Thursday, May 30, 2013

MOLLY CREW REVIEW: Simplified Pantry

As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received three ebooks from Simplified Pantry to review, and chose to focus on Paperless Organization:

I'm sure you've heard the term "paperless organziation" - the idea is to stop printing everything from articles to receipts, and instead develop a system that makes them available to you electronically. My husband is working toward going paperless for the things he does for our home, and I know he would love it if I could do the same. It has always seemed a little overwhelming to me, though, so I haven't done much before now to that end. I am constantly printing things that I'd like to read later, but what usually happens is I get piles of paper that are messy and disorganized - not to mention unread.

Have you ever made a home management binder? I have. I still have it, in fact - it moved with me from our previous house, over three years ago. It was a lot of fun to print all that stuff and put it in a notebook. It's so pretty! I have not looked at it much, except sometimes when I'm cleaning my room when I run across it and think, "Oh, yeah, I did have this, didn't I?" I haven't updated the information in it and it just needs to be taken apart and recycled at this point.

Mystie Winckler, the author of Paperless Organization, is a busy homeschool mom of three who works hard to maintain an orderly and harmonious home. She found, after her third child was born, that she needed to simplify things like grocery shopping and meal planning. She had a home management binder, but found it too bulky and time-consuming. As a fellow homeschooler, she knows what our days look like, and how little time we have to spare. She developed these ebooks from her own efforts to keep her home running smoothly. She blogs at her Simplified Pantry site, as well as at Simply Convivial, about how she implements what she's written in her ebooks.

Mystie's book on paperless organization describes her electronic version of a home management binder. She explains what organization is, and what it isn't - along with the wisdom that one cannot truly "get ahead" with organization, one can merely keep up with it, like treading water. I think that's been part of my mental block about organization: I can't make it instantly perfect, and it's going to take consistent effort to keep on top of it.

She recommends using some free, online tools and their corresponding apps for wireless devices. She also explains exactly how to use them, which is SO helpful. She gives examples of setting up your calendar, to-do lists, daily schedules for home and homeschool, and so much more. Her system is based on the principles in the book, Getting Things Done by David Allen. I haven't read it, but I plan to do so.

The first thing I did was create accounts in the three programs she recommends, if I didn't already have one: Evernote, Remember the Milk and Google (mail and calendar). Evernote is free, but in order to access your notes without internet access, you have to upgrade to a premium account ($45 for 1 year). Another option is to use Simplenote for your shopping lists. I opted to sign up for Simplenote, for now. Once my accounts were set up, I started working through her instructions.

Setting up mail filters and Remember the Milk were both pretty simple. I have tweaked the system a bit - I use Apple Mail, because I have more than one email account, and all my email collects there. I did learn how to apply filters in Apple Mail, which is something Mystie recommends, to file away email I need to keep but don't necessarily need to see, like order receipts. Also, shortly before I received this ebook, I started using Cozi as my calendar, and I like it, so I'm going to continue with it.

Evernote takes quite a bit more time. I had signed up for an account previously, but had no idea how to use it. Mystie's book has made that so much simpler! She showed me how to use features of this program I didn't even know were there - like stacks. She explained how Evernote works like an electronic notebook, and it makes ever so much more sense now. She walks through using Evernote as a filing cabinet, a home management system, a homeschool system, and a blogging system. I'm still working on getting all my stuff set up, but I really like her method. She has created some templates for things like To Do lists, which you can access and use as they are, or tweak to suit yourself.

Here's a picture of Evernote on my iPad:

Like any new system, implementing it and keeping it up takes time. It's worth it, though, to have less paper making a mess in my house, and to have everything available at my fingertips in one place. This is a great system, and it's certainly making my life easier, even with the learning curve to get it up and running.

In addition to Paperless Organization, Mystie has two other ebooks available:

and Simplified Dinners Gluten/Dairy Free:

These two books show you how to keep staple ingredients on-hand for easy dinner planning and prep. They contain the same recipes, with modifications on the gluten/dairy free book. The recipes included are:
  • Slow-Cooker Roasts
  • Slow Cooker, No-Defrost Chicken Pieces
  • Chicken-in-a-Pot
  • Skillet Cutlets with Pan Sauces
  • Marinades for Grilling or Broiling
  • Foil-Packet Fish
  • Stovetop Pasta
  • Bean Pots
  • Fajitas
  • Quesadillas
  • Taco Bar
  • Burritos or Enchiladas
  • Taquitos
  • Frittata
  • Oven Omelette
  • Pizza
  • Simple Stir-Fry
  • Potato Hash
  • Baked Potato Bar
  • Bean Soups
  • Stews
  • Blended Vegetable Soups
  • Quick Soups
  • Main Dish Salads
  • Vegetable Side Dishes
  • Salads
  • Starch Side Dishes
Each book includes a master pantry list, and a menu planning chart. She recommends keeping your recipe list limited for ease of shopping and preparation. Her statement is that limitations bring freedom - you make very few decisions on the spot in the store, and knowing what you need and don't  need allows you to walk through the grocery store without stressing. Her system in these books works really well with her Paperless Organization system - imagine that. ;-)

All three of Mystie's ebooks are available at her website, Simplified Pantry. You can choose PDF or Kindle format for your files. Paperless Organization is $3.99, and each of the cookbooks is $12.99. 

Mystie is offering a special right now: 30% off when you enter TOS2013 at checkout! 

The discount will work on any or all of my eBooks, from May 20 through June 3rd. This makes it a GREAT time to try her books. You won't be sorry!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Beginnings of My Library

I don't know if I've mentioned it here before, but I'm working towards opening a library of living books in my home. I was inspired last summer by the wonderful women at Living Books Library in Virgina, Elizabeth Cotrill and Emily Kiser.

I have always loved books, and since starting my journey with living books thanks to Charlotte Mason, I want to share them with other people too. My friends laugh at how obsessive I can be about books, so I thought I'd share some pictures of what I'm doing.

In the pictures above, you see some of my collection, beginning with the top left and going clockwise:
  1. Some of the books I need to enter into my database
  2. Books that have been entered, but need to be sorted to see if they need repair
  3. Books in various stages of repair
  4. Books that don't need repair, might need a label removed, but are mostly just waiting for bar codes

What is a living book, you might ask? A living book is one that "conveys truth in beautiful language," according to Liz and Emily. It will most likely be written by one author who is passionate about the topic, often in narrative form. A living book is one that will help a child form a relationship with its subject. There is an excellent article on living books from Simply Charlotte Mason here.

Where do I find all these books? Well, I go to library sales when I can, and have found some great things - my best deal to date was a copy of Andy and the Circus by Ellis Credle for $1! That's a book listed in a popular homeschool curriculum called Five in a Row. It's out of print and can be very hard to find. As I type this, the cheapest copy on Amazon is $58.

I make lots of little trips to the local thrift shops, and am continually amazed by what I find there. My family takes an annual trip to Michigan, and my favorite part is visiting the thrift shops in Marquette. I always find TONS of books up there. I am glad people donate their treasures, but I always feel a little bit sad that they've let go of something so wonderful. I also go to used book stores when I can, but there aren't many of those in my area.

I keep an eye on what other homeschoolers are selling - I have some friends who hit library sales in their area and then decide to part with some of their treasures.

"Kerri the Book lady" comes to the Charlotte Mason conference each year, and she spends the rest of the year combing book sales for living books. She brings what she finds to sell at the conference and I come home with quite a stack from her inventory every time.

So, how do I know what specific titles I'm looking for?

For starters, I've been using the Ambleside Online curriculum for several years now with my girls, and they have book lists for each year. There isn't a bad book among them. I try to collect those whenever I can.

There are many books about books out there - you may have heard of Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt, Books Children Love by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson, or The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. These are all excellent references for good books. My favorites, though, are Who Should We Then Read? Vols. 1 and 2 by Jan Bloom. Jan discovered wonderful books as a child, and home educated her own children with living books. Together with her friends Karen and Mari, she compiled her two amazing books, which include lists of authors with a short bio for each and their entire bibliography. She printed them as spiral-bound, half-page sized books, easily portable. They might not contain every good book, but they certainly contain quite a number of them, and I carry them in my purse when I go book shopping and refer to them whenever I have a question about an author. I try to highlight the titles I already own, so I don't repeat purchases, but I'm a little behind on that.

Another source for wonderful living books is Truthquest History. Michelle Miller has put together a wonderful history curriculum, with lists of living books for each topic, for multiple ages. I've been going through the lists in her American History for Young Students I (Exploration to 1800) and looking for books to read with Isaac this coming fall. Michelle also runs the Children's Preservation Library in Michigan.

I don't pretend to know everything there is to know about living books. Far from it! I'm learning as a go, and am so grateful for the resources available. There is a Yahoo! group for homeschool librarians, where several people who either already have libraries or are hoping to start them share their knowledge and ideas. The amazing people who attend the Charlotte Mason conference are willing to help too.  The mission - and it is a mission - to share living books is alive and well.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

REVIEW - Educational Dice Bag from Joyce Herzog

I recently received the Educational Dice Bag from Joyce Herzog to review through the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I'm always interested in new (at least to me) educational products, and my kids LOVE to play games (don't they all?), so this was right up our alley.

Joyce Herzog is an educator with 25 years experience teaching elementary and learning disabled students in both private and public schools, and has served homeschoolers for more than 25 years through her speaking engagements, the books she's authored, and consultations. She wants to help students learn as they learn best, according to their individual learning style.

The Educational Dice Bag comes with three sets of dice: Alphabet Dice Delight, which includes a 30-sided alphabet die (all the letters plus four "wild" spaces) and a vowel die (AEIOUY); Rolling Math Games, which includes 1 die with numbers, one die with number words, and two dice with colored dots; and Deca Dice Math Games, which includes 1 deca die with numbers, 1 dotted deca die, 1 number word deca die, and 1 double deca die (a die within a die - so cool!).  There is also a math operations die. Each bag contains instructions for simple games to play. The label says "fun for all ages," and that's certainly true. There is a game in there for everone.

Alphabet Dice Delight, Rolling Math Games, and Deca Dice Math Games
My children all enjoyed playing with these dice, but I used them most with my 5-year-old. Many of the games are just perfect for him at this age, and he loves to play with me. Once he's learned something, he loves to teach it back to me, so I got to brush up on my addition and alphabet skills, as well. :-) This is a quick, easy thing to get out when we have some time to fill while the girls are working.

I gave Isaac a printed alphabet chart, and we played one of the recommended games, which has him roll the alphabet die with lower case letters on it, and match the letter that comes up with the corresponding upper case letter. He was really good at that game, and it was helpful for me to see that he does, in fact, know all of his upper case and lower case letters. The die also has a few "wild" spaces, so when that would come up, he could choose any letter he wanted. Turns out his favorite letter is "A."

Take a look at that picture on the right. He rolled those dice and told me that added up to 7. I was so impressed! It's probably not that big a deal, but I was pleased to see that he could process dots and numbers together. He did put away the die with number words on it after I made him sound out and read "six" to me. I guess that was not in HIS rules for that game. 

Once we have finished with the games I ask him to play, he loves to make his own fun with the dice. I have yet to find something that will not allow Isaac to bring cars into it somehow, and as you can see, his little trucks are excellent at hauling the dice away.

There are games in here for older children, too. You can use the alphabet die to teach kids how to use the dictionary. How cool is that? The deca dice math games, in particular, would be challenging for older kids. There is even a game for practicing long division!

I really, really like the dice and the game instructions. The games are simple, so not hard to figure out, but they teach great stuff. For example,the instructions encourage you to have students keep score using tally marks, and then learn to count their points by 5. That's a nice little trick for slipping in some extra skip counting practice.

What I love:
  • Connecting with my kids as we play together.
  • The games are fun, and they give students great practice in important skills. 
  • The dice are portable! The instructions suggest keeping them in a small plastic container, and taking it with you to the doctor's office, etc. so you always have something to do. Isaac and I spend a lot of time waiting for the girls at their various activities, and it's been fun to play dice games while we hang around at the dance studio.
The only thing I would suggest improving is perhaps printing the game instructions in a larger font. My old-ish eyes had a hard time reading them. I know it's to keep the paper small so they fit easily into the bag, but I'd take a little extra paper for ease of reading.
The Educational Dice Bag is available from the Joyce Herzog Products Store for $23. You have to create an account to get into the store, but it's simple to do. The Schoolhouse Crew reviewed several Joyce Herzog products and I hope you'll check them out!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

REVIEW: Spanish for You! Estaciones Spanish Curriculum

It's important for children to learn another language. Not only do most colleges expect it, but it teaches them a whole new way of thinking. Other languages work differently than English, and it is a good brain workout! We have struggled to implement foreign language in our homeschool; the girls haven't been terribly motivated and we've had plenty of other things to keep us busy. They took an excellent Spanish class at out homeschool co-op, but they only went twice per month. Foreign language instruction really needs to be more often that that.

I was intrigued when I looked at the Spanish for You! curriculum, and pleased to have the opportunity to review it. Spanish was a good place for us to start, since the girls were a little familiar with it already. We received a physical copy of the Estaciones workbook; downloadable audio files of the entire book, including audio with a native Spanish speaker; PDF downloads of self-correcting worksheets, a weekly lesson guide, and flashcard/activity game pictures. It's a year-long program (24-27 weeks), intended for grades 3-8, and the recommendation is to use it 4 days per week.

Debbie Annett, the author of Spanish for You!, has been teaching Spanish to all ages for 14 years, and was in international business for 8 years before that. She spent time studying in Spain. She wrote this curriculum to be effective, flexible, and affordable, and to work for multiple ages, with or without prior Spanish experience. She wanted to create a program that would flow well into any high school Spanish program. Because each book is written to be used with many ages and levels, they are theme-based, rather than leveled by grade. Currently, there are two books available: Estaciones (Seasons), and Fiestas (Celebrations). A third theme, Viajes (Travels) is available as a short trial unit; the complete package will be available in June 2013.

As we began to use this program, I was a little confused. It's very different from how I remember learning Spanish! I finally decided to STOP trying to remember what little I knew of Spanish and just go with the way the program was written - and I have been VERY impressed.

As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I've been trying to learn how Miss Mason would have implemented foreign language instruction. I've heard a lot about Gouin Sequences, and have recently started to learn how they work. Fran├žois Gouin was a French teacher of Latin who tried to learn German as he had learned Latin - through grammar and translation. Apparently he memorized thousands of German words, translated Goethe and Schiller - all without actually speaking to someone in German - and found he could not hold a conversation with a native speaker. He ended up having children teach him simple phrases, like "Open the door." He found the key to be speaking and interacting with a language.

This is what I found in Spanish for You! Our book, Estaciones, is about seasons. We've learned the days of the week, the months, of the year, and how to talk about the weather, as well as things you can do in each season of the year. From the beginning, we learned to say things that we could put into action - to look at things, to write things, to draw things. Each unit starts out with vocabulary, and making flash cards; then some verbs and conjugating so you can use the vocabulary, and then some grammar, so you see how it all works together. The flash cards are not for "kill and drill," by the way; they are to help the students connect with the words while they make their cards, and then there are several options for activities using them listed in the front of the book. As we've learned more and more words, we've been able to speak to each other in Spanish a bit. We're able to use the language - and that is key to being able to think in it and speak it well.

When we received our downloads, I saved them to the computer, and printed out the 7-8th grade lesson plans and the first set of worksheets. On our first day, the girls made flash cards. They had a GREAT time doing this. I forgot that images were included for the cards in a PDF, so they made their own.

Once the flash cards were made, we moved on to practicing what we'd learned. First, we had just a few commands - "Mira," which means look, "escribe," which means write, and "dibuja," which means draw. With a piece of paper in case they needed to write or draw, I read the commands and they would do them. It got to be more fun when we learned a little grammar, and could ask each other about the weather, what month it was, what the weather was like during a particular month, etc. My girls are at that tween/early teen age when they can't admit to having fun with anything, but *I* enjoyed speaking Spanish with them, and I think they enjoyed speaking it with me, as well.

Ms. Annett offers wonderful support for her program. She answers questions very quickly, and is responsive to feedback. During the review period, she changed how the downloads were organized to make them easier to use. Two things I'd like to see:
  • Worksheets in one file for each grade level, instead of lesson-by-lesson; I'd rather print them out once
  • Answer keys in a separate file
Each level of Spanish for You! is available to purchase as a complete package for grades 3-8 for $64.95, or per grade level (3-4, 5-6 or 7-8) for $39.95. Extra books are available for $12.95 each. With each package, you receive:
  • Soft cover book
  • PDF Download of the 24-30 week lesson guide for the grades you need (Click for sample)
  • PDF download of self-checking worksheets (Click for sample)
  • MP3 download of audio files of the entire book (including bonus audio of native speaker reading the entire book)
  • PDF download of flashcard/activity pictures
This is a great program. You don't need to know any Spanish to teach it - the audio files read everything for you! If you're looking for a simple, affordable way to teach Spanish in your homeschool, I hope you'll consider Spanish for You!

Click here to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

REVIEW: Papa's Pearls

It's no secret that I love books, so when the opportunity came up to review Papa's Pearls: A Father's Gift of Love and Wisdom to his Children and Grandchildren by Diane Flynn Keith, I jumped on it. It sounded like a wonderful book - a glimpse into life during the Depression Era, as well as "pearls" of parenting wisdom to share from Diane's Papa, Carol Flynn.  Dianne, in addition to being Papa's daughter, is an alternative education specialist, parenting coach, and author of a nifty-sounding book called Carschooling: Over 350 Games & Activities To Turn Travel Time Into Learning Time. Check out her other website, Homefires.

I was not disappointed. I loved reading this book, laughed a lot, and even cried during parts. I treasured reading it with my children, because it inspired some wonderful discussions. It's written to parents, intended to help you pass on some solid, practical knowledge to your children. It's well written, very much what I would consider a "living" book on parenting, and a quick read. I think it's within easy grasp of middle school students, but I would say it's best shared as a read-aloud, so you can discuss things as you go along. There is nothing horrible, but there are some situations you'd want to talk about when they come up in the book.

Diane's Papa, Carol Flynn, grew up in a family where illegal activity was accepted as the norm. When he was a teenager, he was sent to reform school. While he was there, he learned useful trade skills, and more importantly, came under the influence of a great mentor: his teacher, Mr. Brammer. Instead of letting the experience send him further down a path defined by bad choices, he used it to turn his life around, and became a true example of the American Dream - a man who made a success of himself through hard work and perseverance, and lived by the Golden Rule.

Each chapter of the book shares one or more of Papa's bits of timeless wisdom, along with sweet memories of Papa from his children and grandchildren. He taught his children to be independent and responsible, and gave them plenty of opportunity to develop their "street smarts" - to learn common sense and how to handle themselves in just about any situation. He also gave them a strong foundation of love and the confidence that comes from knowing your parents are always on your side. That didn't mean they didn't suffer consequences for making bad choices - they did - but Papa always made it a learning experience. For example, when he caught his son smoking with his friends near their gas meter, he didn't yell - simply asked his son, "What were you thinking?" and then told him if he was old enough to smoke, he was old enough to work, and had his son come to work with him in his plumbing business every day after school when he didn't have another activity planned. Not only did this keep the boy from having too much free time to indulge questionable choices, he learned a lot about plumbing, how to manage his time well, and to follow through on a job.

When I read this book, occasionally I felt like a pretty good parent. My children are very familiar with the ideas behind, if not the exact wording of, phrases like:

 "When you fall down, get back up, brush yourself off, and try again." 

"Ya gotta do what ya gotta do." 

"I love you. You know that, right?" 

"Let it go, like water off a duck's back." 

The look they would get on their faces when they heard someone else saying things they hear often from their dad and me was priceless! I wish I'd been taking pictures.

I also felt challenged to be a better parent. Papa was not prone to lose his temper; no one talked about him yelling. I tend to yell; I can do better. Papa was also an intentional person and parent. He did the best he could do in every situation. Also, he was kind. He put his family first, but was always willing to offer a helping hand to someone in need. One of my favorite stories in the book is about a toothless, unkempt man named Andy who lived in a shack next door to Papa's plumbing business. Papa gave him a job, and introduced him to anyone who came to the shop. He honored the dignity of a man that many people, then and now, would probably prefer to ignore.

My favorite was chapter 10, when Dianne told how Papa always put his family first, and would tell anyone how proud of them he was. One precious memory from his granddaughter, Katie, was his telling her that he would say hello to her photo every day. Papa had a way of letting his family know just how important they were to him. That was the part that moved me to tears. I had grandparents who loved me like that, and I treasure their memories. I hope to leave a legacy of love like that for my children and, Lord willing, my grandchildren.

I hope you will take the opportunity to read this book. It's available for $14.97 plus shipping and handling from the Papa's Pearls website.

Click here to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Day 6 - A Favorite Author and Day 7 - Onomotopaeia

I had the HARDEST time coming up with just one favorite author yesterday - so I decided on two. :-)

For older children, I love, love, LOVE Edith Nesbit. I can't remember now how I discovered Five Children and It, but I loved it, and went on to read The Story of the Amulet and The Phoenix and the Carpet. Then, I found The Enchanted Castle, The Wouldbegoods, The Railway Children... all of her books are wonderful. I most recently read The House of Arden, and Abbie is reading that now. Her children's books are wonderfully imaginative, with adventure and magic awaiting the main characters, who are always children. They usually get in some kind of trouble, and have to get themselves out of it.  These are the kinds of books one can get lost in, you know? I highly recommend them.

She also wrote a book about the importance of imagination called Wings and the Child or, The Building of Magic Cities. It's available for free on Kindle. Give it a read if you have a chance. Here's a quote for inspiration:
I would have every man and woman in whom the heart of childhood still lives, protest, however feebly and haltingly, yet with all the power of the heart, against machine-made education—against the instruction which crams a child with facts and starves it of dreams, which forces the free foot into heavy boots and bids it walk on narrow pavement, which crushes with heavy hand the wings of the soul, and presses the flower of imagination flat between the pages of a lexicon.
For younger children, I can't think of anyone better than Beatrix Potter. Is there any child who does not love Peter Rabbit? Who wouldn't be drawn in by Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle or Jemima Puddle Duck? My personal favorite is The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. Benjamin is rather fractious and gets into all kinds of trouble, though he does assist Peter in getting back his clothes that he lost in Farmer MacGregor's garden. My 5 year old boy loves to read about the Fierce Bad Rabbit.

The language in these stories is simple, but lovely. In addition, her illustrations are beautiful. Please, please read the original writings, and avoid anything abridged or reworded. If you want a good collection, try this one.

Now, on to onomatopoeia. Isn't that a fun word? It's also fun to find it in books. A fairly recent find is Alphabeep: A Zipping, Zooming ABC by Debora Pearson. Isaac loves to read about construction vehicles, or any kind of vehicle, really. I enjoy reading this one more than some he's found. Here is a quote:
A is for Ambulance, that makes alarming sounds. Shrieking, wailing, whooshing by, it's in a rush to help someone.
Another fun one is Chicky Chicky Chook Chook by Cathy Maclennan. This is another board book, and Isaac enjoyed it when he was littler. I love the sound of the thunderstorm: "Crash, bang, WALLOP!" Isn't that great?

I feel like my onomatopoeia examples aren't the best, but they're what I found when I was flipping through the picture books. I'd love to hear if you have better ones!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Day 4 - A Favorite Cover and Day 5 - A Green Message

We had a busy day yesterday, so wasn't able to get my book posts done. My daughter had a choir engagement that took up most of the morning and early afternoon, and then we went to collect our very first foster puppy, Lucy! Isn't she cute?

All righty then, on to the books!

Day 4's topic is a favorite cover. Here is mine:

Here is the spine:

And here's the back:

I love how the picture wraps around the entire book. Isn't it just lovely?

My grandparents gave me this book in 1980. They were tremendous readers, also. Seeing this reminds me of that, and I wish I'd asked them more about the books they enjoyed when they were still alive. This beautiful copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is one of my favorites stories, and one of my most treasured books. It's illustrated by Louis Jambor. He also illustrated Jo's Boys. I did a quick Google search on him, and all I learned was that he was an American painter, born in 1884, and died in 1955. If you know anything more about him, I'd love to know!

Now, as for Day 5, a book with a "green message." I don't know if this book is exactly green, but it's about making the world a more beautiful place:  Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney.

Even the cover of this book is beautiful - certainly a contender for Day 4, as well. 

A couple other green books I could think of: The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, and On Meadowview Street, by Henry Cole.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Day 3: A Book I Love To Read Aloud

This is a tough one - how do I choose just one book I love to read aloud? I had to think hard to answer this question.

I finally decided on Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep, by Terri Sloat.

I got this book when the girls were small, and I love it. It rhymes, which I've found makes any book easier to tolerate for repeated readings. We read this one a LOT. "Farmer Brown was shearing sheep, piling up a snowy heap, of wool that filled his shed knee deep. Clip, clip, buzz, buzz, he took their wool and left them fuzz!" See? I still have it memorized! Good thing I enjoy it so much. I will read it any time. My girls, who are 12 and 13, still like to hear this one.

It also talks about the process wool goes through, from shearing to knitting, which I thought was cool. The "crisis" in the book is that the sheep decide they're cold after they're shorn, so they follow Farmer Brown, trying to retrieve their wool. Do they win? You will have to read the book to find out!

Unfortunately, this book is out of print and it's not cheap to get a used copy. You might be able to find it at your library, though.

What's your favorite book to read aloud? I am always looking for book suggestions, so please leave a comment and let me know!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Days 2: A Book That Makes My Children Laugh

Lots of books make my children laugh! Since I have three, I decided to ask each one of them what book came to mind for this topic.

My oldest said Pishtosh, Bullwash and Wimple by James Flora.

This is a book I remember checking out from the library over and over again when I was young. My friend Sue, who is a librarian, helped me find a couple of used copies, back before buying books on the internet made it a much simpler process. I was SO excited! I opened it up, read it and . . . saw that it was twaddle. However, it's still a fun childhood memory for me, and it's such a silly book that all my kids giggle when we read it.

My second child chose The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I was surprised - this is one that their grandmother reads with them, so I tend to forget they've heard it. Originally published in 1971, it's one I enjoyed as a child, too, so that makes it even more fun to talk about it with mine. My favorite quote is: "Hey! Unto you a child is born!" (p. 108) :-)

My five year old chose There Are Cats In This Book by Vivian Schwarz.  My sister-in-law, Jennifer, a fellow bibliophile, gave him this book, and we love it. It's so silly. We love cats anyway, and this book is a fun read. Isaac loves to blow the cats dry. You will just have to read it to see what I'm talking about.

As for me, my go-to author when I want a laugh is Patrick McManus. My kids could read him too, if they were so inclined. Another good author for giggles is James Herriot. That man survived his career as a vet through a series of miracles, I tell you. Good stuff.

I'd love to hear what books make your children - and YOU - laugh! Please tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Day 1: A Classic Children's Book

Elizabeth Foss posted this nifty little meme about children's books, and I thought I would chime in. I don't have a clue about Instagram, so I will just play along over here. Feel free to join me - I would love to see your book list, too! When possible, I will include a link to Amazon for the books I mention (I'm not an affiliate).

Day number one is a classic children's book. As I looked over the list of topics this morning, I could tell it's going to be difficult to choose just one book for several of the themes. However, if there is one book I think every child should have read to them, it's Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. I have the unabridged audio book, too, and all three of my children have enjoyed listening to it in the car. *I* enjoy listening, too.

I have my dad's vintage Pooh books, and I do treasure them. They are just such fun stories, and they teach good things about friendship, doing the right thing, and courage in the face of fear.

I beseech you NOT to get any of the Disney-fied Pooh books. The language has been changed, for reasons incomprehensible, and they're just not worth your time. There is nothing difficult about the original books, and children will not have any trouble understanding them. There have been a few smaller books made of individual stories, like this one, if you feel you must have a picture book version.  Otherwise, just go for the real thing, and keep the readings short for younger children. My son, who is 5, can handle one chapter at a time, usually.

What is your favorite classic?