Bible books

I wasn’t thrilled with any of the autumn-themed books I got from the library this week; they were okay, but nothing spectacular.  Next year I’ll have to start researching further in advance to find really good ones!  However, that minor disappointment aside, we did read two excellent Bible picture books this week.

The first book, Sarah Laughs by Jacqueline Jules, tells the story of Abraham’s wife Sarah in a very sweet style appropriate for young children who may not understand some of the deeper notes of cynicism in the Bible story.  The illustrations are bright and beautiful, and this book has tremendous appeal.

The second book, The White Ram by Mordecai Gerstein, provides an unusual perspective on the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac at God’s command – the story is told through the adventures of the white ram that eventually took Isaac’s place.  In addition to telling this story in a way that won’t be frightening to small children, this book also gives some information on the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashannah, which can be a plus if you want to introduce the topic of various cultural holidays with your kids.  Gerstein is a talented author and illustrator – his other works include the Caldecott-winning The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, which I also highly recommend.

I’m glad we’re done with school for this week.  Mr. S did very well with the introduction of Decimal Street in math, and even our reading lessons went smoothly; but we’ve all been a little under the weather, and that may be part of the reason my fall-related stories and activities were a bit of a disappointment.  Next week we’re doing a zoo theme, culminating with a trip to Zoo Atlanta on Friday!

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Choosing books

I made it to the library today, so I have some better choices for books to read to Mr. S (and T, we don’t just read during “school time”) for the rest of the week.  We’re reading books on Fall this week, then next week I want to do a zoo unit (possibly culminating in a field trip, the weather here has been gorgeous and we have an annual membership to the zoo).  I’m also checking out books for Halloween – I have enough good ones now that I think we’ll have Halloween-themed story time and crafts for the last two weeks of October.

When seeking books to read to the kids, I do more than just wander the stacks in the library looking for interesting titles.  I try to determine my themes in advance and then research titles on Amazon as well as in the public library’s OPAC.  Amazon generally gives more comprehensive reviews, but of course the library doesn’t have the selection of new materials that Amazon features; still, I find it useful to cross-reference between the two when putting holds on books.

Rather than spend a lot of time searching for titles that my local branch may not have, I use our library’s online system to put holds on titles I want, and then the library emails me when the books are available for me to pick up.  I typically visit the library twice a week to drop off and pick up materials.

Once I get the titles I thought would be interesting, I spend some time reading them to see if they will meet our needs.  I generally reject about half of the books I check out – today I passed on two zoo picture books (including one by Eric Carle, whom I typically adore) for various reasons; the Carle book was wordless, which is fine for the kids to have on hand to look through on their own, but not what I want for story time.  Other books don’t get included in our school time because I find the storyline too weak or the pictures not high quality or appropriate.

Of course, there are a lot of obviously good books that I want to expose my kids to, from Caldecott winners to books by notable children’s books authors such as Jan Brett and Kevin Henkes, but I try not to limit my searches by just looking for familiar titles.

I don’t know if I mentioned this here before, but I do have a graduate degree in Library Media Technology – I’m a certified school librarian, though I’ve never worked as such.  I completed my degree in December 2009, including a 100-hour internship in a local elementary school, and although I loved the work I decided that taking charge of my own kids’ education was a higher priority for me at this time than working, even if it was a career that I would love.  I do hope to work in a library setting at some point in the future, though I realize it won’t be for many years – possibly not until my kids are off at college.

Anyhow, as part of my degree program I took a course in Children’s Literature which featured this text:

It’s called Children’s Literature, Briefly and the authors are Michael O’Tunnell and James Jacobs.  It was hands down the best textbook I have ever read – it provides a comprehensive overview of various genres of children’s literature, and my edition even came with a CD-ROM containing lists of age-appropriate titles in each genre.  It’s fairly expensive, and I’m not sure if it’s available in public libraries, but I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for great books to read to and with kids.

And that’s a brief overview of how I choose the books we read in our happy little homeschool!

Back to the grind

Fall break is over, so today I expected to get back to our regular schedule.  I should know by now to to expect anything to be normal, ever!  T was sniffly and coughing last week, and when I finally took her to the doctor on Friday they found she had a double ear infection.  I hoped that three days of antibiotics would make her happy and healthy enough to go to preschool today, and in fact I dropped her off this morning as usual – only to have the school call me an hour later and tell me to come get her because she’d done nothing but cry and sleep since she got there.  Poor baby, I guess she needs a little more rest!  Add to this chaos the fact that I was watching a friend’s 5-month-old baby this morning, and I’m feeling a little under the weather myself, and you can get an idea of how hectic my morning was.  We got home from T’s preschool just as my friend arrived to pick up her baby, and by then it was time to eat lunch – and needless to say, I hadn’t done anything even vaguely resembling school with Mr. S!  Oh well, so be it.

After lunch, I let the kids watch Sesame Street before putting T down for a much-needed nap; then it was off to the schoolroom for Mr. S and I, where we actually did manage to get some things accomplished.  Our theme this week is Fall, so we read Mouse’s First Fall by Lauren Thompson (I don’t love the Mouse books, although they are cute – but it was the only one I had on hand, and I didn’t have time to go to the library) and then I cut up an apple so he could make apple prints.  Note to self: remember that Mr. S does NOT like getting paint on his hands; for the next painting/stamping craft, I need to remember to put a fork in the stamping item so he doesn’t get messy!  Next we hit the 3 R’s – the reading lesson went really well, to my amazement; I’d expected some resistance after taking a week off, but he sailed right through it.  For writing, he’s practicing capital and lower case A’s this week.  Math was the big deal today – we’re on Lesson 9 of the Math U See primer, which is where it moves from basic shapes and counting to actually learning new things.  Today was the first lesson in place value, and I spent the weekend constructing a Decimal Street poster, only to find today that we had one that came with the curriculum!  Oh well, now we can use that one for practice and the colorful one I made can hang on the wall.  I was nervous about actually teaching math concepts, but Mr. S seemed to grasp it pretty quickly – we’ll work on the exercises all week so I can make sure he truly does understand it and isn’t just parroting back what I told him!

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print today.  I’ll leave you with a photo of the newest additions to our schoolroom – my Decimal Street poster (I haven’t added the hundreds castle yet, as we’re only working on units and tens this week) and a world map:

Pirate Week!

We’re not really doing school this week, since T is home all day every day for Fall Break; but I decided we did need some activities to keep us busy.  Since this past Sunday was National Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought it might be fun to have a week of pirate books and activities!

Books we’re reading this week include:

  • Do Pirates Take Baths? by Kathy Tucker
  • Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by Melinda Long
  • The Little Pirate by Philemon Sturges
  • The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup
  • Roger, the Jolly Pirate by Brett Helquist
  • Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC by June Sobel

We’re doing some pirate crafts too; on Monday we made newspaper pirate hats, and this afternoon we’re going to make parrots from toilet paper rolls and construction paper.   I also printed out some pirate coloring sheets from Busy Bee Kids’ Printables. Mr. S doesn’t really like to color, but T does, and I’m hoping he’ll get into it if only to be competitive with his little sister!

Monday and Tuesday, we watched Muppet Treasure Island, which I was able to get from the library.  I’m happy to say the kids enjoyed it – this was their first real exposure to the Muppets, and since I have so many fond memories of them from my childhood, I’m really glad the kids like them!

In addition to the pirate-themed activities, we’re also doing some cooking this week.  I bought this book several months ago:

Mr. S is a very picky eater, and I was hoping that Elmo and friends would inspire him to try some new things.  So far, it’s not going well – he certainly enjoys helping me make various recipes, but saying he’s hesitant to taste the results would be putting it mildly.  He flat-out refused to even taste the strawberry-kiwi smoothies we made on Monday.  Oh well, at least I can get him to touch new foods, even if he won’t eat them yet!

To top off the week, both kids have come down with something.  Initially I thought it was just a cold, as T has had a runny nose and a bit of a cough for the past few days – but then yesterday afternoon they both came down with a fever of about 101, and Mr. S threw up on me last night after bath.  Ah, the joys of motherhood!  Fortunately, a little Tylenol and a lot of taking it easy seem to be doing the trick, and hopefully they’ll be healthy again by tomorrow or the next day.

Thursday Fun

It’s been a hectic week.  We’ve only done two days of school this week, due to attending the first co-op enrichment classes on Tuesday and then a meeting for a church organization yesterday, and quite frankly I think that’s all we’re going to do this week.  Next week is our county’s Fall Break, which means T will be home with us all week, making it unlikely that we’d really get anything accomplished – and we’re at a good stopping point with the reading and math lessons right now, so I’m taking advantage of that!

We did have fun today – we read Jan Brett’s On Noah’s Ark and then made a Fruit Loop rainbow.

First, Mr. S sorted the Fruit Loops by color:

Next, I helped him put lines of glue on a paper plate and he placed the cereal on the glue to make a rainbow:

Fruit Loops take us more space than I’d anticipated, plus we reached the end of Mr. S’s attention span, so the finished product only has four colors – but I think it looks pretty good!

After that, we had the dreaded reading lesson (he’s gaining confidence, and I seem to be gaining patience, so I hope they’ll be less dreaded soon), and then after practicing some pre-handwriting skills we took a break to play with Legos:

This got me thinking about my next theme, which will likely be The Tower of Babel – craft ideas should be easy, lots of building with various types of blocks to see how tall they can get before falling over!  I just have to find some decent story books to go with it…

Weekly Theme: Noah’s Ark

Our theme this week is Noah’s Ark. and I’m really pleased with how easy it was to put together – there are so many books and craft ideas to choose from, and I was even able to find some simple songs to integrate into the theme!

The books we’re reading for story time this week are:

  • All Afloat on Noah’s Boat (Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees)
  • On Noah’s Ark (Jan Brett)
  • The Animals Watched: An Animal Alphabet (John Warren Stewig and Rosanne Litzinger)

I settled on these three after searching our county library’s OPAC (online public access catalog, for those of you that don’t speak librarian) by subject for children’s books featuring Noah’s ark.  I checked out about six books, and read through them to find the ones I thought were most appropriate for this unit.  Those that didn’t make the cut included the Caldecott-winning Noah’s Ark by Peter Spier; though the watercolor illustrations are lovely, it’s primarily a wordless book and I prefer something with a strong storyline for reading aloud.  I might let Mr. S look through that one while I read him the story from the Bible, though; but even then, it might be more distracting than effective.

For crafts this week, there were once again many online resources to choose from – but my search was narrowed down by the fact that Mr. S doesn’t especially like to color.  Today we cut out an ark, waves, and sun from colored paper and glued them onto a white background – then we opened up a package of animal crackers and glued pairs of them onto the ark.  (After that, Mr. S ate the rest for a snack, of course!)  Later in the week, we’ll be making another cut-and-paste mobile that will have him doing a little bit of coloring but also making clouds out of cotton balls, and then on the last day we’ll make a Fruit Loops rainbow on a paper plate.  The original idea for the rainbow project involved colored marshmallows, but I couldn’t find any at the grocery store so I settled for Fruit Loops.  The hardest part will be getting him to make the rainbow rather than just eating them!

Mr. S is also starting his co-op enrichment classes this week.  He’s not as excited about that as I am, but I think he’ll have a good time once he settles in.  We had a picnic yesterday with many of the other co-op families and it went well, there are several other boys his age so I’m looking forward to him making new friends!

Wordless Wednesday – Fun with Playdoh

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