2018 Christmas Books

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Reading aloud is a big part of our family culture. Reading to my kids was important to me before my health failed me. After I got sick, it became an even more significant part of our family life. I read for at least an hour each day to the children. Often I read upwards of two to three hours throughout the day. Reading aloud is something I can do regardless of how I am feeling. It allows me to “travel” with my boys too far away places that I physically can’t go. It provides an escape from my medical issues. Even on days, when pain flares leave me stuck in bed, I can still read to my boys. We’ll curl up together with a book, and I’ll read.

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is reading Christmas stories, so every year, we gift a new Christmas picture book to each boy. These are then added to our Christmas book basket. The books are given along with their stockings on Dec 6, which is St. Nicholas’ Feast Day. Picking out the books is one of my favorite things to do in the weeks leading up to St. Nicholas’ Feast day. This year I ordered all of the books from Thriftbooks, an online bookstore that specializes in used books.  Here are the picks I made this year.

Paul (10-years-old.): The Race of the Birkebeiners by Lise Lunge-Larsen9290f39f2d13937ca8146a3f2e536b9f2d3bd091
I was unfamiliar with this a book. However, as soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for our oldest. Paul is currently very into all things medieval. So, I knew this was right up his alley. The Race of the Birkebeiners tells the true story of the fierce Birkebeiner warriors of Noway and their struggle to ski a baby prince to safety. They are racing against the elements of nature and human greed, in the hopes of saving the baby prince and bringing peace to Norway. The illustrator Mary Azarian’s provided beautiful woodcuttings that capture the spirit of the story. I am sure that this book will quickly become a favorite.

 

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Thomas (8-year-old): Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix
Thomas is very interested in the tanks, airplanes, and other machines of war. He has been learning about the equipment they used during WWI and WWII. So, I knew that I wanted to get him a picture book that had to do with the Christmas Truce of WWI. There are several pictures books about the truce; I chose this one because I liked the illustrations and the hand-lettered text. This is another picture book which is based on an actual historical event. I can’t wait to share the story with Thomas.

51AEjRHugoL._SL300_Antonio (6-year-old): The Christmas Cobwebs by Odds Bodkins
This book tells the story of an immigrant family, who move from Germany to the United States. They bring with them a box of beautiful glass ornaments. However, a fire destroys their new home/business, and they have to move into an abandoned shack. The father is forced to sell the family’s ornaments leaving the family’s Christmas tree undecorated. However, all is not lost. The family wakes up Christmas morning to find a beautiful shimmering surprise decorating their tree. This is a sweet story with whimsical illustrations. I chose it because the pictures reminded me of Tomie dePaola’s work. He is Antonio’s favorite author.

 

William (4-year-old): The Little Drummer Mouse by Mercer Mayer9372a3861e67eae929069385ff569c16dbdb40d6
I have a Little Drummer Boy music box that is put out ever Christmas. It is one of William’s favorite decorations, which is why I picked this title for him. Mercer Mayer, the author of the Little Critter stories, retells the classic Christmas carol Little Drummer Boy in this endearing book. However, she twists it by having the drummer be a mouse instead of a boy.  The illustrations are bright, cozy and perfect for little ones. It is a great way to introduce little ones to the story of the Nativity in a way that is at their level.

61TBRbxasHL._SX376_BO1,204,203,200_Both Antonio and William are crazy about dinosaurs. Everything is dinosaur this and dinosaur that. With that in mind, I purchased a Christmas book to give them jointly. It is called The Dinosaurs’ Night Before Christmas by Anne Muecke, which is a fun take on the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas. As soon as I saw this, I knew I had to give it for my little boys. I can’t wait for them to find it on December 1st along with their chocolate advent calendars.

 

 

 

The last pi3be5e04ee31915dc4d249b767d222e43c7c3397dcture book The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe by Pat Mora will be given to the boys on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This book is filled with gorgeous illustrations and invites you to learn the story of Our Lady and St. Juan Diego from Grandma Lupita.

 

 

 

 

For those who are interested here is a list of our other Christmas books. I will add links to Amazon for each book, but I am sure most of the titles can be found on Thriftbooks.

Joy to the World: A Collection of Christmas stories and songs by Tomie dePaola (includes The Night of Las Posadas, The Story of the Three Wise Kings, and the Legend of the Poinsettia)
Bambinellei Sunday: A Christmas Blessing by Amy Welborn
Jacob’s Gift by Max Lucado
How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Gennady Spirin
Saint Francis and the Nativity by Myrna Strasser
Pretzels by the Dozen by Angela Elwell Hunt
Christmas Around the World by Mary D. Lankford (One of my favorite Christmas books. This is my copy from my childhood. I met the author and she signed it.)
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
Room fo a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell
The Donkey’s Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri (one of my all-time favorite Christmas books. It’s a really simple story but so heart warming.)
Merry Christmas, Curious George by Margret and H.A. Rey’s
The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Demi
Santa’s Crash-Bang Christmas by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Tomie dePaola (this can be a tough book to find but so worth it!)
Joseph’s Story by Patricia A. Pingry
Talking Eagle and the Lady of the Roses by Amy Cordova (Another story about Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego)
The Visit of the Wise Men by Martha Jander
Little Star by Anthony DeStefano (This is a very unique take of the story of the Nativity and the meaning behind putting a star on your Christmas tree.)
Bethlehem by Fiona French. (We have the Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible, Catholic Edition. There is also a King James version.)
The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan
The Winter Story of Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem (We have a beautiful treasury of the Brambly Hedge stories.)
Country Angel Christmas by Tomie dePaola
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
A Little House Christmas Treasure by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett (board book)
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore (Board book)
Clifford’s First Christmas by Norman Bridwell (Board book)
Dear Santa by Rod Campbell (Lift the Flap Board Book)
Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle (Board Book)
Felicity’s Surprise by Valerie Tripps (American Girls)
Josefina’s Surprise by Valeria Tripps (American Girls)
Kirsten’s Surprise by Janet Shaw (American Girls)
Addy’s Surprise by Connie Porter (American Girls)
Kit’s Surprise by Valerie Tripps (American Girls)
Molly’s Surprise by Valerie Tripps (American Girls) *All the American Girl stories are audio books, purchased through Audible.
Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide. *I am going to put a disclaimer that we haven’t actually read this yet. We were gifted it several years ago and the story was way to intense for my boys at the time. I think our oldest was 7 at the time. I am going to try and read it this year to just my older two boys (almost 9 and 10.) It is a great story but not appropriate for kids under 8.)


Ancient Rome Book List

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Our first history unit this year is Ancient Rome. My sons really enjoyed Ancient Egypt; so they wanted to learn about other ancient civilizations. As usually our books are borrowed from the library. Here is our book list.

- You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Roman Gladiator by John Malam
-Gladiators and the Story of the Colosseum by Dr. Nicholas Saunders
-Sightseers Essential Travel Guides to the Past Ancient Rome by Jonathan Stroud
You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Roman Soldier by David Stewart
- Fierce Fighters Gladiators and Roman Soldiers by Charlotte Guillain (This is an early reader)
100 Things You Should Know About Ancient Rome by Fiona Macdonald
Metropolis Roman Town by Hazel Martell and Mark Bergin
How Would You Survive as an Ancient Roman by Anita Ganeri
Terrible Tales of Ancient Rome by Clare Hibbert


Ancient Egypt Booklist and Activities

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We finished off our first grade year with a unit on Ancient Egypt. We spent about 3 months really diving into Ancient Egypt. Paul was absolutely fascinated by the subject. So, I thought I would share our favorite resources. Most of them we checked out from the library.

Non-Fiction Books

You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Eqyptain Mummy! : Distuging Things You’d Rather Not KNow by David Stewart

You Wouldn’t Want to Be Tutankhamen!: A Mummy Who Really Got Meddled With by David Stewart

You Wouldn’t Want to Be Cursed by King Tut!: A Mysterious Death You’d Rather Avoid by Jacqueline Morley

You Wouldn’t Want to Be Cleopatra!: An Eqyptian Ruler You’d Rather Not Be by Jim Pipe

You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Pyramid Builder!: A Hazardous Job You’d Rather Not Have by Jacqueline Morley

How Would You Survive as an Ancient Egyptian by Jacqueline Morley

DK Eyewitness Books: Ancient Egypt by George Hart (the only book we bought)

Fiction Picture Books

Miu and the Pharaoh by Sally Wallace-Jones

The Little Hippo: A Children’s Book Inspired by Egyptian Art by Geraldine Elschner

Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile by Tomie dePaola (Antonio’s favorite. He liked it so much I bought him his own copy)

Bill and Pete to the Rescue by Tomie dePaola (I also bought Antonio a copy of this one)

The Scarab’s Secret by Nick Would

Seeker of Knowledge: The Man Who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphs by James Rumford.

Audio/Video

Egyptian Treasures Mummies and Myths by Jim Weiss

Building Pharaoh’s Chariot (Documentary we found on Netflix)

Virtual Field Trip of Pyramids

Activities: Sadly, while we did a number of hands of activities I did a very poor job taking photos of them.

Step Pryamids built out of legos

Cat Mummy Statues

Egyptian Collars

 

 

 


1-8th Grade History for under $200 ($25 per year!)

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I had grand plans of teaching history using a  laid out curriculum; that utilized a classical approach. I had researched a ton of curriculum options and settled on one that came with a high cost of several hundred dollars a year. It was suppose to be perfect. I ordered the first unit and quickly realized when I tried to implement it that it wasn’t going to work for us. It was to much and frankly boring. It didn’t keep Paul’s interest. He wasn’t interested in learning about things chronologically. He didn’t want the boring stuff. He wanted to pick a subject that interested him and dive in.  So, we promptly threw in the towel on our fancy expensive curriculum and decided to go with child led unit studies.

In teaching this way our biggest asset is our local library. I let Paul pick a topic and than we go on to the library catalog and start reserving books. Once, they have all arrived (our library is very small; so we rely pretty heavily on inter-library loans.) we go and pick them up. I use pinterest to assembly a list of hands on activities Paul can pick from. We normally do around 5 activities per topic. I try to find at least one field trip in our area that ties in. We will also do virtual field trips via the internet. I can normally find a couple good documentaries or movies on netflix as well.

However, I do have a couple materials that in my opinion are worth investing in. They are materials that can be used over and over; regardless what historical topic you are studying. They can all be purchased for under $200 and will serve you all the way through eight grade. When used in conjunction with the library and internet they help you provide your child with a quality eduction in history. (They could even be used through high school either with a curriculum or continue to be used with unit studies). They are the following:

I bought two poster frames from Walmart ($15 each) to put the maps in to make them easier to use and keep them looking nice.

The other thing is a timeline. I think a timeline is so important for children because it helps them see how history builds on itself. It helps them see the relation between people and events. As we study each topic we add relative events and people to our timeline using figures from the timeline figure collection I listed above. Now, there are timelines you can buy to hang on your wall (like this) but I was to cheap for that. So, what I did was get some painters tape and make my own. I added dates to the tape and that is our timeline. Here is a photo; so you can see what I mean. It’s worked out really well for us and cost me under $5.  So, what is your favorite product for teaching history?

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Learning through TV shows and Movies

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We are big fans of fun educational videos in our house. Videos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but if you have a very visual learner like a couple of my boys are than maybe the following list will help you. Here are some of our very favorites. Some of them we’ve bought and others we enjoy via Netflix or checking out from the library.

LeapFrog Learning Videos: These videos have long been favorites with our crew when they are toddlers and preschoolers. These videos are a great way to help with ABC’s, numbers, shapes, phonics and other basic early learning skills. We watch them on Netflix but if you wanted to buy them they can be found at Amazon.

Magic School Bus: I bought the complete series off of Amazon and we love pairing them with the books. My boys (and even I) have learned a ton about a wide variety of science topics from watching them.

Wild Kratts: Available on Netflix you can also purchase collections of episodes very inexpensively on Amazon. (Makes a great gift!). We bought the Wild Kratts: Wildest Animal Adventures from Amazon. Paul has learned so much about animals from this show that the last time we were at the zoo he gave the zookeeper sitting next to the cheetah exhibit a lecture on cheetahs. The zookeeper was blown away by all the information Paul knew.

Bill Nye the Science Guy: I personally kind of hate him. He brings back unpleasant memories of being forced to watch him when I was in school as a kid. (I would have rather been reading) but we check out his videos from the library and the kids enjoy them.

Liberty Kids: I can’t recommend this series enough for early elementary age kids studying the American Revolution. It’s an incredibly accurate cartoon series. We bought ours off of Amazon for $5. I have heard that you can find them on youtube as well.

Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego: This is a fun way to learn about different geographical places.  The complete series can be order here on Amazon.

Animated Hero Classic Series: We check this out from the library. A series of 20 biographical that are typically 30-40 minutes long. They have videos about people like George Washington, Harriet Tubman, The Wright Brothers, etc. The movies can be ordered on Amazon. However, if you want to order them the best value I have found is directly from the company Nest Learning that produces the movies. We have not watched any of the bible movies.

I recently came across this blog post that has a great list of movies and documentaries on Netflix that can be used with Story of the World. Even if you don’t use Story of the World (we don’t) it is a great list!

PBS shows like Sid the Science Kid, Word Girl and Super Why are great educational shows for kids. They aren’t my personal favorites but kids can still learn a lot from them. They are readily available on netflix or on PBS.

I also came across the website Teach With Movies. I haven’t used it yet because it is mostly geared movies for kids older than mine but it has some good content on it and I’ve bookmarked it for the future.

What are you favorite educational movies or tv shows for kids?


Called to Homeschool

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I have wanted to homeschool for as long as I can remember. I knew I would homeschool my children long before I met Mark and they were even a thought; much less a reality. I wasn’t sure how my future husband would feel about it but I knew how I felt about it. (Image how tickled pink I was when I found out Mark was homeschooled and supportive of it!) I knew in my heart that I could give my children a better education than they could ever get in the public schools.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think public schools are inherently bad. There are some great schools out there and some amazing teachers. I spent my entire education k-12 in the public school system and I got a pretty good education. I also was privileged to attended excellent rated schools. However, good my education may have been it certainly lacked in some areas. For example I have never studied history past World War II. I know nothing about the Korean War, Vietnam, etc. When I was in high school and taking American Government my teacher was more concerned with talking football (he was a coach) then teaching us. I can remember sitting in second grade listening to the OJ Simpson verdict coming in. Why a bunch of second graders were listening to the coverage of a murder trial is mind boggling to me.

I was researching homeschool philosophies, curriculum and models when I was still pregnant with Paul. I have been planning for his education since he was in the womb. I’ve read extensively on Montessori, Waldorf, Holt and Charlotte Mason. I’ve studied and weighed the merits of eclectic, unschooling, classical and unit based educations.

Basically, I have been impatiently waiting for him to be school age. As much as I have loved babyhood, toddlerhood and the preschool years I can’t wait to start this new adventure with him. I also know it isn’t going to be easy. We will surely hit some bumps along the way and I am sure there will be days when I want to throw up my hands and quit. I will want to ship him off to the nearest public school. However, I also in my heart and soul that God has called me to be a home educator and take responsibility alongside Mark to educate our children; instead of relying on the public school system to. It is because I know this that when things get tough I know I can turn to God and he’ll help us through them.

“In fact it must never be forgotten that the subject of Christian education is man whole and entire, soul united to body in unity of nature, with all his faculties natural and supernatural, such as right reason and revelation show him to be…”  - His Holiness Pope Pius XI, “Divini lllius Magistri,” 1929