House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery – Book Review

I came across House of Dreams, a biography on L. M. Montgomery a few weeks ago via someone on BookTube and I knew I needed to read it.

As a Canadian I am embarrassed to admit that the only Lucy Maud Montgomery book I’ve actually finished is the first book in the Anne of Green Gables series.

Just prior to seeing this book I had decided to try to read all of L. M. Montgomery’s books by the end of 2019. Of course, that was before I knew how many she had written but I’m still going to give it a try.

 

House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery middle grade book review

 

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Another thing that pulled me in to this book was the cover and inside illustrations, they are done by Julie Morstad, who is also a Canadian and has written and illustrated some cute children’s books.

House of Dreams (named after one of Maud’s own books) is written for the middle grade crowd and middle grade books are some of my favorites to read which gave me yet another reason to purchase this book.

I loved how easy House of Dreams was to read. Liz Rosenberg did a great job organizing the story of Maud’s life, just before picking this book up I had set aside a biography of Beatrix Potter because it was so incredibly boring, House of Dreams was completely different in that regard and for that I was so thankful.

 

House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery middle grade book review

 

While the book was well written, one thing I was not prepared for was how dark the story of Maud’s life was going to be. Thanks to a Heritage Minute video that came out earlier this year I did know that Maud had suffered from depression but I didn’t realize how long her struggle was or how much it penetrated her life. (Obviously, as someone who has never struggled with it, it’s not something I completely understand.)

From what I have read from L. M. Montgomery and from what I know about her other works is that she writes in a very uplifting way, which gives no indication of how hard her personal life was.

I had hopes to read this book with Raeca at some point down the road, and I still may but it will be further in the future than I had originally thought. We read and listen to quite a few biographies right now thanks to the Christian Heroes Then & Now series and reading House of Dreams after so many Christian biographies was a bit of a downer. While the Christian biographies do not usually have particularly easy lives there is always a hope that is missing from Maud’s life. Both her and her husband struggled with mental illness, which, knowing her husband was a minister made it an even more sad fact. Not that people in the church don’t struggle, but there is still hope and that was obviously missing from Maud’s life and that of her husband.

 

House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery middle grade book review

 

I didn’t know any of the details surrounding Maud’s death until reading this book and the fact that her death was potentially a suicide also gives me pause when thinking about reading this book with my kids, it at least makes me want to delay the point at which we read it.

So, those are some of my thoughts on House of Dreams, over all the book is extremely well written but the content is, in my opinion, for a bit of an older audience. While I often read middle grade books with my kids now (who are 5 & 8), this one I would probably wait until they are teenagers to go through.

Have you read this book? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Phonics vs Whole Language When Teaching Reading

I honestly have no idea how I learned to read. I don’t know who taught me or what kind of process they used but I know that I have been a voracious reader since I was young.

Since reading is such a big part of my life I want my kids to love reading as well.

I truly feel blessed to have taught/be teaching both of my kids to read.

So many people have told me that teaching their kids to read is one thing that scares them away from homeschooling, they just don’t know how to do it. To be honest, I didn’t either!

 

When teaching your child to read- should you use phonics or a whole language approach?

 

People often assume since I was educated as a teacher that means I know how to teach kids to read, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s just say, nothing I learned in university has helped me with homeschooling. (Other than realizing that the school system is not where I wanted my kids to be.)

When it was time for Raeca to start learning to read I picked up the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, I had come across it somewhere on the interwebs and since it was only $15 it seemed like a no-brainer. I’ve always maintained that this book is boring but it works. While this post may contradict that a bit, I guess now I would say the book is dry but it does teach phonics.

I used the book for both of my kids, with Raeca we did about 80 of the 100 lessons before she was reading on her own and I’ve done about 65 lessons with Ephraim and we are taking a break from TYCTR, we may come back to it but at this point he needed some supplementary reading.

Before I go any further, let me just mention that Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is a phonics based approach to reading. And I feel like I’ve now learned that just teaching phonics is enough for some kids but some kids need more.

But at the beginning I did not really know about different ways of teaching reading apart from phonics so that’s why I went with a phonics based approach.

 

When teaching your child to read- should you use phonics or a whole language approach?

 

WHOLE LANGUAGE LEARNING

It wasn’t until I read Reading Magic that I learned about whole language teaching. Even then, it wasn’t until a few years after reading the book for the first time and a few months after reading it a second that I really felt like I grasped what whole language teaching was.

I assumed that every child had to be taught to read through teaching phonics. And while I still do think that phonics is important to know, it wasn’t until Ephraim hit a bit of a wall with the phonics based approach that I began to consider something else.

 

HITTING THE PHONICS WALL

It took me quite a while to realize that Ephraim had hit a wall with phonics. I assumed he just needed more practice but it was frustrating to hear him sound out every single word, especially when he had just read that exact word four words ago.

I started to notice that he was still sounding out words like “it” and “is” but was catching on to the bigger, sight words, first with said, then little, etc.

I thought those short words would click after continuing through TYCTR but it just wasn’t happening, that’s when I knew we needed to do something different.

 

When teaching your child to read- should you use phonics or a whole language approach?

 

THROWING PHONICS OUT THE WINDOW, KINDA

Since Ephraim knew the phonics basics I was good with pretty much throwing it out the window. It’s the whole idea of knowing the rules and then breaking them. He knew how to sound things out and now he just needed to stop sounding everything out.

To help with that we entered the land of Elephant and Piggie.

Thank you, Mo Willms, for making our reading so much more fun! These books are silly, have quite a few pages but not very many words on a page and are repetitive enough for practice but not so much so that they become boring. He really is the modern day Dr. Seuss (who we also love).

 

HOW WE INCREASE FLOW AND FLUENCY AND REDUCE DISCOURAGEMENT

The part where Elephant and Piggie books are different than Dr. Seuss is there are some big, non-phonics in each books, the Elephant’s name is Gerald after all. #phonicsnightmare

To help keep the flow and fluency and keep discouragement to a minimum I generally jump in when a new “big” word is introduced or if there are words that are a current struggle.

I thought it might be helpful to take you along while Ephraim read an Elephant and Piggie book to give an idea of how much sounding out is being done and how much I help. The book he’s reading in this video he had read one other time so he knew what was happening but he didn’t have it all memorized – that’s the sweet spot when learning to read.

I do wish I would have angled the camera down a bit more for this video so you could see the book as he was reading. Sorry about that. #learning

 

I would love to hear how you approach reading, do you gravitate more towards phonics or whole language? Have you noticed a difference from one child to the other?

 

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Where to Start When You Want to Homeschool

I get a lot of questions about how to start homeschooling, or what a person should do when they have decided to homeschool and I wanted to have a good reference post to be able to send people to: hence this post!

If you are contemplating homeschooling or at the beginning of your journey I hope this post can be helpful! If you still have questions after reading this post I would love for you to contact me and I will do my best to try to answer your questions.

 

Where to start when you want to homeschool

 

 

#1 FIGURE OUT THE LEGAL SIDE

I’m not really going to go into this because this part varies so much depending where you live but the first thing you really need to do is find out what you need to do to make your homeschool legal. Where I live this is as simple as registering with our school division but I know the process can vary depending where you live.

 

#2 DECIDE YOUR PRIORITIES

When I posted the “where to start” question on Instagram awhile ago a lot of people recommended starting with what I have down as step #3, but I personally think that before you can figure out #3 you need to decide your priorities.

You are more than welcome to change your answers but if you decide arts are a big priority for you that could change your direction compared to if you decided nature and outdoors activities were a top priority.

For us big priorities, in no particular order, are: family culture, character development, learning about Christ and to be like Christ and lots and lots of books.

Knowing your top priorities will really help guide your homeschool method, resources you use and your daily schedule.

 

Where to start when you want to homeschool

 

#3 PICK A HOMESCHOOLING PHILOSOPHY OR METHOD THAT RESONATES WITH YOU

I’m not going to get into the methods now but to read about what are (in my option) the five most popular homeschooling methods you can do that here.

Before you get worried that you have to agree to a homeschool philosophy, let me put your mind at ease, you definitely don’t, plus, one of the methods is “eclectic” which means you pull from a variety of methods and one is “unschooling”.

But, that being said, if you know a particular method resonates with you, say Charlotte Mason, or the classical approach, it makes it easier to find resources. With your philosophy in mind you can go to Google or Pinterest and look for resources that follow that method.

 

#4 DESCHOOL

Even if you are starting to homeschool in kindergarten and your kids have never been to school, chances are you have been and you probably need some time to remove old ideas you have about “what school should look like”. Deschooling often is more of a process for the parents than it really is for the kids.

Deschooling helps get rid of a lot of homeschooling misconceptions. The truth is, homeschooling does not have to look like school at home. I appreciate those in the UK who have the term “home educating”, because that is what it really is, it is just learning at home.

Another thing to realize is that kids learn a lot through play. This is something I never really believed in until I saw it in my own kids.

 

Where to start when you want to homeschool

 

#5 START SMALL

When you are ready to jump in with homeschooling, it’s best to start small. Don’t start off by purchasing an all in one curriculum. While I personally don’t like curriculums I know some people enjoy them. I’m not necessarily saying never use a curriculum, I just don’t think the best time to buy one is at the beginning of your homeschool journey.

When you are ready to start, begin with a couple of read alouds and a couple of subjects or topics that interest you or your kids. From there you can decide if a full curriculum is what you want or not.

Using this technique I learned that I view homeschooling as a lifestyle – I like to teach my kids things I’m excited about, dig deeper into topics that interest them and make time for learning and rabbit trails in our day.

 

Those five points are the basis for starting to homeschool. Once you’ve done these steps you can choose to continue the route you have started down or change things up. Homeschooling is flexible and that is a great perk to take advantage of!

If you like the idea of a homeschooling approach that is relaxed, mostly interest-led, with lots of good books and space in the day for following rabbit trails I would suggest taking my Homeschooling as a Lifestyle Workshop. I’ll be updating the workshop in the next two months and adding a lot of extra content to it and if you enroll now you’ll have first access to the updates.

 

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Typesy – An Online Typing Program Review & Giveaway

In a homeschool book I read once the author asked her Facebook friends what practical life experiences people felt like they learned from traditional school. Do you know what the majority of the responses were?

Typing!

????

That kind of makes me laugh out loud cause, they know you don’t have to go to school to learn to type, right? It’s kind of sad that that was the only practical skill most people could think of.

 

Homeschool Typing - Typesy Review

 

Raeca is big into writing stories, the other day she started a new one and said “I think reading a lot has made me better at writing stories.” #readingwin

She likes to type her stories out so she can go back and change and add things in easily so one of the skills I want to work on with her is typing, so when Typesy reached out and asked if I would use their program and write a review post it seemed like a great fit.

As a blogger who dreams to one day possibly write a book, I obviously value the ability to type at a decent speed. And in this day and age I think it is a skill anyone under 70 should be able to do well.

So, should you teach your children to type? Absolutely!

Should you use Typesy to do so? Read on to find out!

 

Homeschool Typing - Typesy Review

 

WHEN SHOULD YOU TEACH TYPING?

First of all, I know some will definitely ask at what age they should teach their kids typing skills and I honestly think it depends on the child. It depends on their interest, the size of their hands, their fine motor skills, their reading ability, etc. If they take piano lessons I think that is an advantage when learning to type because it teaches them to use their fingers individually in a way they don’t do much of until that point.

For Raeca I think grade three has been a good time to learn. She started learning last year but timed tests were giving her quite a bit of anxiety so we dropped it for awhile and this year she is doing a lot better with them.

 

Homeschool Typing - Typesy Review

 

TYPESY REVIEW

So, Typesy is an online typing program where you can learn to type (surprise!).

Typesy has three different licensing options: one for schools, one for individuals and one for homeschools (!!!). I love that they didn’t forget about the homeschoolers and they even have an option for homeschool co-ops.

Typesy has a really nice user dashboard and you can even work on your own typing skills as a parent.

In the admin panel you can add students and check the progress of your students. You can see when they logged in last, their current WPM (words per minute) and accuracy levels and all at a glance, so if you had multiple kids you could see their stats all at once which is handy for saving time.

I really appreciate that you can set individual speed goals for each student. With a child with some anxiety I wanted to be able to set her speed goal really low to begin with to increase her confidence and comfort before pushing her and I like that Typesy allows this option.

Typesy also has some typing games which just makes the learning more fun for kids. They have speed boosting games and accuracy building games so your kids can work on the specific skills they need to.

 

Homeschool Typing - Typesy Review

 

PROS & CONS

Because I like making lists, here’s a little breakdown of some Typesy pros and cons for you:

Pros:

  • great graphics
  • easy to use
  • effective – it’s been helpful so far in teaching Raeca how to position her hands and increase her confidence
  • fun – not only is it effective but the speed boosting and accuracy building games make learning to type enjoyable
  • great reporting – it’s so easy to see how she is doing

Con:

  • each student has their own log in username and password – I know this actually makes a lot of sense, especially when you have big groups, like a classroom or a large family but with only one kid currently using it, it’s mildly annoying to remember my password and hers. It’s a very minor con and solely exists because I don’t have a great memory – thankfully Google can save her password so I don’t actually have to remember it. 😉

 

Homeschool Typing - Typesy Review

 

WHO IS TYPESY FOR?

I think Typesy would be a great fit for those who want to to teach typing in their homeschool and record their child’s progress or those who need to have detailed homeschool records – this is an easy way to track typing progress.

It is also a great program for those who want a simple and effective way to teach typing to their children. Typesy has introductory videos for kids to watch that explain the different sections and it is a great way for kids to have a little more control in an area and is pretty hands off for parents.

 

Homeschool Typing - Typesy Review

 

GIVEAWAY

—– THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED —–

Here’s something fun: Typesy has offered to give away a few homeschool licenses! I’ll be giving away two, five year licenses here on the blog and two over on Instagram, feel free to enter both giveaways to increase your chances.

To enter here all you have to do is leave a comment below sharing how you think your kids will use their typing skills later in life.

Giveaway Details: The giveaway is open worldwide and will end at 11:59pm PST on Wednesday, December 12th. Typesy has supplied the free licenses and winners will be alerted via email after the giveaway ends.

 

Homeschool Typing - Typesy Review

 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post which means I was paid by Typesy to give an honest review of their product.

Why We Quit Using the Charlotte Mason Method

If you have been following around here for a little while you may know that we (well, I) decided to give the Charlotte Mason method a try for this school year.

I love the Charlotte Mason method, I love all the photos I see and really agree with most of the method.

But I am just unable to follow it.

Seriously, we maybe did one month of a revised version of the method before it just simply fell apart.

 

Why we quit using the Charlotte Mason method and what we are doing instead

 

The truth is, I’m more of an organic homeschooler and we all do better when we view homeschooling as a lifestyle, not something we “do”.

My goals for homeschooling are many but having my kids enjoy learning is a huge part of it and while we were still learning while following a more rigid homeschool schedule, it took away from the times we wanted to follow random interests or the amount of YouTube videos we could watch after a child asked how batteries worked.

There is so much I enjoy about the Charlotte Mason method and the type A side of me is disappointed that it didn’t work for us, even though I really wanted it to. But I’ve been feeling really blah about homeschooling lately and I think it is partially because I was trying to make something work that just wasn’t our style, and even though we haven’t really been doing the CM method for the last few months I was definitely feeling some lingering guilt over it. Some how announcing we are no longer trying the CM method helps lighten that burden.

 

Why we quit using the Charlotte Mason method and what we are doing instead

 

WHAT WE ARE DOING INSTEAD

So, we are sticking with homeschooling as a lifestyle, and for me that includes a little bit of intentional learning as well. I recently read Pam Barnhill’s Better Together which is about the concept of Morning Time, I don’t like the term “morning time” but I like the concept so I did some brainstorming with the kids and Raeca came up with the idea of Brain Stain (because you use your brain and what you learn leaves a mark on your brain – I was impressed by her idea).

I have created a Brain Box (my twist on a morning basket) that I plan on switching up monthly. I hope to share what is in our box on a monthly basis, so watch for the December post soon!

In addition to Brain Stain we are leaving room in our days for free play, game schooling (I’ll be updating our games post soon!), lots of audiobooks, pursuing the kids’ interests and following rabbit trails as they come up. I also subscribe to a number of educational YouTube channels and whenever interesting videos pop up about history or science or geography I call the kids over and we watch those and sometimes that creates it’s own rabbit trail.

We are also planning a Europe trip (aiming for next fall) and the kids are going to be heavily involved in choosing where we go and what we see and big part of that is learning European history and geography. (I’m super excited about this!!!)

 

Why we quit using the Charlotte Mason method and what we are doing instead

 

That in short, is why we are no longer using the Charlotte Mason method and what we are doing instead! Have you ever tried a homeschool method or philosophy and realized it just isn’t for you?

 

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Our December Brain Box

Like I mentioned in the post where I shared that we were officially quitting the Charlotte Mason method, we’ve started a little thing we call Brain Stain.

Brain Stain in our take on the idea of Morning Time though it is not always in the morning so for the reason I didn’t like the name, plus I wanted it to be called something more exciting, my Raeca came up with the idea of Brain Stain.

During our Brain Stain time we are going through a few of the resources in our Brain Box. Each month I hope to create a (mostly) new Brain Box and today I wanted to share our December box.

Our December Brain Box - a take on a morning basket

We only thought of this idea in the first week of December so I feel like this box isn’t as Christmas themed as I would have tried to make it if I had been planning this before Christmas but I’m keeping this in mind for months to come and plan on writing down ideas for future months as I think of them.

Another reason I am so excited about this idea of Brain Stain and our Brain Box is because it gives me the reminder to be a little more intentional with our month, especially in regards to holidays and events. I often feel like I am a little behind in celebrating holidays so I think this will help give me the reminder I need.

The idea of Brain Stain and our Brain Box also work really well with how we homeschool without a curriculum, or what I like to call, homeschooling as a lifestyle.

Okay, on to what is in our Brain Box for December!

Our December Brain Box - a take on a morning basket

Dutch Blitz

The kids have been on a real Dutch Blitz kick lately. Raeca (8) can play by herself but Ephraim still plays with a partner (me). Playing Blitz with only two teams can be difficult because you often get stuck waiting for the same number for a long time so I figured out a way around that – Ephraim and I play with two decks. He still has ten cards in his pile on the table but I have a lot more cards in my hand so that gives us a lot more options and makes the game quicker than normal with just two players.

How to Remember (Almost) Everything Ever

I have been wanted to do some memory type games with the kids for awhile and we got this book from our library, so far we’ve done a few of the activities in it and I can’t wait to do more.

Little Pilgrim’s Progress

We are still slowly (but surely) making our way through this book. The kids have been enjoying it and always ask for one more chapter. Their love for it definitely faded when we were doing the Charlotte Mason method and I asked them to narrate the chapters but now that we aren’t doing that any more they are back to loving it.

Our December Brain Box - a take on a morning basket

The Pupil’s One Vocabulary Speller – Canadian Edition

This book was actually a vintage find when Raeca and I went to an antique sale in a barn last fall. We have a stack of these books for decoration and she realized this one is for grade three so she pulled it out and added it to our box. I have no idea how much she will actually want to do the spelling activities in it but it’s already been a great history and geography lesson as the first few pages share some of the “most important” words for kids to know to spell and number one is wagon with cows, winter, hen and ice following shortly after.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic

This is our current read aloud. To be honest, so far I’m realizing that I enjoyed the original Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle more.

Our December Brain Box - a take on a morning basket

Looney Tunes Time Book

This was a book I picked up at Dollarama awhile ago and it’s good for learning time on an analog clock. I haven’t been very good with teaching this kind of time because we don’t own any analog clocks and there aren’t that many around any more.

On the note about clocks: I have been thinking about creating a wall with basic black and white analog clocks and then having the time for different cities in the world, similar to this:

But I just need to figure out where that would work in our house first.

We are still working on Ephraim’s reading using mainly the whole language approach. This includes a lot of Elephant and Piggie books, Fly Guy and Dr. Seuss. You can actually check out some of our favorite easy readers here.

Our December Brain Box - a take on a morning basket

Tabitha’s Travels

To be honest, as of writing this post we have yet to start this book but I have good intentions to read it with the kids before Christmas! Then for next year I am hoping to read one of the other books in the series with them.

Bedtime Math – The Truth Comes Out

We are on to our second Bedtime Math book – this is currently all we are “officially” doing for math but we take advantage of organic math learning throughout the day and I’m not worried, my kids are both doing really well in math and the lack of worksheets seems to help them actually enjoy it. (That being said, the odd time Raeca actually asks to fill out math worksheets. #nerd)

One other thing I didn’t take pictures of was that I stuck our Christmas picture books in our box for the month as well. You can see some of our favorite Christmas picture books here and here.

And there you have it, our Brain Box for December! I think the theme for January’s box will appropriately be: WINTER – any suggestions for that box?

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15 of Our Favorite (and free!) Homeschool Resources

Since we’ve gotten back into our groove of homeschooling without a curriculum again I’ve come to realize how many free resources we use in our day.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love buying materials for our homeschool (can someone say all. the. books.??), but because we like to study a wide variety of subjects and topics it’s nice to have a good stream of free resources to pull from as well.

 

Our Favorite, Free Homeschool Resources

 

I recently took the time to sit and write out our favorite free homeschool resources and was surprised to find the list getting longer and longer and I’m sure some more will come to my mind soon.

If you want to grab the list, you can sign up below, you’ll also start receiving my (usually) weekly email where I try to share a new resource:

 

The Best Picture Books for January

One of my goals for this year is to do better with enjoying each season and being intentional with our time in the season. Because almost everything I do has to include books in some way, I thought making monthly book lists would be a good way to acknowledge each season.

January is one of the hardest months for me. Christmas is over and the winter feels like it is never going to end but luckily there are some great picture books to read this month!

When picking picture books for January I tried to pick the best books about winter and snow. There are some funny books in this list to help give some laughs during the cold month (hello, Robert Munsch!).

What are your favorite winter and snow related books? Leave a comment at the end of the post letting me know!

 

The Best Picture Books for January - books about snow and all things winter

 

Pin this image so you can access this list for years to come!

 

 

I find this book fascinating! It makes me want to analyze all.the.snowflakes.

From the time he was a small boy in Vermont, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley’s enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist’s vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature.

 

We love Jan Brett’s books! I love all the hidden things in her illustrations.

When Nicki drops his white mitten in the snow, he goes on without realizing that it is missing.

One by one, woodland animals find it and crawl in; first, a curious mole, then a rabbit, a badger and others, each one larger than the last. Finally, a big brown bear is followed in by a tiny brown mouse and what happens next makes for a wonderfully funny climax.

As the story of the animals in the mitten unfolds, the reader can see Nicki in the borders of each page, walking through the woods unaware of what is going on.

 

When Lisa’s woolen stocking flies off the clothesline, Hedgie finds it and pokes his nose in. He tries to pull it out, but the stocking gets stuck on his prickles — and the fun begins.

A mother hen comes by, then a noisy goose, a talkative barn cat, a playful farm dog, a mama pig and her piglets, and a pony. They all laugh at Hedgie, especially when he pretends he’s wearing a new hat. But in the end, it is clever Hedgie who has the last laugh.

And where is Lisa when all of this is going on? She’s in Jan Brett’s signature borders, getting ready for winter, until she realizes her stocking is missing and she enters the story to look for it.

 

I love all the Brambly Hedge books! The kids love it when the show pictures of the inside of the building and all the things they can fit into a tree or tree stump. Jill Barklem’s drawings are brilliant.

Snow is falling and deep drifts cover the doors and windows of Brambly Hedge. The Toadflax children have never seen snow before and are so excited when they discover there is to be a Snow Ball. The little mice watch wide-eyed as all the preparations are made. At last everything is ready and the Ball can begin! The mice of Brambly Hedge have many adventures but they always have time for fun too. All through the year, they mark the seasons with feasts and festivities and, whether it be a little mouse’s birthday, an eagerly awaited wedding or the first day of spring, the mice never miss an opportunity to meet and celebrate.

 

This is definitely a favorite! It’s a great story of kindness and generosity. And if you sign up for my bookish newsletter you’ll receive ideas on how you can go beyond the book (and each month I’ll send out ideas for book extension activities for a new book).

A young girl and her box of magical yarn transform a community in this stunning picture book. With spare, gently humorous illustrations and a palette that moves from black-and-white to a range of color, this modern fairy tale has the feel of a new classic.

 

I grew up reading a lot of Robert Munsch books, of course kids love them, they are hilarious!

Thomas refuses to wear his new snowsuit despite the pleas of his mother, his teacher, and even his principal.

 

I feel for the parents in this story. Just the other day I was running errands for not a long period of time and one of my kids needed to use the bathroom – twice!

A hilarious story of a little boy in the throes of toilet training.

 

Over the snow, the world is hushed and white. But under the snow lies a secret world of squirrels and snow hares, bears and bullfrogs, and many other animals making their winter home under the snow. This beloved nonfiction picture book exploring the subnivean zone reveals the tunnels and caves formed beneath the snow but over the ground, where many kinds of animals live through the winter, safe and warm, awake and busy, but hidden beneath the snow.

 

I think I love all of Virginia Lee Burton’s books!

Katy, a brave and untiring tractor, who pushes a bulldozer in the summer and a snowplow in the winter, makes it possible for the townspeople to do their jobs.

 

Little Mist is a sweet-faced snow leopard cub who is wide-eyed with wonder at the world before him. Guided and protected by his mother, Little Mist discovers the glistening snow, the mountain streams, and the cloud forests. The world may look big to a little cub, but one day, his mother tells him, he will be the king of the mountains. Safely curled up in his mother’s paws, Little Mist can’t wait for his journey to begin . . .

A heartwarming portrayal of the unique bond between parent and child, set against the breathtaking backdrop of snow-covered mountains. This is the perfect picture book to read curled up with your own little cub.

 

Charles wants to find a wish tree. His brother and sister don’t believe there is such a thing, but his trusty companion Boggan is ready to join Charles on a journey to find out. And along the way, they discover that wishes can come true in the most unexpected ways.

 

In a cave in the woods,
in his deep, dark lair,
through the long, cold winter
sleeps a great brown bear.

One by one, a whole host of different animals and birds find their way out of the cold and into Bear’s cave to warm up. But even after the tea has been brewed and the corn has been popped, Bear just snores on!

See what happens when he finally wakes up and finds his cave full of uninvited guests—all of them having a party without him!

 

The rhythm in this book is brilliant and I enjoy the illustrations.

When snowflakes fall, two sisters react very differently. One is excited and the other is wary. The first sister spends the morning outdoors, playing until she’s all tuckered out. Meanwhile, the second sister stays indoors, becoming ever more curious about the drifts outside. Soon, they switch places, and spend the second half of the day retracing each other’s footsteps. But each sister puts her own unique spin on activities like sledding, baking and building.

 

While this is a poetry book it definitely belongs on this list. The flower fairy poems are some of my absolute favorites, they feel almost magical. I love reading the poems for each season and the pictures are beautiful.

First published in the 1920s, Cicely Mary Barker’s original Flower Fairies books have been loved for generations. The book features poems and full-color illustrations of over 20 flowers and their guardian fairies.

 

I think Yeti’s are adorable so I had to include a few books on the topic.

It’s a snowy, blowy, wintry day — just perfect for a yeti hunt! Or so thinks big brother. But younger brother is not as convinced. Questions abound: Have you ever seen a yeti? Is a yeti strong? Can a yeti run fast?

 

Everyone knows yetis love winter. They love snowball fights and hot chocolate and sledding and building snow castles. But even yetis get the shivers, and even yetis get crabby from all the cold. So here’s a secret about yetis:  sometimes they miss summer. Sometimes, they have to bring a little bit of summer to the coldest of winter days. Those yetis, they’re just full of surprises.

 

Two young hikers set out to look for Yeti one day, and with the help of a bird friend, they trek further and further into the woods, sending letters to coax the shy creature out of hiding. But as their trip goes on, the hikers find that they have not prepared very well, and though their morale is high, food supplies are low, the forest is getting darker, and a snowstorm looms. Luckily Yeti is a friend they can rely on, and though he’s not ready to come out of hiding, he sneakily finds a way to get the hikers exactly what they need when they need it.

 

What are you favorite January reads?

Ten Funny Chapter Books That Will Have Kids Laughing Out Loud

In the last few months I’ve been realizing how much more Ephraim enjoys chapter books when they are funny. For that reason I’ve been trying to add more funny chapter books into our rotation and alternating them with the more serious ones.

There are some writers that just have that knack for writing silly chapter books, the more out there the better it seems sometimes.

I actually had a few more books to add to this list, I’ll have to make a part two soon!

What are some of the funniest chapter books you have read? I’d love for you to let me know in the comments!

 

Ten funny chapter books that will have kids laughing out loud. Great novels kids will love, especially the boys.

 

This book always has me in stitches along with the kids. This is great as a real aloud though I personally think it’s even better as an audiobook, Neil Gaiman does an amazing job narrating his own book.

An absolute delight of a madcap story for the young (and young-at-heart), with equal parts pirates and piranhas, adventure and aliens, oddity and love.

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: t h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.”

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal.

 

You may notice Mr. Dahl show up a couple times in this book list, while not all his books are my favorite he’s got some really funny ones!

The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, or any of the other giants—rather than the BFG—she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that the giants are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

 

We read this book over a year ago and the kids will often still call a pen a frindle. Ephraim actually made up his own word when he was three: fickadits (I’m not 100% sure on the spelling but that’s as phonetic as I could make it), it means “small pieces of paper”, it’s been over two years and that word is still going strong in our house.

Is Nick Allen a troublemaker? He really just likes to liven things up at school — and he’s always had plenty of great ideas. When Nick learns some interesting information about how words are created, suddenly he’s got the inspiration for his best plan ever…the frindle. Who says a pen has to be called a pen? Why not call it a frindle? Things begin innocently enough as Nick gets his friends to use the new word. Then other people in town start saying frindle. Soon the school is in an uproar, and Nick has become a local hero. His teacher wants Nick to put an end to all this nonsense, but the funny thing is frindle doesn’t belong to Nick anymore. The new word is spreading across the country, and there’s nothing Nick can do to stop it.

 

Can you imagine having twelve penguins in your home? Some silly antics ensue in this book!

The story of what happens when a small town house painter receives a penguin from Antarctica as a gift. A silly story that involves a troop of penguins and a show they take across the country.

 

The other day I thought I was hearing a dog make a weird sound outside but when I went to investigate it turns out it was Ephraim listening to this on audio in his room and just giggling away.

George is alone in the house with Grandma. The most horrid, grizzly old grunion of a grandma ever. She needs something stronger than her usual medicine to cure her grouchiness. A special grandma medicine, a remedy for everything. And George knows just what to put into it. Grandma’s in for the surprise of her life—and so is George, when he sees the results of his mixture!

 

This is another book that Ephraim will giggle to when he is listening to it on audio, I have no idea how many times he has listened to it already.

In this imaginative adventure from Newbery Medal–winning author Beverly Cleary, a young mouse named Ralph is thrown into a world of excitement when a boy and his shiny toy motorcycle check in to the Mountain View Inn.

When the ever-curious Ralph spots Keith’s red toy motorcycle, he vows to ride it. So when Keith leaves the bike unattended in his room one day, Ralph makes his move. But with all this freedom (and speed!) come a lot of obstacles. Whether dodging a rowdy terrier or keeping his nosy cousins away from his new wheels, Ralph has a lot going on! And with a pal like Keith always looking out for him, there’s nothing this little mouse can’t handle.

 

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has some silly cures, I think what often has my kids giggling is that they can see themselves in some of the children she cures.

Meet Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! She lives in an upside-down house with a kitchen that is always full of freshly baked cookies. She was even married to a pirate once! Best of all, she knows everything there is to know about children.

When Mary turns into an Answer-Backer or Dick becomes Selfish or Allen decides to be a Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has the perfect cure. And her solutions always work, with plenty of laughs along the way. This is the book that started it all!

 

Who doesn’t secretly wish they had a friend like Pippi? From sleeping backwards in her bed to being able to lift her horse she’s one amazingly silly girl.

Tommy and his sister Annika have a new neighbor, and her name is Pippi Longstocking. She has crazy red pigtails, no parents to tell her what to do, a horse that lives on her porch, and a flair for the outrageous that seems to lead to one adventure after another!

 

This is a super short book so we’ve read it a number of times and it still causes giggles. If only there were an anti-freckle juice I may give it a try.

More than anything in the world, Andrew Marcus wants freckles. His classmate Nicky has freckles—they cover his face, his ears, and the whole back of his neck. But when Andrew asks Nicky where he got them, Nicky just says he was born with them. Some help he is!

That’s when Sharon offers Andrew her secret freckle juice recipe—for fifty cents, she promises, Andrew can look just like Nicky. His freckleless days are over! He rushes home to whip up the concoction. Grape juice, vinegar, mustard…

But what starts out as a simple freckle juice recipe quickly turns into something disastrous. Andrew is still determined to get his freckles, and to show that pesky Sharon that she doesn’t know everything—and he has the perfect solution! Or does he?

 

 

I haven’t read this one with the kids yet but I still strongly remember reading it in grade 5 and it’s going on the list to read to the kids shortly!

Because of a bet, Billy is in the uncomfortable position of having to eat fifteen worms in fifteen days. The worms are supplied by his opponent, whose motto is “The bigger and juicier, the better!” At first Billy’s problem is whether or not he can swallow the worm placed before him, even with a choice of condiments from peanut butter to horseradish. But later it looks as if Billy will win, and the challenge becomes getting to the worm to eat it. Billy’s family, after checking with the doctor, takes everything in stride. They even help Billy through his gastronomic ordeal, which twists and turns with each new day, leaving the outcome of the bet continually in doubt.

 

If you like funny chapter books you may also like the lists of funny picture books I’ve shared before. You can check those out here, here and here.

 

Now, let me know some of your favorite funny chapter books!

Our 12 Favorite Family Read Alouds from 2018

Here’s my first list of our favorite books form 2018! Soon I’ll share my favorite reads as well as our favorite picture books, but today it’s the chapter books.

If you’ve read any of my chapter book lists in the past you’ll know that I have struggled with reading chapter books aloud in the past and while I wouldn’t say that I am great at it now I would say I improved by leaps and bounds this last year.

It turns out I now know the secret to getting better at reading chapter books aloud: practice. No real surprise there.

If you have struggled with with reading aloud in the past, one my favorite tricks is audiobooks. A lot of our favorites from this year we listened to on audio and you can read my best audiobook tips.

Our favorite family read aloud chapter books that we read in 2018

 

We really enjoyed a lot of books this year and a fairly wide variety too. We read everything from silly fiction to serious non-fiction and thoroughly enjoyed both types.

I would love to hear if any of these are your favorites as well!

 

This book actually made it on to our list of Ten Funny Chapter Books, it has been one of Ephraim’s favorites from this year.

The story of what happens when a small town house painter receives a penguin from Antarctica as a gift. A silly story that involves a troop of penguins and a show they take across the country.

 

I read this book to the kids in October, I had not read it previously and I wondered if it would be kind of creepy but we read it and had a lot of fun with it and it turns out it was just completely hilarious.

This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches.

Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There’s nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them. Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma’s stories—but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with The Grand High Witch herself!

 

We enjoyed this one so much that we continued on to book two!

“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children–two boys and two girls–succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

 

This is actually our second time through this book, it’s one that I recommend as a great first read aloud novel.

Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte’s Web, high up in Zuckerman’s barn. Charlotte’s spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur’s life when he was born the runt of his litter.

 

I can’t believe this was my first time reading this book, it was so fun and while the book is better than the movie we enjoyed the movie as well.

A girl. An iguana. An island. And e-mail. Meet Nim–a modern-day Robinson Crusoe! She can chop down bananas with a machete, climb tall palm trees, and start a fire with a piece of glass. So she’s not afraid when her scientist dad sails off to study plankton for three days, leaving her alone on their island. Besides, it’s not as if no one’s looking after her–she’s got a sea lion to mother her and an iguana for comic relief. She also has an interesting new e-mail pal. But when her father’s cell-phone calls stop coming and disaster seems near, Nim has to be stronger and braver than she’s ever been before.

And she’ll need all her friends to help her.

 

This one may have choked me up a little, why did I decide to read this one aloud??? Oh yeah, cause it’s so good. Disclaimer: there are a few minor swear words in this book, another reason I was glad I was reading it aloud, I just skipped over those or inserted my own, more appropriate words.

When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it’s love at first sight—and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun—and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty’s secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd’s anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his?

 

This was another book we went through for the second time, it’s one of my absolute favorites.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

 

This year was my first time reading this book. I read it on my own first because I felt like I had heard such conflicting views on it for so long. I though my fantasy-loving girl would enjoy the book and I was right! After doing a little research I am going to let her read the first three books for now and then wait a little before she is allowed to move along.

Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

 

I cannot say enough good things about this book. This one that you HAVE TO listen to on audio, it is absolutely stunning. This would definitely go down as my favorite “read aloud” (okay, audiobook) from the year.

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, Echo pushes the boundaries of genre, form, and storytelling innovation to create a wholly original novel that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.

 

We love the Christian Heroes series, this story is one of my personal favorites.

“Seven-year-old Nate Saint peered wide-eyed over the cockpit of his older brother Sam’s Challenger biplane. The eastern Pennsylvania countryside was spread out neatly below him like a fine tablecloth. Nate was determined to remember every moment of this first high-flying adventure.”

Flying soon captured Nate’s heart. His air service ministry to isolated missionaries put him on a path of destiny that would ultimately end with a final airplane flight with 4 missionary friends to the “Palm Beach” landing strip in the jungles of Ecuador.

The men’s lives given that day not only opened a door to the gospel for the unreached “Acucas”; it has been said that possibly no single event of the twentieth century awakened more hearts to God’s call to serve in missions.

 

This was a fascinating read for us because of our family ties to South Africa.

The lion’s jaws gripped David Livingstone’s arm. Razor-sharp teeth pierced his flesh as the lion savagely shook David in the air like a rag doll. A gunshot rang out. “God help us,” David moaned, as the lion dropped him and turned to charge David’s friend Mebalwe.

With the heart of an explorer and the passion of an evangelist, David Livingstone mapped vast, unexplored areas of Africa, sharing the gospel with whomever he encountered. His stamina, perserverance, and dogged determination created the legacy of a trailblazing explorer with an undying hunger to make Christ known wherever his steps led him.

David Livingstone’s captivating adventures and tireless zeal continue to inspire countless men and women to bring the gospel message of God’s love to those souls who have never heard.

 

Another one of my favorites in this series!

Suddenly, Corrie’s ordered life was lost in the insanity of war. With bravery and compassion, her family and countless other Dutch citizens risked everything to extend God’s hand to those innocents marked for certain execution in a world gone mad.

Corrie ten Boom’s life of determination, faith, and forgiveness in the face of unimaginable brutality and hardship is a stunning testimony to the sustaining power of God.

 

What were your favorite family read alouds from the last year?

Our January Brain Box

We are continuing to use our brain box and I changed up our contents from our December box.

Our Brain Box has a few different purposes. First of all, it helps me to pull out some resources I may otherwise have forgotten about. It also helps me to be intentional in choosing a few different areas to focus on for the month. And because our Brain Box is out in the open the kids will pull out different things throughout the day.

 

Our January Brain Box - our take on the homeschool morning basket for morning time

 

While some months some of our resources will be repeated, this month I filled it with completely new items.

One thing that I forgot to take a picture of that is also part of our Brain Box this month is a kids embroidery kit that Raeca has been working on lately.

 

Our January Brain Box - our take on the homeschool morning basket for morning time

 

Pet Trivia Cards – I found these cards at Dollar Tree, we’ve just been picking a few every few days and going through them.

Fox Addition Cards – While my big focus for kindergarten is learning to read, this month I want to do a bit of math with Ephraim. These fox addition cards are a good resource for us this month, though hopefully in the next couple of months we’ll move into just using numbers.

Funny Fill-In – This little booklet is great for learning parts of speech, I love when learning can be done in a fun way!

Thirty Days Has September: Cool Ways to Remember Stuff – This book is great for learning how to remember things (as it says in the subtitle), and it also has a number of different things to memorize. While I’m not big into the idea of memorizing everything, there are some different facts that I think are cool for kids to learn.

 

Our January Brain Box - our take on the homeschool morning basket for morning time

 

The Best of Times & Math Appeal – I enjoy Greg Tang’s math books, they introduce different ways and tricks to do math quickly in your head.

Our Great Prime Ministers – I am trying to teach the kids more about Canadian history this year and one of the things we are learning together is a list of the Prime Ministers of Canada.

 

Our January Brain Box - our take on the homeschool morning basket for morning time

 

Oh, I forgot, this clock book is one resource that we are carrying over from last month, we didn’t use it much last month and hope to use it more this time.

Brain Games – Admittedly, we are almost half way through this month and we haven’t cracked this book open yet. Hopefully we’ll use it this week!

 

What are some of your favorite resources for January?
How about for February, what should we add into that box?

My Favorite Books of 2018 & Books I Want to Read in 2019

This year I am going to do something a little different and share my personal book lists over here. Previously I had been sharing them over on my other blog but this year it feels like this is where they should be.

I have always been a reader but now a mother and home educator I feel even more aware of how everything I do is setting some type of example for my kids (whether it is a good or no-so-good action) and being an avid reader is an example I want to set. So far I seem to be doing pretty good with that example!

Today I wanted to share the top books I read in 2018 and then dive into my to read list for 2019.

 

The best fiction and non-fiction chapter books I read in 2018

 

In 2018 I read 91 books and for this next year I actually want to read less books. Not because I want to read less necessarily but I want to read slower and also read more classics and non-fiction so I set myself a goal of 60 books for this year.

Now, let’s get on to my favorite books of 2018! (Just a note, these are my favorites that I read in 2018, not most of them were not actually published in 2018.)

 

The best fiction and non-fiction chapter books I read in 2018

 

 

NON-FICTION

 

Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed

I really enjoyed this book, though I don’t think the subtitle accurately describes it, or maybe I just got something else out of it than intended but for me the book was a lot more about finding God in the hidden moments, something I want to get better at doing.

 

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life

I read Ann Bogel’s newest book on our flight to Phoenix last month and Jared was laughing beside me as I laughed out loud while reading it. I feel like I have experienced each of the delights and dilemmas she shared about.

 

Letters to the Church

I enjoy Francis Chan’s speaking and his general approach to the Christian life, this book was a really good refresher.

 

 

Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

My word for last year was gentle and this book opened my eyes to a few areas I needed to work on and it really make a difference in my year.

 

Corrie Ten Boom: Keeper of the Angels’ Den

Corrie Ten Boom is one of my role models. I love how she was just an ordinary person but had such bravery, I admire all that she did.

 

FICTION

 

 

Tilly & The Bookwanderers

A book that every book lover will enjoy! Imagine your favorite book characters coming to life and being your friend.

 

Sherlock Holmes

I read all the Sherlock books this year, most of the for the second time, the short stories still remain my favorite but really, I like all of them.

 

Wuthering Heights

This was a book I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy and yet I quite did! It’s a great read during the month of October

 

 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I read (and enjoyed) a few Agatha Christie books this year. This one I read with my classics book club.

 

The Moving Finger

This was my first of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books and now I want to read more of them!

 

And Then There Were None

I never know where Agatha Christie’s books are going, it’s one of the things I love about them!

 

 

I Am David

I read this in high school (as a required read) and didn’t really get it, then this year I re-read it after a friend raved about it and I’m glad I did, what a powerful book!

 

Vienna Prelude

This book taught me so much about the events that lead up to World War II!

 

The Nightingale

I learned a lot from historical fiction this year! Surprisingly, this one made me think a lot about the Germans who were in the war but didn’t necessarily want to be.

 

 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I put off reading this book for a long time because I knew there would be tears. There were. I highly recommend it.

 

Number the Stars

I am looking forward to reading this one with the kids down the road, I think it is a really good introduction into WWII for kids.

 

A Night Divided

This was a fascinating intro to the Berlin wall for me and has made me interested in learning more about it.

 

Books I want to read in 2019 - non-fiction, biographies, fiction and classics.

 

 

NON-FICTION

 

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – I’ve read shorter versions of his story but I am excited to read this one, I bought a copy thanks to a gift card I got for Christmas so I’ll read this one soon.

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family – this book was on my to-read list last year and I never got to it, this year is the year!

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken – this one was recommended by one of my good friends so I plan on reading it early in the year. I’ve read some of his fiction but I hadn’t realized he wrote non-fiction as well prior to her recommendation.

George Muller of Bristol

Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto

Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It

 

Because Ephraim is from South Africa we have a connection with that country that can never be broken, I want to read these next two books to learn more about the country he comes from.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

 

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder – who doesn’t want to know more about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her life?

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

I Am Hutterite: The Story of a Young Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage – this one I am actually reading right now as part of my book club I’m in at my library, it is a very interesting book so far!

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

 

I’ve chosen Elisabeth Elliot as my literary mentor for the year so I want to read as many of her books as possible, starting with these ones:

Shadow of the Almighty

God’s Guidance: Finding His Will for Your Life

Secure in the Everlasting Arms

Discipline: The Glad Surrender

Be Still My Soul: Reflections on Living the Christian Life

 

The best fiction and non-fiction chapter books I read in 2018

FICTION

Great Expectations

Lord of the Rings – we have been watching the movies and I’ve wanted to read the books forever (I love The Hobbit) so it’s about time I read Lord of the Rings

Rebecca

The Book of Negroes/Someone Knows My Name

 

The best fiction and non-fiction chapter books I read in 2018

 

The Bell Jar

Emily of New Moon

Story Girl

The Mill on the Floss

Agnes Grey

The Little Prince

Agatha Christie’s books – as many of the ones I haven’t read as I can get in (starting with the ones I own that I haven’t read yet)

The Best Picture Books for February

Wow, I can’t believe the second month of the year is almost here! At the beginning of the year I decided to create a picture book list for each month of the year, you can check out January’s here and today is February’s!

Thanks to Valentine’s Day I decided to go with the theme of love for this month. I didn’t just stick with the typical Valentine books but also added in a number of books about a parent’s love for a child.

This will be a continually growing list, as we read more great picture books about love I will add them to the list, so I would suggest pinning this post so you can come back to it each year.

If you enjoy all this books, I highly recommend signing up for my weekly book-ish newsletter where I share what we are currently reading and all things books!

 

The Best Picture Books to Read in February - book about love, Valentine's and parental love

 

 

This book is adorable and perfect if you have a hugger like I do!

Watch out world, here he comes! The Hug Machine!

Whether you are big, or small, or square, or long, or spikey, or soft, no one can resist his unbelievable hugs! HUG ACCOMPLISHED!

 

Even the prickly ones need hugs sometimes!

When Hedgehog wakes up feeling down in the snout and droopy in the prickles, he knows a hug will make him feel much better. But none of his animal friends are eager to wrap their arms around Hedgehog’s prickles, and he’s too smart to fall for Fox’s sly offer.

Then Hedgehog gets a surprise: Another animal in the forest is feeling exactly the same way.

Luckily, both are kind and brave enough for the perfect hug.

 

This is one of my favorites on the list, we’ve read it so many times because the kids love it to. It’s funny, a good lesson in kindness and has a good ending!

Dear Gazelle,

For some time now I have wanted to write a letter to say how much I admire you. You are so graceful and fine. Even when you are running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running away from tigers.

I think that what I’m trying to say is that I love you.

XO,
OX

And so begins an epic, if initially unrequited, love affair between a graceful gazelle and a clumsy, hapless ox. Romance will never be the same.

Adam Rex’s hilarious, sweet, and at times heartbreaking letters between a hopelessly romantic ox and a conceited, beautiful gazelle are paired perfectly with Scott Campbell’s joyful illustrations to bring you a romance for the ages.

 

This one is so simple and yet so sweet.

Perfect for any fond gift or tender moment, this story of a girl and a duckling who share a touching year together will melt hearts old and young. In this tenderly funny book, girl and duckling grow in their understanding of what it is to care for each other, discovering that love is as much about letting go as it is about holding tight. Children and parents together will adore this fond exploration of growing up while learning about the joys of love offered and love returned.

 

I might try this parenting tactic on my kids for the month of February!

Mom has had enough of Woody and Annie’s incessant fighting. When her pleas for sharing and apologizing are ignored, she demands they “hug it out.” At first, the warring siblings are confused. Hugging? But after a long afternoon of forced embraces, the brother and sister decide to call a truce to avoid yet another icky hug. However it doesn’t take long for them to miss that newfound closeness. And soon they’re looking for something to fight about so they can hug it out once more!

Adults will delight in a new solution to conflict, while kids will enjoy yelling “HUG IT OUT!” at each familiar situation.

 

This one is another favorite and is the book I’ve chosen to share some extension activities for, you can sign up for my bookish newsletter and make sure you don’t miss it!

One wintry day, a postman delivers a mysterious package with a big pink bow to a lonely man named Mr. Hatch.

“Somebody loves you,” the note says.

“Somebody loves me!” Mr. Hatch sings as he dusts his living room. “Somebody loves me!” Mr. Hatch whistles as he does his errands in town. “But who,” Mr. Hatch wonders, “could that somebody be?”

After some time, Mr. Hatch discovers just who his secret admirer is and, in doing so, enjoys the biggest surprise of his life!

 

In the beginning there is light 
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed 
and the sound of their voices is love.

A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

 

I enjoy Nancy Tillman’s books, her illustrations are like none other.

. . . I wanted you more than you’ll ever know,

so I sent love to follow wherever you go. . . .

Love is the greatest gift we have to give our children. It’s the one thing they can carry with them each and every day.

 

Of course this classic is on the list. I still tear up every time I read it.

A young woman holds her newborn son
And looks at him lovingly.

Softly she sings to him:
“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”

So begins the story that has touched the hearts of millions worldwide.

 

School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary. Since its first publication in 1993, this heartwarming book has become a children’s classic that has touched the lives of millions of children and their parents, especially at times of separation, whether starting school, entering daycare, or going to camp.

 

This is a fairly new book and we all loved the simple words and the beautiful illustrations.

I’ve Loved You Since Forever is a celebratory and poetic testament to the timeless love felt between parent and child.

In the universe,
there was you and
there was me,
waiting for the day our
stars would meet . . .

 

What are some of your favorite books about love to read in February?

The Best Picture Books Published in 2018

I enjoy keeping track of the publication date of the picture books we read and doing a round up of the best books from each year.

Earlier in 2018 I wrote two lists: a part one and then part two of our favorite 2018 picture books thus far. Then, at the beginning of the year I like to do a final round up of the ten-ish best books from the year, hence this list.

 

The Best Picture Books of 2018 - our favorite picture books published in 2018

 

Ideally this list would be done by the beginning of January but there are always a number of books published at the end of the year that it takes a little while for my library to get in and so that’s why it’s almost February and I’m just now coming out with this list.

You can check out our favorite books from 2017 here as well as 2016’s list here (the books from both of these lists are still some of my favorites of all time).

Now, on to 2018!

 

This book is so sweet, and I would love a dress like hers. 😉

A little girl and her favorite dress dream of an extraordinary life. They enjoy simple pleasures together on a beautiful Greek island. They watch the sunset, do chores, and pick wildflowers on the way home. One day, the dress and the girl must leave the island and immigrate to the United States. Upon arrival, the girl is separated from the trunk carrying her favorite dress, and she fears her dress is lost forever. Many years later, the girl—now all grown up—spots the dress in a thrift store window. As the two are finally reunited, the memories of their times together come flooding back. While the girl can no longer wear the dress, it’s now perfect for her own daughter—and the new journey of a girl and her dress begins. Featuring lush illustrations, The Dress and the Girl is a stunning picture book about memory and the power of the items we hold most dear.

 

Even the prickly ones need hugs sometimes!

When Hedgehog wakes up feeling down in the snout and droopy in the prickles, he knows a hug will make him feel much better. But none of his animal friends are eager to wrap their arms around Hedgehog’s prickles, and he’s too smart to fall for Fox’s sly offer.

Then Hedgehog gets a surprise: Another animal in the forest is feeling exactly the same way.

Luckily, both are kind and brave enough for the perfect hug.

 

This is one of the cutest and most fun alphabet books I’ve ever come across!

From ant to butterfly to caterpillar . . . to zebra and then back again, Animalphabet is an entertaining puzzle as well as a gorgeous alphabet book to treasure.

Who can slither better than a rabbit? A snake! Who can growl better than a snake? A tiger! There are clever hints and peekaboo holes within the artwork that will amaze and delight young children as they learn to use the alphabet.

 

This is a fairly new book and we all loved the simple words and the beautiful illustrations.

I’ve Loved You Since Forever is a celebratory and poetic testament to the timeless love felt between parent and child.

In the universe,
there was you and
there was me,
waiting for the day our
stars would meet . . .

 

Tomorrow I’ll be all the things I tried to be today:
Adventurous, Strong, Smart, Curious, Creative, Confident, & Brave.
And if I wasn’t one of them, I know that it’s OK.

Journey through a world filled with positive and beautifully hand-lettered words of widsom, inspiration, and motivation. As this book reminds readers, tomorrow is another day, full of endless opportunities–all you have to do is decide to make the day yours.

 

Artie the Apatosaurus wants to be a secret agent, but at 40 feet tall he is not very secret! He is terrible at hiding, he can’t disguise himself, and he is too slow to chase bad guys. In fact, being an Apatosaurus is exactly what makes Artie an awful spy! This hilarious picture book from the Dinosaur Dreams series includes discussion questions, an interactive look-and-find fact section, and dinosaur facts.

 

Bravery is one of the character traits I want my children to learn and this sweet story shows how we can be brave enough to help our friends.

Olive is a little girl who likes the types of adventures that exist in books. Her best friend Hoot, a stuffed-animal owl, prefers the ones that take place in the real world. Today, Hoot gets to pick the adventures. At first, Olive isn’t sure if she’s brave enough for the activities Hoot has picked: flying a makeshift hot-air balloon and navigating raging rivers. But when her dearest friend gets hurt, Olive discovers that she’s not only brave, she’s brave enough for two.

 

You know those books that you feel the need to touch every page? This is one of those books! The inner cut-outs are so fun but it was actually the artwork that made me want to touch it to see if it was popping up.

Listen: the forest is calling. Take a quiet walk through the woods, where shadows fall in the darkness, eyes peek out, and some animals sleep while others run and leap. Simple, poetic text and intricate papercut illustrations introduce children to a deer, black rook, fox, rabbit, and many more beautiful creatures as they wait for morning—and spring—to come.

 

Um, anyone else have a child that likes to talk more than listen? If so, you’ll enjoy this book!

Wordy Birdy LOVES to talk. “Hello, sunrise. Hello, pink sky. Hello, orange sky. . . .” But does she love to listen? NOPE. One day, while she’s walking through the forest, her gift of the gab gets her into hot water: “That’s a pretty tree and that’s a pretty tree and that’s a pretty danger sign and that’s a pretty tree. . . .” Will this inattentive bird walk right into danger? Will her faraway thoughts lead her along a path of doom? It’s up to her long-suffering, heard-it-all-before pals Squirrel, Raccoon, and Rabbit to save their distracted friend.

 

Kindness is always something we are working on teaching our children, isn’t it?! This book is a good one!

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering:

What does it mean to be kind?

From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving story explores what kindness is, and how any act, big or small, can make a difference―or at least help a friend.

 

What were some of your favorite picture books from 2018?

The Early Learning Bundle is Here! For This Week Only!

If you’ve been around the blog for a few months you will probably know that every few months I like to feature the newest bundle from Intentional Bundles.

I have been organizing these bundles for almost three years now and they are always a lot of fun because it’s a chance where you can get a ton of resources for a steal of a deal.

This time we are having our first ever Early Learning Bundle with products geared towards preschoolers and kindergarteners so if you are teaching that age range you are going to want to check this deal out. Especially because it is also our first ever mini bundle which means you can grab the bundle for just $15!

 

Early Learning Bundle - great deal for products for preschool and kindergarten

 

We always have a different assortment of products in our bundles and this one has so much great content for you to use with your preschoolers and kindergarteners!

There are actually 20 resources with a value of over $175 in this $15 bundle (if you do the math that saves you over $150 – 91%!) and the products included cover a variety of different topics.

I have a kindergartener right now and I am excited to use some of these products with him!

Like always, the only way we can offer such a discount is by having it available for one week only (that’s this week!), so you will need to purchase the bundle by Saturday at 8am PST to get in on the deal.

 

Early Learning Bundle - great deal for products for preschool and kindergarten

 

Books Coming Out in 2019 We Are Looking Forward To

A couple of years ago I would take time at the beginning of each month to look ahead and see what picture books were all coming out that month that we were looking forward to reading and then wrote a blog post about it. I thought it would be fun to do that again but instead of making it a monthly post this year it will probably be quarterly-ish.

That’s what today’s post is. The books on this list are all coming out at the beginning of 2019 (or may have just came out) and based on the cover (cause yes, I totally judge a book by its cover) and description, I’m excited to read them!

Now, because I haven’t actually read the books yet this list will be different than most of my other book lists where I am generally telling you our favorite books, ones that I can highly recommend, there are no guarantees with this list and I would suggest checking to see if your library has the books or is planning on getting them soon. I have linked to Amazon because they show the publication date, that way you can see when the book is coming out.

 

Books coming out in 2019 we are looking forward to reading - picture books and middle grade chapter books

 

I plan on having a few “favorite books of 2019” lists this year and those will be books that pass our tests. This list is for those of you who are curious about new books and enjoy making use of your library (or don’t mind bringing a book you bought to the thrift store).

I have done one other thing differently than my previous “books we are looking forward to” lists – I’ve included a few chapter/middle grade books! When I did these lists a few years ago Raeca wasn’t at the point of reading much more than very very short chapter books but she is an avid reader now and I’ve included some books that sound good that I think she will enjoy. Some of them I may end up proof reading or finding other people’s reviews before putting the books into her hands.

Okay, this is an incredibly long post, so let’s get on to the books!

 

 

If this book is any good I want to buy it, I feel like cover totally represents my kids, a rare find (now, if only there was a cat instead of a dog, it would be perfect).

Something about seeing a beloved child come into the world, grow, and experience the wonder and pain of life drives adults to pray for the kids they love. When I Pray for You celebrates the dreams, hopes, and longings we pray over our children, and shares with the little ones how much care, concern, and love a parent, family member, or friend feels for them.

From the moment I saw you, 
I started to pray.
Big prayers and small ones 
I have sent God’s way.

I prayed you felt safe,
full of joy and content.
When I whispered “I love you,”
you knew what I meant.

 

This book has me rooting for Tiny T. Rex, look how adorable he is!

Tiny T. Rex has a HUGE problem. His friend Pointy needs cheering up and only a hug will do. But with his short stature and teeny T. Rex arms, is a hug impossible? Not if Tiny has anything to say about it! Join this plucky little dinosaur in his very first adventure—a warm and funny tale that proves the best hugs come from the biggest hearts.

 

This looks like a cute wordless picture book!

Christian Robinson brings young readers on a playful, imaginative journey into another world.

What if you…
encountered another perspective?
Discovered another world?
Met another you?

What might you do?

 

The most important rule is #1: It must be your birthday. 

After that’s been established, a crew of hilarious animals help picture book pros Tom Lichtenheld and Beth Ferry take readers through a joyous romp that covers the most important elements of every year’s most essential holiday, including singing; closing your eyes and making a wish; blowing out candles on a cake, then settling into bed and dreaming of your wish coming true.

 

I think this one is actually already published and being re-published as a board book, but it looks adorable, I can’t wait to read it.

Of all the children that ever could be, 
You are the one made just for me.

From a child’s first uttered “Dada” to his or her first unsteady steps, nothing can adequately convey the joy and awe of watching the birth and growth of a new child. Now releasing as a board book filled with adorable illustrations and the refrain, “You are the one made just for me,” Made for Me is a winning presentation of tender moments that tie a father and his new child together forever.

 

Can you catch the unicorn?
You’ll have to use your brain,
So set your traps and prep your team
To pet that rainbow mane!

 

All of life’s possibilities are just a page turn away in this beautiful pop-up book from renowned paper artist Robert Sabuda. Throughout, phrases and images evoking potential (an acorn, an egg, a paper airplane) are answered by a glorious 3-D image on the following spread (a towering tree, a flock of birds, a rocket soaring upward). An ideal gift for graduates from kindergarten to college and beyond, Believe is the perfect way to celebrate life’s passages and look forward to new horizons.

 

As mama bear and her cub cuddle together before closing their eyes for a good night’s sleep, they reflect on the everyday wonders of life that make them happy.

Inspired by her own nighttime routine with her daughter, Haley Joy, Kotb creates another beautiful treasure for parents and children to enjoy together. With charming and lush illustrations from bestselling artist Suzie Mason, this soothing yet playful lullaby explores the simple joy of taking a moment to be grateful.

 

The joy of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—has existed for all eternity. That indescribable joy bubbled over to make creation. God made so many wonderful things, but we are by far His greatest work of art.

Share that precious truth with your little one with this unique children’s book celebrating the miracle of God’s creation. Boys and girls will learn about God as the Trinity, the Creator, and about how they are made in His image.

 

Mo Willems, a number one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, composes a powerful symphony of chance, discovery, persistence, and magic in this moving tale of a young girl’s journey to center stage.

 

This book is about Circle. This book is also about Circle’s friends, Triangle and Square. Also it is about a rule that Circle makes, and how she has to rescue Triangle when he breaks that rule. With their usual pitch-perfect pacing and subtle, sharp wit, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen come full circle in the third and final chapter of their clever shapes trilogy.

 

The world needs your voice. If you have a brilliant idea… say something!If you see an injustice… say something!

In this empowering new picture book, beloved author Peter H. Reynolds explores the many ways that a single voice can make a difference. Each of us, each and every day, have the chance to say something: with our actions, our words, and our voices. Perfect for kid activists everywhere, this timely story reminds readers of the undeniable importance and power of their voice. There are so many ways to tell the world who you are… what you are thinking… and what you believe. And how you’ll make it better. The time is now: SAY SOMETHING!

 

Meet the good egg. He’s a verrrrrry good egg indeed.

But trying to be so good is hard when everyone else is plain ol’ rotten.

As the other eggs in the dozen behave badly, the good egg starts to crack from all the pressure of feeling like he has to be perfect.

So, he decides enough is enough! It’s time for him to make a change…

Dynamic duo Jory John and Pete Oswald hatch a funny and charming story that reminds us of the importance of balance, self-care, and accepting those who we love (even if they are sometimes a bit rotten).

 

What’s that you say? You’re hungry? Right this very minute? Then you need a farmer. You have the stories of so many right here on your table! Award winners Lisl H. Detlefsen and Renee Kurilla’s delicious celebration of food and farming is sure to inspire readers of all ages to learn more about where their food comes from – right this very minute!

 

In We Are the Gardeners, Joanna and the kids chronicle the adventures of starting their own family garden. From their failed endeavors, obstacles to overcome (bunnies that eat everything!), and all the knowledge they’ve gained along the way, the Gaines family shares how they learned to grow a happy, successful garden. As it turns out, trying something new isn’t always easy, but the hardest work often yields the greatest reward. There are always new lessons to be learned in the garden!

 

My heart is a window. My heart is a slide. My heart can be closed…or opened up wide.

Some days your heart is a puddle or a fence to keep the world out. But some days it is wide open to the love that surrounds you.

 

This little book holds the message of dignity that every child on this earth needs to hear: You are loved. You matter. You make me smile. You make me the happiest person in the world, just by being you.

“Have I ever told you that, for me, there is no one more special than you? That for me, you are the most special child in the world, and that I love you now and will love you forever? Have I ever told you that?”

 

Lindsay Moore’s remarkable and beautifully illustrated picture book follows a lone polar bear as she makes her way across sea ice in the Arctic. Sea Bear is a deeply moving and informative story about perseverance, family, nature, and climate change that will resonate with readers of all ages.

 

Together, parents and children will giggle their way through I Love You, Funny Bunny as they discover the fun and loving parts of their own relationship.

 

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

 

A tough gumshoe of a cat–the name’s Muffin–protects his territory: The Little Bear Bakery. But there are no bears here. Not on Muffin’s watch.

One night, Muffin hears a suspicious noise. Mouse? Raccoon? Bat? Nope, not the usual suspects. But Muffin hears . . . growling. Could it be? Yup. A bear. Just a cub. Whose stomach is definitely growling. Muffin’s got this case solved–clearly this bear needs some donuts.

 

What’s a seal to do when she’s new to the zoo? Make new friends, of course!

But when the other animals aren’t so friendly, a wise sparrow inspires them to surprise Seal with a special treat.

 

Here’s the perfect book for anyone who wants to introduce rock ‘n’ roll and its king to the child in their lives. In single- page “chapters” with titles like “The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis” and “Shazam! A Blond Boy Turns into a Black-Haired Teenager,” readers can follow key moments in Presley’s life, from his birth on the wrong side of the railroad tracks in the Deep South, to playing his first guitar in grade school, to being so nervous during a performance as a teenager that he starts shaking . . . and changes the world!

 

The chickens on the farm have a message for their farm owners! They’re tired of arugula salad, how about putting a fan in their hot coop, and HEYwatch out for that snake in your tent.

As the children walk around their beloved farm, they discover more and more chicken talk scratched into the dirt. The family can hardly believe it. What will the chickens possibly say next!?

 

A little-known but fascinating and larger-than-life character, Mary Fields is one of the unsung, trailblazing African American women who helped settle the American West. A former slave, Fields became the first African American woman stagecoach driver in 1895, when, in her 60s, she beat out all the cowboys applying for the job by being the fastest to hitch a team of six horses. She won the dangerous and challenging job, and for many years traveled the badlands with her pet eagle, protecting the mail from outlaws and wild animals, never losing a single horse or package. Fields helped pave the way for other women and people of color to become stagecoach drivers and postal workers.

 

Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. From her early childhood lessons to the height of her success as the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera, this is the story of a remarkable pioneer.

 

Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who we are–an overwhelming, invisible, and scary sensation.

In When Sadness Is at Your Door, Eva Eland brilliantly approaches this feeling as if it is a visitor. She gives it a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. She suggests activities to do with it, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to “get over” it or indicates that it’s “bad,” both of which are anxiety-producing notions.

 

Every single morning, the overseer of the plantation rings the bell. Daddy gathers wood. Mama cooks. Ben and the other slaves go out to work. Each day is the same. Full of grueling work and sweltering heat. Every day, except one, when the bell rings and Ben is nowhere to be found. Because Ben ran. Yet, despite their fear and sadness, his family remains hopeful that maybe, just maybe, he made it North. That he is free.

 

In her first Travel with Me & See adventure, B invites readers to explore the city of Paris, France. Her goal is to reach the Eiffel Tower by night so she can view the lights sparkle for 5 magical minutes. Finding friendship along the way, B and her readers learn about French culture, language and Parisian historical landmarks including:

– Eiffel Tower
– The Church of Notre Dame
– Stravinsky Fountain
– Pompidou
– Louvre Museum
– Mona Lisa
– Sacré Coeur Church
– Arc de Triomphe
– Champs-Élysée
– Seine River

 

Limerick Comics offers lighthearted original limericks on a wide range of history and science
topics, each with an informational panel of surprising fun facts, all presented in entertaining
comics. Young readers age 8 and up are invited to linger on each page to enjoy the humor, ponder inferences, and view the evocative details of each illustrated panel. The book is crafted to appeal to reluctant and advanced readers alike. The informational panel on each page can provide a springboard for discussion between parents and children about each topic.

 

In the tradition of Shel Silverstein, these poems bring a fresh new twist to the classic dilemmas of childhood as well as a perceptive eye to the foibles of modern family life. Full of clever wordplay and bright visual gags–and toilet humor to spare–these twenty-three rhyming poems make for an ideal read-aloud experience. 

Taking on the subjects of a bullying baseball coach and annoying little brothers with equally sly humor, renowned lyricist Rhett Miller’s clever verses will have the whole family cackling.

 

 

I so enjoy Andrea Beaty’s picture books and can’t wait to check out the chapter book series (apparently I already missed book one!)

Ada Twist is full of questions. A scientist to her very core, Ada asks why again and again. One question always leads to another until she’s off on a journey of discovery! When Rosie Revere’s Uncle Ned gets a little carried away wearing his famous helium pants, it’s up to Ada and friends to chase him down. As Uncle Ned floats farther and farther away, Ada starts asking lots of questions: How high can a balloon float? Is it possible for Uncle Ned to float into outer space? And what’s the best plan for getting him down?

 

Third grader and inventor extraordinaire Ada Lace is on spring break. But it’s just a little less relaxing than she’d imagined. Nina is beside herself with excitement about meeting her favorite artist and enlists Ada and Mr. Peebles’s coding-whiz nephew to help revamp her online portfolio.

When Nina finally meets Miroir, he snubs her, and her confidence is shaken—but not enough to miss the art show opening. While there, Ada spots a suspiciously familiar painting that may mean Miroir isn’t the original he claims to be.

Will the friends be able to reveal the artist’s true nature, before he fools someone else?

 

Raeca loves all things fantasy and this book sounds like one she would enjoy.

Claire Martinson and her sister Sophie have decided to stay in Arden–the magical land they discovered by climbing up a chimney in their great-aunt’s manor. If what they’ve learned is true, the sisters are the last descendants of the royal family, and only a true heir of Arden–with magic in her blood–can awaken the unicorns.

Since Sophie has does not have magic, the land’s last hope rests on Claire. The sisters journey to Stonehaven, a famed Gemmer school high in the mountains of Arden, so Claire can train in the magic of stone. As Claire struggles through classes, Sophie uncovers dangerous secrets about the people they thought they could trust. With Arden on the brink of crumbling, can Claire prove she is the prophesied heir and unlock the magic of the unicorns before it’s too late?

 

Hansel and Gretel will not listen to their storyteller. For one thing, who leaves a trail of bread crumbs lying around, when there are people starving? Not Hansel, that’s for sure! And that sweet old lady who lives in a house made of cookies and candy? There’s no way she’s an evil witch! As for Gretel, well, she’s about to set the record straight—after all, who says the story can’t be called Gretel and Hansel? It’s time for these wacky siblings to take their fairy tale into their own hands. So sit back and enjoy the gingerbread!

With laugh-out-loud dialogue and bold, playful art (including hidden search-and-find fairy-tale creatures), this Hansel and Gretel retelling will have kids giggling right up to the delicious ending!

 

I remember reading one of the Baxter family books years and years ago and I’m very interested to see there is now a children’s series based on the family, I think it sounds like something Raeca would enjoy.

Brooke is the perfect older sister. For that reason, Kari and Ashley work hard to make their parents just as proud of them as they are of Brooke. Each girl has her own talents. Brooke is an excellent student. Kari is a great soccer player. Ashley, a talented artist. And they are always there for each other. But when the news comes that Dr. Baxter is moving the family from Ann Arbor to Bloomington, Indiana, and the Baxters need to leave the only home and friends they’ve ever known, no one is happy. Saying goodbye is hard but the family still has what’s most important—their faith and their love for each other. 

The first book in the Baxter Family Children series, #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury and Tyler Russell tell the story of what it was like to grow up in the Baxter family, the best family ever.

 

Gordon Korman is an author I remember reading when I was young, I might just read this one for nostalgia’s sake!

The Unteachables are a notorious class of misfits, delinquents, and academic train wrecks. Like Aldo, with anger management issues; Parker, who can’t read; Kiana, who doesn’t even belong in the class—or any class; and Elaine (rhymes with pain). The Unteachables have been removed from the student body and isolated in room 117.

Their teacher is Mr. Zachary Kermit, the most burned-out teacher in all of Greenwich. He was once a rising star, but his career was shattered by a cheating scandal that still haunts him. After years of phoning it in, he is finally one year away from early retirement. But the superintendent has his own plans to torpedo that idea—and it involves assigning Mr. Kermit to the Unteachables.

The Unteachables never thought they’d find a teacher who had a worse attitude than they did. And Mr. Kermit never thought he would actually care about teaching again. Over the course of a school year, though, room 117 will experience mayhem, destruction—and maybe even a shot at redemption.

 

Raeca and I both have a not-so-secret dream to live in a motorhome or bus so this book sounds amazing!

Five years.

That’s how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.

It’s also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.

Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished―the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box―she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days…without him realizing it.

Along the way, they’ll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there’s Gladys…

Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all…but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”

 

Which ones are you excited to read first?

January Reading Wrap Up

Here’s a bonus book list for you this week – my January reading wrap up!

January was a good reading month for me, I read eleven books from a variety of genres. I read 2/28 books from my list of books I want to read in 2019, decent but I’m going to have to step it up a bit to reach my goal for the year.

At the beginning of January I came across some really good book channels on YouTube and I think that will also influence some of the books I read this year, three of the books from this list were thanks to some of those channels.

 

The Books I Read in January - a reading wrap of the all the books I read this month, including the best and the worst

 

February is also starting out as a good reading month, if you like books and would like a weekly email with the books I am enjoying and what the kids (ages 5 & 8) are reading, you can sign up for the bookish newsletter here:

 
The Books I Read in January - a reading wrap of the all the books I read this month, including the best and the worst
 

 

3.5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Foxes have always been some of my favorite animals and this non-fiction book really intrigued me, even though I don’t live in Britain. Truthfully I ended up not finishing the book but I feel like I got enough out of it and read nearly all of it to be able to accurately rate it.

My only real big complaint was that my library didn’t have the physical book, only the ebook and this cover looks gorgeous, I would love to see it in person.

 

5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I finished this a few days into the year, I had tried to read all of the Sherlock books in 2018 and this was my last one and I didn’t quite get it done in 2018. I really enjoy all the Sherlock short story books, this one included.

 

The Giver: 5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Gathering Blue: 3/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Messenger: 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Son: 3/5 ⭐⭐⭐

The Giver was my Classics Book Club read for the month. While technically not a classic (it was only published in 1993) it is generally considered a modern classic.

The Giver made me realize how much I enjoy dystopian books, even though I have read quite a few of them for some reason that hadn’t clicked for me before, so I plan on adding more dystopian books into my to read piles this year.

Also, I didn’t realize when I continued the series that the second book, Gathering Blue, doesn’t follow the same characters or community as The Giver, I think if I would have known that going into it that probably would have bumped it up to a four star for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed the series as a whole and am glad I continued on with it. Looking back now I don’t know why I gave the last book 3/5 stars, now, a few weeks later I would give it 4/5.

 

4.5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was my library “Literary Society” book for the month. I was raving about this book in my book-ish newsletter a few weeks ago, not in the sense that I wanted to become Hutterite, but just because it was such a fascinating book. Growing up in a Mennonite community (not the horse and buggy type), I thought Hutterites were similar since they started around the same time but there are actually very few similarities.

While I don’t think that author intended the Hutterites to come across as a cult that is definitely my take from the book and I think she had a very unique perspective and was the ideal person to write it.

 

3.5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book was recommended to me by one of my good friends. I like to go into books blind, knowing as little about it as possible, and I think that was the downfall of this book for me. I felt like I only “got it” about half way through. I would like to re-read it in the near-ish future and see if that ends up changing my rating. I also read somewhere that this is a book guys generally tend to enjoy more, I’m not sure if that is true but I am curious to get my husband to read it and see what he thinks.

 

2.5/5 ⭐⭐⭐

I was given this book for free to potentially review. To be honest, it wasn’t my favorite of books. First of all, it is a middle grade fantasy, and while I want to read more fantasy this year, I don’t think I want it to be middle grade fantasy. I think if I was 10-12 years old I would have enjoyed it more but as an adult it felt like things just happened too smoothly. I also didn’t like the addition of psychics . . . while I know there are often those kind of characters in fantasy books I didn’t enjoy the word usage because I feel like that can get confusing when there are so called “psychics” in our world as well. I actually ended up giving up on the book with only a few pages left, I felt like I had enough.

 

5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was by far my favorite book this month. It is a short novella, I think something like 67 pages (with pictures interspersed) about an old man explaining to his grandson that he has Alzheimer’s. The book is so short I don’t want to say much more, but let’s just say: it took me about 45 minutes to read and I had tears streaming down my face by the end. Mine was a library copy but I need to get my hands on a copy for myself and re-read it the next time I need a good cry. I brought it back to the library the night of our Literary Society and raved about it and now I’ve got a number of the ladies there on the list to read it.

 

 

3.5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Perfection is the last place on earth. Everything else was destroyed long before I was born but I don’t know how. Don’t ask questions. That’s what they’ve always taught me. Don’t ask questions and keep the law. Or what? I never knew the answer to that until someone kidnapped me and showed me what was really behind the walls of Perfection. Now I’m breaking the law every day, I can’t trust anyone, and I’m learning exactly what it takes to make a place so Perfect. But around here, too much knowledge will lead to your death.

This book is written by Merphy Napier, one of the BookTuber’s (YouTuber’s who talks about books) I have been binge watching lately. The book used to be on Amazon but she now put it up for free on WattPad because this was a “for fun” project for her, not that she is trying to be an author. I feel like the book had the feeling of being “self published”, not as refined as published books, but it was really enjoyable and I have been thinking about it a lot since finishing it.

AMAZON  |  WATTPAD

 

I would love for you to leave me a comment below and tell me what you have been reading recently, especially if you have some good recommendations!

Our February Brain Box

A new month means it’s time to share what is in our Brain Box for the month!

This is our third month with using our Brain Box and it’s so nice to have our main resources for the month so handy.

If you missed the previous months you can also check out our January Brain Box and December Brain Box.

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

I feel like this month we have been getting back to the basics and really simplifying our homeschool. I know I’ve written a few posts in the past about minimalist homeschooling (or at least one), I’ve been meaning to share an updated post on the topic, hopefully in the next couple of weeks!

 

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

I put some card packs in our box again this month, the ocean life and food chain one I got from the Dollar Tree.

Raeca has been really into secret codes lately so I pulled out our Usborne pack of secret codes that you use dry erase markers on and they can be used again and again. I bought the Secret Codes pack years ago and it doesn’t look like they make them any more which is too bad, they are also great for bringing in a vehicle or if you know you’ll be sitting in a waiting room for awhile.

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

I once again included the Prime Ministers book in this box, I am hoping we can memorize the order of the Prime Ministers (aiming for 5 a month) but to be honest, I haven’t been good at being diligent with that so far.

I also included The Story of Inventions because the kids have been fascinated by inventions for the last few weeks and this is a great little book.

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

We once again have a Greg Tang book, this time it’s Math Appeal. I really enjoy going through the riddles and solving the math problems and the kids do as well.

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

Basic composition books have been the spine of our minimalist homeschool this month. Composition books are actually my personal favorite notebooks to write in and so it makes sense to use them with the kids too. Since Ephraim is in kindergarten he uses the one where the top half of the page is blank (for drawing a picture) and the bottom half is lined.

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

Brain Quest Cards – (I just realized I forgot to include the grade 3 cards in the picture, oops!) Ephraim finished the kindergarten pack already and has moved on to grade one, Raeca is on the grade 3 one. I enjoy going through these with the kids, it’s a great way to get an overview on a lot of topics and see if there are certain areas where we need to spend more time on. My only complaint is that as we get into the older grades there is more and more American based questions, which, if we were American I bet would be great but since we are Canadian it is a bit annoying. For the most part I just try to think of the Canadian equivalent of the question. But I’m not sure if we will continue to buy the packs, if anyone has an alternative or any suggestions I would love to hear them.

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

I forgot to include this in my January post but Raeca has been reading a chapter of her Bible every day this year. We got her this Bible right after Christmas and I think it’s a great one for her age (she’s 8). One of our pastors created a condensed Bible reading plan where the major stories/chapters are read and that is what she is following.

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

Raeca has also been loom knitting. She doesn’t really like projects that take an extended amount of time but I’m trying to get her to work on it a few times a week. We have a cat so this doesn’t technically get stored in our Brain Box (because yarn = kitty heaven), but I still consider it part of the box.

We have this loom that can be made into more than 30 different configurations, from square to rectangle to circle.

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

Ephraim has been (pretty much) begging me to go through The Gnome’s Gemstones with him. We got the ebook in one of the previous Intentional Bundle sales and I printed it out and we went through it but then it was more for Raeca’s sake and he was too young, now he’s at the perfect age. Oh, and our “gnomes” ended up being bigger than the suggested size so we improvised and their outfits ended up becoming capes and we now have “superheroes”.

We’ve had a lot of fun with the Gnomes Gemstones book but I would definitely recommend it for preschool and kindergarten, not K-3 like it suggests.

 

What's in Our February Brain Box - Our take on a morning basket

 

These aren’t actually in our box but I thought it would be fun to share the books I want to read with the kids this month. We have already finished Island of the Blue Dolphins (on audio) and are currently listening to Number the Stars (we don’t have a physical copy of this book) and then next we are going to read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM.

If you are curious about what else we are reading each week you can sign up for the bookish newsletter.

And that’s all for this month’s Brain Box.

If you have suggestions of what we should include for March’s box I would love to hear them in the comments below!

The Best Picture Books for March

Month three of the year is almost upon us so it’s time for another monthly book list – this time it’s the March picture book list!

Overall March can be a pretty great month – the weather starts warming up and you’ve got St. Patrick’s Day and spring and every few years Easter is even thrown in at the end of the month.

The book list is mostly spring-ish themed though I did add in a few St. Patrick’s Day books (you can find a full list of them here though if you are looking for more) oh, and remember, March 14th is Pi Day (3.14) so I’ve got a book on the list for that as well! I will be creating a separate Easter book list in the next few weeks since this year Easter is close to the end of April.

If you have a book that you think is great for March I would love for you to leave a comment at the bottom of the post and I’ll check it out and maybe add it to the list!

 

The Best Picture Books to Read in March - picture books about St. Patrick's Day, the coming of spring and more!

 

 

The math adventure is centered around a potion that changes Sir Cumference into a fire-breathing dragon. Can Radius change him back? Join Radius on his quest through the castle to solve a riddle that will reveal the cure. It lies in discovering the magic number that is the same for all circles. Perfect for parent and teachers who are looking to make math fun and accessible for everyone.

 

An original folktale full of wit, magic, and leprechauns, that is sure to delight for St. Patrick’s Day as well as all year round. The luck of the Irish has waned after the greedy Leprechaun King has taken all the good fortune in Ireland and locked it away. It is up to one cunning girl, Fiona to come up with a plan to get the luck and good tidings back from the leprechauns to help the people of Ireland. Through clever charades, Fiona uses her wit to outsmart the powerful Leprechaun King and restore luck to the Emerald Isle. 

 

The story of Patrick’s life, from his noble birth in Britain, to his being captured and taken to Ireland by a group of bandits, to the “dreams” that led him to convert the Irish people to the Christian faith. DePaola also retells several well-known legends, including the story of how Patrick got rid of all the snakes in Ireland.

 

What happens when a very hungry caterpillar continues to eat and eat? Find out through this book complete with fun cutout pages!

 

With spare text and breathtaking oil paintings, If You Plant a Seed demonstrates not only the process of planting and growing for young children but also how a seed of kindness can bear sweet fruit.

 

As Dormouse dreams–and snores–his way from winter to spring, he imagines going on fantastical adventures with his best dormouse friend. Whimsical illustrations feature other animals entertaining themselves with dart games, cross-country skiing, flying airplanes, and more while Dormouse hibernates. Readers can also follow the friend’s journey to Dormouse’s house, where she wakes him up for some real life pleasures, including daydreaming. This is the perfect bedtime book to snuggle up with when spring isn’t coming fast enough.

 

Step into the exquisite, miniature world of the mice of Brambly Hedge in this beautiful new edition of the classic picture book.

Wilfred woke early. It was his birthday. He had lots of lovely presents, but the best one was a surprise… Mr Apple had organised a secret celebration picnic and all the mice of Brambly Hedge were invited.

There was so much to carry. Poor Wilfred got very tired as he lurched and bumped his way along the grassy track. What was it Mrs Apple had said was in his hamper? Knives? Sandwiches? They were certainly heavy!

When they finally arrived, Wilfred was allowed to open up the hamper and there he found the best treat of all . . .

 

How do you make a garden grow? In this playful companion to the popular Tap the Magic Tree and Touch the Brightest Star, you will see how tiny seeds bloom into beautiful flowers. And by tapping, clapping, waving, and more, young readers can join in the action! Christie Matheson masterfully combines the wonder of the natural world with the interactivity of reading.

Beautiful collage-and-watercolor art follows the seed through its entire life cycle, as it grows into a zinnia in a garden full of buzzing bees, curious hummingbirds, and colorful butterflies. Children engage with the book as they wiggle their fingers to water the seeds, clap to make the sun shine after rain, and shoo away a hungry snail. Appropriate for even the youngest child, Plant the Tiny Seed is never the same book twice—no matter how many times you read it!

 

For preschoolers and beginning readers, Whose Nest? is a beautiful illustrated introduction to nests of all descriptions and their inhabitants. It might be a tree frog or a gecko, a dormouse or a rabbit, a duckling or an eagle!

 

Birds make nests to suit their way of living. Find out about different birds by looking at their nests.

 

Suitable for all Flower Fairy enthusiasts, this title celebrates the annual rejuvenation of the natural world at spring and introduces children to the season’s flowers by making them magical.

 

This gorgeous book from award-winning artist Sylvia Long and author Dianna Hutts Aston offers children a beautiful and informative look at the intricate, complex, and often surprising world of seeds. Poetic in voice and elegant in design, the book introduces children to a fascinating array of seed and plant facts, making it perfect reading material at home or in the classroom.

 

Featuring poetic text and an elegant design, this acclaimed book teaches children countless interesting facts about eggs. Full of wit and charm, An Egg Is Quiet will at once spark the imagination and cultivate a love of science.

 

This gorgeous and informative book looks at the fascinating world of nests, from those of tiny bee hummingbirds to those of orangutans high in the rainforest canopy. Poetic in voice and elegant in design, this carefully researched book introduces children to a captivating array of nest facts and will spark the imaginations of children whether in a classroom reading circle or on a parent’s lap.

How to Teach Math Without a Curriculum

As relaxed/minimal homeschoolers one of the big things we do to keep things relaxed is not follow a curriculum.

So many times before I have heard people say “Oh, we don’t follow a curriculum . . . except for math.”

For some reason parents often feel confident teaching all the subjects except for math.

Have you ever felt that way?

The truth is, teaching kids math doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to follow some pre-written curriculum for your kids to get it!

Now, before I get into this post, let me share that math has never been my strong suit, I don’t find math easy to teach because I’m some kind of mathematical genius, it’s actually the opposite, because math was a struggle for me in school I learned some pretty eye opening things about it.

And I don’t think any post about math would be complete without this awesome clip from Incredibles 2:

(Forgive the grammatical errors in this image, I found it floating around in cyberspace and whoever added the text apparently doesn’t have a firm grasp on spelling/grammar – although truthfully, I don’t always either!)

How to Teach Math Without a Curriculum - easy ways to teach kids math

 

WHAT I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT

I just want to clear this up right from the get-go. What I am not talking about in this post is unschooling. I have nothing against unschooling (I actually quite like it) but what I am talking about here is still teaching math but just not following a curriculum while you do it.

 

BUT WHAT IF WE MISS SOMETHING?

There is this huge fear that if we don’t follow a curriculum when it comes to math our kids will miss something vital. Let me put your mind at ease.

First of all, think about it for a minute, how much from your math education do you actually remember and use on a regular basis? I’m guessing some addition, subtraction, basic multiplication and division, money and time. The basics. How often do you use that algebra and all the equations you learned in high school? . . . Yeah, I thought so.

To be honest, so much of what is taught in school is taught too early. Every year the teachers teach pretty much exactly the same thing, just building slightly, and at the beginning of each fall kids come back to school forgetting a lot of what they learned the year before.

What if we taught kids math when they were actually ready and interested? Imagine how much more they would retain.

Did you know there have actually been studies that have shown that an interested a child can learn all of K-12 math in just eight weeks??? EIGHT WEEKS!

And actually K-6 math has been learned by 9-12 year olds in just twenty hours.

Then why are we trying to drill this into young kids before they are ready? And for hours at a time?

Because all of the above (and because of what I saw as a teacher in the classroom) I do not stress about math in our homeschool. We still do math but we don’t beat ourselves up over it and I try to make it interesting and relevant.

 

How to Teach Math Without a Curriculum - easy ways to teach kids math

 

 

Okay, so here’s how we do it in our home:

 

#1 BAKE!

Honestly, this is probably the one I am the worst at. Baking is a great way to learn temperature, fractions and measurements but I am not the worlds best baker to begin with and inviting my kids to help me is not always my default but when I do it’s a time of learning!

 

#2 LET THEM FIGURE IT OUT

Do your kids often come to you with a question that is obviously math related? Mine do and instead of telling them the answer I get them to figure it out. If it’s one they can obviously figure out on their own I let them, if it’s something they need a little guidance on I’ll teach them how to do it.

Just this morning Raeca came up and told me that she had 11 chapters left in The Hobbit. Here’s what she told me:

There are 19 chapters in the book and I am on chapter 8, so, if you take away 8 from 9 you get 1 and then there is the other 10, that equals 11. Math!

Ha, she actually said “Math!” at the end and I burst out laughing.

 

#3 PLAY GAMES

We enjoy a lot of different board/card games together as family and so many of them are great for learning math. You can find a full list of our favorite games here. Any time you are using dice or counting points or money they are learning math.

 

#4 READ MATH PICTURE BOOKS

There are some great picture books that incorporate math, I have a list of some good ones here.

 

#5 FIGURE OUT AGE APPROPRIATE SKILLS

That all being said, I still do have some math goals for each of my kids based on their skill level.

Ephraim is in kindergarten and this year we are focusing on adding and subtracting to 20. For those most part I just write some addition and subtraction problems in a notebook for him to write the answers to. I actually think that for this kind of math being able to figure out answers in your head is very important and I didn’t think he would be there yet but he is figuring out a lot of the answers in his head. Though, because he struggles with fine motor I am making sure he writes the answers down for writing practice.

Raeca is in grade three and one of my goals for this year has been for her to learn multiplication. Up until this point I’ve just been sharing how and why we multiply and then over the next few months we are going to focus on memorizing multiplication facts. I’m generally not keen on memorization for memorization sake but I think multiplication facts are one of those things a person just needs to memorize. Thankfully she’s got a great memory so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

I found this image and am thinking I may use this idea for memorization, maybe each week I’ll tape a different set of multiplication numbers for her to memorize to the stairs. It takes an otherwise boring task and makes it a little more fun. Hopefully the cat doesn’t pull them all down . . .

How to Teach Math Without a Curriculum - easy ways to teach kids math

 

And that’s how we learn math in our homeschool without a curriculum! I would love to hear how you go about it in your homeschool!

Classic Novels for Middle School

Middle grade books are admittedly some of my favorites to read. Both when I was in middle school and now as an adult.

My only regret is that I hardly read any classics when I was in middle school. I have been remedying that problem as an adult and have read a lot of great middle grade classics over the last few years.

Today’s list includes some great middle grade classics for you to read to or with your middle schoolers or suggest they read on their own.

That being said, remember, middle grade books aren’t just for middle schoolers! Many upper elementary students will also enjoy these books as well as high schoolers and adults!

 

A great list of classics for middle school - grades 5, 6, 7 and 8!

 

 

 

I know Anne of Green Gables is the L.M. Montgomery book that is always raved about but I actually prefer The Story Girl!

Sara Stanley is only fourteen, but she can weave tales that are impossible to resist. In the charming town of Carlisle, children and grown-ups alike flock from miles around to hear her spellbinding tales. And when Bev King and his younger brother Felix arrive for the summer, they, too, are captivated by the Story Girl. Whether she’s leading them on exciting misadventures or narrating timeless stories–from the scary “Tale of the Family Ghost” to the fanciful “How Kissing Was Discovered” to the bittersweet “The Blue Chest of Rachel Ward”–the Story Girl has her audience hanging on every word.

 

 

My eight year old has really been enjoying the audiobook for this one!

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.

 

Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they’re putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there’s one thing they can’t help wondering: Will Father return home safely?

 

 

I’m not going to lie, there are going to be tears.

Billy has long dreamt of owning not one, but two, dogs. So when he’s finally able to save up enough money for two pups to call his own—Old Dan and Little Ann—he’s ecstatic. It doesn’t matter that times are tough; together they’ll roam the hills of the Ozarks.

Soon Billy and his hounds become the finest hunting team in the valley. Stories of their great achievements spread throughout the region, and the combination of Old Dan’s brawn, Little Ann’s brains, and Billy’s sheer will seems unbeatable. But tragedy awaits these determined hunters—now friends—and Billy learns that hope can grow out of despair, and that the seeds of the future can come from the scars of the past.

 

 

Once you are done reading the book you can check out the movie!

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time.

 

 

You can read just the first book but reading the whole quartet wraps things up a lot better!

The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

 

 

As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.

Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.

 

 

Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

 

 

I clearly remember my grade 5 teacher reading this book to us. It’s a torturous idea to read it in a classroom setting because of all the tears that ensue.

Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.

 

Okay, what are some of your favorite classics for the middle grades? Let me know!

 

Oh, and if you like all things books – sign up for the bookish newsletter!

Math at the Swimming Pool and Our Homeschool Lately

Back when I started this homeschool blog I used it more to share peeks inside of our homeschool journey and it’s been awhile since I’ve done that so here we are: here’s a little peek into our homeschool lately.

 

THE DREADED WINTER

I first need to admit that this has been a hard winter personally for myself which definitely affects our homeschool.

I really want to do some themed studies soon but this winter has felt like survival through the cold was as much as I could muster. Now that things are warming up here on the Canadian prairies I am getting excited to get outside and start getting into a bit of a new routine.

This winter we continued with our homeschooling as a lifestyle/relaxed/minimal homeschool approach but it definitely bordered closer to the unschooling side some weeks.

 

A look inside our relaxed, minimal, almost unschooling homeschool

 

Here are a few highlights from the last few months:

 

Relaxed and Minimal Homeschool

 

THE SCIENCE CENTER

A few weeks ago my husband had a work meeting at a city a few hours away so the kids and I tagged along and went to the Saskatchewan Science Center. It had been a year and a half since our last trip there and that trip was made in the summer so it was madness in there while this time was a school day and there were only a handful of other small families in there during our time there.

We spent nearly 4 hours at the science center and the kids got to see everything they wanted to and never had to wait in any lines. Plus we got great seats for the science demonstrations and Raeca even volunteered for one (something she wouldn’t have done if there had been a lot of other kids there).

 

Relaxed and Minimal Homeschool

 

THE SCIENCE CONTINUES

When we got home the kids wanted to play all sorts of science-y things and even put on a few faux science shows for me. Decked out in their labs coats, of course.

 

Relaxed and Minimal Homeschool

 

BRAINS ON

On the science theme, we have been listening to the Brains On podcast lately. Normally we listen to audiobooks at lunch but we were almost finished Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM and then it needed to go back with only 45 minutes left so we decided to listen to something else while we waited to get the book back.

While I’ve listened to podcasts a lot myself this is my first time doing so with the kids and they love it. Part of me wants to go and find other podcasts for us to listen to but we have a lot of past Brains On episodes we can listen too now.

If you have a favorite podcast to listen to with kids I would love to hear about it!

 

Relaxed and Minimal Homeschool

 

AUDIOBOOKS

Like I said, we are continuing to listen to audiobooks together at lunch and we all have our own personal books on the go as well. If you are curious about what we are listening to, sign up for the bookish newsletter, each week I share what we are currently reading and listening to.

 

Relaxed and Minimal Homeschool

 

MATH AT THE SWIMMING POOL

While we are on little getaway a few weeks ago the kids and I went to the pool and hot tub and while we were there the kids noticed (in the hot tub) how the water level rose once we got in and we had a good chat about displacement, mass and volume.

This conversation took place the day after I shared my post about teaching math without a curriculum and it just confirmed what we’ve been doing.

 

Relaxed and Minimal Homeschool

 

PRINTING

I am trying to make sure Ephraim does a bit of printing most days. We had a copy of Handwriting Without Tears from when Raeca was younger so he will often print in there or else I have a composition notebook/journal he writes in.

 

Relaxed and Minimal Homeschool

 

READING

Remember DEAR from school (Drop Everything And Read)? When I was in school we would always have DEAR right after the lunch recess and I’ve currently decided to implement this in our homeschool. Right after lunch we sit down in the living room and do some silent reading (well, Rae and I do, Ephraim will look at books or do his printing).

I’ll admit, I started this mostly out of selfish reasons because it gives me 20-30 minutes to read in the middle of the day.

 

There you have it, a little peek into our homeschool at the end of a very long winter. With spring approaching and the spring-like weather starting I am looking forward to adding a lot more outside time to our homeschool days.

If you have some tips or tricks that help you through the long winter months I would love to hear them because as much as I would like to live in denial I happen to know winter will come around again before I’m ready for it.

10 Grade Three Read Aloud Novels

This has been a good year for read alouds in our home. We’ve re-read a few of our favorites and found some new favorites!

If you’ve been here for awhile you’ll probably already know that when I say “read aloud” 90% of the time I mean “audiobook”. For us that works best, we mostly like to listen at lunch and when we are out driving.

Oh, while we are on the topic of books, I took some time this week to organize the book lists on the site a bit. You can now view them by category!

Check out the book lists by category:

 

(If you are curious about that top image – the rat and mice characters are from the game Mice and Mystics, you can check out some of our favorite games to play together as a family here.)

 

10 Great Read Aloud Novels For Grade 3 - perfect read aloud chapter books and audiobooks

 

 

I love this one mostly for nostalgia’s sake, I remember a teacher reading this to the class in either grade three or four.

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service.

 

 

This one is a good introduction to WWII for elementary students.

As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.

Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.

 

 

I’ve always appreciated Corrie ten Boom’s story and I’m so glad it’s in the Christian Heroes series so the kids can learn from it as well.

Suddenly, Corrie’s ordered life was lost in the insanity of war. With bravery and compassion, her family and countless other Dutch citizens risked everything to extend God’s hand to those innocents marked for certain execution in a world gone mad.

Corrie ten Boom’s life of determination, faith, and forgiveness in the face of unimaginable brutality and hardship is a stunning testimony to the sustaining power of God.

 

 

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised about this book. My expectations weren’t very high going in and we all enjoyed it. We did watch the movie afterwards and this is another case where the book is definitely better than the movie (the movie wasn’t bad, just not as good as the book).

A girl. An iguana. An island. And e-mail. Meet Nim–a modern-day Robinson Crusoe! She can chop down bananas with a machete, climb tall palm trees, and start a fire with a piece of glass. So she’s not afraid when her scientist dad sails off to study plankton for three days, leaving her alone on their island. Besides, it’s not as if no one’s looking after her–she’s got a sea lion to mother her and an iguana for comic relief. She also has an interesting new e-mail pal. But when her father’s cell-phone calls stop coming and disaster seems near, Nim has to be stronger and braver than she’s ever been before.

And she’ll need all her friends to help her.

 

 

I know I’ve said this before but I really with this book had a different title. The word “Princess” makes it sound like it’s going to be a girly book and it really isn’t.

Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince will choose his bride from among the village girls.

The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess. Soon Miri finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires. Winning the contest could give her everything she ever wanted–but it would mean leaving her home and family behind.

 

 

I think this may actually be my favorite Roald Dahl book!

The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, or any of the other giants—rather than the BFG—she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that the giants are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

 

 

When Jerry, Jimmy, and Kathleen are forced to spend their entire summer at school they don’t imagine they will have a particularly interesting time. But that’s before they stumble upon a mysterious castle set in beautiful, abandoned gardens. Could this really be an enchanted castle? With the air thick with magic and a maze hiding a sleeping girl at its center, the holidays might just be looking up.

 

 

Raeca first read this book on her own and then raved about it so much and said we had to read it together.

Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kep beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches.

Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply.

 

 

I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve read this book already, it’s one of our favorites.

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

 

 

“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children–two boys and two girls–succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

 

What are some of your third graders favorite books?

 

CHECK OUT THESE OTHER ELEMENTARY READ ALOUD BOOK LISTS:

The Best Picture Books for April

To me the month of April just vibes all things flowers and gardening* so that is the theme of this month’s book list.

Well, flowers and gardening and Easter and new life – I plan on having a separate Easter book list up soon because every few years it falls in March and that can just get confusing.

We have a few garden plants (tomatoes, peppers and eggplant) already started indoors and the rest will need to wait until the second half of May for it to be nice enough for us to plant outside in our garden. But I know people in other places can get into their gardens much sooner than we can here in the Canadian prairies. Plus, I just like the idea of thinking about gardens and flowers even before we can actually grow them here.

If you have other good flower and gardening picture books suggestions I would love to hear them!

Pin this post so you can come back to it each year (I’ll be continually adding to it).

 

The Best Picture Books for April - great picture books that include all things gardening and flowers that kids will enjoy

 

 

Up in the garden, the world is full of green—leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt there is a busy world of earthworms digging, snakes hunting, skunks burrowing, and all the other animals that make a garden their home. In this exuberant and lyrical book, discover the wonders that lie hidden between stalks, under the shade of leaves…and down in the dirt.

 

 

I love all the books in this series by Dianna Hutts Aston.

A beautiful and informative look at the intricate, complex, and often surprising world of seeds. Poetic in voice and elegant in design, the book introduces children to a fascinating array of seed and plant facts, making it perfect reading material at home or in the classroom.

 

 

“Building on a rhyme that will be familiar to many children, author-illustrator Cole creates an enticing guide to creating a garden. ‘This is the garden that Jack planted…’ The final illustration presents a satisfied-looking boy surrounded by a lush, bird-filled flower garden.

 

 

This book really made me want to grow poppies, I wonder if they would grow in my climate . . .

Ava is delighted when she discovers a brilliant red poppy in the middle of her yard.  She sits with the little flower in the sunny days of summer and shields it from the rain, until one day the petals start to drop and the tiny flower fades away.  But when spring comes again…Ava is surprised anew.

 

 

All of Gail Gibbons’ books are excellent and this one is no different.

With simple language and bright illustrations, non-fiction master Gail Gibbons introduces young readers to the processes of pollination, seed formation, and germination.  Important vocabulary is reinforced with accessible explanation and colorful, clear diagrams showing the parts of plants, the wide variety of seeds, and how they grow.  
 
The book includes instructions for a seed-growing project, and a page of interesting facts about plants, seeds, and flowers.   A nonfiction classic, and a perfect companion for early science lessons and curious young gardeners.

 

 

With spare text and breathtaking oil paintings, If You Plant a Seed demonstrates not only the process of planting and growing for young children but also how a seed of kindness can bear sweet fruit.

 

 

Beautiful collage-and-watercolor art follows the seed through its entire life cycle, as it grows into a zinnia in a garden full of buzzing bees, curious hummingbirds, and colorful butterflies. Children engage with the book as they wiggle their fingers to water the seeds, clap to make the sun shine after rain, and shoo away a hungry snail. Appropriate for even the youngest child, Plant the Tiny Seed is never the same book twice—no matter how many times you read it!

 

 

I really enjoyed this book and love the illustrations.

This is the day the Lord has made.
A butterfly floats through the sun and the shade,
while dragonflies flit past the flowers and trees
and grasshoppers hop in the soft morning breeze.

The World Is Awake, A celebration of everyday blessings, written by Emmy Award winner and ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis with Joseph Bottum, is a lyrical, rhyming story for young children intended to make them feel safe and joyful, cradled in the hands of God. Paired with bright and engaging illustrations by Lucy Fleming, this book inspires children to be thankful for all of God’s blessings that surround us in our daily lives. From the nature in our own backyard to the animals at the zoo, The World is Awake is a celebration of God’s wonderful world.

 

 

I haven’t read this one yet, it’s coming out in a few days (March 26th) and I can’t wait to read it! (It was on our list of books being published this year that we want to read.)

In We Are the Gardeners, Joanna and the kids chronicle the adventures of starting their own family garden. From their failed endeavors, obstacles to overcome (bunnies that eat everything!), and all the knowledge they’ve gained along the way, the Gaines family shares how they learned to grow a happy, successful garden. As it turns out, trying something new isn’t always easy, but the hardest work often yields the greatest reward. There are always new lessons to be learned in the garden!

You and your children can learn all about the Gaines family’s story of becoming gardeners in Joanna’s first children’s book—starting with the first little fern Chip bought for Jo. Over the years, the family’s love for gardening blossomed into what is now a beautiful, bustling garden.

For the Mama Who Thinks She Could Never Homeschool Because She Can’t Teach *Insert Subject Here*

When we made the official decision to homeschool I felt fairly confident about my ability to teach every subject except science (well, I was a little leery about math too, but I already covered that).

While science wasn’t necessarily a subject I struggled with in school it was definitely a subject I wasn’t very interested in.

I had thought that my husband, who enjoyed science so much more than I, would take over the teaching of that subject, and while he does some sciencey stuff with the kids, the truth is, he has a full time job and doesn’t always have as much time to do the fun experiments with the kids as he would like.

 

 

A few weeks ago I started using the weekly record pages I made to go with the Intentional Homeschooling Mini Planner and do you know what I have been noticing?

Most of the things we have been doing in our homeschool fall under science.

I’m sure this isn’t always the case, I know for sure there are some weeks where we will be more heavy on other subjects but I have been very surprised to realize how much we do when it comes to science.

 

For the Mama Who Things She Could Never Homeschool Because She Can't Teach *Insert Subject Here*

 

In the past few weeks we’ve:

Watched a season of Mythbusters.

Taken apart a laminator.

Watched a few episode of Mighty Machines.

Started seeds indoors for our garden.

Watched videos about how seeds turn into plants.

Gone to the zoo.

Asked a lot of questions about animals and the human body.

And more!

Even Raeca’s independent reads have been science related:

 

For the Mama Who Things She Could Never Homeschool Because She Can't Teach *Insert Subject Here*

 

I don’t think I would have had this realization had I not been keeping track of our week by subject.

One of the reasons women tell me that keeps them from homeschooling is because they could never teach *insert their trouble subject here*, the subject isn’t the same for every woman though science is often one of the top subjects that is brought up. (I actually asked this question on Instagram. And while math was definitely #1, science and reading were pretty much tied for #2.)

 

For the Mama Who Thinks She Couldn't Homeschool *Insert Subject Here*

 

Whether you homeschool already or are hoping to homeschool in the future, I would challenge you to keep track of the learning that occurs during your day. Try to fit it into categories by subject (which, I understand, is easier said than done sometimes), and see how much learning happens naturally in the subject area you are worried about.

I’m curious if you would be as surprised by the results as I was.

 

For the Mama Who Thinks She Couldn't Homeschool *Insert Subject Here*

 

If you are looking for a good way to keep track of your weekly activities by subject you can check out my Homeschool Mini Planner – the weekly record printable has been a great way to keep track of our weeks and I know is going to make my year end reporting so much easier.

The Best Picture Books About Easter (That Keep Christ at the Center)

I did not anticipate how hard this book list would be to write.

There are so many Easter picture books about chicks and bunnies and chocolate but unfortunately very few about Christ . . . And He’s the reason for the celebration!

Anyway, I did manage to include some books on this list some of which are top notch books in general. Some of them may not completely be Easter specific but the whole point of Jesus coming to earth led up to His death and resurrection so I’ve included a few books that are a little broader than just Easter.

I am looking forward to reading these books over the next few weeks with my kids.

If you have other good books to add to this list I would love to hear about them and add them to the list!

 

Pin this post so you can come back to it again next year!

The Best Easter Picture Books That Keep Christ at the Center

 

 

 

This is one of my favorite picture books ever. I actually completely forgot about it until I was writing this book list. We got it out from the library last year and I loved it so much. I am planning on purchasing this one before Easter.

This book freshly reinterprets some of the oldest and best-known stories in human history and focuses on some of the many miracles that Jesus performed before his crucifixion. Jesus’s miracles are endless. From the large harvest of fish to washing the unclean, healing the sick, feeding the poor, and walking on water, Jesus performs feats that draw in believers that he is the Son of God. Unfortunately it also attracts the attention of nonbelievers, who saddle him with the cross he must bear. After all of his miraculous acts, the book closes with a final wonder for all to see—one that changes faith and religion as the world knows it, forever. 

 

 

Davey was a young donkey who was bored and unhappy because he was never given anything to do. Then one day, some strangers came to the gate and Davey’s master picked him for a very special task. Davey carried the King, Jesus, into Jerusalem. A few days later, Davey saw some angry people making the King carry a heavy beam of wood. Davey could not understand it until another donkey helped him see that the King was being a Servant on behalf of His people.

The Donkey Who Carried a King offers a unique perspective on the events of Jesus’ Passion Week and calls all believers, both young and old, to follow in the footsteps of the Suffering Servant for the glory of God. Jesus was willing to leave the glories of heaven to suffer and die in this world on our behalf, so we should serve Him with all our hearts.

 

 

This beautifully illustrated hardback book takes children on a journey from the garden of Eden to God’s prefect new creation. 

Retelling the Easter story through a Bible overview, children will discover that ‘because of our sin, we can’t go in’ but because of Jesus’ victory on the cross, an even better garden awaits us…

 

 

“… You will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden.”

Bestselling author Anthony DeStefano begins his creative telling of the beloved Bible story of Christ’s triumphant entry by introducing the young donkey who has yet to realize his important mission. The lowly creature believes he can do nothing noble, but that’s before he meets the Master…

Then Jesus said to the donkey,
“It’s time that you knew
About the great thing 
That you’re destined to do…”
He hears the sad donkey cry,
“Just leave me alone and cast me aside.
I’m just a poor donkey that no one can ride.”

 

 

Easter Love Letters from God, written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sophie Allsopp, guides children and families through Holy Week with seven beautifully illustrated Bible stories. Following each story the child will find his or her own letter from God. Children will love the excitement of opening the letters and parents will love how the letters elaborate on the Bible stories being told. Each message gives the child a sense of wonder as they discover what happened leading up to Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. A very special Bible verse, entitled God’s Wonderful Words to You will accompany each story and letter. Much more than a memory verse, each carefully chosen promise will be God’s very own personal words of love, encouragement, and hope.

 

 

Maggie, the farmer’s youngest daughter, loves getting gifts, especially mysterious ones. One wintry day, she receives a package in the mail. She excitedly opens the package to find a bulb buried in a crate of dirt. This was not what Maggie expected. She had hoped for a doll or a game, not a bulb that would one day become a plant. When spring comes, she finds the bulb in the cellar and tosses the lifeless thing into the garden, never to think of it again. . . . Until she walks outside on Easter morning and finds the most beautiful lily she has ever seen. Through the unique gift of a bulb, Maggie discovers the power of grace and forgiveness and the true meaning of Easter.

 

 

What are the treasures in Benjamin’s Box? Come along with Benjamin and see. Like all boys and girls, Benjamin is very, very curious. When Jesus comes to Jerusalem, Benjamin decides to follow him and find out who he really is. At first, Benjamin thinks Jesus is a teacher, then a king. At last, he learns the good news―news that every child (and grown-up!) will want to share.

 

 

The delightfully goofy camel we met in Humphrey’s First Christmas is back, three decades older and not much wiser. He wants nothing more than to be the lead camel in the caravan, so he can improve his view. When the caravan leads him to Jerusalem, he crosses paths with Jesus making his triumphal entry. Humphrey is delighted to see Jesus, now a grown man, and remembers the Child to whom he gave his coveted blanket all those years ago in Bethlehem.

 

What are your favorite, Christ centered, Easter picture books?

The Best Picture Books of 2019 (so far) – Part One

I always have a lot of fun with these annual picture book lists.

For the past few years I’ve created round ups of the best of the best at the end of the year (2018, 2017 and 2016) and I will often share a few of our favorites throughout the year as well.

This is part one to our favorite picture books published in 2019. It’s early in the year yet so I know there will be a part two (and possibly a part three) yet before I share our ultimate list of 2019 favorites.

If you’ve read some great picture books published this year I would love to hear about them!

If you are looking for more picture book lists, check them out here.

 

The Best Picture Books Published in 2019 (so far)

 

 

 

Ame Dyckman is turning into one of my favorite picture book authors. Wolfie the Bunny is still my favorite of hers (because: adoption) but this one was funny and yet educational – the kids had fun retelling some of the shark stats they learned to their Dad at supper.

Last time on Underwater World with Bob Jellyfish…
“SHARK ATE ME! Now get me OUT, Shark!”
“That’s strange! I can hear Bob, but I can’t see Bob!”

This hilarious follow-up to Misunderstood Shark by New York Times bestselling duo Ame Dyckman and Scott Magoon tackles what it really means to be a good friend. Bob is already irate that Shark has eaten him, but when Shark doesn’t admit to eating him, Bob is so mad he declares that the ocean isn’t big enough for both of them! Friends Don’t Eat Friends is exploding with over-the-top humor and awesome marine facts! For example, when Shark overdoses on Finilla Ice Cream after fighting with Bob, we learn that shark teeth are coated with fluoride. Lucky for Shark, he can’t get cavities! Join Shark and the gang for another story and find out if Shark learns his lesson about friendship, or if he really is just misunderstood — again!

 

 

This is a really sweet take on feeling sad – perfect for those parents who have children who feel all the emotions so much deeper than most. 🙋 It was even a good read for myself – as one who feels emotions deeply.

Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who we are–an overwhelming, invisible, and scary sensation.

In When Sadness Is at Your Door, Eva Eland brilliantly approaches this feeling as if it is a visitor. She gives it a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. She suggests activities to do with it, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to “get over” it or indicates that it’s “bad,” both of which are anxiety-producing notions.

 

This book is about Circle. This book is also about Circle’s friends, Triangle and Square. Also it is about a rule that Circle makes, and how she has to rescue Triangle when he breaks that rule. With their usual pitch-perfect pacing and subtle, sharp wit, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen come full circle in the third and final chapter of their clever shapes trilogy.

 

 

Together, parents and children will giggle their way through I Love You, Funny Bunny as they discover the fun and loving parts of their own relationship. Illustrated by Sean Julian, I Love You, Funny Bunnyis a picture book perfect for sharing at bedtime or any time of day. With read-aloud rhymes and adorable illustrations, readers will have fun turning the pages to discover all the ways this parent bunny loves little funny bunny.

I love you, Funny Bunny, from your whiskers to your toes.
I love the way you hop around and wiggle your cute nose.
I love the way you make me laugh, then melt me with your smile.
And no one in this great big world can match your sense of style.

 

 

Once upon a time (but not that long ago), girls only wore dresses. And only boys wore pants.

Until one day, a young girl named Mary had an idea: She would wear whatever she wanted. And she wanted to wear pants!

 

 

The most important rule is #1: It must be your birthday. 

After that’s been established, a crew of hilarious animals help picture book pros Tom Lichtenheld and Beth Ferry take readers through a joyous romp that covers the most important elements of every year’s most essential holiday, including singing; closing your eyes and making a wish; blowing out candles on a cake, then settling into bed and dreaming of your wish coming true.

 

 

I’ve had a desire to have backyard chickens for years now, though I’m not sure if I would like it if they would be able to talk . . .

The chickens on the farm have a message for their farm owners! They’re tired of arugula salad, how about putting a fan in their hot coop, and HEYwatch out for that snake in your tent.

As the children walk around their beloved farm, they discover more and more chicken talk scratched into the dirt. The family can hardly believe it. What will the chickens possibly say next!?

 

 

A little-known but fascinating and larger-than-life character, Mary Fields is one of the unsung, trailblazing African American women who helped settle the American West. A former slave, Fields became the first African American woman stagecoach driver in 1895, when, in her 60s, she beat out all the cowboys applying for the job by being the fastest to hitch a team of six horses. She won the dangerous and challenging job, and for many years traveled the badlands with her pet eagle, protecting the mail from outlaws and wild animals, never losing a single horse or package. Fields helped pave the way for other women and people of color to become stagecoach drivers and postal workers.

 

 

A tough gumshoe of a cat–the name’s Muffin–protects his territory: The Little Bear Bakery. But there are no bears here. Not on Muffin’s watch.

One night, Muffin hears a suspicious noise. Mouse? Raccoon? Bat? Nope, not the usual suspects. But Muffin hears . . . growling. Could it be? Yup. A bear. Just a cub. Whose stomach is definitely growling. Muffin’s got this case solved–clearly this bear needs some donuts.

 

We have a lot more 2019 picture books coming and can’t wait to share part two to this post in a few months. If you’ve read some great picture books published this year I would love to hear about them!

Homeschool Snapshots – Take a Look at Some of our Favorite Daily Resources

Do you ever wish you could be a fly on the wall of someone else’s homeschool?

Maybe I’m just nosy but I would love to be able to sit in and watch other people homeschool.

Even though I get together with other homeschoolers and we chat resources and tips and all that there is so much each of us do in our homeschools each day that we forget to share.

 

Homeschool Snapshots - adventure log and nature journal

 

I get a lot of questions about what we do all day and the resources we use, especially since we don’t follow a curriculum.

So, I decided to set something up so I could share more of our daily resources – snapshots of our homeschool days.

I asked in my homeschool newsletter last week if people would be interested in a monthly day in the life series and/or a monthly round up of the resources we use and I got a lot of emails back saying yes!

 

Homeschool Snapshots - A look into our favorite resources and daily homeschool life

 

Each day I plan on sharing 1-3-sih snapshots of our homeschool days. I will also share any resources we used in those snapshots. This is my alternative to creating a monthly resource round up.

Once a month I also hope to document a day in the life of our homeschool and I will share those days in our snapshots as well.

 

WHY NOT ON INSTAGRAM?

Because I know people will be wondering why I am sharing these snapshots on my own site instead of on Instagram and here is one big reason: LINKS!

If I’m sharing about a resource we are using and enjoy, I want to be able to let you know the website that it came from. That’s easier for me and for you!

Another reason: algorithms. I’m getting pretty fed up with Instagram (and Facebook) when it comes to algorithms. If I like a page or follow a person, I want to see their posts! But they have messed that up over the last few years and their algorithms drive me crazy. This way you can come straight to the snapshots page and see all the rest posts I’ve shared.

 

Homeschool Snapshots - using the Nature Anatomy book to identify rocks

 

HOW DO I GET NOTIFIED?

If you follow along on Facebook these daily snapshots will start automatically posting to the Intentional Homeschooling Facebook page.

If you are not on Facebook (or are as annoyed with it as I am) I am planning on setting up the option to get notified of new posts – I’ll announce in my newsletter when that is ready (or you may notice it when you visit this site and it asks if you want to receive notifications).

 

Homeschool Snapshots - taking apart a remote control truck

 

I started capturing snapshots of our homeschool days last week – you can see what we’ve been up to lately in our homeschool snapshots.

Chapter Books for Grade Three

I was chatting to Raeca about books yesterday and asked her what kind of book list I should share today. (Some weeks I have tons of ideas and the next nothing comes to me.) She suggested I do a list of chapter books for grade three.

While I have done a list of grade three read alouds (here and here) I realized I had not yet shared a list of independent grade three chapter books. So, we tried to remember the books Raeca read this year that she really enjoyed.

All the books on this list she considers to be 4 or 5 star books.

 

Lessons Learned Sitting at the Feet of Veteran Homeschoolers

 

She is at this interesting stage where she can read the more difficult books but still enjoys her old favorites that are a bit easier to read. She has almost moved on from Magic Tree House books but that idea makes her a little sad, she has read and re-read those books so many times.

 

Best Chapter Books for Independent Reading in Grade 3

 

Without further ado, here are 10 books (or book series) that my grade three-er has enjoyed this year:

 

Grade 3 chapter books

 

As an eight-year-old science lover this book screams Raeca all over. She can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

This is the first novel in a brand-new chapter book series about an eight-year-old girl with a knack for science, math, and solving mysteries with technology.

Ada Lace—third-grade scientist and inventor extraordinaire—has discovered something awful: her neighbor’s beloved Yorkie has been dognapped!

With the assistance of a quirky neighbor named Nina (who is convinced an alien took the doggie) and her ever-growing collection of gadgets, Ada sets out to find the wrongdoer. As their investigation becomes more and more mysterious, Ada and Nina grow closer, proving that opposites do, in fact, attract.

 

 

Here’s another one for those science lovers!

Rosie Revere is no stranger to flops and fails, kerfuffles and catastrophes. After all, engineering is all about perseverance! But this time, Rosie has a really important project to tackle—one that feels much bigger than herself.
 
Rosie’s beloved Aunt Rose and her friends, the Raucous Riveters—a group of fun-loving gals who built airplanes during World War II—need help inventing something new. And Rosie is just the engineer for the job!
 
After one flop . . . then another . . . and another . . . Rosie starts to lose hope. But thanks to some help from her fellow Questioneers Iggy Peck and Ada Twist, Rosie gets the job done. And, along with the Riveters, she rediscovers the meaning of home. 

 

 

Raeca raved about this one so much after she read it that we had to listen to it on audio as a family to see what she was raving about.

Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kep beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches.

Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply.

 

 

Brooke is the perfect older sister. For that reason, Kari and Ashley work hard to make their parents just as proud of them as they are of Brooke. Each girl has her own talents. Brooke is an excellent student. Kari is a great soccer player. Ashley, a talented artist. And they are always there for each other. But when the news comes that Dr. Baxter is moving the family from Ann Arbor to Bloomington, Indiana, and the Baxters need to leave the only home and friends they’ve ever known, no one is happy. Saying goodbye is hard but the family still has what’s most important—their faith and their love for each other. 

 

 

This is another one we listened to on audio together after Raeca read it.

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

 

 

Raeca raves about this entire series. In the regular series each book starts with a different letter of the alphabet.

Help Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose solve mysteries!

A is for AUTHOR . . .
Dink writes to his favorite author, mystery writer Wallis Wallace, and invites him to visit Green Lawn. Wonder of wonders, Wallace says yes! In fact, the famous writer says that the only way he won’t come is if he’s kidnapped. But when the big day comes, Wallis Wallace is nowhere to be found. The police think he just missed his plane, but Dink knows better. It’s up to Dink and his two best friends, Josh and Ruth Rose, to find Wallace—before it’s too late!

 

 

This one is the first book in a new Boxcar Children series – it’s a choose your own adventure!

The Boxcar Children are investigating strange events at a hotel that some people say is haunted, and it seems like every room holds a new surprise. In this interactive, choose-your-path mystery, readers will put their sleuthing skills to the test, making decisions that will either help the Aldens crack the case or lead them deeper into the haunted hotel.

 

 

Both my kids have been loving Roald Dahl this year!

This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches.

Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There’s nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them. Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma’s stories—but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with The Grand High Witch herself!

 

 

She also recommends the follow up book: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormous boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

 

 

This book she listened to on audio and continued on to The Fellowship of the Ring.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.

The Best Picture Books for May

It’s time for another monthly picture book list! You can see all the monthly book lists here.

I know we aren’t even halfway through the year yet but I’m already imagining doing a list of monthly chapter books for next year. That would be harder to create though, thankfully I’ve started thinking about it early!

Because we live in the Canadian prairies to me May still brings forward images of spring and gardening but the theme for the March book list was spring and the theme for the the April book list was gardening so I had to think of a different theme for this month.

With Mother’s Day in May that was an option for this month’s theme as well but February’s theme was love (including parental love) so I didn’t want to do that either.

But, I am excited about the theme I chose for this month: friendship.

I appreciate book that include good lessons in friendship, children are generally more open to learning about things like lessons in friendship through stories than just getting a lecture on the subject.

There are so many good picture books on this subject, I’ve tried to pick my favorites for this list, though if I come across other great ones I’ll definitely add them.

 

The best picture books for May about Friendship and Kindness

 

When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to process this loss, and one by one they fail. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs. 

 

Last time on Underwater World with Bob Jellyfish…
“SHARK ATE ME! Now get me OUT, Shark!”
“That’s strange! I can hear Bob, but I can’t see Bob!”

This hilarious follow-up to Misunderstood Shark by New York Times bestselling duo Ame Dyckman and Scott Magoon tackles what it really means to be a good friend. Bob is already irate that Shark has eaten him, but when Shark doesn’t admit to eating him, Bob is so mad he declares that the ocean isn’t big enough for both of them! Friends Don’t Eat Friends is exploding with over-the-top humor and awesome marine facts! For example, when Shark overdoses on Finilla Ice Cream after fighting with Bob, we learn that shark teeth are coated with fluoride. Lucky for Shark, he can’t get cavities! Join Shark and the gang for another story and find out if Shark learns his lesson about friendship, or if he really is just misunderstood — again!

 

A story of friendship that can inspire anyone, even robots, to dream . . .

When Little Bot is thrown out with the garbage, he finds himself in a strange new world. Fortunately, Sparrow is there to take him under her wing. Together, they explore the forest, share adventures, and learn what it means to be forever friends.

 

Marvin the moose and Woody the beaver are BFFs. But their friendship is tested when Marvin does something totally AWESOME and Woody remains ordinary. The other forest animals now adore Marvin – calling in his new superhero services to help right wrongs, solve problems, and fix trouble. They even build a statue in his honor! Woody watches with envy, hatching a not-so-awesome plan to put all eyes on him. Can Woody and Marvin save their friendship? Craig Shuttlewood explores friendship, jealousy, and forgiveness in this relatable picture book.

 

When Stick rescues Stone from a prickly situation with a Pinecone, the pair becomes fast friends. But when Stick gets stuck, can Stone return the favor?

Author Beth Ferry makes a memorable debut with a warm, rhyming text that includes a subtle anti-bullying message even the youngest reader will understand. 

 

What is a boy to do when a lost penguin shows up at his door? Find out where it comes from, of course, and return it. But the journey to the South Pole is long and difficult in the boy’s rowboat. There are storms to brave and deep, dark nights.To pass the time, the boy tells the penguin stories. Finally, they arrive. Yet instead of being happy, both are sad. That’s when the boy realizes: The penguin hadn’t been lost, it had merely been lonely.

 

One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun.

But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he’s sick. The usual remedies—applesauce, reading a story—don’t help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep.

Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him?

 

 

Chrysanthemum thinks her name is absolutely perfect—until her first day of school. “You’re named after a flower!” teases Victoria. “Let’s smell her,” says Jo. Chrysanthemum wilts. What will it take to make her blossom again?

 

 

This is one of my favorite books of all time. After reading it through once I like to go back and see if the kids notice how Brian changes through the book, they love seeing how he goes from black and white to full color by the end.

Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class. When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.

 

Clink was a state-of-the-art robot with the dazzling ability to make toast and play music at the same time. But that was many years ago.

Now kids want snazzier robots who do things like play baseball and bake cookies. So day after day, Clink sits on a shelf and sadly watches as his friends leave with their new owners. He almost gives up on ever finding a home—until the day Clink spies a boy who just might be able to be the right one for him . . .

 

The Best Picture Books about Friendship and Kindness

A Flexible Homeschool App Review

 

There are all sorts of homeschool planners. You’ve got the “plan-every-detail-to-the-exact-second” type and the “we-just-do-what-we-want-when-we-want” type. And then about a thousand other types in between.

For those of you that fall between the two extremes, I’ve got a cool resource to share with you today!

The folks over at A Flexible Homeschool App contacted me to test out and share a review of their site with you.

In case you haven’t heard of it before, A Flexible Homeschool App is a great homeschool planning resource for those who love planning and recording their homeschool digitally.

Actually, according to their site, A Flexible Homeschool App is for organized moms who want to stay focused on providing a quality education for their kids. (Though, I would add in that it is also for “wannabe organized moms” because the site helps you become more organized!)

The site is made for us homeschoolers and made by homeschoolers. These people get us.

 

A Flexible Homeschool App Review

 

I used the site to document our recent study on bees. I loved being able to input the books we would be reading, links to YouTube videos as well as other resources.

I liked being able to link directly to books on Amazon (especially when some books have very similar names), but then I could also link directly to other resources including YouTube videos since we use some good YouTube channels on a fairly regular basis in our homeschool, I also used it to link to other online resources we use (like various printables).

I think A Flexible Homeschool app is perfect for organizing unit studies, it’s nice to have a full list of our resources in one easy spot.

 

A Flexible Homeschool App Review

 

WITH A FLEXIBLE HOMESCHOOL APP YOU CAN . . .

* create a flexible plan

* keep track of each kids work individually (because we all know that kids don’t all learn at the same pace)

* record what you did and how long it took

* create a list of resources you will use for each unit (you can even mark if it’s a resource you already have, one you need to borrow or one you need to buy)

* take a break from your plan without it messing up your plan

* not worry about constant notifications when you “fall behind”

* easily create printable reports (perfect for those who need to send in reports at the end of each year, or those who need to send them in more often)

 

A Flexible Homeschool App Review

 

I think A Flexible Homeschool App is a great resource for homeschoolers, especially those who enjoy digital planning or use a lot of digital resources (it’s a lot easier to save a link online than to try to write one down!).

For those of you who have to send in year end or progress reports to your province/state/school division I would highly recommend using A Flexible Homeschool App because you can also create term or year end reports. I know some of you have to go so far as documenting how much time you spend “schooling” and this would be a great tracker!

At the end of our school year I always need to send in a periodic log and a (small) portfolio to our school division. I’ll admit, there have been many times where I have relied on pictures I’ve taken to help me fill out the periodic log. If I had been using something like the Flexible Homeschool App it would have made filling out the periodic logs so much easier.

 

A Flexible Homeschool App Review

 

IS IT FOR YOU?

If you are curious if A Flexible Homeschool App is right for you, here are some of my thoughts:

 

A FLEXIBLE HOMSCHOOL APP MAY BE RIGHT FOR YOU IF . . .

* your homeschool plan changes on a regular basis

* you use a lot of online resources (YouTube videos, printable worksheets, etc)

* you like to plan digitally

* you like to be organized

* you like to keep digital records

* you need to keep a fairly detailed record of your homeschool (either for your own sake or that of your province, state or school division)

* you like to input your learning on the go

 

A FLEXIBLE HOMESCHOOL APP IS PROBABLY NOT FOR YOU IF . . .

* you are a die hard paper and pen planner and recorder

* you never deviate from your original plan

 

TRY IT FOR FREE

If you want to try A Flexible Homeschool App out and see if it will work for you and your homeschool you can use the code: intentional to try it out for free for two months!

Check out A Flexible Homeschool App!

Do the Books Our Kids Read Matter?

I have been thinking about this ^ a lot in the last week, if you receive my bookish newsletter each week you’ll already know that from last week’s email.

Part of this has a lot to do with the fact that Raeca is really into the fantasy genre and it’s something I know almost nothing about since it’s never been my genre. I have become slightly more knowledgeable in the last couple of years but just a little.

I know that many books, especially those in the fantasy and fairy tale genres can be so great for sharing the Gospel story, where good conquers evil, but there are also many books in the genre that aren’t great, or are better for certain ages.

 

A Homeschool Interview

 

Last week as I was thinking about this subject I decided to go back and listen to an old episode of the Read Aloud Revival podcast – #41 where Sarah Mackenzie interviews Carolyn Leiloglou on the topic of navigating fantasy for Christian parents.

The episode is very good and I highly recommend listening to it if you or your kids are interested in the fantasy genre.

But the truth is, it’s not only fantasy books that we should be screening for our children.

 

WHY WE SHOULD SCREEN WHAT OUR KIDS READ

As a Christian parent it is my job to make sure the books my kids read are helpful in someway instead of harmful. I’m supposed to prepare them for their life but in an age appropriate way. I am also to train them to love and follow Jesus.

One thing I didn’t understand as a kid when my parents were telling me not to read certain kinds of books was that they were actually doing so out of a love for me and not just because they wanted to be strict. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until I borrowed some of these “banned” books from my friends and had nightmares as a result, of course I couldn’t actually tell my parents about these nightmares because then they would know I had read the books.

(The books I am referring to are the Goosebumps books, I just Googled it and a bunch of covers popped up and they still creep me out to this day though I have zero recollection what the books are actually about.)

 

The Best Chapter Books for Grade Two Free Reading

(Yikes, this photo is a flashback to my more minimalist days and also when we didn’t own so many books, I miss those days in many ways. Sorry, that was off topic . . .)

I don’t think every book kids (or adults) read need to have some major lesson or moral. I know that sometimes it is nice to have a chance to read a lighter book, especially if you’ve just finished reading something heavy or you are going through a heavier season in life but I do think that we need to be careful about we read and what we let our children read.

While I was having all these thoughts last week I went to a Lamplighter book party and it was so encouraging to hear of a company that puts in an effort to their stories are character building and it was another reminder that I want to be more diligent with the books we read in our home.

 

Do the books our kids read matter? On screening books as a Christian parent

 

HOW DO WE MANAGE TO SCREEN ALL THE BOOKS?

Because I know not every parent has the time/interest/ability to pre-read every book their kids read I am planning on starting to do some book reviews here. Since I enjoy reading a lot of middle grade books, have a decent sized collection thanks to thrift stores and have access to nearly every book thanks to the library, writing book reviews seems like a good idea.

Instead of the weekly book lists I’ve been writing pretty regularly for nearly three years most weeks I will be posting a book review instead of a list (though there will still be some book lists every now and then). I’m planning on mostly doing reviews for chapter books (probably heavy on the middle grade chapter books) but if there is a picture book or something else that I feel like reviewing I’ll go ahead and do that (my site my rules 😉).

If you have suggestions on some books you would be interested in having me review, let me know, I obviously already have a stack waiting for me to read but if there is something specific people are looking for I’ll bump that up on my list.

If you have rules for what your kids are allowed to read or methods on how you make sure the books they are reading are good I would love to hear them!

Fablehaven Book Review

I’m excited to start what will be a nearly-weekly series of book reviews!

As I explained earlier this week I think it is important to make sure we are aware of what our kids are reading, especially if you are a Christian parent.

I decided to start by reviewing Fablehaven because it’s one of those books that I have heard a lot of people mention. I have gotten the book out from the library one or two times before but never got around to reading it so I made it a priority this time.

 

THE STORY

In Fablehaven sister and brother, Kristen and Seth, go to visit their grandparents for a few weeks, they’ve always known their grandparents were a little strange but they saw them so infrequently they couldn’t figure out why.

It isn’t long into their stay before they realize that their grandparents vast estate is actually a preserve for all sorts of mystical creatures, both the safe and the not-so-safe. They slowly learn more about Fablehaven and the creatures that live there until something goes wrong and they need to save their family from powerful evil forces.

 

From an adult standpoint I enjoyed this book, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I would recommend it for everyone. I’m going to share what I liked about the book, what concerns me and what I am planning on doing with my kids as a result.

 

A Fablehaven Book Review - what I liked, what you should know and the ages it's best for.

 

WHAT I LIKED

LIGHT WINS – this is a story with defined good and bad, it even talks about how the evil is darkness and the good is light and it comes to head in a battle with the light winning. I appreciate how this parallels Jesus defeating Satan.

GREAT VOCABULARY – the book is very well written and has some amazing vocabulary. I have never been a fan of “read through a book and write down any words you don’t know” but if that’s your thing, this is a great book for that!

 

OF CONCERN

QUITE DARK – while very well written there are some very dark scenes throughout the book, portions I think would be scary for the sensitive.

TERMINOLOGY – there are a number of words in this book that may be a red flag for some. There are mentions of demons (the main bad guy is a demon) and the dark arts. There is also talk of hexes and magic.

Personally, I struggle when fantasy books take terms from real life (like “demons”), on one hand I think it makes the bad guys more obvious but on the other hand I feel like it may be confusing for kids, so I’m not a fan of that use. I wish there would have been a better way of describing the “demon”, maybe by making him a dragon or something that is more fantasy but known to be a bad character.

TRIGGERS – the story starts out at a wake and talks about the death of grandparents (even says “asphyxiation” and explains how they died because of a gas leak), this could be a trigger for some.

DISOBEDIENCE – one of the characters in the book is repeatedly disobedient and doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. I am okay with flawed characters but wish there would have been more development in this area throughout the book.

NEGATIVE TOWARD RELIGION – there is one quote in the book that was a major red flag in the book for me (page 114), it says: “No mythology or religion that I know of holds all the answers. Most religions are based on truths, but they are also polluted by the philosophies and imaginations of men.”

MISPLACED – so, this is no fault of the book itself but it is actually categorized as a teen and young adult book according to Amazon but, at least in my library, it is shelved in the middle grade section and I don’t think it belongs there.

 

A Fablehaven Book Review - what I liked, what you should know and the ages it's best for.

 

HOW WE ARE GOING TO APPROACH IT

After hearing so many good things about Fablehaven I was surprised to walk away with such a list of concerns. Like I mentioned, I enjoyed the book as an adult but that being said, I would hesitate allowing my kids to read it on their own. If anything I would like to read this book aloud with my kids and be able to have a discussion as we go through it, especially when we get to that quote on page 114 (though I would still wait a few years before reading it aloud with them).

Down the road when my kids are older and also more grounded in their faith I would be willing to let them read the book independently but want to make sure they know that I am open for discussion about it.

I have only read the first book in the series and have heard they “get better” but I am not sure exactly what that means. As of right now I’m not interested in reading any further but if you are convinced I should, let me know.

Do you have suggestions for what I should review next? Let me know!

A Review of Our Homeschool Year – What Worked and What Didn’t

Yesterday morning I officially declared our homeschool year “over”.

The truth is, we never stop learning (and I actually have some intentional learning planned for the summer) but it’s nice to have an official start and stop to the year. Plus, I like to start after the regular school kids and stop before them -because why not?! #benefitsofhomeschooling

I am really excited for the plans I have for our learning this summer (and into the fall) I’m making some changes and I think it is going to be so good. But before I go into them I wanted to do a review of the last year. This review is good for myself and it’s a good place to point people to when they have questions as to why we are making a few changes.

Whether you had a stellar year or a much-less-than-stellar one I think taking time to review the year is always a good idea. As you may be able to tell by the name of this site my goal is to be intentional with our learning and part of being intentional is taking time to think about what is and isn’t working.

 

Our Homeschool Year Review - What Worked and What Didn't

 

Our school year actually started out with an attempt at following Charlotte Mason’s method but that quickly went by the wayside and by the end we were pretty much unschooling. (Though I still really love a lot about the CM method and do hope to follow it more closely one day.)

Let’s get into the details of what worked and what didn’t:

 

THINGS THAT WORKED WELL

I want to start by sharing some things that worked well this year, unfortunately I could only come up with two things for this list:

LUNCHTIME AUDIOBOOKS – we continued to listen to our audiobook almost every weekday at lunch. There are a couple of reasons we listen to audiobooks at lunch, one is so we can add more books into the day and the second is because my kids are big talkers and it’s nice to have them quiet for a bit. #momconfessions

WEEKLY RECORD – a few months ago I created a mini planner for myself and I have been using the weekly planner sheets ever since. They have been great for documenting the stuff we actually do (since I don’t like to make a big plan ahead of time).

 

For the Mama Who Thinks She Couldn't Homeschool *Insert Subject Here*

 

THINGS THAT DIDN’T WORK WELL

During most of the school year this year things felt really good. We were quite unschooly and it felt like it was working for us. I even chose to not go to our homeschool convention because I didn’t want to feel like I needed to teach my kids in a different way, but taking time to look back on our year at the tail end of it I realized it was not the kind of year I want to be the norm.

A lot of my struggles this last year are my own fault, this winter felt long, dark and cold and felt like a true spiritual winter. It was hard to motivate myself to do the necessities, never mind teach my children well.

A few other struggles in our homeschool this year (most of which I am sure were directly affected by the place I was in):

TOO MUCH SCREEN TIME – it was a record breaking cold winter so I feel a little justified but it was still too much, I wish I would have done more intentional activities instead of just taking the easy way out and letting them watch something or play on screens.

THE KIDS BICKERED A LOT – prior to this past winter both my kids have gotten along very well, I mean, they are siblings so there have been squabbles but this winter was excessive.

 

Our Homeschool Year Review - What Worked and What Didn't

 

READING STRUGGLES – my one goal for kindergarten for both my kids has been for them to learn to learn to read and so this was my goal for my son this year but it was a real struggle. He is a very smart kid and can tell you all about what a gyroscope is but when it comes to reading . . . I understand that he just turned six and boys are often later to learn to read but there have been some major red flags popping up so I’m currently doing some research to see how I can best help him.

LACK OF INTENTIONAL GET TOGETHERS – while we still saw lots of people this winter through church and hosted 20+ people in our home most weeks I do wish I would have been more intentional with getting together with more homeschoolers throughout the winter. This has picked up since it started getting warmer and made me realize how much I missed it.

 

Our Homeschool Year Review - What Worked and What Didn't

 

ALL IN ALL

While there isn’t much in the “things that worked well” category and the “things that didn’t work well” is a bit depressing, I still feel like we are called to homeschool and I am looking forward to starting a new year.

I can see now that a lot of what didn’t work was that we left out some things that we really love and I have been working on creating some changes and have a bit of a summer learning plan I hope to share next week!

 

Our Homeschool Year Review - What Worked and What Didn't

How did you school year go? What worked and didn’t work for you?

The Prairie Thief Book Review

It’s time for another book review!

The Prairie Thief is a book I have been meaning to read for a long time. I got the book out from the library a few times but never made it a priority to read until recently.

Also, I want to note: the first time I took the book out from the library I didn’t realize it was fantasy – somehow I totally missed the little guy on the cover!

I have heard people describe this book as Little House on the Prairie with a fantasy twist but I wouldn’t agree with that at all. I would say it’s more Anne of Green Gables or A Little Princess with a fantasy, Spiderwick Chronicles-esq twist.

I’m going to share a short summary of the book, some of my thoughts about it and who I would recommend it for.

 

The Prairie Thief Book Review - fantasy for elementary and middle grade

 

THE STORY

The Prairie Thief is set in Kansas in 1882 and follows Louisa Brody who has temporarily been sent to live with her closest neighbor (the Smirches) since her father has just been accused of, and arrested for, stealing (from the very neighbors she is sent to live with).

Louisa is adamant her father is not a thief and is determined to figure out who the guilty one is so she can save him from hanging. Unfortunately the Smirches don’t make life easy on her while she is with them. And while she is trying to uncover the truth she soon learns that things aren’t what they appear on the surface. And once she knows who the guilty party is she still isn’t sure how to clear her father’s name.

 

WHAT I LIKED

MEMORABLE CHARACTERS – each of the characters in the story are memorable in their own way, Melissa Wiley does a good job of making it clear which characters we should like and which we should be wary of (even the name Smirches sounds like a bad character, doesn’t it?!).

A DEVELOPING CHARACTER – Louisa is not a perfect child by any means but I appreciate her attempts to control herself and continue to grow. The inner chats she has with herself, especially faced with a not-so-nice person, are a great example for children who struggle with self control.

 

The Prairie Thief Book Review - fantasy for elementary and middle grade

 

GOOD WORK ETHIC – I suppose this being set in the 1800’s has something to do with it but this is another great example for children these days, Louisa has a number of daily chores, especially being the “woman” of the house, and she does them without complaining.

BIBLE & POETRY REFERENCES – of course almost homeschool parent will appreciate the fact that Louisa’s father’s two books are the Bible and a book of poetry. Louisa enjoys poetry and if you have children who are a little hesitant in this area this book may help spark some interest in that area.

 

WORTH NOTING

HARSH CHARACTERS – the Smirch’s, who Louisa goes to live with, are a quite harsh family, especially the mother, I would say she may fall on the side of abusive. I know a lot of families who read this blog are foster parents and/or adoptive parents and I just want to point this out if it is a trigger for your child. Not that you shouldn’t read it, but it may be something you discuss as you read through the book. For most children, who have grown up in loving families, this is a good example of a poorly run home and it may be interesting to point out that back in 1882 people let parents parent how they wanted to, without getting involved themselves or other involved like they do now.

 

WHO I WOULD RECOMMEND IT TO

I think this book would be a great read aloud for elementary aged children and a great independent read for 8-12 year olds. Since the main character is a girl I do think it will appeal more to girls but I think the subject is equally interesting for boys so I am hoping to read it aloud to my 6 & 8 year old this summer.

 

If you’ve read this book before I would love to hear your thoughts!

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls – Book Review

I am really excited to share today’s book review with you!

So, I have one reader and one not-quite-a-reader-yet-but-listens-to-a-lot-of-audiobooks, both of them have loved the Magic Tree House series, my daughter has read almost all of them and listened to tons on audio and my son has listened to a number of the books on audio.

If you are wondering why I am talking about the Magic Tree House when I’m reviewing a different book, here’s why: I think if your kids love the Magic Tree House books (as most kids do) they are going to love The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series.

I was sent The Beginning, book 1 in The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series by author M. J. Thomas and was asked to review it. Now, here’s what you need to know about my book reviews: I actually share what I think about the book. I don’t try to sugarcoat things or praise books I don’t really like, that’s not a helpful book review at all.

So, even though I was sent this book to review I didn’t promise to only write nice things, it just so happens this book is one I would highly recommend, but you can read the full review to decide if it’s right for you.

 

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls - The Beginning - Book Review - great books for kids who love Magic Tree House

 

THE STORY

The series follows siblings Peter and Mary (plus their dog Hank), in this first book their parents have just dropped them off at their great-until Solomon’s house for a month. The kids uncover a set of ancient scrolls in a secret room and are transported back to the beginning of the world.

They spend a week watching the world and earth being created and trying to solve the secret of the scroll before the seven days are over or they will get stuck in the past forever.

Throughout the series the kids (and Hank) are transported to different key moments in biblical history.

 

WHAT I LIKED

NARNIAN – The first chapter where the kids are dropped of at great-uncle Solomon’s house feels very Narnian, it reminds me of the kids arriving at the Professors house.

HUMOR – There was some fun humor in the book, I actually laughed out loud when reading this paragraph in the first chapter:

All Peter knew was that his Great-Uncle Solomon didn’t know anything about kids. The last time they had seen him, four Christmases ago, he had given them each a new toothbrush.

CREATION IN A NEW LIGHT – I have no idea how many times I’ve read the story of creation in the Bible, many, many times, and it’s such a short section I find myself skimming through when I read it and not stopping to really think about it. This book made me pause and think about what it really would have been like at each point in creation and really brought the story to life.

 

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls - The Beginning - Book Review - great books for kids who love Magic Tree House

 

EASY TO READ – At a grade 1-3 reading level these books make great first chapter books for kids.

ADOPTION – It’s just a brief mention but there is mention of Mary being adopted from China and as an adoptive mom it’s nice to see that in books.

REFERENCES – At the end of the book there is a page that lists the Bible chapters and passages the book is based off of so kids can go and read them straight from the Bible themselves.

 

WHO I WOULD RECOMMEND IT TO

This book was an easy and fun read and I think it would be great for kids in grades 1-3, especially those who love Narnia or the Magic Tree House books.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and hope they bring the Bible to life as much as this one did. If you’re curious, here are the other titles in the series:

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: Race to the Ark, Book 2 – the trio must rush to help Noah and his family finish the ark before the coming flood.

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Great Escape, Book 3 – Peter, Mary and Hank journey to ancient Egypt where they see firsthand the devastation of the plagues.

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: Journey to Jericho, Book 4 – they join the Israelite spies on a mission to Jericho as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land.

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd s Stone, Book 5 – they travel to Bethlehem, where they befriend a young shepherd named David and witness the epic fight between David and Goliath.

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar, Book 6 – This one is being released June 4th! In Peter and Mary’s sixth adventure, the Hidden Scrolls take them back to ancient Babylon, where Daniel is about to get thrown into the lions’ den.

 

If you read the books let me know what you think of them!

Just One More Chapter

Hello fellow book lovers!

A couple of weeks ago we got our Intentional Family apparel in and I’m excited to show off the first design “we” came up with!

I say “we” because honestly, this was all her.

Yes, my eight year old sat down to think of shirt designs and came up with “just one more chapter” and an image of a book.

Be still my book loving heart.

When the shirts came in (after she immediately grabbed a book and sat down) I took her out to grab a few photos and she says “they usually stand like this” and then poses for me, how does she even know this stuff?

 

Just One More Chapter - the perfect shirt for book lovers!

 

Also, I did something new-to-me when ordering her shirt: I bought her a women’s shirt.

I was looking at the sizing on the tees and the youth size I was looking at for her was the same as the women’s but the women’s was more slim so I went ahead and ordered the ladies small. I mean, it’s still big on her but seriously, this is a momentous occasion. (The tees do run a little small, I ordered a large for myself and it’s none too big and I’m normally a medium. Definitely look at the sizing, the baseball tees are different sizing and I think I would order a medium in those.)

Anyway, the shirts were fun to design and we may think of more book-ish designs in the future.

In the meantime, if you want to order a book-ish shirt for yourself you can do so here.

If you’ve got a book-ish friend with a birthday coming up may I suggest a shirt as a gift? (Or there are even bags, blankets, notebooks and towels!)

 

Just One More Chapter - the perfect shirt for book lovers!

The Best Picture Books for June

Today I have another monthly picture book to share. We are on to June which means the year is nearly half over!

For this month’s list I decided to mainly go with a water theme.

Since the weather has warmed up here we’ve been spending a lot of time at a local pond looking to see what kind of animals we can find. We’ve found lots of birds, feathers, lots of bugs, including this awesome water beetle:

 

water beetle

 

If you are looking for some great books to guide you on your water adventures, read on!

Plus a couple of oddball summer books that I had to include because they are awesome, even though they don’t fit the theme at all.

I will add books to this list as I find more great ones that fit the topic, be sure to pin it so you can find it again in years to come.

 

The Best Picture Books for June - summer picture books and water picture books

 

 

We love all the books in this series!

In this gorgeous companion to the acclaimed Over and Under the Snow and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal bring to life a secret underwater world. In this book, readers will discover the plants and animals that make up the rich, interconnected ecosystem of a mountain pond. Over the pond, the water is a mirror, reflecting the sky. But under the pond is a hidden world of minnows darting, beavers diving, tadpoles growing. These and many other secrets are waiting to be discovered…over and under the pond.

 

I love this “one small square” series!

Fish and fungi, plants and protists, mammals and monera all seem to get along swimmingly in and around the peaceful-looking pond environment. But a closer look at a small square reveals an ever-changing world. . .home to a larger variety of creatures and goings-on than you’d ever imagine, even in just a drop of its water! This beautifully illustrated “you are there” science book–part of the critically acclaimed One Small Square series–is brimming over with fun-to-do experiments and activities for children ages 7 and up. Includes a pond field guide, a glossary-index, and a resource list.

 

The joy of the seasons, the wonder of discovery, and the appreciation and respect for the natural world is at the heart of this book, drawn from the childhood of award-winning illustrator Jim LaMarche.

When Matt is out for a late winter hike he sees a trickle of water in the old deserted and junk filled dirt pit at the edge of his neighborhood. With quiet appreciation, Matt can imagine the pond that must once have been there, shining in the early spring light, freezing in the winter for skating and the perfect place for swimming in the summer.

Can Matt’s discovery transform a forgotten pond to its natural wonder? With his idea of making the pond whole again, Matt rallies his friends, Katie and Pablo, and together they work through the spring, clearing debris, moving rocks to hold the water, and looking for leaks. But would there be enough water to fill the pond? Can they bring the pond back?

 

This is such a great book for using on your pond adventures!

From the life cycle of mosquitoes to the many uses and varieties of pond plants, naturalist and artist Peggy Kochanoff takes young readers on an entertaining and enlightening tour of life in and around a freshwater pond. Full of detailed illustrations and clear answers to creative questions, Be a Pond Detective is the perfect way to discover the nature mysteries in your own backyard!

 

Gail Gibbons writes some of the best non-fiction children’s books!

From tiny tadpoles to master jumpers, frogs get an exciting introduction in this detailed picture book.

Did you know that frogs can jump ten times their body length? How about that frog eggs are encased in jellylike coverings that make them too slippery to be eaten by predators? Discover these facts and more in this brightly illustrated addition to any non-fiction collection. Frogs are unique creatures that play an important role to the environment, making them an important topic in any educational setting. Plus, there are over 3,800 different kinds!

 

All it takes is one: one coral gamete to start a colony, one person to make a difference, one idea to change the world. The ongoing efforts to save and rebuild the world’s coral reefs—with hammer and glue, and grafts of newly grown coral—are the living legacy of Ken Nedimyer, founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation. Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe tell the true story of the coral restoration pioneer in this brilliant tribute to the wonders of nature and the power of human hope.

 

A boy goes fishing with his father and describes the interrelationships among the insects and animals he encounters, from the mosquito that bites him to the dragonflies, bullfrogs, and fish that he finally catches and eats.

 

Drip. Sip. Pour me a cup. Water is water unless…it heats up.
Whirl. Swirl. Watch it curl by. Steam is steam unless…it cools high.

This spare, poetic picture book follows a group of kids as they move through all the different phases of the water cycle. From rain to fog to snow to mist, talented author Miranda Paul and the always remarkable Jason Chin combine to create a beautiful and informative journey in this innovative nonfiction picture book that will leave you thirsty for more.

 

The Flower Fairies series are some of my favorite poetry books so I had to include them on this list!

First published in the 1920s, Cicely Mary Barker’s original Flower Fairies books have been loved for generations. The book features poems and full-color illustrations of over 20 flowers and their guardian fairies.

 

We love the Brambly Hedge books and since summer officially starts in June I needed to add it here.

It was such a hot summer. They sky was deep blue and the sun never faltered. All along Brambly Hedge, the mice did their best to keep cool. Poppy Eyebright sought refuge in the mossy shadows of the mill wheel; Dusty Dogwood took to walking by the banks of the cooling stream. Dusty and Poppy spent more and more time together, so no one was at all surprised when they announced their engagement. They decided on a very unusual setting for the wedding ceremony, but even they didn’t realize just how unusual it was prove to be!

The Best Nature Study Resources

For the month of June I am sharing a variety of the best nature books and resources over on Instagram.

Because Instagram doesn’t allow links in posts I am also going to keep a running list of the resources I share here.

If you have some great nature resources to share I would love for you to join in throughout the month over on Instagram, just use the hashtag: #homeschoolingwithnature and tag me (@intentionalhomeschooling) so I can see and share your posts!

You can also go ahead and pin this post so you can come back and access it at a later date.

 

A List of the Best Resources for Nature Study

 

To see the resources first follow along on Instagram and then check back here throughout the month as I update the list!

 

NATURE STUDY BOOKS

 

Dianna Aston nature picture books: A Seed is SleepyA Rock is LivelyAn Egg is QuietA Nest is NoisyA Beetle is ShyA Butterfly is Patient

Nature Study Resources - Nature Books - A Butterfly is Patient

 

The Burgess Bird Book (AmazonLibrivox)

Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study with the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola (I’ve also heard good things about the sequel, Lessons at Blackberry Inn but haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy.

The Best Nature Resources - Great for Nature Study - Pocketful of Pinecones

 

Nature Anatomy – we like to use this book for it’s information and as a reference when drawing. My only complaint is that it’s not longer! Calli over at Sparrows and Lily’s has created a year long nature study schedule using this book as a spine that I am considering following for this upcoming school year.

Great Nature Study Resources - Nature Anatomy

 

The Handbook of Nature Study – I’ll admit at first I didn’t know how to use this book and got instantly overwhelmed but I feel like reading Pocketful of Pinecones made me excited and more comfortable with using this book. You can also check out this post on how to use the book.

 

Watercolor With Me – In the Forest – this book is such a great resource for learning to watercolor forest animals and items! There are 50 items that include step-by-step instructions.

Great Nature Study Resources - Learning to Watercolor

 

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady & The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady – these are both nature journals by Edith Holden that she kept in 1905 and 1906 and are incredibly inspiring!

Great Nature Study Resources - Nature Journal - The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

 

Usborne Outdoor Book – If you are looking for some inspiration for some fun outdoor nature activities this is a great book.

It contains all sorts of ideas for: exploring ponds, rivers and seas, discovering wildlife, investigating the woods, setting up camp, being out in all weather and exploring at night.

The drawings are great and if you have kids who are less than enthusiastic about being outside I would suggest letting them flip through and finding a few ideas that interest them.

Great Nature Study Resources - Nature Journal - Usborne Outdoor Book 

The Be a Nature Detective series is so fun and educational, I can’t decide which one is my favorite!

Be a Wilderness Detective

Be a Beach Detective

Be a Night Detective

Be a Pond Detective

Be a City Nature Detective

The Best Nature Study Resources - Be a Nature Detective

 

If you need more inspiration for nature journaling, here are three more great books:

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

Drawn to Nature: Through the Journals of Clare Walker Leslie

Keeping a Nature Journal

The Best Nature Study Resources - Nature Journaling books

 

Kids’ Guide to God’s Creation 

It Couldn’t Just Happen

The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God

The Case for a Creator for Kids

The Best Nature Study Resources - Creation based books

 

We have gotten the One Small Square Backyard book out from the library a number of times but it wasn’t until recently that I realized there are a lot more books in this series, like, The Night Sky, Woods, Tropical Rain Forest, Swamp, Seashore and more! You can check out all of the books in the series here.

The Best Nature Study Resources - One Small Square Books

 

The Lost Words – this is a gorgeous book with beautiful illustrations and inspiring poetry.

The Best Nature Study Resources - The Lost Words

More coming soon!

 

NATURE STUDY RESOURCES

 

Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards

Great Nature Study Resources - Backyard Birding Flashcards

 

Nature Journal & Adventure Log by Twig & Moth (we got these in previous Intentional Bundle sales)

Great Nature Study Resources - Our Nature Journals and Adventure Log

 

Exploring Nature With Children – A year-long nature curriculum with four weekly themes for each month of the year and each theme includes a book list, a nature walk activity, corresponding pages in the Handbook of Nature Study, a poem, a piece of art AND extension activities.

Great Nature Study Resources - Exploring Nature with Children

 

If you are going for nature walks or hikes and good backpack is a must! I like to keep my backpack filled with our normal nature walk supplies which mostly includes: local field guides, a magnifying glass (and binoculars if we had them!) and my nature journal and supplies (the kids usually do theirs when we get home). Other supplies including more books, snacks, water, etc, get added depending on where we are going/how long we’re going for.

Great Nature Study Resources - Nature Bag

 

This is My Classroom Tee – I designed this shirt a few months ago and you can now order your own, it’s the perfect attire for the nature lover out there.

The World is My Classroom - Homeschool Tee and Apparel

 

We like to use Art for Kids Hub for drawing tutorials, sometimes they are more cartoony than realistic but I think it’s a great way to learn.

For nature study purposes I would suggest look at these sections: animals, bugs, flowers, spring, summer, autumn and winter

The Best Nature Study Resources - Art for Kids Hub

 

SUGGESTED BY OTHER HOMESCHOOL PARENTS

Coming soon!

Our Homeschool Summer Plan – Teaching the Heart

Hey guys, so, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few weeks now. Really, ever since I shared what did and didn’t work this past year in our homeschool, but I just had so many other things on my list I needed to get checked off and I just barely sent our stuff in to our school division and now I feel like it is officially summer!

While I told the kids we were done school a month ago (cause I have that authority) I felt like I wasn’t done until those reports were done so now I’m done for the year too!

Except, not really.

While I may declare the year “done” or “started” the truth is, we never stop learning.

I have shared our summer plan for previous years (here and here and then apparently I didn’t make one last year) but this plan is going to look completely different than those ones.

This year instead of having an academic focus I want to have a heart focus. Instead of homeschooling, it will be HEARTschooling.

The summer is the perfect time to make this switch because I feel like during the school year I get so focused on academics and put the things of the heart, the more important things, off on the back burner. But now that we are done for the school year there is nothing to distract me.

 

Homeschooling the Heart - Our Summer Plan

 

We are almost to the point in our family where our oldest is about halfway done her childhood in our home and I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I want her to have learned during her time here. And you know, it’s not the academics. What I want most for her is to love and obey Christ with her whole heart. It’s what I want for both of my kids.

I want to make that the focus, not only this summer but for the rest of their lives.

 

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
Proverbs 14:1

 

Homeschooling the Heart - Our Summer Plan

 

THE PLAN

So really, there isn’t much of a “plan”, but here is what I have so far:

I want to go through Our 24 Family Ways as a family.

I want to regularly memorize verses with the kids.

I want to live life with them and constantly point them to Jesus.

I want to read books with them that show of God’s power.

I want to admit my faults and my need for Jesus.

I want to get excited about nature and the creativity of the Creator and share that excitement with my kids.

I want to make sure I am spending time in the Word so it will naturally pour out of me.

 

So, that’s pretty much my “plan” for the summer. Maybe I’ll update halfway through or at the end of the summer and share some more specifics on how it is going.

Do you have any suggestions for heart schooling? I would love to hear them!

The Best Books for July

This month I decided to go with a bugs and insects theme for the monthly book list!

We are observing bugs all spring, summer and fall long but since I’m currently wrapping up my nature resource month over on Instagram (you can view the links to all the resources here), I was feeling extra nature-y and thought this would be a good theme for this month’s book list.

The only problem about this list is that it could have been much, much, much longer. I may come back and add more books to it over time but I wanted to start out with some of our favorites and as we get new favorites on the topic I’ll add them in.

 

Nature Study Resources - A Butterfly is Patient

 

Normally for my monthly book lists the books on the list are picture books, and while I do have some strictly picture books on this list (a couple), they are more the informative picture book this time.

There are some excellent authors and illustrators creating these books and I think you’ll be able to tell some of my favorites because I feature more than just one of their books.

If you have a favorite book about bugs and insects let me know, we would love to check them out!

 

The Best Picture Books for July - The Best Picture Books About Bugs and Insects

 

 

We love Usborne books and this one is no exception!

A skin-crawling introduction to the world’s biggest bugs, from gigantic spiders as big as a dinner plate, to butterflies larger than dogs Find out about the biggest swarms and colonies, the deadliest insects and the bugs with the best camouflage. Huge fold-out pages with life-size illustrations show children just how big the bugs really are.

 

This book has the same name as the one above but I would definitely suggest taking a look at both – they are both great.

From moths and beetles to worms and spiders, the world is crawling with fascinating bugs. The Big Book of Bugs is the first fact-filled book for children to explore the vast array of creepy-crawlies that share our Earth.

In the first pages, children learn that bugs live nearly everywhere on the planet and gain tips on how to become a young bug spotter. As the book continues, the scenic compositions on each page are dedicated to key groups of bugs, including beetles, moths, butterflies, bees, snails, crickets, grasshoppers, worms, and spiders. Some spreads approach the world of bugs thematically, such as bugs that come out at night, baby bugs, and life cycles, how bugs hide and show off, and how some bugs love to live in your home. 

 

One of my favorite books from one of my favorite book series’, this one is a must.

A gorgeous and informative introduction to the world of butterflies. An incredible variety of butterflies are celebrated here in all of their beauty and wonder, from the tiny Arian Small Blue to the grand Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing.

 

This is from the same series as A Butterfly is Patient and is just as beautiful.

The award-winning duo of Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long team up again, this time creating a gorgeous look at the fascinating world of beetles. From flea beetles to bombardier beetles, an incredible variety of these beloved bugs are showcased here in all their splendor. Poetic in voice and elegant in design.

 

I’ve used this book as a reader for both of my kids, it’s a cute story that is easy for those just starting to read.

A fly is followed by a menagerie of characters in this humorous cumulative tale edited by Dr. Seuss. When a young boy sees a frantic fly buzzing past, he asks where the fly is headed—and with that, a chase begins. The fly and the frog, the cat and the dog, the pig and the cow, the fox and the hunter . . . who is causing all the fuss? 

 

It’s a classic so I needed to include it here. I can actually remember the first time I heard this book read aloud, it was in my elementary school library . . .

Watch as the very hungry caterpillar eats his way through the week – and the food!

 

Um, Gail Gibbons may have a few books on this list, obviously she’s doing something right.

When you think of a ladybug, you might picture a little red beetle with seven black spots on its back—but did you know there are thousands of types of ladybugs, spread across the world?

Follow a ladybug through the four stages of its development from egg to adult, and learn about its behavior and habitat—plus, how little ladybugs help protect crops by eating harmful insects.  Bright illustrations and an easy-to-read text make this ideal for young readers studying the natural world.

 

Spiders help us by eating insects that are harmful to people and crops. From baby spiderlings to large tarantulas, here is information about ballooning, molting, and how different spiders build their webs. Spiders have been on earth since before the first dinosaurs. About 30,000 kinds of these creatures are known to be living, and more are still being discovered.

 

Follow the transformation from a tiny white egg laid on a leaf to a brilliantly colored butterfly in this kid-friendly introduction to metamorphosis.  With detailed, bright watercolors, Gail Gibbons illustrates the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, stage by stage, as it grows, changes, and takes flight. 

 

Ever wondered how a jar of honey is made?

Thousands of bees visit more than one million flowers to gather the nectar that goes into a one-pound jar of honey. Every page in this picture book reveals how these remarkable insects work together to create this amazing food.

 

This book is large and beautiful. It’s got a ton of information and is a real eye-catcher.

One part science, one part cultural history, and countless parts fascination, Bees celebrates the important role that these intriguing insects have played in our ecosystem throughout the ages. From Athena to Alexander the Great and from Egypt to Ethiopia, Bees explores different methods of beekeeping and uncovers the debt that humans owe this vital species. With beautifully accessible illustrations depicting everything from bee anatomy to the essentials of honey making, readers will be captivated by the endless wonders of this seemingly small speck of the animal kingdom.

 

This book taught ME so much about bees!

DK’s The Bee Book is a wonderful introduction to the humble honeybee: nature’s hardest worker, and much more than just a provider of honey! Bees are incredibly industrious, brilliant at building, super social, and–most importantly–responsible for a third of every mouthful of food you eat! Find out how bees talk to one another, what it takes to become a queen bee, what the life of a worker bee is like, and more. The contents include bee anatomy, types of bee, hives, colonies, pollination, making honey, and more. Discover just how much they matter, why they are declining, and what you can do to help!

 

What would you do if the ant you were about to step on looked up and started talking? Would you stop and listen? What if your friends saw you hesitate? That’s what happens in this funny, thought-provoking book. Originally a song by a father-daughter team, this conversation between two creatures, large and small, is bound to inspire important discussions. It might even answer that classic childhood question: To squish or not to squish?

 

Who would want to be friends with a wiggly, slimy worm? You can’t even tell which end is which! But there’s more to these lowly creatures than meets the eye. Kids are invited to find out where worms live, see how they move, and understand why gardeners consider them friends with the help of this humorous and informative look at an unappreciated — and fascinating — creature.

 

The best picture books and informative books about bugs and insects for kids

 

Okay, any suggestions for other bug and insect books we should check out? Let me know in the comments!

A Nature Giveaway You’re Not Going to Want to Miss

All month I have been sharing some of my favorite nature resources over on Instagram and this week things are coming to an end, but not without a little fun.

There is a big giveaway going on where one lucky winner will come away with shop gift certificates, a nature journal, This Is My Classroom tee and one of my favorite nature journaling books, Watercolor With Me: In the Forest.

The giveaway is over at the end of the day on Friday, June 28th, so be sure to come over and enter now!

I teamed up with some great shops to bring this giveaway to you and I’m excited to give one lucky winner an awesome collection of nature items.

 

Huge Nature Giveaway - you could win all of this!

The Best Audiobooks For Preschool – Adult

We listen to a lot of audiobooks in our home. I’ve admitted before that this is mainly because I am not great at reading chapter books aloud, and also because I like a fairly quite lunch time.

I’ve written a whole list of tips and tricks from when we use audiobooks to how we get most of ours for free, you can check that out here.

I can’t believe I haven’t compiled a master list of our favorite audiobooks yet, sheesh, it’s about time!

I’ve done my best to break the list up into age categories, but every kid will be different. I also tried to put the best of the best on this list, so they are books almost anyone will enjoy. Just because you have a middle schooler doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy most of the books off of the elementary or preschool/kindergarten lists. I’m an adult and some of my favorite books on this list are in the middle school section!

These books would make great family road trip books – just pick one or a few from the average age of your kids and listen as you drive along.

 

The Best Audiobooks for preschool all the way through to adult - great audiobook suggestions for every age

 

To make things a little easier, you can jump directly to the category you are interested in:

+++ Preschool & Kindergarten Audiobooks

+++ Elementary Audiobooks

+++ Middle Grade Audiobooks

+++ High School and Adult Audiobooks

 


 

The Best Audiobooks for Preschool and Kindergarten - great for the whole family to listen to!

 

There’s a reason Charlotte and Wilbur have stood the test of time!

Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte’s Web, high up in Zuckerman’s barn. Charlotte’s spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur’s life when he was born the runt of his litter.

 

This is a great audiobook for kids who are new to audiobooks, my kids have both listened to the Ralph Mouse collection multiple times.

In this imaginative adventure from Newbery Medal–winning author Beverly Cleary, a young mouse named Ralph is thrown into a world of excitement when a boy and his shiny toy motorcycle check in to the Mountain View Inn.

When the ever-curious Ralph spots Keith’s red toy motorcycle, he vows to ride it. So when Keith leaves the bike unattended in his room one day, Ralph makes his move. But with all this freedom (and speed!) come a lot of obstacles. Whether dodging a rowdy terrier or keeping his nosy cousins away from his new wheels, Ralph has a lot going on! And with a pal like Keith always looking out for him, there’s nothing this little mouse can’t handle.

 

Mr. Popper and this troop of penguins will crack your kids up.

The 1938 classic tells the story of Mr. Popper, the small-town house painter who dreamed of exploring Antarctic regions, and Captain Cook, the redoubtable penguin who turned Mr. Popper’s world upside down.

 

While I recommend this entire series for elementary, this book is great to listen to with preschool and elementary aged children.

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

 

Meet Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! She lives in an upside-down house with a kitchen that is always full of freshly baked cookies. She was even married to a pirate once! Best of all, she knows everything there is to know about children.

When Mary turns into an Answer-Backer or Dick becomes Selfish or Allen decides to be a Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has the perfect cure. And her solutions always work, with plenty of laughs along the way.

 

It’s the turn of the 20th century in New York’s Lower East Side and a sense of adventure and excitement abounds for five young sisters – Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie. Follow along as they search for hidden buttons while dusting Mama’s front parlor, or explore the basement warehouse of Papa’s peddler’s shop on rainy days. The five girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises. But no one could have prepared them for the biggest surprise of all!

 

To be honest, I’m not a big Ramona fan, I’m suspecting it’s because I never read the books growing up, but my kids love them and have listened to them multiple times over.

Meet Ramona. She lives on Klickitat Street with her mother, father, and big sister, Beezus. She’s not afraid of anything and is always up to something. And that’s just the beginning…. In this audio collection, join Ramona, one of Beverly Cleary’s most beloved characters, on all her wacky adventures!

 

Told from four-year-old Laura’s point of view, this story begins in 1871 in a little log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Laura lives in the little house with her pa, her ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their trusty dog, Jack. Pioneer life is sometimes hard for the family, since they must grow or catch all their own food as they get ready for the cold winter. But it is also exciting as Laura and her family celebrate Christmas with homemade toys and treats, do the spring planting, bring in the harvest, and make their first trip into town. And every night they are safe and warm in their little house, with the happy sound of Pa’s fiddle sending Laura and her sisters off to sleep.

And so begins Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved story of a pioneer girl and her family. The nine Little House books have been cherished by generations of readers and listeners as both a unique glimpse into America’s frontier history and a heartwarming, unforgettable story.

 

Laura Ingalls and her family are heading to Kansas! Leaving behind their home in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, they travel by covered wagon until they find the perfect spot to build a little house on the prairie. Laura and her sister Mary love exploring the rolling hills around their new home, but the family must soon get to work, farming and hunting and gathering food for themselves and for their livestock. Just when the Ingalls family starts to settle into their new home, they find themselves caught in the middle of a conflict. Will they have to move again?
 

 

The Best Audiobooks for Elementary - grade books to listen to with grades 1, 2, 3 and 4!

 

Um, should I admit that I got teary listening to a book about a robot? Cause I definitely did.

Can a robot survive in the wilderness?

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is all alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a violent storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.

As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.

 

Katherine Applegate has quickly become one of my favorite authors, we loved this one!

Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated book is told from the point of view of Ivan himself.

Having spent twenty-seven years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

 

If you’ve already listened to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe I would suggest starting with The Magician’s Nephew and going through in order.

The Magician’s Nephew: Narnia…where the woods are thick and cool, where the Talking Beasts are called to life, a new world where the adventure begins.

Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to…somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion’s song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis, before they finally return home.

 

We’ve been listening to quite a few audio dramas from Lamplighter Theater lately and so far this one has been our favorite!

You are about to become acquainted with a young girl who changed the world! The events that lead up to Betty’s pivotal decision demonstrate the true meaning of humility, servant-hood, and love. Inspired by a true story, Betty must come face-to-face with a dreaded foe. Facing myriad trials, including abandonment and the death grip of a terrifying blizzard, her love for her devoted servant trumps all. You will fall in love with Betty, whose loyalty is demonstrated through tremendous courage and sacrifice.

 

This book is a good introduction to WWII for elementary kids.

As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.

Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.

 

Nim lives on an island in the middle of the wide blue sea, shared by only her father, Jack, a marine iguana called Fred, a sea lion called Selkie, a turtle called Chica, and a satellite dish for her e-mail. No one else in the world lives quite like Nim, and she wouldn’t swap places with anyone.

But when Jack disappears in his sailing boat and disaster threatens her home, Nim must be braver than she’s ever been before. And she needs help from her friends, old and new.

 

Who doesn’t secretly wish they had a friend like Pippi? From sleeping backwards in her bed to being able to lift her horse she’s one amazingly silly girl.

Tommy and his sister Annika have a new neighbor, and her name is Pippi Longstocking. She has crazy red pigtails, no parents to tell her what to do, a horse that lives on her porch, and a flair for the outrageous that seems to lead to one adventure after another!

 

Seriously one of the funniest books out there. We’ve listened and read this one a couple of times, and we’ll be doing the same again soon.

A tale of the bravery and selflessness exhibited by a father taking care of his children while his wife is away. Despite Mom’s advance warning, the family finds itself ready for breakfast but without milk for cereal and tea, so Dad takes a trip to the store to get some. Upon his long-awaited return, he gives the children a fantastical and descriptive explanation of the adventures he faced while trying to make it back home. Not only did he embark on a time-traveling hot-air balloon ride with a stegosaurus, but he also confronted pirates, aliens, wumpires, and a volcano god, never losing possession of the milk.

 

Written like a classic it’s kind of hard to believe this book is so new.

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures. The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

 

Even though this is book two in the Little House series I prefer to introduce it after Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie.

While Laura Ingalls grows up in a little house on the Western prairie, Almanzo Wilder is living on a big farm in New York State. Here Almanzo and his brother and sisters help with the summer planting and fall harvest. In winter there is wood to be chopped and great slabs of ice to be cut from the river and stored. Time for fun comes when the jolly tin peddler visits or, best of all, when the fair comes to town.

This is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved story of how her husband, Almanzo, grew up as a farmer boy far from the little house where Laura lived.

 

The adventures of Laura Ingalls and her family continue as they leave their little house on the prairie and travel in their covered wagon to Minnesota. Here they settle in a little house made of sod beside the banks of beautiful Plum Creek. Soon Pa builds a wonderful new little house with real glass windows and a hinged door. Laura and her sister Mary go to school, help with the chores, and fish in the creek. At night everyone listens to the merry music of Pa’s fiddle. Misfortunes come in the form of a grasshopper plague and a terrible blizzard, but the pioneer family works hard together to overcome these troubles.

And so continues Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved story of a pioneer girl and her family. The nine Little House books have been cherished by generations of readers and listeners as both a unique glimpse into America’s frontier past and a heartwarming, unforgettable story.

If you want to continue on with the series you definitely can!

 


 

The Best Audiobooks for Middle Grades - best for grades 5, 6, 7 and 8!

This is my favorite audiobook of all time. It is so well done and while I am sure the hard copy of the book is great I think the audio is so spectacular.

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, Echo pushes the boundaries of genre, form, and storytelling innovation to create a wholly original novel that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.

 

I’ve said it before, but if you listen to this one audio make sure you get the hard copy as well, you’ll want to see all the photos in this book!

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

 

Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be—with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.

Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own . . .

 

Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.

Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons, and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.

Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand?

 

“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children–two boys and two girls–succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

 

Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village.

The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess. Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.

 

Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

 

In this companion novel to The Wednesday Wars, Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that some people think him to be. He finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, who gives him the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.

 

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.

 

Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness presents a world of wonder and a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to discuss for its layers of meaning about life’s true treasure and tangle of the beautiful and horrible, temporal and eternal, and good and bad.

 


 

The Best Audiobooks for High Schoolers and Adults

 

Prepare for tears, that’s all I’ll say.

Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

 

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

I think it goes without saying, but obviously after reading The Fellowship of the Ring you should go on to read the rest of the series that was originally intended to be one book: The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

 

When Death has a story to tell, you listen.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

 

 

This book moved me to tears and I learned some lessons on how to be a good neighbor from it.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon – the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell”. But behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

 

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure.

Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town . . .

 

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil.

 

Steve Saint was five years old when his father, missionary pilot Nate Saint, was speared to death by a primitive Ecuadorian tribe. In adulthood, Steve, having left Ecuador for a successful business career in the United States, never imagined making the jungle his home again. But when that same tribe asks him to help them, Steve, his wife, and their teenage children move back to the jungle. There, Steve learns long-buried secrets about his father’s murder, confronts difficult choices, and finds himself caught between two worlds.

 

And there you have it – a great selection of audiobooks! I plan on continuing to update this list as I come across other great ones so be sure to pin this list and check back.

Please let me know some of your favorite audiobooks, I would love to listen to them!

 

The Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips - books the whole family will love

A Look Inside My Mother Morning Basket

Last week I asked on Instagram which post out of a few ideas that I had you guys wanted to see on the blog first and my mother morning basket was the most popular response!

I do think it is important to continue learning and growing as adults and making a morning basket for myself has been a way to make sure what I think is the most important learning gets done.

A big key for me has been to start slow. I started with just two things in the basket and have slowly worked my way up to more and I assume once the weather cools down and winter hits I will be able to add more because there is more time for indoor activities than in the summer.

I would recommend starting with just a couple of things in your basket for the first few weeks so you don’t get overwhelmed, then when the morning basket habit is established and when/if you feel ready to add more then you can do so.

 

A Look Inside My Mother Morning Basket

 

WHAT IS A MORNING BASKET?

I thought the term “morning basket” was one all homeschoolers knew but it turns out it’s not as popular as I thought. If you’re new to the term it can actually be called a lot of different things: morning time, circle time, morning meeting, we’ve called ours brain stain/brain box, etc.

The purpose of the morning basket is that it is a time when the family comes together and does some learning as a group, often before splitting off to do their own age appropriate learning. It’s supposed to be a time when you can cover quite a few subjects together in a short amount of time.

I think the idea become popular when Sarah Mackenzie included it in her book Teaching from Rest and then Pam Barnhill started the podcast Your Morning Basket.

 

So, I decided to take this idea of a morning basket and make it my own by making a mother morning basket with a few different things I want to read/do each day.

 

A Look Inside My Mother Culture Morning Basket

 

 

Now that we’ve covered all of that, here’s what’s actually in my morning basket. I’ll share them in the order that I added them in my basket. I started with the first few and then slowly added one at a time until I reached where I am currently at. I plan on adding a few morning things once winter comes so maybe then I’ll share my winter morning basket.

 

PRAYER JOURNAL

I use a traveler’s notebook for my prayer journal and each morning I spend some time in prayer. I have lists of different requests and answered prayers.

I also keep meaning to make one of the inserts a place to just praise God for who He is, I was doing this in a different notebook a few months ago and want to bring that idea into the traveler’s notebook so I have it all in one place.

 

A Look Inside My Mother Culture Morning Basket

 

BIBLE

I made a big realization (for me) in February that there is a difference between reading the Bible and studying it. Not that just reading it is bad but I’m a speed reader and don’t retain a lot of details when I read and it was an ah-ha moment for me when I started to actually study the Bible, I was learning so much more! It takes longer to get through a single book of the Bible this way but it is worth it.

 

COMPOSITION NOTEBOOK

This is where I am writing all my Bible study notes, I’ve written a lot since February and have almost filled it up.

 

PENCIL CASE

This holds my pencil crayons that I use for highlighting in my Bible and a little mini ruler for the same purpose. As well as highlighters for color coordinating what I underline in my Bible and what I write in my composition notebook and then I also have some plastic page tabs for marking some of my favorite verses.

 

A Look Inside My Mother Morning Basket

 

The following items are ones I’ve been slowly adding over time.

 

ONE LINE A DAY JOURNAL

I got a five year memory journal for Mother’s Day this year (though I do wish I would have bought this one or this one, I like the hardcover better and didn’t realize the one I bought was paperback until it arrived in the mail) and I do think it will be a treasured possession once it is filled! It already has ridiculous quotes like my son saying “Cat food is my third favorite food.” – that’s definitely going to make me laugh in years to come.

 

SCRIPTURE WRITING PLAN AND NOTEBOOK

I’ve really come to appreciate writing out Scripture over the year and so I printed out the free monthly Scripture writing passages from Mom Strong International and have been writing out the passage for each day. I write them in this awesome alpaca notebook my husband got me last year that was just waiting for the perfect use (freshly shaved alpacas are my favorite animal).

 

A NON-FICTION BOOK

I usually have some kind of non-fiction book on the go – usually Christian non-fiction either in the Christian living or parenting categories. Currently I am reading The Life & Faith Field Guide for Parents which fits both categories. The sub-title is: Help Your Kids Learn Practical Life Skills, Develop Essential Faith Habits, and Embrace a Biblical Worldview. I’ve read most of it and would highly recommend it!

The non-fiction book often doesn’t get read at the same time I do the other things, I will often keep it out and pick it up when I have a few minutes here and there throughout the day.

 

A Look Inside My Mother Culture Morning Basket

 

SOME TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR OWN MORNING BASKET

If you just read through all of what I include in my morning basket and also the fact that I want to add more things and were just completely overwhelmed I just want to share some tips that may help you.

 

KNOW YOUR SEASON OF LIFE

First of all, it’s important to know what season of life you are in and factor that in. Right now I don’t have any babies or toddlers – just two school aged kids, so obviously that makes it easier for me than for some of you.

 

SET AN EXAMPLE

Originally I started out by trying to get all my morning basket stuff done before my kids woke up but then when I started reading The Life & Faith Field Guide he talked about how children like to copy their parents and the importance of them being able to see you reading your Bible. Since then I’ve decided to do some other work (like writing blog posts) before my kids wake up and then getting my stuff out once they are awake. Now, this does mean there are interruptions but part of being a mom is being okay with interruptions.

 

CREATE A SIMILAR BASKET FOR YOUNG KIDS

One thing you could do if you have toddler/preschool aged children is create their own morning basket for them to do stuff out of while you do yours and they could snuggle up beside you on the couch and look through a children’s Bible, practice their pencil grip by “writing” in a notebook, etc.

 

TAKE IT SLOW

I’ve mentioned this a few times already, but just start with a couple of things in your basket and add to it as you feel comfortable.

 

KNOW IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE DONE IN THE MORNING

We have a large kitchen table so that is where I like to do my morning basket, I’ll have my stuff on one part of the table and if I get interrupted I can just leave it there and get back to it when I have a few minutes. There are some days where my stuff doesn’t get done until after lunch and because I don’t have unrealistic expectations for my “morning” time that’s okay with me.

 

Okay, I think that is everything about my mother morning basket, if you have one (or will after reading this) I would love to hear what you include!

What We’ve Been Reading Lately – July 2019

So, weekly this past winter and monthly in the summer I’ve been sending out my book-ish newsletter letting you know what we’ve been reading lately and some other book-ish resources and a couple of really good book deals that I came across.

For the foreseeable future I am going to share what we we’ve been reading over here on the blog, but if you like all things books I would still suggest signing up for the book-ish newsletter because I have some fun book related things that I will be sharing there coming up soon!

 

 

A Look Inside My Mother Morning Basket

 

THE MOM

This has been a slow reading summer for me but I am totally okay with that, I have been spending a lot of my normal reading time doing all the outdoor things and taking full advantage of our short Saskatchewan summer.

That being said, I have almost finished The Life & Faith Field Guide for Parents, the subtitle says: Help your kids learn practical life skills, develop essential faith habits and embrace a Biblical worldview. Are you sold yet? I would highly recommend it, it give practical steps on how to do things yourself and then in turn teach them to your children. Everything from how to accept criticism to how to sleep to how to pray and a whole lot more!

I have also started The Ministry of Ordinary Places, so far this is a very fitting book for me in this season.

 

What We've Been Reading in Our Homeschool Lately

 

If you have been getting my book-ish newsletter you’ll already know that I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring a few months ago – I haven’t actually read any of it in the last month because I’ve realized that I needed longer blocks of time to really get into it and I think it will be good to pick up once the weather starts getting colder. I am actually really enjoying the book, but I do most of my reading in short snippets throughout the day and it just isn’t conducive to that kind of reading.

That’s all I’m reading at this moment!

 

THE GIRL (8)

She goes through different reading reading phases, currently she has a stack of Thea Stilton books out from the library.

 

What We've Been Reading in Our Homeschool Lately

 

THE BOY (6)

I shared on Instagram a couple of weeks ago that we are taking a little break from a phonics based reading approach and have been reading a bunch of Mem Fox books. I don’t think this approach has really helped with his reading skills but it has helped tremendously with his reading confidence so that’s nice. His favorite so far has been Tough Boris, what I appreciate about this book is that the story is pretty simple but the pictures make the story so much more.

 

THE AUDIOBOOK

We fairly recently finished the first book in the Wingfeather Saga and quickly moved on to book two: North! Or Be Eaten. We even got my husband hooked on book one and now we only listen to this one if he’s around.

Since we want to listen to audiobooks at lunch time too when my husband is at work we are also listening to Ida Scudder: Healing Bodies, Touching Hearts – I have yet to be disappointed by a book in this series. We’re about halfway through this one and it’s so inspiring!

 

Any suggestions for what we should read in the next month?

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The Best Picture Books for August

Welcome to another monthly book list! I’ve been slowly collecting books about weather for us to study the topic so I thought it would make a great theme for August’s theme.

We went on a little road trip last week and as we were driving home we drove through some spectacular storms and cloud formations. I often bemoan the fact that we live in flat prairie land but it sure makes it easy to see what is all going on in the sky. I captured this shot last week from my seat in the vehicle, it’s not something you would generally be able to get a good view or shot of in hilly or mountainous places:

 

Picture Books about Weather

 

And since I am incapable of mentioning this flat province without referencing or sharing this scene from Corner Gas, I’ll keep up my tradition and share it here. #nothingtoblockyourview

 

 

That was a big of a rabbit trail, now on to some great weather books for the month of August!

 

The Best Picture Books to Read in August - All About Weather - Fiction and Non-Fiction Picture Books Great for Kids in Elementary

 

 

This fun and educational picture book describes forecasters at work in a weather station as they track and gauge the constant changes in the weather.

Will I need my umbrella? 
Is it a good day for the beach? 
Will school close because of snow? 

These are the questions weather forecasters answer every day. They can tell us what the weather is doing at any time of the day or night. But how do they do it? 

Weather Forecasting tells how. With straightforward text and colorful pictures, this behind-the-scenes look at a modern weather station answers basic questions kids ask most, and makes weather forecasting more fun and accessible than ever.

 

 

Everyone talks about the weather, but what does it all mean? In clear, accessible language, Gail Gibbons introduces many common terms—like moisture, air pressure, and temperature—and their definitions. 

Simple, kid-friendly text explains the origins of fog, clouds, frost, thunderstorms, snow, fronts, hurricanes, reinforcing the explanations with clear, well-labeled drawings and diagrams. Best of all, the book features a fun list of weird weather facts!

 

Will it be warm or cold? Should we wear shorts or pants? Shoes or rain boots? This picture book explores why the weather can be so hard to predict.

Now rebranded with a new cover look, this classic picture book uses colorful, simple diagrams to explain meteorology in a fun, engaging way. Perfect for young readers and budding meteorologists, this bestseller is filled with rich climate vocabulary and clear explanations of everyday weather instruments like thermometers and barometers. Both text and artwork were vetted for accuracy by Dr. Sean Birkel of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.

 

 

Have you ever looked up and wondered what’s going on high up in the skies above your eyes? Take a journey up into the air, through the atmosphere, way out into space, and back down to Earth in this richly illustrated concertina book.

Zoom past the technology that fills our skies, from helicopters, fighter jets, weather balloons, to satellites, hang-gliders, and hot-air balloons. Discover the insects and animals that whizz through the skies, explore the layers of the atmosphere, and travel through the solar system and out to the galaxies far beyond. The follow up to The Street Beneath My Feet, which dug down to the center of the Earth, this expansive concertina book opens out to an impressive length of over 8 feet, perfect for inquisitive young minds.

Begin your journey from the sidewalk of a busy city. Look up beyond the traffic lights, utility wires, and skyscrapers. Unfold the connected pages to reveal the incredible man-made sights that you would see 12 miles above (a weather balloon), 30 miles above (a rocket blasting a capsule into space), 62 miles above (a space plane and satellites), 250 miles above (the International Space Station), 235,000 miles above (the Moon), and through our Solar System. 

Turn to the top of the other side to make your way beyond the Solar System to the hundreds of billions of galaxies filled with stars and planets we haven’t discovered yet. Then start your journey back down through the amazing natural wonders you would see 6,200 miles above (a comet), 55 miles above (meteoroids burning up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere), 7 miles above (a cumulonimbus cloud bringing thunder and lightning), 1 mile above (migrating storks), and down through the mountains, past trees, bats, and butterflies to finally reach the ground again—this time in a grassy clearing of a forest, where you can imagine yourself lying on your back wondering at the thought of the whole universe above your head. 

From jet trails to comets’ tails, enjoy amazing sights as you journey through the skies.

 

Look! The sky is getting cloudy. Does that mean light rain, a thunderstorm, or just an overcast day? Dylan hopes their soccer game won’t be rained out. Bel the Weather Girl helps her friends read the clues in the sky. Will it rain on game day? Stay tuned, because every day is another weather day!

 

Do you ever wake up and wonder what the weather will be? Instead of turning on the TV to find out, you can just look out your window at the clouds. How do you know what type of clouds can forecast a change of weather? Read and find out.

 

Have you ever felt the wind tickle your face or heard it whistle through your window? Did you know that some wind travels faster than a car? Read inside to find out more about what causes wind, and learn how to make your own weather vane!

Have you ever felt the wind tickle your face or heard it whistle through your window? Did you know that some wind travels faster than a car?

Air is always moving. We can’t see air moving, though we can watch it push clouds across the sky, or shake the leaves of a tree. We call moving air the wind. In this enlarged edition, find out about the wind – what causes it, how it can be used to help us, and how it affects the weather.

 

Have you ever wondered what happens to a raindrop when it falls from the sky? This beautifully illustrated story will capture the imaginations of children and parents alike, and offers a perfect introduction to the water cycle. 

 

Drip,drop,
skip and hop.

Splish, splash,
sidewalk dash!
It’s worm weather! 

Join in the rainy-day fun, as kids splash through the puddles, affecting another weather enthusiast, a nearby worm. An imaginative and playful story, readers will love seeing the worm delight in the weather just as much as the kids.

 

“Come on, rain!” Tess pleads to the sky as listless vines and parched plants droop in the endless heat. Up and down the block, cats pant while heat wavers off tar patches in the broiling alleyway. More than anything, Tess hopes for rain. And when it comes, she and her friends are ready for a surprising joyous celebration….

 

If you are reading this on a rainy day, you may as well watch the movie!

The tiny town of Chewandswallow was very much like any other tiny town except for its weather, which came three times a day–at breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Life for the townspeople was delicious until the miraculous food weather took a turn for the worse. The food got larger and larger, and so did the portions. The flood of huge food caused chaos, and the people feared for their lives. Something had to be done . . . before it was too late!

 

Did you know that lightning bolts can be over a mile long? Or that they may come from clouds that are ten miles high? Storms can be scary, but not if you know what causes them. Before the next thunderstorm, grab this book by veteran science team Franklyn Branley and True Kelley and learn what causes the flash, crash, rumble, and roll of thunderstorms!

 

 

Boom! A crash of thunder follows a flash of lightning. Bel the Weather Girl and Dylan are having a slumber party, but now he’s hiding under the covers! Bel tells Dylan that thunderstorms aren’t so scary once you understand them. Will Dylan’s fear of the storm rain on their sleepover? Stay tuned, because every day is another weather day!

 

Thunder Rose vows to grow up to be more than just big and strong, thank you very kindly–and boy, does she ever! But when a whirling storm on a riotous rampage threatens, has Rose finally met her match?

 

What in the world is a tornado? In this age of extreme weather, Gail Gibbons’ informative introduction to tornadoes answers all your questions.

Tornadoes form when hot, humid air rises from the ground and meets with the cooler, denser air that is falling back to Earth. The two airstreams begin to swirl, pulling in more and more air to form a funnel-shaped cloud. The winds can swirl faster than 261 miles per hour! 

 

Tornado siren! Bel the Weather Girl and Dylan head to the basement. Dylan is scared the house will blow away! But soon the storm passes. Some storms make tornadoes, and some don’t. Bel says she can explain why―in the kitchen. What does baking have to do with tornadoes? Stay tuned, because every day is another weather day!

 

Imagine a force that can toss boats around like toys, wash away bridges, and create waves as high as eighteen feet. With fierce winds and torrential rains, hurricanes can do all of these things. They can cause tremendous damage and even change the shape of a shoreline. For centuries people did not know when a hurricane was coming. But now we have new methods to predict when and where these storms will occur. Young readers will learn how hurricanes are formed, how they are named and classified, and what to do if a dangerous storm is on the way. 

 

Count on Ms. Frizzle to teach anything but an ordinary lesson on meteorology. Flying through the clouds in the Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle’s class experiences a hurricane-and even a tornado-firsthand. During their thrilling ride through the sky, Arnold gets lost! Will the Friz be able to save the day this time?

 

Yikes! Grandpa tells Dylan and Bel the Weather Girl that he is tracking a tropical storm. They came to Florida for fun in the sun, not to get stuck in a hurricane! Bel explains the science behind the storm. Are the weekend plans ruined? Stay tuned, because every day is another weather day!

 

Do you know of any great weather books? I would love for you to let me know in the comments below so we can check them out!

 

The Best Picture Books About Weather - Fiction and Non-Fiction Picture Books Great for Kids in Elementary

Free Homeschool Vision Planner Guide Book

I’ve been thinking about our next homeschool year all summer and am super excited about it.

Even though I don’t like to follow a detailed schedule I do like to make a plan for our year and this year I wanted to take it a step further and create a vision plan.

I spent some time working out a series of questions to help create a vision for our homeschool and this year and I wanted to share it with you!

The Homeschool Vision Planner Guide book is currently free to over on the Intentional Bundles site – you can grab your free homeschool vision planner guide book here.

Enjoy!

 

Free Homeschool Vision Planner Guide Book - Free Download - perfect for remembering why you started homeschooling and want to continue

Free Creative Writing Story Prompts

One thing I want to incorporate into our upcoming homeschool year that we have never done before is to add in some creative writing.

My daughter does some writing on her own here and there, a couple of years ago she was dictating her stories to me while I typed them out on the computer and now she’s switched over to writing her own stories out. Recently she was working on creating a list of characters for a story, it included a family tree and short descriptions of each of the characters, too cute.

And while I love that she chooses to write her own stories I wanted to be a little more intentional with our story writing this year and kept trying to remind myself to actually write the idea down so I didn’t forget when it came to planning our year out.

 

Free Creative Writing Story Prompts - fun prompts for creative writing for elementary and middle grades

 

I’ve had the idea on my mind for awhile now and the other evening the kids and I were sitting around together so I came up with a couple of story starter ideas and the kids picked one and we began writing a story together, each adding about two sentences at a time until we had a decent (and silly) story.

My daughter was inspired and started writing her own story starter ideas, all ending on nice cliffhangers and I thought why not share our ideas here?

You can use these prompts in any way you want, give the full list to a kid to pick on to continue, give just one prompt for a child to work on or do what we did – work on one prompt as a group, each adding a few sentences at a time.

I’ve typed out ten of our story starter ideas for you to go ahead and use, in addition, I put them into a PDF in case you want to print them out and have them ready for when you need them.

 

Free Creative Writing Story Prompts - fun prompts for creative writing for elementary and middle grades

 

 

Macy knew the goblin was getting closer, she quickly glanced back and she turned back around only to see that she had entered . . .

 

Anthony was practicing his foul shots at the playground basketball court. He had been getting most of them in until . . .

 

Elliott enjoyed taking pictures and one afternoon decided to venture into the nearby woods to try to photograph some moss, but he wasn’t prepared to find . . .

 

Jane was writing her first book, she was just about to start another sentence when her mom called her and said . . .

 

One day Jill was practicing piano as was her normal afternoon routine when she heard a knock at the door . . .

 

It was close to the end of her soccer game when Olivia got the ball and she dribbled it up to the net, it was right there that . . .

 

Ben woke up excited, today was his twelfth birthday! He quickly went to the kitchen and said good morning to his parents, they let him open his presents right away and he was excited to find . . .

 

Bobby had spent the last hour cleaning up his room, he was just putting the last Lego in the bin when he heard a sound . . .

 

Andy was walking down the street when he saw something move in the trees ahead of him, he was sure it looked like a hairy purple tail, he got closer to the trees and found . . .

 

Ethan, Ellie and Emma were excited because their parents told them today they would be getting a surprise. They had waited all afternoon and were finally getting it . . .

 

Grab the printable version here.

 

If you end up using the story starters, let us know, we would love to read some completed stories!

A Newbie’s Guide to Reading True Crime

This list of books for new true crime readers is sponsored by Sourcebooks.

Journalist Billy Jensen spent fifteen years investigating unsolved murders, fighting for the families of victims. Every story he wrote had one thing in common—they didn’t have an ending. The killer was still out there. But after the sudden death of a friend, crime writer and author of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara, Billy got fed up. Following a dark night, he came up with a plan. A plan to investigate past the point when the cops had given up. A plan to solve the murders himself. Gripping, complex, unforgettable, Chase Darkness with Me is an examination of the evil forces that walk among us, illustrating a novel way to catch those killers, and a true-crime narrative unlike any you’ve read before.


Disclaimer: the author is a Sourcebooks employee. Recommendations below are her own.

I am a true crime newbie, so it feels right to be sharing the books I’ve been told to read as I dip my way into the genre of blood and horror and gore and corruption and devastation.

First up in this newbie’s guide to reading true crime, we’ll look at the classics and must-reads, followed by some books about the people who work alongside crime and political books about the prison system in America.

The True Crime Must-Reads

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The most classic of classic true crime. Truman Capote puts you right in the minds of the men who murdered the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959. Reading this book feels like fiction, full of suspense and emotion and surprise, even though you know how it’s all going to end.

The Stranger Beside Me Ann Rule CoverThe Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Ted Bundy by Ann Rule

Ann Rule was just a regular gal working a regular job when a handsome young man started working beside her. They became friends who looked out for each other, especially when young women were beginning to disappear in the area. When a description of the suspect came up, including the name Ted, Rule was sure it wasn’t her friend Ted Bundy. (Spoiler: It was.) They remained in touch over the years while he was committing his horrendous crimes and while he was in prison for them. The Stranger Beside Me is a wild ride.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David GrannKillers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

In the 1920s, the Osage people in Oklahoma were rich as heck, thanks to the oil under their land. And then they started mysteriously dying. Anyone who tried investigating the deaths also ended up dead. Thus the FBI was born. Told through the perspectives of a woman who watched her family die and the FBI agent who worked the case, we get to see the full, terrible, racist history of this country.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara book coverI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

The story of this book’s creation is as fascinating as the book itself. Michelle McNamara died while writing it, and a few crime writers and close friends compiled it together with snippets from articles she’d published about the Golden State Killer. It begins with a narrative about McNamara’s obsession with crime, starting when she was a young girl and found a broken walkman that belonged to a girl who was murdered near her home. And then goes deep into analyzing the crimes that ravaged California in the ’70s and ’80s, getting down to the nitty-gritty of how to find the killer.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer coverMissoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

This is, I think, the hardest book I’ve ever read, but it’s such an important one. Krakauer dives deep into the topic: college rape and how the football players get away with it, time and time again. He doesn’t shy away from the horror. He gives the survivors their space to talk. And it’s devastating.

The True Crime–Adjacent

Just Mercy by Bryan StevensonJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy is a powerful, powerful look at the broken justice system. Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, working to defend the poor and wrongly condemned who are trapped in the prison system. There’s this line, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done,” that I can never stop thinking about.

The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein

Sandra Pankhurst owns a trauma cleaning business. You know, going in and cleaning up homes that witnessed murders or drug overdoses, making them so sparkly that you’d never expect anything terrible happened inside. But Sandra also has an incredible life story, as a trans woman who grew up in a transphobic and hostile home and grew into this beautiful, giving person, caring for the people in the world who need help most.

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

Anthony Ray Hinton spent 30 years on death row, in solitary confinement, for two murders he did not commit. But he got incredible help from the lawyer Bryan Stevenson (who wrote Just Mercy) and was eventually exonerated. He was resilient and held on to hope of his release, and shares his gut-wrenching story in this hard, but necessary, book.

Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth

In the late ’70s, a black police detective infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. Yup. Ron Stallworth made his way up the ranks and had brief duties as David Duke’s body guard, handling everything over the phone. Brilliant.

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10 Historical True Crime Books That Are Stranger Than Fiction

This list of historical true crime books is sponsored by Sourcebooks.

Journalist Billy Jensen spent fifteen years investigating unsolved murders, fighting for the families of victims. Every story he wrote had one thing in common—they didn’t have an ending. The killer was still out there. But after the sudden death of a friend, crime writer and author of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara, Billy got fed up. Following a dark night, he came up with a plan. A plan to investigate past the point when the cops had given up. A plan to solve the murders himself. Gripping, complex, unforgettable, Chase Darkness with Me is an examination of the evil forces that walk among us, illustrating a novel way to catch those killers, and a true-crime narrative unlike any you’ve read before.


When we think about the true crime genre, often bestselling tales of 20th-century serial killers and contemporary crimes are most mentioned. These books delve into murder and other crimes from decades and centuries past, showing there is no statute of limitations on how compelling crimes can be when written about by skilled authors.

18th Century True Crime

How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair by Jonathan BeckmanHow to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair by Jonathan Beckman

Just before the French Revolution, a sensational trial captivated all of Paris. The focal point was Jeanne de la Motte, a con artist accused of spearheading an audacious plan to steal the most expensive piece of jewelry in Europe…and to frame Marie Antoinette for the heist. This book is at once a detective story, a courtroom drama, and a study of credulity and self-deception in the Age of Enlightenment.

19th Century True Crime

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue by Piu Marie EatwellThe Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue by Piu Marie Eatwell

In 1897, an elderly widow requested that her late father-in-law’s body be exhumed as she had reason to suspect his death had been faked. So begins this extraordinary tale of double lives, family secrets, class anxiety and the rise of sensationalist media.

Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America by Kali Nicole GrossHannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America by Kali Nicole Gross

Set in the racially volatile world of post-Reconstruction Philadelphia, the story of accused murdered Hannah Mary Tabbs makes for a compelling narrative. By examining Tabbs’s murder trial, the author gives the crime context by analyzing it against broader evidence of police treatment of Black suspects and violence within the Black community.

20th Century True Crime

The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon BaatzThe Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz

Evelyn Nesbit was the first superstar of the modern era, working as an in-demand model and actress on Broadway while still a young teenager. She was groomed by the much-older architect Stanford White, who drugged and raped her. White’s 1906 murder at the hands of Nesbit’s later husband spurred on the first case to be known as “The Crime of the Century.”

Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler DawsonDeath in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler Dawson

For five days in December 1952, London was held in the grip of a deadly smog. Just as it lifted, women began to go missing. The hunt for a killer nicknamed the Beast of Rillington Place caused a media frenzy. This is a true crime thriller about the victims of a notorious killer as well as an examination of an environmental catastrophe with implications that still echo today.

Diamond Doris: The True Story of the World's Most Notorious Jewel Thief by Doris PayneDiamond Doris: The True Story of the World’s Most Notorious Jewel Thief by Doris Payne with Zelda Lockhart

This memoir traces Payne’s journey from small-town West Virginia to her decades-long career as a world-class jewel thief. Her crimes went unsolved for years, as the stores did not want to admit that they were duped by a black woman. She made headlines for a daring prison break in 2013 and today is celebrated for her glamorous legacy.

Yakuza Moon: The True Story of a Gangster's Daughter by Sean Michael WilsonYakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster’s Daughter by Shoko Tendo

This memoir, told in manga, is a heartrending and eye-opening account of the author’s experiences growing up in Japan’s gangster society. Already an international success and translated into 14 languages, this story is sure to appeal to many new fans in this outstanding graphic version.

The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend by Phoolan DeviThe Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman’s Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend by Phoolan Devi

In a three-year campaign that rocked the Indian government, Devi delivered justice to rape victims and stole from the rich to give to the poor. This memoir outlines how she survived an abusive marriage, the murder of her bandit-lover, and a horrifying gang rape to claim retribution for herself and all low-caste women of the Indian plains.

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. MannTinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William Mann

The 1920 murder of William Desmond Taylor was a legendary crime that has gone unsolved for nearly a century. In this addictive true tale of ambition, scandal, intrigue, murder, and the creation of the modern film industry, the author presents a variety of suspect in hopes of solving the notorious cold case.

Ugly Prey: An Innocent Woman and the Death Sentence That Scandalized Jazz Age Chicago by Emilie Le Beau LucchesiUgly Prey: An Innocent Woman and the Death Sentence that Scandalized Jazz Age Chicago by Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi

Seballa Nitta was an Italian immigrant who became the first woman sentenced to hang in Chicago. Unlike her cellmates, who would go on to inspire the glamorous leads of the musical Chicago, Nitti was plain and decidedly non-glamorous. This book is a thought-provoking look at the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and class with the American justice system.


For more lesser-known true crime, check out our lists of Edwardian True Crime and the list of Nonviolent True Crime Books!

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