Monday, December 30, 2013

Boys sewing: Buckles and Bobbins

Zach (age 11 now) developed an interest in sewing a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately, he did not develop any patience to go along with it, so his sewing efforts have thus far been pitiful to say the least.  Sewing is not a speedy hobby, at least not in the beginning that is for sure.  Zach is a book learner to the core, so I started my hunt to find him some sewing books to aid my hands-on teaching.  Needless to say, the choices among books for teaching a boy to sew are few, or at least they were a couple of years ago.  [Anyone know of newer choices?]

We got a couple generic learn to sew books for kids to show how a machine worked, how to thread a needle, how to straight stitch and so forth (to reinforce the hands on componenent), and one complete with shapes to sew over to practice curves and basic manipulation of paper (leading to fabric manipulation while in the machine of course).  But then we had a lack of progress in terms of real projects beyond a pillowcase or other super simple things.  Most "first project" stuff really appeals more to girls (simple skirt and so forth).

Then I came across this book, geared for older boys.  It is a bit pricey honestly, but I have nothing but praise for the content.  It is a complete first sewing course with projects, and  not all of them are super super simple.  They truly put some thought into what would appeal to a boy, especially an older boy, and then taught them how to make it.  I think boys especially need a final product to be interested at all, and a pillowcase is not going to cut it.  Zach does not want to sit down and practice stitching with nothing at the end, or practice putting a button on nothing.  He needs a garment.  So boys will practice a zipper in an actual bag they want to use, or a cargo pocket on a fun pair of pants. 

This book has pull-out, full-size pattern sheets.  The kids will need to learn to trace off the size they need for the garments (size 8-16!!!!) on paper or whatever tracing medium you are using, then do the project.  The instructions for the projects are clear and concise, simple without being dumbed down.

We haven't made all the projects, but one we use repeatedly is the PJ pant/short pattern and simple V-neck, scrub-style PJ top with a simple facing.  Since his patience is low, I have taken over the sewing of these most of the time, but your child would have little to no trouble doing the pants on his own, slightly more with putting in the facing on the neckline of the top, but still very doable.  The pants have a modification from PJs to daywear with a pattern add-on of side pockets and/or leg cargo pockets. 

Again, I have nothing but praise for the very existence of this book to help boys, especially older boys, learn to sew with projects of interest to the age group.  The content is good, clear and simple without being overly simplistic.  They can create projects or gifts.  Fit on the garments for stated sizing may be a bit generous but not awful, and very compatible with other typical envelope patterns.  5 stars for this one!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

And still more Greeks ....

Yeah, we're still studying Greeks.  There is a TON to dig into during this period of course.  In terms of all of us together, we read The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky.

Kathryn Lasky is one of my favorite authors for kids, and this book did not disappoint.  It is a nicely-illustrated biography picture book about Eratosthenes, the Greek who came up with a way to measure the circumference of the earth.  It talks about his life, his intense curiosity about everything and finally the method he used to calculate the circumference of the earth (which was incredibly accurate by the way!).  Given the content and calculations, even though it is a picture book, it suits upper elementary better than lower elementary students.  My 6th grader liked it a lot even, and he rarely will admit to loving a picture book lately.  My 1st grader liked the story okay, but the calculations of course were well beyond her understanding, even with the good pictures and descriptions.  You really need basic geometry at 2nd or 3rd grade level to get much out of that part.  What a fantastic book though, and a great addition to our ancient history studies this year.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Homer and other Greek thoughts

For the past several weeks, the kids and I have been looking at Ancient Greece.  This is our second time through, Zach at least having done this roughly 5 years ago.  Obviously, he was very young and we didn't have the tagalongs we do currently.  I needed the same simple myths he did as an intro for Lily and, to some degree Noah, but also more in depth resources for an older and much more educated Zach.  Hence, we this time dove into "The Children's Homer" by Padraic Colum.  Not sure I will do this again.

Whew. If I did this again, I think I would get an audio version. The translator/author of this version clearly did not like commas. With complex syntax at times, and sentences that can wrap several lines of text, a few commas here and there would have really really helped this mom and her kids keep the flow of thought together during this read-aloud.

That said, it was a good version for my 3rd and 6th graders who were new to Homer other than very simplified/picture book versions. This was our "middle of the road" version for them, having done Greece a few years ago with the picture book tales. So, they came into it knowing the stories in brief. It does have illustrations (simple line drawings) each chapter. The story is understandable, with the very occasional vocabulary word new to my kids ("affrighted" being an example).

A good choice but not outstanding to us.

Next week we are moving back into Egypt for later empires.  I'm more than ready for a break from Greece after this book.  But, we'll be back to the Greeks soon enough.  :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kiwi Crate for Lily

We got Lily a 3-month Kiwi Crate subscription as part of her birthday.  We got our first kit and have been working on it.  After trying it, I have to say I do like it a lot for her.  She is 6, so at the upper end of their recommended age range of 3-7.  Noah (8) did it with her actually and liked it also.  Eden at 3 was a bit too young IMHO.  We have the Modern art one this month.  It came with a toy, booklet about some modern artists with activities, painting and a mobile this month.  It was educational and fun for her.  We took about a week to do it, going over the artists presented and styles, then doing the activities provided and also suggested in the booklet.  It could easily have been expanded to a month-long study of modern art (or longer) very very easily.  The painting was a tad messy, but that is art.  So there is my opinion.  :)

In the photo, they are working on the painting.  As we have a kit for one, I added to the paint.  Every single thing needed for one child to do it came in the kit though, scissors, paintbrush, everything.  No need to hunt through the house for supplies.  In this one, they had a canvas, added the special tape (not too sticky), painted their created squares and removed the tape to create a modern color block.  It was loved by all for sure.  

I do have a referral link, but honestly you might want to consider waiting in case they have another Living Social or similar program deal to test it out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book review: Sky Jumpers

Those of you who know our family well know we are readers through and through.  I'm constantly on the lookout for good books for all of us, and especially for Zach.  He is 11, an avid reader.  He loves, loves sci-fi/fantasy/futuristic and always has.  Finding interesting, imaginative literature for him is much easier than it would have been when I was a kid, but can still be a challenge given the volume he reads.  I want to fire the imagination but stay away from more adult topics.  I love how the young adult genre has really taken off with sci-fi, but along with the range in stories they have also taken a turn towards much more adult topics younger IMHO versus what I experienced at his age.  So, prereading is more necessary.  But that is okay as I love a lot of the newer authors too!  :)

This book is a start of a new series (yippie for series!).  It is a creative, imaginative, post-world war/new world story with a daring feminine lead.  I really like post WWIII-type literature, when the remaining humans need to recreate their world, and this is a good one.  Jumpers in the title refers to jumping off into toxic air left post bombing in their new world, with different chemical and physical properties than air typically would have.  Fun "science" is brought into this book, adding to the interest.  The author of this one has a community of inventors and creative people, but even so our lead heroine is different from the others.  As in a lot of young adult literature, she needs to find the place where she fits into her community in a positive way, where she can be an individual and make a difference.  I love how that comes about.  I would happily recommend this to middle school readers, including my own sons.  It captures the imagination from the very first page.  I'll be looking for more in the series for my kids for sure.

This copy I received from netgalley for an honest review. 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Onward to the rainforest

As I mentioned, Noah, Lily and I are working through Sassafras Science:  Zoology as their main science this semester.  The teacher's guide has added recommendations for living books, and today we got from the library one about the rainforest, which is the section we are just starting.  Our add-on book today was We're Roaming the Rainforest: 

I always like when one of our choices catches Eden's attention as well (age 3).  This one was a nice easy intro with a group of children walking through the rainforest and encountering a few animals and lyrical verse.  Each 2-page spread had great color illustrations for the youngest crowd (preschool-ish age).  It was probably a little young for Noah, but hey all of us love a good picture book now and again.  The back few pages though had some nice further information about the animals depicted, the rainforest as a whole, a nice map with simple detail level and brief words about a couple native tribes in the region and conservation concerns.  Those few pages were beyond Eden for sure but the right level for a simple intro to further topics for the others.  A great add-on choice as an intro for a unit on the rainforest for a multiple age grouping including preschool and grade school kids. 

Zach is serving morning mass this week.  My other grumpies make it not as possible each day to attend, so we wait in the van some days (like today).  We took along our Sassfras and read the rainforest book while waiting.  Eden then enjoyed paging through again to look at the great illustrations. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Curriculum Review: Classroom Activities for the Busy Teacher EV3

In our 4-family little co-op this year, I am pleased to be teaching our older kids (5 boys) about some Lego EV3 programming and building.  Two of those boys are also participating in our homeschool charter school's Lego team, so they are seeing the robots and programming at their weekly meeting and competitions as well.  The other 3 boys have no other outside experience with the EV3 or Lego programming.   This book by Damien Kee is a resource I saw on Amazon, and was immediately interested because as a busy mom I honestly wanted a structured framework for teaching EV3 but didn't want to create it myself.  I have a background in programming, but EV3 is new to me, to give you an idea of my background coming into this. 

Here are my impressions:  I'm using this resource in a homeschool co-op environment with 5 boys ages 9-11. Each lesson in the book is designed to utilize about 5 hours of time. We don't have that much each week, so I split the lessons between weeks, and have the boys work on the student pages and programming at home in between sessions. It is taking us about 2 weeks per "week" of lessons. The boys are learning a lot, and the format of the lessons is easy for me as a parent teacher to utilize, even with limited EV3 background. There is a nice mix of theory and practice in the book to discuss, giving a great foundation. The math is manageable for the kids at the level I'm teaching with a little help here and there for those who hadn't encountered circumference or pi yet.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: Croconile by Roy Gerrard


We read this as part of our Egypt studies in history.  I read it with a 1st, 3rd and 6th grader (to give background).  Everyone enjoyed it, but this one is best read aloud, especially for the youngest.  The story is written in free verse, so it is especially good as a read aloud, and can be used as part of your literature study (of course) in free verse. 

Highlights of the story are two children become friends with a crocodile, go on adventures without the crocodile, excel in artistry of the time (sculpting and painting), get into a scrape with villains and then are rescued by their friend the crocodile in the end.  Aside from the free verse aspect (loved that), I didn't find the plot of this one all that good.  Our friend the crocodile was missing through all the story except the very beginning and the end yet got billing in the title.  That the kids are saved by a creature usually reserved for the villain of tales, of course, is a nice touch.  The plot touched on the flooding of the Nile annually, traveling by boat for trade and the art of the times, all great touches.  The fact that both kids excelled and became masters of their craft with very little time seemed not great to me, probably because we had just studied the requirements to be an artist of the time in the great pyramids.  People reading this for enjoyment only would likely pass over that aspect without a problem.  It is, after all, a children's book with a crocodile hero. 

The illustrations I didn't find all that wonderful in this one.  They are more bland, not as vivid, though certainly not awful, and are quite detailed.  They just didn't hold attention as well for my kids, a minor thing to note, especially if you are holding this book up in front of a class as a read aloud.  They are not bright enough to be seen as well.  All in all, a nice read though, good length, lyrical. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Review: The Scarab's Secret

In history, we are in Ancient Egypt.  There are so many great books for kids on Egypt, I can't even begin to look at them all at the library even.  I decided to choose a few we had read with Zach when he was kinder/1st grade, incorporate those for Lily and Noah, and add a few new ones to liven it up.  This one was a great recommendation in one of our guides. 

This is a folktale-style story of the little scarab beetle, Khepri, and his adventure with the pharaoh, saving him from death at the hands of two villains in the tale.  Yep, that is the tale, and it is simple.  That is not really what is great about this book, of course, though we all appreciate that an insignificant little critter saves the life of a mighty pharaoh, thus telling our kids that everyone can do great things!  The illustrations in this one are awesome, colorful, detailed, reminding one of fresco paintings.  The pictures detailing the interior of the buildings showed heiroglyphs, my kids of course finding the representations of ones they knew, ones we had been studying. 

The pacing of and length of this tale, combined of course with the great illustrations, made this a perfect read-aloud for us.  I actually used this one in co-op, so I had a group of 10 kids from pre-K to 6th grade.  All of them enjoyed it immensely, saying a lot about the appeal, right?  Highly recommend this one for just fun or to incorporate in your Egypt history studies. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

History this year: History Odyssey Ancients

History this year was a puzzle for me.  In the past, we have done Sonlight and Tapestry of Grace in different years.  We follow loosely the 4-year history cycle (covering all history every 4 years cyclically).  We actually took a little longer in our first cycle, but I had all young ones so that was a fun thing.  We came back around to ancients this year, starting our second cycle through while homeschooling.  I have a 6th grader, a 3rd grader and a 1st grader this year plus a 3yo.  The gap in ability is pretty wide, as is true for a lot of homeschooling families or "one room schoolhouse" type of setups.  I already knew that more than one core was not my thing (hence, I don't use Sonlight any longer).  Our last history was TOG, but looking carefully at their year 1 (ancients), that isn't the way I wanted to take.  We are Christian (Catholic), but TOG year 1 for us is just too biblically heavy, though they are the best I have found in integrating all levels of kids from youngest to adult learning in the same history cycle.  I definitely interweave all religions into our history studies, feeling that religion of course is one of the most powerful motivators of actions throughout history.  However, the focus on Christian primarily in the ancients isn't what I believe is best for us, leaving too little time on the other fascinating ancient cultures that didn't involve Christianity.  So that left me stumped for history this year.  We could easily just do Story of the World ala The Well Trained Mind, but even with the activity book and some extras, I wanted something "more" for Zach aside from just outlining or whatever.  It just didn't seem to suit my vision for this year for Zach. 

I finally came upon History Odyssey.  After downloading samples and looking at it, that is what we went with for these reasons: 
  • Classically based:  4-year history cycle with a level of difficulty corresponding to the three generally accepted levels of students (though note they are still writing levels!).  I could get guides catering specifically for my kids without a lot of manipulation.
  • I like the publisher.  I have other science products by them, and the writing and content I found to be good though not the perfect fit for our personalities here in my school.
  • Price is reasonable honestly.  TOG is much more robust of course, but I don't use all the components and it is freakishly expensive if you are using it mainly as "history only" in your studies compared to the alternatives.  
  • Ebook format makes it convenient for me to use on the go, or print, and again keeps the cost reasonable.  
  • Book choices use common ones (Story of the World, Children's History of the World, etc), but also give "extras" as well to enhance studies.  Plus, they incorporate hands on ideas, History Pockets and other things appealing to the youngest of mine (TOG is not as good as this, Sonlight is the best though), fiction (again TOG not so much, Sonlight best) and nonfiction choices.  I feel it is a fantastic buffet for my kids.  
  • It is broken into "lessons" for teaching, not days or such as Sonlight but definitely laid out to be easy to teach.  
The only real "problem" if you want to call it that is levels 1 and 2 are not exactly matched up between topics.  I'm teaching sometimes together and some independently (my level 2, Zach).  I have reordered the topics a bit to keep them in the together part, and changed up the pacing of Zach's guide to keep them on track.  That is working great, and Zach is loving listening in to the easier stuff he already heard once pretty much, yet delving much deeper in the more challenging level 2 material.  After doing ancients this year, I will reevaluate if I want to go back to TOG this history cycle or continue with HO from now on.  I really am loving it though, so this might become our permanent main history curriculum, that elusive best fit for our family.  Of course, I am a homeschooler, so I continue to tweak and adjust, add and subtract, from what is in the guide, but what would be the fun otherwise?! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Millions to Measure by David M Schwartz

Take a trip with Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician in his hot air balloon!  In this book, we travel back into time to discover the origins of measurements, first in feet and pounds, following that into standardization of the foot, expansion into large units and finally introducing the metric system.  The book ends with a comparison of the two systems, and comments that the US will likely eventually switch over to metric to join the rest of the world.  :)  This is one of those great resources that is very educational, packed with information and still fun enough that my 1st grader understood the material and commented, "That was a great story!"  Perfect for some living math into your kid's day.  A little bit of an appendix in the back expands on the information presented in a more detailed and factual manner for parent or educator if you want to expand the lesson.  The book does not cover Celsius versus Fahrenheit at all, but the appendix covers it some if you want to present it also as an expansion of the topic. 

Illustrations are cartoony with comments bubbles, a style most kids like.  And who could dislike "Hercules the Huggable Hippo"?  Excellent book for fun or teaching.

Note, this is a series.  We will be looking up the others in the series, as they too look great for living books in our elementary math.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book review: Sorting by Lynn Peppas


This book is a "Correlated Reading" suggestion in Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding by Bernard Nebel (often referred to as BFSU), lesson A1.  That is how we came to be reading it.  ;) 

Packed with an incredible introduction to mathematical concepts in a short 24 pages, but it felt rushed and the pictures were very blah and uninspired.  Are there no better things to sort than socks?  Maybe some colorful birds or something a little more interesting? 

There is nothing inaccurate on the definitions or descriptions, but there is nothing outstanding about this book either.  I choose and read science and math picture books to my kids to give that something "extra" to inspire an interest in what can be a dry topic (thinking math here for kids).  This book just didn't fit my requirements, too dull and unimaginative really.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book review: Chee-Lin: A Giraffe's Journey by James Rumford

This is the tale of Tweega (Swahili for "giraffe") and his journey from his home in Africa, captured and taken across the continents, ending finally in Peking more than 20 years later.  Along the way, Tweega meets different people and experiences new things.

What is unique and wonderful about this book is not the plot as it is, but the beautiful lyrical language and gorgeous illustrations.  This book really was a treat to read aloud and look at with my kids.  It is quite long for a picture book, and is best probably broken up over several days or more.  Each 2-page spread really serves as a chapter or section, and can be broken up that way.

The first pages tell of what a chee-lin is (mythological horned beast) and an omen of good fortune to the Chinese.

If you read this, notice at the back the nice map of the world highlighting Tweega's travels.  I wish I had noted this first so we could have referenced it during the story.

This book is definitely a 5-star read, not to be missed.

Side note:  We read this as a recommendation/extra reading living book in our science curriculum for my 1st and 3rd grade kids.  We are using Sassafras Science Adventures:  Zoology with them right now, which is also a "living book" rather than a textbook as we follow twin children in discovery of animals around the world.  Chee-Lin was recommended in the giraffe section, and I'm so glad we didn't miss this one.  :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: Painters of the Caves by Patricia Lauber

This year, the kids and I are doing ancients again in history.  This is the 2nd time through for Zach (11, 6th grade), but the first for everyone else.  Last time through, Zach was very young and we used simple books with Sonlight.  This time, for him, we are going much more in depth, while Noah (8, 3rd grade) and Lily (5, 1st grade) are tagging along with a more surface level exploration for their first time through the time period.  I'm not a fan of not learning something new myself, so of course I'm exploring new resources and some new topics for us to consider.  We did much more info on the ice age and cave painters this time, and we loved this book. 

This is an outstanding book for kids on cave painters/ice age peoples. The photographs are some of the best I have seen in kids books to show the actual paintings in the caves, but in addition there are large color photos of a computer simulated face of an early modern human, tools, etc.

Chapters are as follows:
1. "Great Discovery" - intro and how Chauvet was discovered
2. "People of the Ice Age" - Brief depiction of early groups, Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons, what was an "ice age."
3. "A New Way of Life" - Tools invented and how that changed life.
4. "Stone Age Artists" - Early statues, beads, cave paintings including techniques
5. "What the Art May Tell" - Theories on the meaning and purpose of the art to the people
6. "The Importance of Chauvet" - Older yet as sophisticated as later, different animals, better preservation

An appendix goes into some detail on carbon-14 dating.

I found this interesting to all my school-aged children (grades 6, 3 and 1), though my 1st grader liked the pictures and my interpretation for her most. It was detailed enough to interest my 6th grader, and again the pictures helped with interest for my 3rd grader. It was the best book I have found to bridge the simpler books and the more detailed high school/adult level books on the caves, definitely a 5-star read for us.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What Are We Doing This Year? Co-op

So, a question you may or may not be wondering is what are we doing this year for school.  The answer is lots and lots of exciting stuff.  Of course.  :)

Something totally new to us though is an academic co-op two days a week, 4 hours a block.  We have been enjoying a circle of homeschooling friends as a park day group for several years now.  Gosh, Eden was in a baby carrier when we first started with this group.  We have been incredibly blessed with a core group of families that have stuck with us pretty much the entire time now, meeting weekly for play at the park, adding in things here and there, a PE day with with EMH Sports, play dates, moms' night out, etc.  These families have been our support network. 

This year we branched into new, exciting and scary territory by attempting to take our play friends and learn with them.  Ah, I should have mentioned that most of these families have at least one child we term "quirky," meaning typically that kid is outside the normal range in behavior for that age group.  An example of course is that Zach is bipolar and ADHD.  We have in our group anxiety, ADHD, shyness, dyslexia, other unnamed quirks or whatever.  These kids often have a hard time in the social setting, a big reason we homeschool in the first place.  These same quirks often make it hard for many of the kids (NOT all though) to fit into a traditional group learning environment.  We decided to attempt our own group learning to help our kids get more used to learning in a group, teach things we love teaching while having others teach things we don't and generally continue to all guide our kids in acquiring necessary social skills for life.  Our co-op was born. 

We are now a little more than a month into this, and what we have doesn't look exactly like what we first thought.  This isn't a surprise, right?  None of us had previous co-op experience AT ALL.  We have learned a lot, and continue to tweak it.  But here is our framework: 
  • Two days a week 11-3ish.  [Note:  That first week we tried 6 hours!  Yep, that bombed right away.  Those of you with co-op experience are probably laughing here.]
  • Four moms teach, each one subject.  We cover geography, science, history and art.  
  • Each subject is taught once a week, so each co-op day 4-hour block is broken into two subjects.
  • We added a "circle time" or checkin time and an explicit teaching of a social skills topic each co-op.  This is probably pretty unique for our group due to our kids!  It was needed for sure.  It has ranged from how to raise to hand to speak, not interrupting in class, body language listening to others, what impulse control means, etc.  
  • Our kids are ages 3 to 11 basically.  After the first week (that first week was a shocker), we got our groups into 2 basic groups of the youngers who hang out and learn to play together (two 3yo and one 5yo) and the olders.  We have in addition one 5yo who is a girl (Lily) and more neurotypical in general than some of the older boys, meaning she has no real diagnoses and is pretty quiet in general, loving school.  Hence, she floats between the olders when the topic is of interest to her and the youngers when she feels tired or the discussion is beyond her.  She is really in the middle right now of the groups. 
The moms had another meeting today where we adjusted things more, refining.  Our biggest challenge has always been and continues to be the behavior of a group of boys with varying skill levels in social and academic settings.  The actual "school" part of it is the easy part!  

Book Review: Ideas that Changed the World

As an adult reading this book, I might not give this 5 stars. My 5-star rating is for this book used as part of a history curriculum for a middle schooler. We have lots and lots of the DK books on history topics, but this one is unique on our shelves as an overview of ideas rather than physical objects that helped change the world. An example of this is where as the DK ancient history things may show paintings or pottery shards, this Ideas book opens with the evidence of cannibalism in very early humans and what that might indicate for those people above and beyond a simple need for food. Aside from the Donner Party of course in American history texts, many books would shy away from that topic. And my middle school child, of course, was fascinated by the idea and evidence of it. Book is a hit 2 pages into it, right?! As it continues talking about the "Mind of the Hunter" (earliest people), it continues to talk about symbols and the usual things but also about evidence of how early people may have thought about magic, a "universal force" or other more cerebral ideas.

I love that this book focuses on overreaching concepts rather than details for each era (predestination, chivalry, civil disobedience, etc) but in a brief enough scope that the student can understand it for the era but not be overwhelmed and stuck on that topic alone. If the interest is great enough, of course, the student can then find other books to go further in depth.

I assign this book throughout our history studies as an adjunct to our traditional books, finding it covers a niche the others do not.  I assign generally just a few pages a week as we progress through our history cycle.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book review: Making It Last by Ruthie Knox


I typically only review children's books or homeschooling books, but this one is a gem, and really spoke to me as a wife and mother:  Making It Last by Ruthie Knox.

This is an incredible, full-length-novel emotions and story packed into a novella, something incredibly hard to do but pulled off by this amazing author.

This is another look into the story of Amber and Tony from How to Misbehave. They now have 3 kids (boys, ages 10 to 6), and a busy life that leaves little time for them to just be a couple. Every minute is taken up by the routine, by the kids (written as real kids with real problems that drive real parents nuts), by the chores, by the thousand and one worries every parent has every day. In all this, both have lost the joy and passion of being just a couple.

"...because I don't know who I am anymore. I'm afraid I'm not anybody. That I'm only your wife and the kids' mom and that's it."

What mom hasn't felt this way at some time? It call comes to a head at a destination wedding vacation that really doesn't go well. Amber and Tony then need to figure out how to go forward, how to fix what seems unfixable. But they still have their love, just buried beneath the load of other stuff.

But he didn't know. Tony never gave himself enough credit. He didn't know how amazing he was. Everything he'd accomplished, everything he gave her and their family.

He didn't know what she thought, how she felt, because she didn't tell him. She'd walled herself off, kept too many secrets, hid too many disappointments because she didn't want to hurt him, and now she was hurting him anyway."

Beautiful, so glad I had the chance to read this gem.

I received a complimentary copy of this from Netgalley.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Book Review: Know the Parts of a Book by Janet Piehl

In this picture book, we meet Will, who is interested in frogs. He wants to find a good book about frogs. We look through a book with him, learning the parts of a book.

Topics covered include the usual table of contents, index, title page, glossary and so forth as well as the truly basic such as what is a cover and spine, back cover, that are not as typically covered (probably because some consider them obvious - but hey not every kid thinks so).

Each 2-page spread has a nice clear photo and text that is not overwhelming for the early elementary age group (typically when this is covered for children, preK to probably grade 1 or later for review/remedial). Text is large enough to read aloud to a classroom easily, held aloft. The book topic vocabulary words are set off in a contrast color to pick them out easily.

This is a great book for independently-reading kids or teacher/child combinations who thrive on a book to facilitate learning any topic. Lots of kids thrive on going to the library and having a book in hand while listening to the instructor about the topic. Other kids want a book with pictures to learn about books. A book to describe the properties of a book - funny huh? I have one child like this. He wants a book on a topic, not just to hear it, and this is perfect for him and others like him.

Of teacher use by the way, this book is perfect as a little reference for the early years to use after you read it to refer to while doing a lapbook or notebook page about the parts of a book if you are covering them.  The amount of information is just about right for that, with nothing too exhausting for the younger ones.  My 7yo and 5yo both enjoyed it, and my 2yo even liked to look over at the large pictures.  

I received an ecopy of this book for review from Netgalley.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Have you seen the Horrible Science series?

Every now and then while browsing the library book sale cart we hit on a golden find, and last weekend was one of those times.  We found 7 books in the "Horrible Science" series by Nick Arnold.  I linked one of them above.  I'm telling you both boys are simply loving these books, reading and running to me telling me gross pieces of information.  The books are chapter books basically but have cartoons, quizzes, case history types of things, diagrams, etc., so reading level is easy for Noah even, but Zach is interested in the information as well.  They are really well done to fit the elementary ages, more interesting than say the Usborne encyclopedias (those are a bit dry for Noah at times though great pictures), but still packed with info. 

Here is the author's site as well for anyone interested in some extra fun:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book review: Happy by Mies Van Hout

Happy by Mies Van Hout is a simple picture book for younger children.  I picked this up for Eden (age 2), but the simple bold-colored fish on a black background appealed to the whole family.  The drawings have the appearance of colored chalks on a blackboard, the media itself of course children can relate to.  Our lovers of sidewalk chalk here certainly were enthralled.

Each 2-page spread shows a colorful fish on one side and an emotion word on the other page, simple, clear, elegant.  Eden loved the pictures, and we went over putting a word to the expression depicted by the fish.  For the older kids (Lily and Noah, ages 5 and 7), we talked about what specific features of the fish were able to tell us the emotion (smile, eyes, eyebrows, etc).  This is an important concept for kids, and being able to dissect and pinpoint the different aspects of facial and body language is difficult for them, especially if they suffer from some types of neurological disorders.  Zach with his ADHD finds this especially difficult even at 10 years old.

This book appeals obviously to young children as simply fun and an introduction to emotion words, but can be used in a more advanced way with young school age children, and even older children needing a very simple visual of face and body clues (even on a fish!) to help decipher emotional cues. 

LONG time no blog

Yeah, my blog has been neglected.  What have we been doing?  LOTS.  Just not blogging.  haha

This year was Zach's 5th grade year, Noah's 2nd, Lily's kindergarten year and Eden ... well she's a toddler and into everything.  It was busy, busy, busy, but we're gaining control again as the year winds down. 

For my own history and entertainment, I'll be going back and reporting in on what we used this year, at least some of it.  We had some hits and misses, like most years. 

We loosely followed Tapestry of Grace for history, still working on year 4 (modern).  It suits us okay, but not perfectly.  I'm still needing something that is a better fit honestly, and would prefer secular I think, blending my own religion in on an independent basis.  I love the 4-year cycle and won't be deviating from that.  We need lots and lots of real books, lots of fiction to delve into and a structured core guideline for this tired mom of 4 to follow.  The brief stint of my making my own lesson plans completely was fun, educational and challenging, but not something I can do all seasons year after year.  I don't have that much time and energy to spare.  So I'm still looking for that perfect history/core of lesson plans.  Sonlight worked for a while, but I already discussed why we left that.  Tapestry of Grace was our next choice, again nice but not perfect for us.  Still hunting...   Oh, and it needs to be multilevel because I've got a bit gap between oldest and youngest in our crew, typical for all larger families.

Language arts:  Yep, we left Writing with Ease pretty much now.  It was interesting and we used all four levels for Zach, getting Writing with Skill this year.  I fought change on this, even when I saw more and more that it did not fit him.  Shame on me.  We moved over to something that works much, much better for my nonwriter son, Winning with Writing.  Those of you who have a creative lover of writing aren't going to find this a fit likely.  Those of you with someone who hates English with a passion just might find something your kid (and thus you!) can stand to do.  Noah also used level 1 of this program this year, and he likes it too.  They can do it mostly independently (read the instructions, do the work, divided by weeks and down to the day).  I check it, and we move on.  Or, in Zach's case, I make him redo it (up to 10 times a day), and then we move on.  He still hates writing, but his skill in writing is improving nonetheless.  That makes it a winner here.  I find it less interesting to teach, but then again I don't fight as much with him over doing it, so I can live with that. 

More later .... kids are ready for me to teach!