Homeschool Reads December Edition

I wanted to share what books we are currently reading, or have finished reading, in December. Most of our morning school time is devoted to reading good books. Here are our recent selections.

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

This is the first title we covered in our Teaching Character Through Literature Study (available from Beautiful Feet). This is a quick read, and we covered it in just a few days. I purposely kept us at two or three chapters per day so we could discuss what was going on in the story and with the characters. The children quite enjoyed this and (I think) took several lessons to heart. This story prompted a very good conversation about pride.

With holidays in December, our school schedule has been light. We have started a few new titles, mentioned briefly below, but I won’t comment too extensively until next month when we are finished reading them.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyon

This book was added to our Reading list because it is the book that the March sisters are reading throughout Little Women. This is the first allegory for Kyri, and I have been so impressed with how well she is following the story and understanding the deeper meaning.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

As mentioned above, Kyri is working through Little Women. She is reading an Illustrated Classics edition (abridged) but I recently added a lovely unabridged volume to our library so we will read the unabridged together when she finishes.

The Burgess Book of Birds by Thornton Burgess

We have recently added in this selection to our morning reading time. I love it because it is a wonderful way to introduce real facts about animals, like migration and nesting, but in a delightful, fanciful way.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Kyri finished the Illustrated Children’s (abridged) edition last month, and has started the unabridged version this month. She is so enamored with the entire story. I think we may have to get some goats and a hay loft for her!

King Arthur and His Knights by Elizabeth Lodor Merchant

This is a wonderful collection of stories about King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. This has been our family read aloud and we will be finishing it in January.

The Ever Scholar

I’m working on a new project. Well, it’s not really a project so much as a mission. I have always been a book worm, having several books in queue at any given time. But over the last several years, between the pressure of growing a career and the pressures of growing a family, my personal reading habit has suffered.  

 
Now I find myself moving into a new phase. We are officially done growing our family, and my youngest, at 7 months, sleeps though the night regularly. My home routine s becoming more regular as the children get a little older. While my life is far from calm, with a husband, four kids and four dogs, I am finally able to find small lulls to focus on myself again. 
 
Even though I’ve gone through college and graduate school, I will be the first to tell you I still have a lot to learn. I’m not going back to school, though I am about to start a year-long course that I’m really excited about (I’ll post more details on that soon). What I am doing is reading, lots of good books, on a variety of subjects. And I’m not settling for passive reading, just to log books as “read.” I’m reading books “actively,” taking notes and annotating as I read, following rabbit trails when they appear, participating in online book groups and discussions. 
 
I realized that, as I record my notes on the books I am working through, I’d love to share them with others. Since I’m reading several books at a time, and also doing an in-depth Bible study as well, I have decided a new site would be the best thing for sharing. I will be posting my Bible sudy notes, book journaling and other personal scholar notes over at the The Ever Scholar.  I would love to have you follow my reading progress there!

Finding Children’s Books

childrensbooksI am always on the lookout for excellent book selections for the children. We love illustrated books and try to read several throughout the week as part of our school day. I will often find the children reading them together in the evening as well. 

 
While I can scan the shelves or displays at our library branch easy enough, and we do tend to come home with several books that we just grab off the shelves, our library system has several branches and content changes as books are reshelved where they are returned. 
 
I also prefer books that I’ve read some feedback on or that have been recognized in some way for their content. I regularly sit down with book lists compiled from various websites and request them from our library. Then I can pick them up from our branch’s hold shelf. Super easy! Here are some of my “go to” resources for children’s book recommendations.
 
ALA Book Awards
 
Various book medal awards are given each year by the American Library Association to recognize outstanding books. The Caldecott medal is awarded each year for children’s picture book, and the award goes to the artist, regardless of whether they are also the author of the book. The Newberry Medal is awarded each year to the author of the most distinguished contribution to  American children’s literature. The Silbert Book Medal is awarded to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished informational book each year. 
 
Current medal recipients, as well as winners from previous years, are listed on the ALA website. Additional award lists can also be found on the ALA website under Youth Media Awards.  The ALA also puts together a list of Notable Children’s Books. This is an excellent source of children’s book titles to include in your weekly reading.
 
SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books
 
Science Magazine also includes a roundup of science and nature themed children’s books each year when they publish the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books. Often there are medal recipients included in this roundup. Current and previous years are available here
 
Goodreads
 
Goodreads  is also another great resource for book recommendations. You can “Explore” book selections by genre, and see new releases as well as most read each week. There are also Lists  – Goodread members often put together lists of their own recommendations or contribute to larger lists that are searchable. Each book selection includes reviews and commentaries by members. 
 
Pinterest
 
Pinterest is a great resource for book lists. A simple search for children’s literature will turn up a large selection of blogs and websites that contain children’s book recommendations. These book lists range from the top books “all children should read” to content specific titles such as “books about courage.”
 
Author’s Websites
 
Another way to find books is to explore a particular author. Once we’ve read one book from a particular author, we usually seek out other titles, which are often award winning books too. A simple Google search will usually turn up an author’s website and book list. For example, right now we are reading through several selections by Molly Bang. Look for an upcoming post on a science series she has put out! 
 
 
 

Learning with the Tuttle Twins

I think one of my most important jobs as a parent is educating my children about their inherent rights and liberties that exist regardless of politics or government. I believe that growing up with a firm understanding of their rights will allow them to function more confidently in the world. 

 
This past Spring we discovered a wonderful resource for learning about some of these topics. Connor Boyack’s new series, The Tuttle Twins, presents some of these ideas in a colorful, fun format that is easy to understand by a younger audience but not over-simplified.
 
The first book in the series, The Tuttle Twins Learn about the Law, introduces children to some of the ideas that Frederic Bastiat covered in his well-known collection of essays, The Law. Through colorful illustrations and fun conversations with the main characters, Ethan and Emily, concepts such as legal plunder, which might be a little heavy for younger audiences, are readily understandable.
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Kyri loved The Tuttle Twins Learn About The Law, and carried around Bastiat’s The Law for weeks afterward, reading the essays.
 
We were SO excited when this first book in the series was released! Kyri walked around the house reading this book, as well as her own copy of Bastiat’s The Law, for weeks. We had wonderful conversations about the topics the book introduced.
 
I was excited to learn about the much-anticipated follow-up book that was published just before the holidays – we preordered and Kyri received it as a Christmas gift! In the second book in the series, The Tuttle Twins and the Miraculous Pencil, Ethan and Emily learn about what is really required to produce something simple that we probably take for granted every day – the wooden pencil. Boyack has presented the ideas from Leonard Read’s classic essay, “I, Pencil”  in a fun way for children to really comprehend how the free market works. 
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Kyri was amazed to learn about the complicated family tree of the simple wooden pencil.
 

This series is wonderful and I can’t recommend it enough. Check out the links above and see for yourself – the illustrations are amazing and the stories are powerful. You can also click on my affiliate link to the left of the page to read more about The Tuttle Twins series.

Dreaming Dots

Kyri and I love DK’s My Art Book. This is our main art resource this year and it has wonderful information and projects to work through. Each section has a two page lesson on an art form or particular artist’s style. This is then followed by a detailed art project. The pictures are stunning and really make it easy and fun to complete the projects.

This week we had a lot of fun learning about aboriginal Australian art, and decorating our own rocks.

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We used smaller rocks than suggested in the book (because that is what we had on hand), and acrylic paint to decorate. We outlined our animal shape on each rock and then painted. We paused a few minutes between colors to keep paint from mixing. One optional step we did not do was coat the rock, or at least the painted part, in varnish to protect the decoration. We had a lot of fun with this and will end up doing several more, so we may end up varnishing them after the next batch.

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10 Little Caterpillars: September Virtual Book Club

We have been reading A LOT of books to Ender as part of his early preschool. At 2 1/2  years old,  lots of colorful, engaging books, along with plenty of messy crafts, make for an excellent early preschool curriculum.

I have really been looking forward to participating in the Virtual Book Club for Kids. This month we have focused on several wonderful selections by Bill Martin Jr., the September book club author.
Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? Board Book
Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? Board Book (World of Eric Carle)
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
Ten Little Caterpillars

I decided to plan a craft day for just one of our reading selections (and it was a tough choice!). I cut out 10 caterpillar shapes from white card stock. I free hand drew one and then used it as a template for the remaining caterpillars. This wasn’t really a work of art, I just kind of sketched something that resembled a mix between a jellybean and an oval, approximately 6 – 7 inches long.

I then cut thin strips from various colored paper. I also used a hole punch to make a pile of little dots to be used to decorate the caterpillars. Then I let the kids have at it, saving only one caterpillar for myself. Ender is still getting the hang of the whole “glue stick” thing, so we did end up with paper glued to the table as well as his hands, but he had a blast! I finished each caterpillar with a small eye drawn in with a black marker.

After our caterpillars were finished, I attached small craft sticks to each one to turn them into puppets. We then read through 10 Little Caterpillars several times, using our caterpillar puppets to interact with the gorgeous scenes in the book.

We have read this book quite often since getting it from the library, and it is one of Ender’s favorites – he loves pointing out the caterpillars and other small creatures on each page. Letting him interact with the book using the caterpillar puppets totally made his day!

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Review: Reading Rainbow App for iPad

We love using our iPad in our schooling. I am always looking out for education apps that Kyri will enjoy.

A friend recently suggested Reading Rainbow for the iPad. I grew up with Levar Burton and Reading Rainbow, and I have always loved the way the show brought stories to life.

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The Reading Rainbow app is more than just a continuation of the now-retired television show. It is an interactive library of books which have had animations added, and field trips which are video clips covering a wide range of topics. Many of these video clips are from the original show, and there is also new content as well.

When you subscribe to Reading Rainbow, you enter the names and ages of all the children who will be using the app, as well as three areas of interest for each child. Each child then has their own “backpack” where they can have up to five books downloaded at a time. Books are recommended based on the child’s age, but you access to all the content. You return books to the libary in order to check more out. There is no limit to how often you can check out a book. Backpacks can be personalized by choosing from a selection of patterns and designs.

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In order to select a book, your child clicks on one of the several floating islands on the main screen. Each island is basically a category of books to choose from. The islands include:

Action Adventures and Magical Tales

Genius Academy

Awesome People

National Geographic Kids

Animal Kingdom

My Friends My Family

There is a new island that is labeled Coming Soon – I am excited to see what the new content will be!

When the child select an island they are presented with a sliding selection of books in that particular category. Below the book selections are relevant video field trips.

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After choosing a book to read and downloading it to the backpack, the child can choose to either read it themselves, or have it read aloud. Often it is Levar Burton who is reading the book.

As the pages are turned, the words are read and there are select animations that have been included. These animations may be as simple as the wagging of a dog’s tale, but for many of the National Geographic Kids books geared toward younger kids, there is a lot more interaction with the book – selecting items on the page, counting items, etc.

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Each book has a game that can be played as well. This is a matching game, with snapshots from the book covered under each tile

When a book is finished, the child gets a sticker for their sticker book. The sticker book is accessed through the reward ribbon icon, and each island category has its own page in the sticker book. Stickers can be selected and placed on a picture of the island – and these stickers can be removed and placed again as often as the child wants.

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This is a great app – there are plenty of book selections, the animations really capture the imagination of the reader, and the sticker rewards are a big hit. I love having book categories presented as islands to be selected. As an added bonus, I can go into the settings menu and check on her reading progress. There is a report that tells me what books have been read and what length of time was spent on each book.

Now the details… downloading the app is free. When you download the app, each child you list will get to select one book to try it out. Reading Rainbow has a paid subscription to continue downloading books. The regular rate is $9.99 a month, but you can get six months for only $30 – this is a great deal! I am always a little hesitant about spending money on apps, since there are plenty of free ones out there. In this case, though, I think it is worth the investment. A lot of effort has been put into the app, making it easy for children to use and enjoy.

Book Review: Shells! Shells! Shells!

If you haven’t had a chance to read any books written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, you are really missing out. The author has written several books which cover science topics, and her books are geared toward a younger audience. We have read several of her books now, and just love them!

This week we read Shells!Shells!Shells! This book follows the two main characters, Buddy and his mother, as they search for seashells on the beach. Buddy’s mother explains what animals form the shells and what purpose they serve. She points out the different style of shells that are found. Finally, there is a craft suggested at the end of the book.

 

The story is illustrated using a combination of real images (in this book, the images are of various types of sea shells) along with paper cut-outs. It is a wonderful children’s story, with plenty of interesting facts about mollusks and how shells are made. The explanations are simple enough though, so children (target age is preschool through early Elementary) will understand. Wallace does introduce vocabulary that is relevant to the topic, defining words such as mantle, pigment center, operculum, univalve and bivalve.

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Wallace’s books often end with a suggested craft that follows along with the topic. This particular book gave instructions for making a sea shell book marker. We used colored card stock along with some colored construction paper to create ours. We ended up with several colorful and creative bookmarks.

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I would encourage you to include this book in your study of Mollusks, and be sure to check out additional titles she has written on various other topics, including leaves, seeds and rocks. Her other offerings are wonderful and can be a wonderful addition to your homeschool reading selections.