Friday, July 31, 2015

Bounce Off

One of our newer board games this year is called Bounce Off. I purchased it for one of the boys birthdays & it's been a huge hit ever since it's arrival. The guys have all had a few rounds of it, but it wasn't until last weekend I was actually able to sit down & indulge in a game with them. I have to say the game is pretty addictive.

While waiting my turn & trying to decide if someone was cheating or not I was looking at the game box & rules when I spotted the funny sticker on the front of the box. I started out chuckling when the guys wanted to know what was up. I suspect, really, they thought I'd caught them out on standing too close or something silly like that. Nope, just a really funny sticker.

The objective of the game is to replicate a pattern onto the game board. The pattern is predetermined when a player draws a card from the stack. From there players take turns around the table attempting to bounce a ball onto the simplistic game board & achieve the pattern goal. Pretty simple, really.

Except, of course, the objective of getting a hollow ping pong ball bounced off our wooden kitchen table to go exactly where we want it to every single time is not all that possible. Counter that with the fact that you can play on teams & your teammate not always realise what on earth you're doing. It gets pretty intense too. At one point both teams were 1 ball-in-the-right-position away from winning, & neither team was having much luck..

Check out the video of the winner.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Op-Shop Finds

While in town mailing off packages this week we popped into a few of our favourite Op-Shops to have a look around. We don't visit the op-shops often because we always find something fun to bring home & I prefer to keep stuff out of the house as opposed to in. Our three newest books are a great point in case.

If you're a FIAR Curriculum fan you'll recognise the bottom book. Mr Gumpy's Motor Car was always a favourite here, & when I saw it on the .50 table I'm pretty sure I squealed aloud before snatching it up. Funnily enough a child said, "But we all ready own that one!" Yes, actually we do, but we brought it home anyway. The book use to be out of print, all though I believe you can score it for between $15 & $31 over at Book Depository {linked above} these days. Or you could just watch someone read it over on YouTube.

The Once & Future King was sitting on the shelf inside, for $2, which excited me as well. It's been on my list of books to read for a couple of years now. I think we have the audio version of it, or else that's equally on our list. Either way I was really excited to find it. You know that The Sword In The Stone was based on book 1 right? Yeah, I know I'll read the book & hate the movie, but that's cool.

I also spotted Tom's Midnight Garden for a $1. We've seen the movie previously which really made us quite curious about the book as it left a great deal out, not to mention we were watching a scratched up DVD from our local library that did not play very well in our DVD player. Forget the movie, we'll just read the book!

Now all I need is a few spare days in which I have no responsibilities so I can read.. I guess I'll have to settle for a few stollen minutes each day instead.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Winter Promise LA

I've been a bit slack in sharing some of the reviews we've written, & I'd really meant to share the one done on the WP LA we've been using. We've enjoyed it so much, & shared a bit here & there about the enjoyment the kids have had in using the programme.

It was out first official LA curriculum that we've ever used. We've read books about parts of speech like The Word Spy & really enjoyed every minute of our time with the books. In fact, my boys recently reminisced that they hoped the Word Spy was off on another adventure collecting more information to write a third book.

As for the WP LA, I've really enjoyed using it with the kids & watching them learn as they move along solving mysteries. Level 4 is not the only series in which there is a mystery to solve, Level 6 has a space themed mystery too, where as Levels 3 & 5 visit with Scout The Dog who is also a very loveable character to get to know.

My only word of warning is not to make a quick purchase without checking through the samples & considering looking over the Placement Test. Having not had previous experience this was a non-issue for me, but I've heard from others who've made the switch & ended up ahead of where their child was academically. Also, be aware that if you purchase Level 6 there is only very moderate instruction as the level was written under the premise that your student would have been learning all the information for the past 3 levels & is now ready to put it all to use.

For links to the placement tests & a few more details check out our review over on The Curriculum Choice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Quest For Royals & Revolution

We're about to embark upon a new time period in history, & we're pretty excited. It's been a long journey & I'm glad we traveled it from the comfort of the sofa & not on foot! My feet ache thinking about it actually.. As we head off into the Renaissance & beyond it was time to select new books for our pleasure.

I always struggle with this, because the truth is there are just too many great books! Deciding exactly which ones we'll use & which ones we'll have to leave laying by the wayside can take a lot more effort then it really should, in fact I'm pretty sure it took me about 3 months to make official plans on how I was going to handle this time period. I wasn't kidding when I said it could take a long time!

Eventually we settled on our beloved Winter Promise. We've really enjoyed every theme we've used from the lovely company, & I'm kinda desperately hoping they'll come out with the final Quest Theme before we finish this one, hey I can dream!! Either way, we opted to go with the Quest For Royals & Revolutions. We had it on the shelf as I'd picked it up earlier in the year in anticipation of using it, which does make one wonder why it took me 3 months to finalise plans, doesn't it?

The thing is, I also have Bookshark 7 on my shelf, Sonlight W, & Sonlight H. That's really too many choices to be honest & it made narrowing things down a lot harder! The upside is that many of the titles used in Sonlight & Bookshark are the same so that helped me narrow things down just a wee bit more.

In the end I decided we would use all the beautiful non-fiction selections from QFR&R. That was one problem solved. However, we're nearly done with the Story Of The World Series, so I figured we'd go ahead & finish those via the BkSk schedule. As for our literature, I took note of all books suggested by each curriculum & weeded out the ones I knew we wouldn't use. From there I compiled everything else into one massive list in chronological order, with a quick quip about what the book covers, which gives us one big list of books to work through!

If you're curious about the list, or keen for a peek, you can find it here. Our Middle Ages list is over here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Prereading History Books

I'm not generally a pre-reader of books for my kids. I know my children pretty well & find that they will quickly put a book down they find inappropriate. I once had a child complain about one of those newer Hardy Boys books because he found the name calling & bullying excessive. The thing is, I like to read the same books as my kids, especially our history books! I like to be able to talk about the characters with them & know exactly what my child means when he laments about an action, rejoices in a victory, & poses confusion over why a character did what they did. It also helps me to be ready for those bunny trails we are notorious for, to find pictures of the people we read about, & have a better understanding of exactly what my kids are learning.

Which means, I've been doing some major pre-reading around here over the past couple of weeks to get ahead of the game with Morgan's Term 3 books, & a few of Jayden's I'd fall behind on. They were all so lovely, & the ones I haven't finished yet are calling me as I sit here typing this instead of reading..

The Ravenmaster's Secret is set in the 1500's & tells the story of a young boy who lives at the Tower Of London. He's not a prisoner, unlike many others, instead he helps his father care for the ravens & even looks after a prisoner or two. The young hero in this book is struck by the injustice being done to a prisoner in his care & is desperate to help, but at what cost will the help come? The book has a lot of different things happening it at one time & shows the plights of not only those working or kept prisoner in The Tower Of London, but also those the cruel treatment & jobs children were subjected to at that time in history. I really love the way the history between Scotland & Britain was brought to life in this book as we've been reading about it in our copy of Our Island Story & will be reading In Freedom's Cause to go along with this book. After reading this book I was overjoyed to discover Secrets Of The Tower Of London on Netflix too!

The King's Fifth is a story about power & greed. It's a slower read with a thicker plot line; it too is set in the 1500's, but a bit later down the line. This brings to life some characters we've met before in other readings, but told in a different light. I haven't finished this book, & thus I'm curious to see if it will end like I suspect. I'm pretty sure my boy will ask to watch Road To El Dorado again as the gold stories tend to bring that request out. I will say if you go for an audio copy of this book the Spanish is beautiful in it, where as the main character's voice is often dreary, dull, & monotone; hopefully it won't mean my boy will feel it a chore to slog through this one.

Ghost Hawk is one I'm equally still listening to. It's narrated by the brilliant Jim Dale {we're huge fans here} & tells the story of a young native American who goes out on his right of passage to become a man & returns to find the people of his village dead. As the story moves on he meets the "Pale Faces" & even befriends one despite the heated troubles that are currently brewing between the two nations of people. There is so much more to this story then what I can sum up in such a small space of time, so perhaps when I finish it off I'll share a bit more indepth about it.

Nory Ryan's Song is the first book in a small series about a young Irish girl left to care for her family while her father is out to sea, her mother is dead, & her older sister marries & moves to America. It is after Nory's sister moves away that the potato blight of 1885 arrives & her village is left to starve to death at the mercy of the British peoples trying to take over their land. It's a quick, but emotional read & due to it being part of a series leaves you hanging just a little bit. I dare not say how or it will spoil the end of this book. We may watch this interesting video from PBS about the Potato Blight/Famine/Hunger. Don't miss the author's note at the end of the book, it's very very worth reading!

Operation Yes! this is a book that's meant to be used later in Term 4 but I have a little boy very keen for Mamma to check it out. I don't normally feel the need to check out books before handing them to my children, but with family members in the military some situations can hit close to home & cause my children great worry. This one has hit the back shelf as I work my way through the other books.

The Breadwinner was an incredibly moving & beautiful book. I read through it in an evening or there abouts & found it incredibly hard to put down. The book is deeply emotional, but so beautifully written that it keeps you going to the end. This book tells the plight of a family living in Afghanistan. The story follows a family who meets disaster when the only man in the home is arrested & they are left to fend for themselves in a city where woman aren't well treated. The author did an amazing job weaving all sides of what's happening into this story. There is hard stuff in this book, but it's the kind of hard stuff I think our children need to be aware of. As a warning there's a pretty rough scene in the book where a man's hands are chopped off. It doesn't go into great detail, but you'll know you're about to encounter it when the main character enters a soccer stadium.

Calico Captive is set during the French & Indian war & follows a family through an Indian War raid, but spends most of it's time dwelling on their time spent at Fort Duquesne. A good portion of the book, hidden amongst the main story, is also the maturing of the main character as she realises life isn't all about lovely dresses & dance parties. The story is based on a real family. My boy is all ready happily enjoying this book. I had to race to keep ahead of him on this one.

Indian Captive this book is also about the French & Indian War, but is shown, instead, from the view point of a captive adopted by the Seneca Indians. There is a lot more sadness in this tale as we follow Molly's plight. Her family, too, is caught in an Indian raid, something her father was so sure would never happen. They are hurried along trails & before long she is taken away from her family with one other person. Much later in the book you'll learn the gruesome fate of her family. It was interesting to see some of the same places mentioned in this book as were mentioned in the one above, but the outcome for the characters was greatly different. After finishing this one I looked the main character up & found a few photos of her & a bit more information, all of which made for an interesting read.

Angel In The Square takes place over several years, those preceding WWI in Russia. The story follows a young girl who moves to the Czar's home & becomes a playmate with the young girls. You see both sides of the situation in this story, & a few in between as well, as you watch the peasants revolt, the royals pretend, & those leading both sides take their places. The story was, again, a quick read & I really did enjoy the story all though I found the ending unsatisfying. The story spends much time following the Romaov family, but in the end leaves them off with no real closure on what happened to them, simply a presumed. Again, though, this book is part of a series & perhaps the next book covers that, all though I'm not so sure. Either way I had fun looking at these beautiful pictures of Russia pre-WWI & these photos of the Romanov Family.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Week In Review: Week 21

I've kinda lost track of what week we're on as I didn't keep up with it as well in the later half of Term 2, but I think we're on Week 21 not that it really matters in any great scheme of things.

This was a slow week for us as we ease ourselves back into schedules & routines. We've enjoyed some very laid back time & while we were still doing our work, we're ready to get back into our normal routine & a slower week is a great way to get there.

I find that if you just jump in head first you're likely to being calling out for help pretty quickly, where as if you slowly enter he water a little bit at a time you'll find that the journey is enjoyable & not a struggle.

Before I'm asked, it's not a new planner, just different colours then the one I made for 2014. No, it's not up for download yet as there's only 6 months worth of it ready & I'm looking at adding another 12 months & then offering it up as an 18 month type planner. We'll see what happens.

We're continuing our journey through the 90 Devotions in Matthew; we had a great laugh at how many days it's actually taken us as we're using it for our school morning devotional. We've opted to add a missionary type story to our Read Aloud Basket & we wrapped up our book about Mary Slessor this week. Sometimes we read the stories from Christian Heroes Then & Now & we think, "Hmm.." & sometimes we are greatly moved by one's love for Christ & the actions they took to show that love & not just waste hot air talking about it. Mary is one who's actions spoke far louder then her words. We really enjoyed her story & were inspired to look up a bit more about here. We found some real pictures of her, her adopted children, & even a few of the Chiefs & Ma's she lived with. If you're curious you can find them here, but be forewarned some of the ladies are bare chested.

Live Like A Jesus Freak is the book I've labeled "theology" in our basked, merely for lack of a better name. We are really enjoying the book, the stories presented, & the personal suggestions & challenges. My eldest was particularly moved by a statement in the book & openly shared some of his thoughts about it after a recent outing which left him with a sour experience. It was one of those moments where I realised just how much he's growing, not just physically, but equally in his own faith.

While we didn't dive into our normal science this week we began our rotation with the books from our Read Aloud Basket. We've been reading Raging Rivers each day, but only read The Story of Science on Thursday & friday. Raging Rivers is a lovely Horrible Geography book making it loaded not only with tons of facts, but it's written in an engaging way. We're loving it. The Story Of Science could also be considered the history of it, we're not far into it yet so I can't give too deep of an opinion. We started reading this one a year or two ago when we borrowed it form the library, but this time we purchased our own copy so we can read it at whatever pace we'd like.

We're still reading through The Wind In The Willows. We are nearly finished with this one & are tempted to finish it over the weekend, we'll see. This has been a slower read with much more vibrant vocabulary, all most too much so. I'm also semi-convinced that Mr Graham lost track of what he was doing about halfway through the book as he one minute he's telling us the story of Toad's escape & then derails himself for a rather lengthy chapter in describing how poor dear Ratty is dismayed by all the animals heading south. It doesn't add up with the following chapter in which we hear more escapades of Toad's escape as Toad is not far from Toad Hall & yet it does not seem to be winter, spring, or autumn in the story leaving one to wonder exactly how long toad lay asleep in the hollow of the tree while dressed like the washer woman. Morgan's enjoying the book thoroughly, but the the above mentioned chapter & thick vocabulary that was contained with in has led Jayden to feel he can't wait for this book to land back upon the shelf.

We've been listening to 101 Dalmatians again in the car. I read this book to the boys many years ago & they absolutely loved it. For ages Jayde use to ask if we could adopt another black & white dog so we could get our Mrs, or he was happy to settle for calling her Perdita, it didn't matter just so long as we could have puppies too. This time we've been enjoying an audio version & are enjoying just as much as ever.

With our colder winter mornings we had a fire going in the library & the kids wanted to do spelling in front of the fire. We were halfway through a week of spelling that we'd started the previous week & we finished it off this week. With Sequential Spelling all the words build off each other over the course of 4 days so we only had 2 days of spelling this week. Considering now one felt compelled to chuck their books in the fire after their test was over I think we did all right!

We're still using our lovely Winter Promise Language Arts, we're in our final book with the current level & the boys are still enjoying just as much as they did in Book 1. The information is presented in a very sensible manner so I have the boys use a highlighter to mark things in the book that can be used later as reference to review for the final tests that are at the end of each book. I think it's a great way to begin learning to take notes in books. They also use the highlighters to mark parts of speech in the sentences; this is far easier for my Vision Boy then underlining things with a pencil.

The rain let up during the middle of the week & I hustled everyone out the door & down to the beach for a walk. The scenery was gorgeous, but it was a bit of a hazardous walk on the way up the path. The sun was just so painful for two us with it shining in our eyes! We need to pick a different time of day to take our walk!

After any length of time off math I like to start back with simple flashcards which help with fact recall. After that & some boring skip counting, yes we still practice skip counting but with the harder families like 9's, we took to the white board for some math facts. I just wanted a basic review on things that normally trip each of them up a bit to gear them up for lessons back in their text books this week.

Morgan spent a lot of time working on making games again this week. This is a huge passion for him & generally each game has well thought out lists of rules & so forth. There's rarely every room for question with his games. He once made a lego game that had such a long list of rules he made it into a scroll, however when he pulled it out to ask the neighbor's kids to help him test it there was not a single fight amongst them because each time something came into question I heard someone say, "Let's just check the rules!" Jayde wasn't keen to have a play, so a Pokemon {don't ask me which one that is} was pulled into action instead.

The boys are taking Tennis lessons again this term & had those one evening this week. I'm looking forward to the warmer weather & lighter evenings for these lessons! I'm pretty sure if it doesn't roll in soon I'll turn to a block of ice on the cement seat I have. I was so cold this week I sent Mr S an SOS asking him to bring me hot cocoa, he told me he was in a meeting. Rats! The boys are really enjoying themselves & eager to get into things a bit deeper. My boys are the guilty ones who keep hitting the balls over the 10'+ fence. My apologies, in advance, to anyone who's been hit at the park or Bowl's Club in the past few weeks...

Jayde began his new book, The Matchlock Gun, which won't last him long. He was a little put out at first when I forewarned him there'd be Dutch names & words within. He's still at that phase of being intimidated by words that aren't English in his reading. We went over all the names in advanced & then found out on the way home from tennis that one of the characters in the book has been dually named Tennis {his name is actually Taunnis} which caused a great deal of chuckling.

Morgan started a new book too. We've swayed from his current reading programme to read a historical fiction novel that fits in with the time frame he's learning about. Spy For The Night Riders which I was delighted to find in PDF format so it could be printed on his specialty paper. Unfortunately, the font is huge, which isn't a disadvantage for him, but we've been slowly working on reducing font size to help his eyes out a bit On the flip side he's enjoying the book which is always good!

Wednesday we had dual Dr's appointments which kept our lovely new office on it's toes. We're all good, all though our boy came home with Sports & Viral Induced Asthma. Not a huge surprise to us at all which is why we took him in. In fact we're more grateful for the diagnosis & supplies to help him as he needs it. Sports were becoming increasingly hard for him as he continues to progress in ability & he was often complaining of a pinching in his chest or was heard with a cough that sounded more like a seal barking. We're prayerful that it won't progress beyond this & we'll be able to help him learn to manage it properly.

All in all not a bad official start to our term.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Literature Based Learning with Visual Disability

We’ve been using a literature based curriculum the entirety of our homeschooling years. I still remember that long ago evening I was curled up on the sofa with the book Cathy Duffy’s Top 100 Homeschool Picks. I’d picked it up at my local BAM store earlier that day. It’s still the first book I tend to recommend to new homeschoolers, all though at this point in the game I think it’s up now 102 instead of 100.

Either way, the book led us to a fantastic curriculum called Five In A Row. We used that curriculum for 4-5 years with our eldest child before switching to Winter Promise, Sonlight, & Bookshark. We spent many hours reading picture books that still hold a fond memory in my boys heart. I recently caught him pulling the books off the shelf & telling the stories to his brother without actually opening the book which cracked them both up.

The thing is, it can be handwork having a child with vision issues, using a literature based curriculum, and encouraging independence. Audiobooks have really helped our son help himself in this area.

We have a few favourite resources for audio books: has always been our number one sources. We’ve been members for going on 9 or 10 years now. It’s the first place we check for audio books. Our wish list is incredibly longer, & our library of books over there is even bigger. I keep hoping that one day I’ll “win my wishlist” in one of their competitions, but my husband is doubtful based on the fact that we constantly purchase things we’re doing good keeping them in business. I absolutely love that any book I obtain form this website is then ours. this is relatively knew to us & may not be available for all people. You’ll need a report or letter from your specialist that states, clearly, that you or your child has a vision problem. Once the letter or report is accepted you’ll be up & running with an annual fee to the website. We’ve been able to find all our Sonlight or Bookshark books there, & a good dose of our Winter Promise books as well. The books range from Classical Audios {someone reading the book to you} to voice text audios {a computer reading it}. I especially love that some books can be read to the child while they follow along on the screen. A great way for building skills & confidence. My boy loves that he can change the tone of the narrator’s voice & has better control over the speed as well. The downer is he’s use to the Audible platform which tells him a bit more from the TOC then Learning Ally does. This is a library of books, so once your subscription is up, unless you renew you won’t maintain access to any of the books you’ve listened to. has been around a while with a variety of things available. They’ve recently opened up a digital library of both ebooks & audio books. The monthly fee to have access is only $8.95 making many people give up their audible subscriptions in place of ScribD. We haven’t given up our audible subscription, but we have added ScribD to our pile of resources. There are books available there that I can’t get through audible. I can also obtain books through Scribd that I might not be keen to own, but really want a child to listen to. The big thing to remember here is that you do not own any of the books at the end of the month, you’ve simply borrowed them.

Between the three resources above we manage to maintain a pretty good supply of books for our boy. He no longer says, “Someday when I can read that..” he now approaches the library shelves with confidence & says, “Can I snap a picture of this so I don’t forget the title? I want to see if I can find it as an audio book!”  This doesn’t mean, of course, that he’s not reading at all, he certainly is. In fact this past weekend it was all we could do to drag him away from his current library book. Rather, it means we’ve opened up a new world to him that was previously closed, & that makes this Mamma very very happy.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Our Natural Love For Books

The question is posed, far too often, in homeschooling circles about whether the books children are reading are worthy or not. It seems to follow the homeschooling trend about living books. I find the whole concept a little bit amusing, & often turn away from conversations based on this topic. Now I know that probably sounds odd considering we use literature based curriculum, have bookcases brimming with books, & are constantly posting about one book or another. So why do I avoid the topic?

I was homeschooled, & when I was homeschooled books were an everyday part of my life. I have found memories of working away in hot summer afternoons on cross-stitch projects while Mom read aloud to us. I remember, with great love, Swan Lake, Narnia, & Hans Brinker to name a few. I remember the occasional evening when Dad would read aloud to us from one book or another.

Both of my parents were very avid readers & it was simply normal to see them with books in hand. To hear them tell how they’d stayed up late reading. To find their own shelves bursting with books. I was a slower reader for a while, & had to be pulled, kicking & screaming at times, to try out new genres of books often trapping myself in a corner with one author or another.

Yet, I never remember my parents saying, “Oh honey, put that fluff down & read this lovely meatier book!” Not once do I remember such a thing happening. Yes, I was encouraged to read great literature, sure there were rules & guidelines, but rarely were those even needed. I’m not saying my siblings & I were perfect angels, rather I’m saying that because our parents were readers themselves, because they read to us, & because our schooling revolved around amazing books we learned, from example, how to choose great books.

I can remember many afternoons or evenings standing in the kitchen going into great detail about one book or another that I was reading as I, without being asked, was narrating a book to Mom. Pondering over what would happen next, contemplating the reasonings for what had all ready unfolded. My mother did not require this of me, I simply wanted to share the love of a book I had with her.

We spent other afternoons together sharing the works of Gene Porter, books I still covet for the memories of those days spent together. Little Woman was another book we shared & when I pull it out now & again to read I am often amazed by how simplistic the book seems compared to those long ago mornings when I wondered if I’d ever reach the end.

In my own home the same is true. We’ve been reading to our children from the get-go. Our curriculum has always been literature based. Audio books are commonly on in our car, & when we hit an intersection with some bozo who has his radio up so loud we’re all subjected to the nasty lyrics we simply turn up our story louder. 

We’ve been caught waiting in lines at the store each with a set of headphones all connected to the same device listening, gleefully, to our book wondering if we were right in our predictions for the outcome. We sit in waiting rooms & read books aloud to each other. There’s always a book tucked in the overnight gear, a back up audio book should the first one be finished on the driving portion of our trip, & the discussion of where the nearest bookshop {used or new} or library will be in relation to our outings.

This isn’t something we demand from our children. This is simply the way we live. My children have heard or read many books on the “great or classic” lists. I’ve yet to find a list of books that surprises me as we’ve read a vast amount on those lists all ready. They speak of characters in books like old friends. They spot people debating which book to check out at the library & weigh in on which one is better & why. They carry on regular conversations with the library clerks about books & the only question they ever struggle with is, “Which is your favourite book?” 

“Favourite? I could never choose just one!” is often the reply from each of them. The librarian often nods her head & whispers back, “I know exactly what you mean!"

My children wait anxiously for the appropriate hour to roll around so they can share some great book with their American grandmother. They share their latest awesome book with relatives here who are then inspired to have a read of the book for themselves. Borrowing books between family members is a constant happening. My boys have even been known to inspire friends to go back & reread books or finish series because my own children speak with such loving fondness of the characters held within.

The thing is, my children have also read Pokemon, Adventure Time, Geronimo Stilton, & even Captain Underpants {of which my son borrowed from a beloved uncle..} I’ve never balked or whinged about it. I simply smile & attempt to follow the plot line when an excited child comes to tell me all about what happened. I take them seriously when they say, “Well I wasted 2 days of my life reading that book. It should have come with a warning!” 

My children speak of authors with great joy, & wonder if or when they’ll write another book. They’ve sent letters to many authors & always received a written reply. We’ve had authors send chapters of new books they are working on, complete with drawings. Send them autographed coipes of books, & induct them into special clubs. Even ask for advice about choices for upcoming books, or include quips from them us in ebooks.

There’s nothing wrong with preferring your children read great books, lovely books, amazing books, but I think it’s important to remember books are a lot like ice cream flavours, & this might come as a shock to some people, but not everyone loves chocolate. What appeals to one person may not always appeal to another.

I don’t spend countless hours worrying over how good or bad a book is. I don’t worry if it fits into a specific ideal I have preconceived. I give books to my children as Christmas & Birthday presents. I buy them books when a new interest or curiosity hits. I provide the opportunity for any & every book to be read & allow it all to unfold from there. 

I know there is some absolute rubbish out there, but when your children are use to hearing good books. When they are use to reading great books. When they see their parents & grandparents reading great books, they choose great books too.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Our Read Aloud Basket

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 I’ve spoken before about a morning basket, something we’ve used previously, but of late had become the “just shove it in the basket before the bird eats it!” basket. While we’ve been quiet on the blogging front we’ve been busy on the home-front.

I recently cleared off all our bookshelves. I know, quite shocking really. Mr S walked in & saw books all over & asked if they were coming in or going out. He was met with silence, not from annoyance, but Morgan & I had just discussed saying good-bye to a few books & one of us {okay it was me} wailed, “But I loved that book!”

It’s true, many lovely books went to lovely new homes. Books that we haven’t used in years & years because, well let’s face it, my children are no longer in need of Rookie Readers or other very simple books. We were lacking some major room on our shelves for the books we do use & love & their ever expanding companions. It took great strength to say good-bye to so many lovely books, but never fear our book shelves are still fit to bursting & need to be extended.

Which lades me back to the basket I was talking about in the first place. If you think reading blog posts like this is hard, you should hear me attempting to carry on a conversation in the 20 minutes of peace I get when Mr S walks in the door. I have learned to say, “More about that later, can’t bunny trail now!” & manage to spit out just enough details that he’ll ask for more later; after the kids have exploded with all the details of their own days & asked him the many burning questions they have, after all it’s pretty imperative in our home to know if Fred the seagull stole Mr S’ lunch again today, or if instead perhaps Lumpy the one legged seagull got it instead. 

The real point is, that our basket got an overhaul too. I cleared it out & resolved things we’d finished with but never put away, or put things away we’d never quite gotten to like we’d aimed. I put away the guilt that can accompany the lack of using something you’d had great intentions about & simply smiled at how tidy everything was looking. In fact, I even snapped photos of how clean & lovely it was because I knew it wouldn’t last.

I then refilled our basket with books we are using, & aptly renamed it the “Read Aloud Basket”. It’s officially called that in my planned now, so even though the basket lacks a label {I’m not totally above labelling baskets so kids can’t say, “..but I didn’t know that was the one you meant!”} it has an official name.

The objective is that each day we’ll curl up with our quilts, after all we’ve hit the dead middle of winter & it’s bitterly cold outside. Birds are pulled out, for they throw a great tantrum if they feel they didn’t get to enjoy the books as well, & we all settle in for a couple of hours of reading. I think, really, the only thing that revolts against the entire idea is my throat. 

While our school days have not been up to our normal standard par, which can often leave me nervous & in worry of falling behind, our well stocked Read Aloud basket is getting a full workout of late. We’ve polished off some books, re-shelved them, & pulled out others. It makes for a calm start to our day, or finish, depending on when things happen.

Our basket is currently following a pattern, one that fits our needs & current ages: Bible & Devotional, Children’s Bible, Missionary Book, Theology Book, Geography Book, Scientist Biography, Science Extra Book, Science “theology” Book, Read Aloud, Poetry Book

It seems like a fair lot, but at current we don’t read every book in one day, I’m pretty sure if we tried my throat would put up a vacancy sign & hit the road faster then I could guzzle water. There are even times when, despite having the book in the basket, we pull up on audio copy of the book anyway. My throat gives a standing ovation to this type of innovative thinking. 

Here's our current titles:

90 Days In Matthew. Yep, the longest 90 days in history I’m sure, but we generally use it 4x a week. We’re not in a rush to shelve it & are thoroughly enjoying it. We use the Bible in the basket to read the scripture from the devotional.

Children's Bible. The boys are currently using the Children’s Bible to read from Joshua aloud. We’ve found that with a Children’s Bible the font is much larger for our Irlen boy & with his glasses & overlay he really loves that he can read aloud to us for a change. 

Mary Slessor. We were meant to read Mary Slessor’s story the year we moved house, but a few books were shelved as the need to nurse a mil back to health & pack boxes was a far biggest task. This is from the Heroes In History series, which are equally available from Audible.

Jesus Freak. Not the cd, but the book written by the same music group, DC Talk. The book discusses what it’s like to be a real Jesus freak, to truly turn your life to Christ in all situations. It equally gives examples from people in history who’ve endured some incredible hardships for their own faith.

Horrible Geography’s Cracking Coasts. I actually had other geography books I’d intended to stick in our basket, but spotted this one at the library. Let’s face it, the authors of the “Horrible” series do an incredibly job at engaging students in otherwise boring topics. Read with a bit of flare, a few funny voices, & a whole lot of attitude & the only boring thing happening is me saying, “Stop laughing a minute so I can keep reading!” 

Robert Boyle. One thing I really dislike about most science curriculum is the brief glimpses they give of many men & woman who’ve contributed greatly to the advancement of science. I get it, if the book spends all their time dwelling on biographies then they’ll have to sacrifice some of the other goodness inside. Robert Doyle’s story is part of The Sower series.

Chemical Chaos. We own a lot of science books & this is one we started way back in Term 1. We put it aside during half of Term 2 & I was reminded by a couple of young men who really loved the book that we need to finish it. Too right they are, we have another pile of science books waiting to be read as well!

It Couldn’t Just Happen! It’s hard, for our family, to find a science curriculum that is Christian based & aligns with our beliefs in full. Thus, it’s easier to pick a curriculum that has no faith ties to it to use. Unfortunately, that means we can miss out on some great theology discussions based on science related topics. The term science “theology” book is just for lack of a better description & helps me when planning which books to toss in my basket. It does not refer to a believe or religion of science.

The Wind In The Willows. The boys & I are currently making our way through a great many “classic” books. I despise using that term because I know there’s a lot of nit & grit about people using it correctly or not these days. Regardless, that is the term I am choosing to use. We have a stack we’ve finished & yet another stack awaiting for us so we really have no time to waste arguing if the books are classics or not.

 Famous Poems Old & New. Oh my it seems ever so long ago we began this poetry book. Yet, we are nearly finished with it & part of me hates to see it go. In previous years some of our poetry books were only read 1-2 times a week, were as this beauty was ready daily. Never fear, if our next poetry book isn’t a daily read we have plenty of others that can fill that void. After all, Cheerio’s Book Of Days is anxiously awaiting to be pulled back out & used daily again.

That’s it. When we finish something that’s in there we’ll simply replace with another book awaiting our reading. Simple & effective.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Struggling Readers

I am often amazed by the countless, well meaning, people who share all their secrets & techniques for struggling readers. It’s not that I’m amazed there are so many struggling readers out there, not in the least.  Rather that each person who has the “ultimate” answer forgets to mention the most crucial step in helping a struggling reader: checking in with a professional first. Now I know there are those who will shake their head & adamantly disagree with me, but I ask you one very sincere question: Have you ever really had a struggling reader before?

There’s a huge difference between a child who isn’t interested in reading & a child who physically can’t accomplish the task. I know there are many many different ways for a child to struggle & that our situation is not unique to the masses out there, nor is it the only way for a child to show struggles. I know there are many many reasons why a child can be struggling. Still, I’m left scratching my head by the countless, well meaning people, who presume that parents are simply doing it wrong, & the countless companies & people who endlessly share the idea that we're doing it all wrong. 

We’re offering the wrong books. We’re offering the wrong sized book. Stop bribing your children. Remove electronics. Require your children to read longer. This last one, this one really gets me. Every. Single. Time. It makes me shake my head & want to wag a finger in the speakers face.

A true struggling reader isn’t going to improve if we require them to read longer.  A true struggling reader is overcome with emotion & frustration every step of the way. They avoid books, not because they hate what’s inside of them, but because they hate how they are made to feel when they try to read! Do you regularly attempt to do things that embarrass you? Publicly? 

Did you know that children with Irlen Syndrome have no more to give? Did you know that requiring them to read for 5 more minutes could not only put them in sensory overload, but cause a complete shut down? Did you know that a person with Irlen Syndrome isn’t using the excuse that they are thirsty to get out of reading? That 5 more minutes you demanded from them set their brain into overload, literally, & now has them three steps past dehydration. They will now, most likely, complain of headache, stomach ache, & eye pain which will, in many cases, last the remainder of the day. In short, you just caused ultimate burnout. 

If you started your day with reading, & pushed too far, every other thing you want them to do, everything they wanted to do in the day, is now going to be an absolute struggle.

No ultimate list of resources, perfect books, or techniques will cure the problem. Children who struggle with Irlen Syndrome aren’t alone in this phenomenon that many people can’t understand. Asking a child with dyslexia to give it one more go, to try just a little bit harder isn’t going to make them see any clearer. In fact, again, you’ve just pushed them to a point of sensory overload.

It’s not that I begrudge people their ultimate lists; their well meaning advice. I don’t. I’m sure there are a great number of people out there who can benefit from that advice. The question is, are they the ones reading the articles? Are they scanning anything they can to find that one solution that will take their child from a struggling reader & turn them into a strong reader?

Yes, my defence mechanism may be on high alert right now, but remember: Great advice is worthless unless applied to the right situation. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

French & Indian War Resources

We’ve decided to rabbit trail form our normal plans for a couple of weeks here & take some time to study the French & Indian War a bit more in depth. Why? It’s a major turning point & reason for the Revolutionary War. After all, if there’d been no British defences during that war then there may have been no reason for King George to tax the colonists, in which case the chances of a rebellion on behalf of the colonist people would have been unlikely, & history would look vastly different. It did happen though, & it was a major turning point!

Our history curriculum glances over it with a few snippets of information here & there, & a couple of books staggered at the wrong time. So, I decided to round up a few resources & pull together a small unit on the topic myself, & as I need to keep track of what I’m doing for when the next one hits this time period I thought I’d share our plans here. 


Struggle For A Continent was a give-in for purchasing as one of our spines. The Maestro books are beautiful & well written with little bias & mostly a whole lot of fact telling, equally representing what happened. I was delighted to discover there was one written about this very time period & was quick to make the purchase.

The French & Indian War is part of Scholastic’s Cornerstones of Freedom series. We’ve read a few from this series & haven’t minded them. This particular one is broken down into 4 chapters, plenty of illustrations, a timeline, maps, & more.

Calico Bush was our scheduled read aloud with our curriculum & rather then waiting until after studying the Revolutionary War I simply grabbed it out of our stack to use now. Thus far we’re enjoying the story, all though I will say it can be a real tongue strangler at times to read aloud. Ever have books like that?

Calico Captive is a story about a young family awoken early one morning to their home being ransacked by Native Americans, in the fray they themselves are kidnapped & taken prisoner. On the incredibly long trail they experience a few hardships before landing, eventually, in Quebec. The story is based on the diary of one of the characters in the book. The main character takes a long time to grow up in the story & her opinion of the peoples around her is often tainted by both the time she grew up in, the horrors around her, & immaturity. Also available in audio format.

Indian Captive is another story about a colonist taken prisoner due to the impending war. Again, it too is based on the diaries & stories of a real person. This book was even more interesting to me as I was familiar with some of the areas the story took place. Mary’s story is different in that she spends her entire time in the Indian Village & becomes part of their family. Also available in audio format.

Matchlock Gun is finally a story about this time period with a boy as it’s hero. Edward is left in charge while his father is away keeping watch for a raid from the Indian tribes. Edward is left with a gun that is bigger then he is to protect his Mamma & sister should he need to.

Madeline Takes Command is an audio book we picked up on cd last year. This story shows a differing perspective in that it takes place in New France & shows the opposing side & some of their struggles as well. Again, based on a true story & heroine from history.

Ghost Hawk, beautifully narrated by the beloved Jim Dale, is more a prerequisite to the French & Indian war showing the constantly deteriorating relationship between the Colonists & the Native Americans of that time as 2 young boys from each side befriend each other.

The Arrow Over The Door this is a book assigned later in our history programme so we may save for later. However, it too is based on a real story, but has a male hero at it’s core. Oddly enough many of the books about this time period seem to have female heroines at their core so my boy just might enjoy pulling this one out to read.

Other Resources

Notebook/Lapbook are offered up for free here. Simply choose which ones, or all, that you want, download & print.

PBS The War That Made America DVDs unfortunately I couldn’t find these on iTunes or Netflix, so I had to pick them up as DVDs. Not that I mind owning DVDs, but our DVD player is on the fritz! My boy so loves being able to watch historical movies, especially documentaries, that I decided fritz or not it was worth the effort.