Monday, May 11, 2015

A Round Up of Books

We read. We read a lot.

Between my personal reading and reading aloud I do with the three kiddos, it constitutes a significant part of my day. More about my reading another though. Today - let's talk children's books!

Our homeschooling approach draws from lots of different influences, but I am particularly inspired by the Charlotte Mason approach, which has a large emphasis on 'living' books. (I really enjoyed this article's explanation on what makes a book a 'living' book). 

It's always fun to have a little look back at what we've been reading, so here's a quick look at a handful of children's books that we have been particularly enjoying just recently. 

Fiction Picture Books

The Treasure, by Uri Shulevitz
     Beautifully written and illustrated, a great moral tale set in Russia.

Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, by Edward Ardizzone
     Oh my goodness - this the first book in such a fun adventure series, perfect for early elementary adventurers. We have been reading our way steadily through these books and enjoying them greatly.

Thy Friend Obadiah, by Brinton Turkle
     I loves this book; the art, the story, the unexpected social lesson.

Old Henry, by Joan W. Blos
     I'll be honest, that when I started reading this book aloud to my three Little Ones, I was a little unsure about it. By the time I was half way through though, I was smitten. Later I went back and re-read it by myself, it was that good!
     Beautifully illustrated, a gentle story about accepting others.

Each Peach Pear Plum, by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
     Something for the Preschoolers, I remember this book from my own childhood, and was delighted to find that it had lost nothing in the intervening years. Fun rhymes, lovely illustrations and a fun i-spy through the nursery rhymes.

The Little Airplane, by Lois Lenski
   Another one for the younger set, this is part of series about Small and the different adventures he gets up (Cowboy Small, The Little Sailboat, etc). Very sweet, and gently informative.

Non-Fiction Picture Books

Sky Boys, by Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome
     Stunning art, and a wonderful combination of fictionalized story and facts about the building of the Empire State Building, this book proved to be a wonderful springboard for all sorts of construction, architecture and demolition conversations.

Math For All Seasons: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles, by Greg Tang
     Can I just gush for a moment or two about Greg Tang's books?! They are wonderful! Fun and engaging, with math fun on every page; we adore these books. Great for early elementary children.

One Small Square: Cactus Desert, by Donald M. Silver
     We have now read several books in the One Small Square series, and they are all great. Really informative, great for zoology and geography studies. Each book studies a different geographical location, and shares such information as weather, animals that live there, annual life cycles, plants and habitats. Fabulous!

Wolves, by Gail Gibbons
   I found this book for my six year old Little Guy, feeding his current wolf obsession - but also, it's by Gail Gibbons which really is enough for me! If you aren't familiar with her books and you are homeschooling or parenting young ones, you must must check them out. Between the factual information and the illustrations, her books are winners. Run, don't walk!

Chapter Books and Audio Books

A Bear Named Paddington, by Michael Bond
   A recent audio book for car rides, this was a firm favorite with all three children; funny, silly fun with Paddington!

Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White
     Another book on CD for the car, I was a little hesitant that this might be a little too intense for my sensitive little ones, but they LOVED it! We finished this one about three weeks ago, and are still talking about Wilbur and Charlotte.
     Added bonus, I found an audi version read by the author himself, which was amazing - worth finding.

Olga da Polga, by Michael Bond
     Another one by the author of Paddington Bear, this was a firm favorite of mine as \a child, and we have been giggling and chortling our way through it. A sweet book about the funny tales a silly and sassy guinea pig - not to be missed.
   Although popular in the UK, this is harder to find in the States, but worth looking for. The original illustrations were done by Hans Helweg and are just wonderful!

What have you been reading with your children recently? 

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Weekly Dashboard

So maybe it is just me, but I find it very difficult to live 'simply' when my life is disorganized.

Knowing what is coming up and how I am going to get things done, really gives me the confidence to let go of those aspects a little bit. If I have a plan, I don't have to THINK about it all!

Along with my monthly wall calendar where I keep track of the bulk of my day to day events (classes, meetings, trips, birthdays), and my smart phone calendar where I keep track of the day to day minutiae (library books due back, subscriptions and bills due) I also take time each weekend to create to plans for my upcoming week - one for meals and the other for our homeschool plan.

Before I go further I should add that I am not a natural planner. I don;t feel a strong need to map things out like this, but that doing so stops the daily panic of 'what ARE we going to eat tonight?' and 'WHAT did we do for school last week?!'

My meal plan is a really basic affair, and one that I received as part of a bundle from Waldorfish, but I really like the simple layout, and that there are blocks for breakfast, lunch and grazing platters (affectionately known in our home as monkey platters!) I've written before about how I tend to go about creating my menu plans, here. It's still working for us!

And before I go any further with my homeschool plan, I should add a humongous caveat.
Yes! - I make a plan each week.
No - I don't expect us to do this each week.

Again, I've found that if I make a plan, it frees up a little extra brain space for me. When we are ready for our next 'school' project, I can just check my book for inspiration. I'll write more on how we homeschool another time, because honestly that's a huge multi- post project all by itself.

After struggling to find a homeschool planner that I loved, that had the flexibility I wanted for our family's schooling needs, I created my own out of a 50 cent composition book. I used this post as my inspiration, but honestly my planner has evolved so much since I first started doing this at the beginning of the school year. But that's the beauty of it! - now it's my own creation,a nd it perfectly fits my needs. Joy!

And lastly, my To Do book. This is a newer addition for me, and was borne from the need for me to write out to do lists and random notes. Am I the only person who finds that physically writing something out with pen and paper helps me remember it better?!

This one is still a bit of a work in progress, and I know it will be evolving over the upcoming months, but it's good to have a collected place to jot everything down, and a beautiful book at that, rather than the countless scraps of paper.

I use a lovely Moleskine notebook for this; it had all the features I wanted; a ribbon for marking my place, an elastic strap for holding it closed, and a pocket int he back for any random scraps of paper that may just need to be contained (ahem).