Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Golden, Buttery Mashed Potatoes

This recipe for mashed potatoes was developed when we were "visiting" Russia during our homeschool world trip last semester. In looking around for Russian mashed potato recipes, I found two things I wanted to incorporate into my own mashed potatoes: spices in the cooking water and sour cream along with the butter and milk. Those two things give these mashed potatoes a nice depth of flavor, and this recipe has become my new "standard" mashed potato recipe.

Golden, Buttery Mashed Potatoes
Serves 8-10
  1. Peel the potatoes and chop them into ~1&1/2 inch chunks.  (I love my Rada vegetable peeler!) Put the potatoes in a 4-quart pot, cover with filtered water, and add a little sprinkle of salt.  
  2. Peel the garlic. Place the garlic and bay leaf into the pot.
  3. Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.
  4. Simmer the potatoes for 20-25 minutes, until they are soft enough that a fork easily pierces and breaks a potato chunk.
  5. Remove and discard the garlic and bay leaves from the cooking water. 
  6. Drain the potatoes. I prefer to just put a lid mostly on the pot and then pour out the water that way, rather than using a colander, since it allows a bit more moisture to stay with the potatoes.
  7. Cut the butter into a few chunks and add it to the potatoes. Allow the butter to melt. 
  8. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes. I like to leave the potatoes just a tad-bit lumpy when I mash them.
  9. Add the sour cream, milk, and salt. Stir well to get everything combined.
  10. Serve and enjoy! These potatoes make a superb side dish for Beef Stroganoff Meatballs.


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Friday, January 6, 2017

What's Working and What's New? Our Homeschool Mid-Year Review for 2016-2017

I plan the bulk of our homeschool curriculum once a year in July, but each January it is time for our mid-year review. The whole process of our mid-year review takes only 1-2 hours.  The intent of our mid-year review is to look at the following with regards to our home school:
  • What has been working well?
  • What needs to be improved?
  • What needs to be removed from our curriculum?
  • Is there anything new to focus on? 
  • What specific needs does each child have over the next few months?

 

Pen and Paper

I start the process of our mid-year review by writing out the answers to the above questions.  I think back on the previous semester with an open mind to identify things that need to be changed. Sometimes there may be a particular book or curriculum resource that I was very excited about, but that my children don't engage well with.  I may find that there are some subjects that we never even got off the ground with, and I need to decide whether I will re-commit to working on those or let them drop off the to-do list.

I think about each child and what needs I can identify. Perhaps they are struggling with a certain activity, chore, or skill; perhaps they need extra support in some specific area. I think about each child's current interests and ways that I can direct our schooling to make the most of those interests.

Mentoring Conversations

Once I have written down my own thoughts, the next step is to have a conversation with each of my children to discuss their goals and desires, needs and wants. This year, we are using this free homeschool compass to record what each child wants to focus on in the coming months. 


I write down my children's input, and this shows the children that their input is valued and important.  While I may make gentle suggestions during this process, the children are ultimately allowed to decide whether or not they want to focus on anything in particular. This gives my children a sense of ownership over their own educations. Their own interests are just as important as my own agenda for their learning. Mentoring conversations are a time for me to get a better understanding of what I can do to help my children in reaching their goals and pursuing their own interests. 

 

2016-17 Midyear Review: Things that Are Working Especially Well


World Trip 
From June through November 2016, my kids and I went on a virtual world trip. We "visited" 20 different countries, exploring the culture in each place through books, music, art, and food.  We all thoroughly enjoyed this.

Life of Fred Math Books
Although last school year Bedtime Math was my children's favorite math book, this year they are totally into Life of Fred. We have breezed through two books and are already over halfway through a third book. My kids are asking me to read them Life of Fred so often that I'm going to have to order some more books for the coming semester!
 
Classic Audio Books on USB Sticks
During our daily afternoon quiet time, my children have been enjoying listening to audio versions of classic books.  We invested in a couple USB memory sticks that can hold many audio books (as I was tired of burning audio books to CD's), and I downloaded a bunch of free classic audio books from Librivox. My kids have been listening to books ranging from Tales from Shakespeare to The Adventures of Johnny Chuck to Swiss Family Robinson to Book of Dragons.

2016-17 Midyear Review: New Curriculum for the Coming Semester

United States Trip
I had planned to start studying Ancient History this coming semester, but that is going to slide to the next school year. My children loved our World Trip so much that I decided to do a United States Trip for Spring 2017. Some of the resources we are using for our United States Trip are:

 

2016-17 Midyear Review: Notes from Mentoring Conversations

 9&1/2 year old daughter Alina
In addition to pursuing the interests I already knew of (Native Americans, horses, and animals), Alina set a goal for herself to start learning cursive. She also decided to start working on correct capitalization and lower-case usage in her handwriting. With the help of the Project Inspire - Learning Log Book, she chose a few new books to read, and set a few goals of places for us to visit including White Sands National Monument and Fillmore Canyon.
Nearly-7-year-old son Ian
In addition to learning more about his obvious interests (vehicles of all kinds), Ian wants to learn more tricks on his bike, how car jacks work, and how to whistle. He wants to continue his reading lessons and learn to make more Lego creations.  He selected some more classic audio books to listen to, and set goals for us to hike at Picacho Peak and Dripping Springs this semester.

Not Just for Home Schoolers

Mid-year reviews are not just for home schoolers. Any parents who are fostering a love of learning could benefit from periodic planning and mentoring sessions. These are wonderful tools for focusing our efforts on the things that our children need and desire in order to find their own personal missions.  

Do you have a mid-year educational review? Do you like the idea of being a mentor rather than a teacher to your children?

 

 

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cherry Cranberry Sauce

I was inspired to try a new recipe for cranberry sauce for the holidays when I saw Elana's recipe for cranberry sauce that included cherries. I normally make my cranberry sauce with the addition of apples, but since I still have sweet cherries in the freezer from last summer's harvest, I was intrigued to try making cranberry sauce with cherries. 

This Cherry Cranberry Sauce recipe uses fresh-squeezed orange juice and honey to balance the super tartness of the cranberries. The cinnamon stick adds a nice depth of flavor to the sauce, and this recipe resulted in a yummy sweet-tart cranberry sauce that made an excellent addition to our holiday meals. While I typically only make cranberry sauce around the holidays, my children enjoyed this recipe so much that they have begged me to make it several more times. This cherry cranberry sauce makes a yummy side dish any time of day, and is also great with granola or stirred into plain whole-milk yogurt.

Cherry Cranberry Sauce
Makes ~3 cups

  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 2 cups pitted sweet cherries
  • 1 cup freshly-squeezed orange or tangerine juice
  • 5 Tb mild-flavored honey (or more if you like your sauce sweeter)
  • one cinnamon stick
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot. I use frozen cherries and cranberries in this recipe.  A lemon reamer works well for juicing the oranges/tangerines.
  2. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and the fruit has gotten rather soft. Stir occasionally.
  3. Use a potato masher or fork to lightly mash the fruit, and cook a few minutes more.
  4. Turn off heat and remove the cinnamon stick.
  5. Allow to cool, then refrigerate in air-tight containers.
  6. Enjoy this cranberry sauce as a side dish, with granola, or stirred into some plain, whole-milk yogurt.


Does your family enjoy cranberry sauce? Do you eat it only around the holidays?


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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

East African Bean Soup (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Beans have never been one of my favorite foods. They've always been okay to me, but never anything to get excited about.  This recipe for East African Bean Soup has changed that: I love this soup, and so does the rest of my family.  This recipe has combines beans and vegetables with a flavor boost from coconut milk and curry powder. The result is amazingly delicious and, thanks to the coconut milk, this recipe is quite hearty and filling.

This recipe was inspired a recipe in Best of Regional African Cooking.

East African Bean Soup
Serves 8
  1. In a large bowl, cover the beans with plenty of filtered water and the baking soda. The beans will soak up quite a bit of water, so be sure to add plenty. Cover and allow to soak overnight. This important step reduces the phytic acid antinutrient in the beans.
  2. About 3-4 hours before mealtime, chop the onions. 
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a 4- or 6-quart pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a small sprinkle of salt. Sauté for 10-15 minutes, until the onions are translucent and have taken on a bit of brown, caramelized color.
  4. In the meantime, drain and rinse the beans in a colander.
  5. Add the beans to the pot with the onions. Pour in just enough filtered water to cover the beans; since the beans have already absorbed so much water during the long soaking process they won't absorb much more while cooking. In my pot, it takes about 4 cups of water to cover the beans.
  6. Bring the beans to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Salt the cooking liquid; I find that 4 tsp salt is a good amount for my family's taste preferences. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.
  7. Allow the beans to simmer 2-3 hours, until they are fully cooked and soft.
  8. Remove and discard one cup of liquid from the pot of beans. Shake the can of coconut milk well before opening it. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, curry powder, and green peppers to the beans. Stir the pot to mix all the ingredients together well.
  9. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam, and then simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes, until the peppers are cooked to your preference. Taste the broth and adjust the salt as needed.
  10. Ladle into bowls, serve, and enjoy!
*Madras curry powder really is the best curry powder. It has such a fantastic flavor and aroma compared to other curry powders.

What is your favorite bean recipe?


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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies

My family enjoys delivering cookies to our neighbors in the days leading up to Christmas.  Since we live on an acreage, we don't often see our neighbors unless we intentionally visit them. The holidays are a good time to make those visits a priority, and we like to bring cookies along.

Looking for a change from my usual Christmas cookies, I created this recipe for Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies. These cookies are mildly sweet, beautiful, and tasty. The subtle orange flavor plays nicely off the chocolate flavor. These cookies are made with Einkorn flour, which is an ancient variety of wheat that is naturally higher in protein and lower in gluten than modern wheat. The nutrient-content of these shortbread cookies is increased through the use of nutrient-dense butter and sucanat.

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream together the butter, sucanat, and sugar using a mixer or stand-mixer, until a bit fluffy and slightly lighter in color. (I love to use my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer anytime I am making cookies.) 
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get everything incorporated well.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  5. Zest the tangerines (or orange). A microplane zester works fantastically to zest any citrus.
  6. Whisk the zest into the flour mixture, making sure to break up any clumps.
  7. Mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well-mixed. Since this recipe contains gluten, make sure not to overmix the cookie batter.
  8. Scoop the cookies onto greased cookie sheets (or line the cookie sheets with silpats, which are wonderful since the cookies never stick and are less likely to burn).  I like to use a 1-Tb scoop for consistently pretty cookies, but you could just use a spoon.
  9. Flatten the cookies a bit with your fingers.
  10. Bake for ~15-20 minutes, until the edges are a nice golden-brown color. If you are baking more than one cookie sheet at a time, you may need to swap the position of the cookie sheets for the last ~5 minutes to achieve even cooking of both sheets. 
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
  12. Melt the chocolate chips in a small pot over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Don't rush this process, as you don't want to burn the chocolate. 
  13. Once the chocolate is melted, use a fork to drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. I found that a relatively rapid back-and-forth motion of my hand worked well to make the chocolate drizzles look pretty.
  14. Allow the chocolate to fully cool to room temperature and harden. 
  15. Serve and enjoy!


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Friday, December 16, 2016

Beef Stroganoff Meatballs (gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

My family was surprised by how much we all enjoyed the food from Russia during our homeschool world trip. One of our favorite Russian-inspired dishes was Beef Stroganoff Meatballs. I was pleased to learn that Beef Stroganoff is often served over mashed potatoes in Russia, and my family really enjoyed eating this dish over buttery Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. My husband also gives this meal a thumbs-up as a frozen meal that he can re-heat for lunch at work.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Olga's Flavor Factory but I've made quite a few changes to make this recipe work better for my own family. 

Beef Stroganoff Meatballs
Serves 6-8

  • Meatballs:
    • 1 large white or yellow onion, minced
    • 2 Tb butter, preferably from grassfed cows
    • 1&1/2 pounds ground beef, preferably from grassfed cows
    • 1 egg, preferably from pastured hens
    • 1&1/2 Tb white rice flour
    • 1&1/2 Tb sour cream
    • 1&1/2 tsp celtic sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
    • 2 Tb refined coconut oil plus 1 Tb butter
  • Stroganoff Gravy:
    • 2 Tb butter, preferably from grassfed cows
    • 1 pound brown mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 scallion, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 4 Tb white rice flour
    • 3 Tb dry vermouth* or dry white wine
    • 4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade 
    • 1 tsp celtic sea salt 
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • 3 Tb sour cream
    • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  1. In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in 2 Tb butter for about 15 minutes.  Adding a small sprinkle of salt will help the onion cook faster, since it causes the onion to release its moisture. Let the onion develop a bit of brown, caramelized color.  Turn off heat and allow to cool off a bit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, sour cream, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine. Then add the caramelized onion and sprinkle with 1&1/2 Tb white rice flour. Stir until everything is well mixed.
  3. Form the meatball mixture into small meatballs. I like to use a 1 Tb scoop to easily make the meatballs uniformly-sized. 
  4. Heat a very large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2Tb refined coconut oil and 1 Tb butter, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the meatballs and cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes.  (If you don't have a very large skillet, the meatballs will need to be cooked in two batches.) Turn the meatballs and cook another 3-4 minutes. It is okay if the meatballs are not fully cooked during this step, as they will continue cooking in the gravy. Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside. 
  5. Melt 2 Tb butter in the very large, heavy-bottomed skillet.  Add the sliced mushrooms and scallion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté for about 8 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and cooked down.  
  6. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, just until fragrant.
  7. Stir in 4 Tb rice flour to coat the mushroom and scallions.
  8. Whisk in the broth and vermouth. The vermouth can be omitted if desired, but it really does add good flavor to the recipe. The alcohol evaporates out of the recipe very quickly while it cooks.
  9. Bring the sauce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, until it has thickened nicely. Taste the sauce and add salt to taste.
  10. Whisk in the heavy cream, sour cream, and dill. Add the meatballs to the gravy and simmer for 5 more minutes.Turn off heat and serve. This recipe makes plenty of gravy so it is excellent when served over mashed potatoes.

*I love to use vermouth instead of wine, as it doesn't go bad like unused wine. Vermouth is shelf stable, can be used in place of dry white wine in cooking, and can be stored at room temperature indefinitely.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Marinated Cabbage Salad

Once a month, I attend a book club with a few friends where we share a meal together and discuss the month's book. Recently, my friend Nora hosted bookclub and she made a recipe I just had to re-create in my own kitchen: Claremont Salad, which I am calling Marinated Cabbage Salad. Nora modified the recipe from the original, and her salad was so perfect that I haven't made any changes to her recipe. (That is saying quite a lot, as I almost never follow recipes without fiddling with the ingredients somewhat.)

This Marinated Cabbage Salad is crispy, sour, and a tad bit sweet. It makes a perfect accompaniment to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and it is a tasty addition to sandwiches. Marinated Cabbage Salad gets better over time, so although I eat it on the same day it is made, it is even better by day 3, and even better than that on day 5! This recipe will be a staple in our kitchen from now on.

Marinated Cabbage Salad
Makes 9-11 cups of salad

  • 1 medium-large head of green cabbage
  • 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 3 medium-large carrots
  • Marinade:
  1. Chop the cabbage into quarters. Remove the and discard core. Chop the cabbage and place in a very large bowl.
  2. Cut the onion in half and remove the papery onion skin. Thinly slice the onion and sprinkle into the bowl with the cabbage.
  3. Peel the carrots and slice them thinly. Add them to the bowl with the other veggies.
  4. Combine the marinade ingredients. I like to measure and mix up the marinade in a glass Pyrex measuring cup, which allows for easy measuring and cleanup. Whisk the marinade well to combine.
  5. Pour the marinade over the veggies and fold/stir to combine.
  6. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours before serving.  I like to transfer this salad into a large glass bowl with a lid.  This salad will be even better as it continues to marinate over the next few days. Consume within about a week. This salad makes a tasty addition to sandwiches!



Do you have a favorite salad during the winter months?


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Friday, December 2, 2016

Russian Korean Carrot Salad

This recipe for Russian Korean Carrot Salad is the first of many internationally-inspired recipes that I will be sharing in the coming months. During our recent homeschool world trip, we discovered many new foods that my family enjoyed, and I'll be sharing the best of them with you.

Given that I've never been to most of the countries we "visited" on our homeschool world trip, I would not claim that these recipes are truly authentic to the recipes of those countries. Rather, I would say that these recipes are inspired by the recipes from the different countries we visited.  I find it almost impossible to follow recipes without adding my own tweaks and refinements, so I modified almost all of the recipes I used for our world trip, often combining several different recipes or making adjustments to make the recipes better suit the tastes of my family.

Russian Korean Carrot Salad has a strange name, and there is no real agreement as to where its name originated. Nonetheless, apparently this type of salad is enjoyed in Russia and was often listed as a typical side dish for Russia. Russian Korean Carrot Salad is super tasty, and is especially enjoyed by myself and my daughter. It can be eaten within an hour after it is made, but it is even better the 2nd or 3rd day.  Enjoy this as a yummy side dish any time of day, or it also makes a great addition to sandwiches and liver paté on toast.  



Russian Korean Carrot Salad
Serves 5-7
  1. Chop the onion finely. Heat the sunflower oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion and a sprinkle of salt. Sauté the onion for 10-15 minutes, until well done and caramelized to release its natural sweetness. I like to use my bamboo spatula to sauté the onion.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, spices, and sugar in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. Peel the carrots. Grate the carrots using a box grater and place them in a large bowl. I like to use a glass bowl with a lid for easy storage.
  4. Once the onion is done, turn off heat and quickly stir in the vinegar/spice mixture. 
  5. Stir the warm onion mixture into the grated carrots.
  6. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Serve and enjoy! This salad is even better on the 2nd or 3rd day after being made, and makes a great addition to sandwiches. 

More Russian-inspired recipes will be coming soon! Do you have any favorite Russian-inspired recipes?

 

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chicken in Lemon Thyme Gravy (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Chicken in Lemon Thyme Gravy is a perfect weeknight main dish. It cooks up quick and yummy in less than 30 minutes, and the bone-broth-based gravy is loaded with nutrition.  Everyone in my family loves this recipe, with its succulent meat and flavorful gravy.

Chicken in Lemon Thyme Gravy
Serves 3-4

  1. Debone the chicken thighs. There is a simple tutorial here that shows how to remove the bones. (I save and freeze the chicken thigh bones until I have accumulated enough of them to make a pot of homemade chicken bone broth.)
  2. Cut the chicken into ~1-inch wide strips. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Whisk to combine and break up any lumps from the arrowroot.
  4. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, add the coconut oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet.
  5. Add the chicken strips to the hot oil, skin-side facing down. Cover with a splatter screen since the chicken skin will pop and sizzle quite a bit while it cooks. Allow the chicken to cook, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes.
  6. Scrape the skillet with a spatula to loosen up the chicken, and then use tongs to turn the chicken. If the skillet is getting very hot, reduce the heat a bit. Cook for about 2 more minutes. 
  7. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
  8. Add the butter and garlic to the skillet and saute just until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  9. Whisk the sauce into the skillet, being sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen up any tasty tidbits left from the chicken. 
  10. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for a couple minutes.
  11. Add the chicken back to the pan and stir to coat. Allow the chicken to re-warm for a minute or two. Turn off heat.
  12. Serve! Excellent accompaniments for this chicken would be mashed potatoes (recipe coming soon!), a side salad, nutrient-dense white rice, or simple buttered veggies.


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Sunday, November 27, 2016

26 World Folk and Fairy Tale Picture Books

My children and I have recently finished our 5-month-long Homeschool World Trip. This started as a small idea that soon grew into a semester-long adventure into books, music, and food from around the world.  My children absolutely loved our World Trip, so much, in fact, that next semester we will be doing a similar adventure in exploring the different regions and states of the United States. In the coming months, I will be sharing our favorite books, music, and recipes from our Homeschool World Trip.

Why Folk and Fairy Tales? 

In reading our way around the world, I decided to place a special focus on reading folk and fairy tales from the different cultures we visited on our World Trip. Folk and fairy tales are valuable because:
  • they offer a unique insight into the culture of any specific place,
  • they often include moral lessons which are so important for children to integrate into their consciousness, and
  • children find them to be very engaging. 
The following are our favorite folk and fairy tales from the 20 countries we "visited" on our World Trip. These books were a pleasure for me to read aloud to my children, and were especially enjoyed by both of my children (who are currently 6 and 9 years old).

Asia

Japan
The Paper Crane tells a story of wonder when an origami crane comes to life. This story illustrates kindness being repaid.




 

Russia
Baboushka and the Three Kings is a Russian Christmas folktale about a peasant woman who is visited by the three kings and then sets off on a search for the Christ child which ends in her giving gifts to children along the way.




 



China
The Emperor and the Kite tells the story of a small, nearly-forgotten princess who saves her father and the kingdom. This story is inspirational in its demonstration that even the smallest can do great deeds.






Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior is a compelling tale about a young girl who saves her family by secretly taking her father's place as a warrior. Mulan becomes a great general of much acclaim, before returning to her home and family. My 9-year-old daughter was especially enamored with this book.




India
Indian Tales is a collection of Indian folktales which highlights the regions of India.  It includes information about each of the Indian states, followed by folktales from each region that my children found to be very engaging.





Monkey: A Trickster Tale From India is a classic tale of a monkey outwitting a crocodile. My 6-year-old son especially enjoyed this book and wanted me to read it again and again.

 

 

Middle East

Iraq
Lugalbanda: The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War is a beautifully-illustrated picture book that tells the oldest written story in the world (which was discovered on ancient Sumerian clay tablets only 150 years ago). My children were enthralled to hear this story of Lugalbanda's epic adventures.






  
Gilgamesh the King tells the beginning of the world-famous story of Gilgamesh. This book, and the two others in the series, have some of the most beautiful illustrations I've ever seen in a picture book, and my children were engrossed in the story of Gilgamesh as he changed from a lonely, mean tyrant, into a kind and beloved man.




Israel
Joseph and the Sabbath Fish is a Jewish parable that illustrates the principles of charity and giving versus greed and selfishness. This is a sweet little book that makes these lessons very accessible to kids. 





Africa

Nigeria
Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky is an African folktale that was fascinating to my children. This story sparked some imaginative discussions in understanding how ancient peoples crafted their myths to explain the world around them.







West Africa
Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock is a book that had both of my kids laughing hysterically. They loved hearing about Anansi the trickster spider and how he was repaid for his tricks.



 

 

Europe

Germany
The Bear and the Kingbird is a humorous tale by the Brothers Grimm. The bear insults the kingbirds, and a battle amongst all the creatures of the land and air ensues. The detailed illustrations in this book were a studied minutely by my children, giggling all the while.




 
Greece
Mr. Semolina Semolinus tells of princess Areti, who creates a perfect man from sugar, almonds, and semolina. When her perfect man is kidnapped by an evil queen, Areti journeys far to rescue him. This is one my children's all-time favorite stories.






Unwitting Wisdom: An Anthology of Aesop's Fables is a lavishly-illustrated collection of some of the most famous fables of all time.  These engaging tales illustrate life lessons so well, and had both of my children begging for more and more.






Atlantis: The Legend of a Lost City weaves the story of an island blessed by the sea god Poseidon. When the people of Atlantis lose their way and decay into bickering, treacherous people, Poseidon's wrath sinks the island to the bottom of the sea forever.  


 





France

Rapunzel is a well-known classic fairytale, yet this book by Zelinski gives it a whole new depth. The paintings in this book are gorgeous, and both of children listened with rapt attention to see what would happen with the evil sorceress and the entrapped girl.







Puss in Boots, by Perrault and Marcellino, tells of a crafty feline who rescues his owner from poverty. My kids loved this feline hero, and the book led us to interesting discussions about the propriety of the cat's actions.






South America

Brazil
The Dancing Turtle tells of a flute-playing turtle who loves to dance. When turtle is captured, her only chance of escape is to convince the hunter's children to open her cage. My children were rooting for turtle, and this book led to some valuable discussion about children and their parents.






North America

Guatemala
The Honey Jar is a short chapter book that tells Mayan myths about the earth, sky, nature, and animals. My kids loved hearing these different perspectives on how the world came to be as it is.




Cuba
The Bossy Gallito, which is written in both English and Spanish, is a fun tale about a rooster trying to make it to his uncle's wedding. Since we have hens and a rooster, any books featuring chickens are especially adored by my children. The illustrations in this book are entertaining, and my kids loved pointing out the error of the Bossy Gallito's ways. 







Mexico
The Twenty-Five Mixtec Cats is a folktale that combines superstition and mysticism when a healer brings home twenty-five kittens. My kids thought this tale was quite funny and engaging.



 

United States
The Children's Book of America  is a great treasury of American Tall Tales, poems, and historical passages. My children especially loved the stories of Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and the Legend of the Grand Canyon.




The Story of Jumping Mouse is a Native American folktale about a mouse on a journey to a far-off land. On the way, the mouse faces many obstacles and sacrifices his own natural gifts to help others in need. My children loved hearing about the mouse's journey and his wonderful transformation at the end of the story.







The Magic Hummingbird is a Hopi folktale from our area of the United States. My daughter, especially, loves this story of the hummingbird who saves the children from starvation during the long drought.



Canada/United States
Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back is a collection of Native American tales about the thirteen moons of the year. This book took us on a beautiful journey through the seasons of the year. 


Australia

The Biggest Frog in Australia
is a folktale about a frog who drinks all the water from the land. The rest of the animals conspire to find some way to make the frog laugh and spill the water back out onto the land. My children thought this story was very funny. 






These are all of our favorite folk and fairy tales from our Homeschool World Trip. I will be sharing another list with the rest of our favorite picture books from our World Trip soon. Another excellent resource for world book recommendations is Jamie Martin's Give Your Child the World.


What are your favorite folk or fairy tale picture books?

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