Finishing Strong #136: Reading Aloud and the Common Application

Welcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.

I am delighted that families homeschooling middle and high school age students are coming together and finding inspiration in one another. That’s has been the goal of Finishing Strong since its inception. Thank you!!

Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.


Promote Science Literacy

Hands-on science instruction and experience in inquiry science is important for understanding STEM concepts. However, it is also important for students to develop an understanding of what scientists actually DO in their day-to-day work.

Scientists at Work

In the post, Scientists at Work: Activities and Books to Promote Science Literacy, I share a list of book titles that are perfect for read-aloud time. I also provide tips for incorporating science literacy and career related studies into your science curriculum.

Finishing Strong

There were only a small handful of posts shared with us last week. Perhaps you have written a blog posts sharing an activity that worked well with your middle school student? Have you found an article that inspired you? Have you discovered a product that is perfect for homeschoolers with older students? Let us know by linking up below.

We also encourage you to share Finishing Strong on your social media – help us grow this link-up as a key resource for everyone homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

Below are some of the posts I enjoyed from last week, as well as the one that received the most clicks (in the #1 spot). Did I choose one of your favorites?

books-that-feature-homeschoolersBooks that Feature Homeschoolers

from Heidi at Starts at Eight ~ The most clicked upon post shared last week is one I’ve often thought of writing myself. Heidi’s list shares titles I am familiar with like Nim’s Island, but also a few new titles I’ll be adding to our own reading lists.

How to Painlessly Incorporate Read-Aloud Time into Your Homeschool

from Shelly at There’s No Place Like Home ~ Speaking of reading lists, I enjoyed Shelly’s post sharing tips for incorporating read-aloud time into our homeschool day. I have to admit, I read-aloud much more frequently when the kids were younger. My son, however, is not one to sit quietly with a book so I’ve been wanting to bring this tradition back into our day.

Preparing for College Made Easy – A Guide to the Common Application

from Heather at Blog, She Wrote ~ I wasn’t previously familiar with the Common Application but I am so thankful Heather shared her experience. This tool streamlines the college application process – students simply choose the schools and all the information and requirements is right there in a click.

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As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?


  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

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The Galápagos Islands: A List of Books to Read Aloud

Teddy Roosevelt once said that he was educated by traveling the world with trunks full of books that they brought on the ship as the crossed the Atlantic.  Sounds like a dream come true – to be have the means to travel and to be surrounded by books.

Though not everyone has the means to travel, through books you can luxuriate in the possibilities, swimming around in a place’s past, present, and future. How better to enrich the experience of travel than to immerse oneself in a the culture and history of your destination than through quality literature?

This post may contain affiliate links. 


Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to literacy acquisition.  Reading aloud not only builds vocabulary and literacy, but can also develops a child’s awareness and appreciation for global cultures.

If you enjoy reading aloud to your children as much as I do, why not choose books that might inspire them to go see the world? Here are some fun titles to consider that I selected in anticipation for our upcoming trip to the Galápagos Islands.

Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin

Island is above all a wonder-filled story of epic proportions. Jason Chin thrills the reader with the geological and biological processes that led to the Galápagos Islands we know today. He writes:

“…in order to create an engaging story, I have included events and details that are necessarily speculative. . . [but the] island formation, species colonization, and evolution described in this book are real. This story is based on science, but brought to life through my imagination…”

An Old Shell: Poems of the Galapagos by Tony Johnston

Johnston’s collection of poems records her observations during a trip to the Galápagos, which she characterizes as a place “wild and vast and stark, looking out over the endless and shining sea.” All the poems are short and the black and white illustrations are perfect. She uses a variety of poetry style – rhyming couplets, blank verse, and haiku – to recount her experiences in the islands.  What I like best about this book is that it provides children with the encouragement to think about and write about their natural world.

Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George

Jean Craighead George is one of my most beloved children’s authors and is best known for the My Side of the Mountain trilogy and Julie of the Wolves.  Galápagos George introduces children to the wonders of the natural world in this incredible evolution story set in the Galápagos Islands. Like many of her non-fiction works, it also features key terms, a timeline, and further resources for research.

This is the story of the famous Lonesome George, a giant tortoise who was the last of his species, lived to be one hundred years old, and became known as the rarest creature in the world. His story gives us a glimpse of the amazing creatures inhabiting the ever-fascinating Galápagos Islands.

What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World by Rosalyn Schanzer

I was impressed by this non-ficton picture book. Not only are the illustrations beautiful, it is filled with scientific details, snippets from Darwin’s journals and letters, and notes of explanation. Information is presented in an engaging format. I found it easy to incorporate into our unit study and the illustrations inspired us to try to emulate.

Galapagos at the Crossroads by Carol Ann Bassett

For many, the Galápagos Islands represent nature at its most unspoiled, famed for its rare flora and fauna. Today, the islands face many perils including a growing human population, invasive species, floods of tourists, and unresolved conflicts between Ecuadorian laws and local concerns. Galápagos at the Crossroads by Carol Ann Bassett provides an alarming portrait of today’s Galápagos Islands.

I really enjoyed this book and it opened my eyes to the peril the islands are facing. The anecdotes Bassett shared also helped to make global connections between the harvesting of sea cucumbers in the islands to the demand for these in China (which we observed during our travels a year ago). Though this book is written with adults in mind, reading aloud select chapters would provide middle school students with an understanding of these endangered islands.