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.



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.


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.

First Grade Math Curriculum

One of the great things about homeschooling is having the ability to change things up when needed. This is our second year homeschooling. I have written previously of our struggle to find an approach to Math that Kyri responds to. Last spring, we put our workbooks aside when it seemed Kyri was getting tired of them. We spent a couple of months focusing on manipulatives, and I made place value cards that she has enjoyed using. This year we made a clock manipulative to use as we work on our Telling Time skills.

Kyri has since gotten over her dislike of workbooks and actually loves to use them now. We have used one or two First Grade Math workbooks (Spectrum and Flashkids) since last Summer, and I think these have worked well, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how well Kyri has enjoyed the Kumon workbook series.

I originally picked out the Grade 1 Addition as a method of drill and review for her. The Kumon approach is straightforward. Each two page exercise is repetitive in nature, and each subsequent exercise gets progressively more advanced. Initially I had picked out both the Addition and Subtraction workbooks to be used on our “drill” days.

We recently finished up the Addition workbook and started into the 1st Grade Subtraction. The first several exercises in the Subtraction workbook are Addition review, and then the Subtraction exercises start, following the same style of progression as in the Addition workbook.

This fall, I started to work on word problem skills with Kyri, and got the 1st grade Word Problems book from Kumon. The earliest exercises, which Kyri is currently working on, uses simple sentences and visual aids to help the student get used to extracting information from the sentence and putting together the number sentence. By the end of the workbook, short paragraphs are introduced.

Over the Christmas break, Kyri told me she wanted to get all the first grade workbooks (they were listed on the back of the ones she currently uses) so we picked up the Geometry and Measurement 1st Grade, the only one in the Grade 1 series we had not yet tried. This one covers a lot of material. The earlier exercises are focusing on fact families. This has been something we have been giving a lot of attention to in our new Math Journal (more on this to come…). Later exercises deal with measurement, temperature, time and money, and geometric shapes.

We will also be starting the Dollars and Cents and Telling Time workbooks in the Kumon series. These books aren’t part of the Grade 1 series, but rather the series that is listed for the age range 6-8.  We have been using a couple different resources, but since she has responded so positively to the Kumon workbook style, I will be switching her over for all of her math topics.

I have been pleasantly surprised with Kyri’s response to this workbook style. I’m definitely going to run with her enthusiasm on this and stick with what is working. If she continues to prefer this style of workbook, I’ll plan to continue with the entire 2nd grade book series.

I know not everyone is into workbooks, but Kyri loves them. I also know that some kids prefer flashy colorful workbooks – Kyri loves these too but I think they can be distracting to her. Kumon workbooks aren’t super colorful and are definitely more content than cartoon. Some might consider them “dry” for this reason but we think they are great.

And as an added bonus, they don’t have perforated pages. We recently went through a phase where Kyri wanted to choose her own school work – not a bad thing, mind you. But she went through our workbooks and started tearing out random pages she thought looked nice and interesting (one risk of cartoony workbooks…) and really ended up making a mess of our classroom and organizing system. We dealt with this issue by setting apart the workbooks she could choose from (extras that we weren’t using as our main content along with plenty of extra workbooks from the Target Dollarstop – these are great!) from the ones we needed to keep in order for our everyday work. The only drawback to not having perforated pages is not being able to hole punch pages and keep in our binder – can you tell I am a type A?