak!) We also take the chance to engage in short spelling lessons where necessary. Once we come to the end of the book, we will watch a movie adaptation of the novel.

Once a week we also try to include a poetry picnic in our day. This is always a highlight.

So there you go. We've covered reading, writing, listening, viewing and speaking, all in roughly an hour a day, three days a week. And we have fun!

What we don't do in language arts

Workbooks, spelling lists, copy work, creative writing, oral presentations of projects or specific handwriting practice. If it's busywork or is sure to elicit strong resistance, I omit it. It just isn't worth the headache.

If you haven't already, take a look at the video above to see the books we are using, and to get a look at the work Nikolai is doing.

And now I would love to know, how do you teach language arts in your homeschool? Feel free to comment below.

This post was originally featured on This Whole Home and has been republished here with permission.

Kirstee Raki

Kirstee Raki


Kirstee is mum to two from QLD, collector of chickens, a terrible housekeeper, a no-nonsense country-style cook, lover of mason jars, passable vegetable gardener, holistic homeschool educator, to-do list fanatic and bush wanderer. She blogs at and shares advice and encouragement on implementing a holistic model of education in your home, as well as practical tips to stay sane as a homeschool mama. Instagram - @this.whole.home

How to help your child feel more confident about public speaking

Being able to communicate effectively, charismatically and persuasively is a skill that doesn't come naturally to many, so helping your children learn this from an early age is really important.

Ready to shoot in the woods, girl and bow

By Claudine Clarke

Finding our voice as a child is part of discovering our place in the world. Speaking with confidence and clarity can bring so much empowerment and self-esteem into the realm of developing conservational skills, building relationships and how children cope with learning interactions, educational tasks and presentations. It helps children to ask questions when they are unsure of where they are headed, whether that be in a classroom setting, with peers and siblings, developing emotional intelligence and feeling happy in their own space.

People fear public speaking more than almost anything else

Many studies show that when people speak in front of a group as small as 5 people, their heart rate increases, their palms start sweating, they stammer and reach a general state of anxiety.

It can be a scary prospect to get up in front of a crowd and try to entertain them with your words. Being able to speak confidently and engagingly in front of a group of people is a valuable asset. 

Public speaking lessons for children

Children tend to be open to new experiences and a little less fearful than adults, so they often do well in public speaking programs and speech and drama classes.

Through learning effective communication processes children can attain:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved communication skills
  • Experience planning ahead
  • The power of persuasion
  • Understanding of empathy
  • Increased self-esteem
Increased self-esteem

Getting up in front of people to talk can be daunting, but once a child does it, they often feel a great sense of pride and self-satisfaction which boosts their confidence and self-esteem.

Improved communication skills

Being a good communicator takes practice so ideas can be shared with clarity. Through speech and drama lessons, most children leave class with a new sense of how to convey their own unique message out to the world.

Experience planning ahead

Another awesome tool, developed with public speaking and performance, is the skill of planning. It requires preparation, and it helps children to think ahead - something that will benefit a child for the rest of their lives.

The power of persuasion

When public speaking, there is usually a purpose or a particular message, and therefore children learn persuasive skills (all great leaders know how to persuade others). From here, the sky is the limit in terms of the positive influence they can have on others. Along with these beneficial learnings and skill development, the most important thing a child can get from enhancing their public speaking acumen is feeling comfortable speaking in front of people and having belief in their own communication abilities - written and verbal.

An understanding of empathy

At the end of the day, giving our kids the ability to confidently communicate with one another is invaluable. As well as the wonderful skills above, speech and drama teaches empathy. It gives children the opportunity to experience the world from an outside perspective.

Effective communication, speech processes, drama, characterisation, improvisation and mime, are all techniques that the imaginative mind of a child relishes. Learning public speaking is part of speech and drama lessons.

Children playing hide and seek in a forest
They don't have to be outgoing

Shy, reserved kids can get just as much benefit from improving their communication and performance skills as the more exhuberant ones. Drama is a great medium where children can use their energies to discover creative ways of expressing themselves.

Children develop:

  • Social skills
  • Reading ability
  • Pronounciation skills
  • Oral presentation skills
  • Self-confidence
  • Creative expression
  • Enhanced communication ability
Public speaking programs let children express themselves

Sometimes children find it difficult to express themselves freely in a typical classroom setting or even in a homeschool environment. Encouraging imagination and experimenting through speech and drama creates enthusiastic communicators. They gain the courage to step out of the box. It also promotes an appreciation of the arts and literature, and becomes a solid foundation for your child’s future.

*This is a sponsored post.

Krista Lii profile photo

Claudine Clarke


Claudine Clarke has been a speech and drama teacher for over 20 years with qualifications in youth work and with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and Trinity College London. She immerses herself in all aspects of speech and drama teaching in the Gold Coast Hinterland and Scenic Rim region of Queensland. 

Please contact Claudine if you want to know more about how speech and drama can enhance your child’s learning life. You can find out more on her Facebook page or send her an email:

Introducing the Classics: Our ultimate booklist for 3-6 year olds

If you haven't read at least one of these classics with your young ones, it's time to make it happen! 

Girl looking at books spread on floor

By Jessica Pilton |

What better way to explore a new world than with your child snuggled close on your lap while you enjoy a story together? I couldn't think of one.

In our home, we adore books, silly books, funny books, classic books, serious books, dramatic books, historic books... All kinds of books. I've compiled a list of books my children have enjoyed and still do enjoy that would be perfect for any 3-6 year old.

This list is in no way exhaustive but will start you off in the right direction for deep wonderful literature with your young ones, which will leave them with delight and wonder about their natural world and beyond.

Winnie the Pooh by A.A Milne

Winnie the Pooh and A House at Pooh Corner are much-loved classics and Pooh is known by most children as that 'Bear with little brain.' Forget Walt Disney's Pooh Bear and go straight for the real thing. Not only will your child love the stories in the long chapters (read over a couple of days for this age group) but you will love them too.

Stack of children's books

Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd

Hairy Maclary is the lovable scruffy dog most Australian children grow up with. Verses and rhymes litter the books and your kiddos will love hearing about all his woofy friends as well as getting a mock fright from Scarface claw (The cat all the dogs are afraid of!) There are quite a few titles that Dodd has penned from the first, Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy to Hairy Maclary Scattercat, Hairy Maclary's Bone and Hairy Maclary's Rumpus at the Vet.

The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter

Most well known for The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter has penned many classics for children. What my children love most about these tales is while they are fanciful, they all hold an element of truth. The fox cunning Mrs Puddleduck, Mr MacGregor wanting to put Peter into a pie, The rats wanting to eat Tom Kitten. While it sounds morbid on the get go, children love these tales with slight suspense and connect with the element of realism that Ms Potter brings to her stories.

Mother Goose

Mother Goose sits on most nursery shelves and never really sees the light of day after the toddler years go by, yet these are perfect little rhymes to help children connect words with meaning as they grow. Collections like this aren't just for the very young. Your 3 to 6-year-old will enjoy them maybe even more.

Wish Soup

Wish Soup is a magical and enchanting book with Australian seasonal themes - something that was lacking in our literature as most seasonal tales are created in the northern hemisphere. There are 12 tales within the book as you follow the characters through enchanted forests, rambling gardens and magical kingdoms, as they overcome challenges and experience the bond between the natural world and the human heart. Set amongst the unique beauty of Australia's flora and fauna.

Children of the Forest By Elsa Beskow

Children of the Forest is a delightful picture-book fantasy was first published in Sweden in 1910. It is a celebration of the natural world, and of the seasons of the year, as seen by a family of tiny woodland sprites. Mother, Father, and four children - Tom, Harriet, Sam and Daisy - all live together in a snug little house "under the curling roots of an old pine tree." The four siblings have many adventures in their forest home, playing with their animal friends, attending the school taught by Mrs. Owl, and working together with their parents, to gather the food they need for the long winter.

Jesus storybook Bible

The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the centre of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David - every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle - the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle.

This post was originally featured on and has been republished here with permission.

* For your convenience, we've linked to books in this post and some include Jess' affiliate links. If you found it valuable and want to buy one of the books recommended, consider supporting Jess by purchasing using her Book Depository link.

What are your favourite classic picture books for young children? Share in the comments below.

Grace profile image square

Jessica Pilton


Jess is a wife and homeschooling mother to three. She blogs about her life homesteading on a nine-acre property in Perth, Australia, with a focus on grace-based parenting and home education. You can find Jess' writing at and on Instagram and Facebook.

Homeschool inspiration: 4 literacy provocations

These four literacy provocations are simple ideas that you can replicate in your own home, to encourage a play-based, interest-led exploration of literary concepts.

stack of children's books on a table

By Laura Stewart |

Rainbow mark making

Salt in a tray is great for creating patterns, marks and letter formation and it is really cheap to buy! Try adding a coloured sheet of paper or patterned wrapping paper in the base of the tray for a fantastic effect. Items such as paintbrushes, sticks, cutlery can be used to create the marks with which will help build up finger strength.

Prompt idea: Try leaving this set up with a line drawn in the salt, and no verbal prompt, so the child can explore and discover in their own way.

Word building

These wooden Montessori style letters are beautiful and so lovely to use when building words. I love that the vowels and consonants are in different colours. I've printed off some CVC cards for inspiration. These ones have the image and word on but can be differentiated to the needs of your child. Try trickier words and then simple sentences for further activities.

Prompt idea: Can you make the words on the cards using these blue and red letters?

Key and lock rhyming

Have you come across the book Oi Frog? We have only recently discovered it and we love it! It's fantastic for focusing on rhyme and it's so funny. The book ties in nicely with this rhyming activity on animals. 

Prompt idea: Can you match together the words/pictures that rhyme to unlock the padlocks?

Children always seem so fascinated with keys and padlocks so this kept them concentrating for a while! It is pretty easy to set up using cheap padlocks and the cards are some I made.

Storytelling sensory play-dough

Almost any book can be teamed up with play dough and the benefits are fantastic. It's too irresistible to not join in yourself! This is a great way to introduce or support a book by inspiring children with ginger scented soft play dough, cutters, tools and loose parts. Play dough is so easy to make - the recipe I use requires no cooking. Why not talk about the characters whilst you're creating, getting them to describe the Gingerbread man by his appearance and personality.

Prompt idea: Which book character can we make from play dough? Which colours should we use?

What kinds of literacy provocations have you created in your home? Comment below, we'd love you to share.

Laura Stewart Mulberry Journal contributor

Laura Stewart


Laura is a home educating/unschooling mummy to a five year old daughter and three year old son in England. She is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach and her children having a love of the outdoors. Laura is passionate about following her children's interests and loves setting up provocations to inspire them. She blogs here and is on Instagram @love_happiness_learning