new year, new books.

Every time I post about books I seem to hear from numerous people how much they enjoy it, so I thought listing some books that we are currently reading would be a great way to start the new year.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that we always have new books after Christmas!  Speaking of books, this week I had the opportunity to hear Andrew Pudewa speak at a seminar.  He is the founder of The Institute for Excellence in Writing and we have benefited tremendously from many of the materials they offer.  I heard him talk on the topic of Nurturing Competent Communicators.  You can download this talk (and numerous other resources) for free here on the IEW webpage after you create a free account.  It is outstanding.  He specifically talks about 1 myth and 2 truths: The myth – good readers will become good writers; the truths, which he says are the two most powerful ways to nurture competent writers — 1.  We must read good and great books (the classics) to them out loud, very often, even when they could read it themselves, and 2.  Have them memorize poetry, in large amounts.  He says that one of the biggest mistakes we make as parents is to stop reading aloud to our children when they reach the age of reading faster independently.  For a summary on this talk, you can read this 3 page document.  We read aloud every day, but I was encouraged to hear that the 2nd best alternative to reading aloud is to have children listen to audio books.  I am always amazed at how much even the younger kids love listening along with the big kids.  Although we have always memorized poetry each year, I am eager to increase the amount and length of the poems we memorize.  IEW has a wonderful supplement for this that is loved by many called Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization.  You can purchase the book alone, or the book/CD combo, which is perfect for while driving.  All that to say, it was encouraging and made me realize once again what some of my priorities are (especially on the days when I am ready to send the kids off to school)!

Moving onto books, here are some recent family favorites:

on the edge of the dark sea of darknessthe monster in the hollowsnorth! or be eaten
Andrew Peterson – The Wingfeather Saga – There are currently 3 (of 4) books included in this fantasy saga.  We are long time fans of Andrew Peterson’s music and were excited to discover these novels.  Currently the books include On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten, and The Monster in the Hollows.  The characters are wonderfully drawn and the storyline is epic.  These make a wonderful read aloud.

snow treasurenumber the stars
Snow Treasure
– Both Hailey and Justin read this book in record time and couldn’t put it down!  This is a great story of courage and sacrifice.  For those unfamiliar with this book, it takes place in 1940 during WWII and tells the story of Norwegian children who risk their lives by hiding gold on their sleds and taking it to safety. 

Number the Stars – A classic from the same time period as Snow Treasure, this story tells the experience to life through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen, whose family harbors her best friend, Ellen Rosen, on the eve of the round-up and helps smuggle Ellen’s family out of the country.

imagination station book 10CaseofMissingMan
The Imagination Station: Challenge on the Hill of Fire – As I’ve mentioned before, this series is a favorite of the kiddos and book 10 came out just in time for Christmas!  This is a wonderful series for early readers as it exposes them to Christian values and historical events at the same time. 

The Farm Mystery Series – This is another series that I have mentioned in the past, but I thought I’d mention it again since book #10 was recently released.  This is one of Justin’s favorite series for his “fun reading” and he was thrilled to see that another book came out in the series.

the donkey who carried a kingthe barber who wanted to pray
The Donkey Who Carried a King
– This is one of the most recent children’s books written by R.C. Sproul.  We enjoy his children’s books as they all use allegory to teach important Biblical truths.  In this book R.C. Sproul helps children understand that they should carry out every task in their lives without grumbling. He does it by telling the story of Davey, who was the Donkey that carried Christ into Jerusalem. Davey was overjoyed to have such a special task, but after taking Christ to Jerusalem Davey is put back to seemingly menial tasks for which he begins to grumble. Through a wonderful depiction of the servant’s heart that Christ displayed, this book teaches children to see the importance of doing every task without grumbling, but instead joyfully as though doing it for the Lord. 

The Barber Who Wanted to Pray – Another R.C. Sproul children’s book that is based on a true story about the great Reformer, Martin Luther, this story teaches powerful lessons on prayer for children and parents.

thoughts to make your heart singchoosing gratitude
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing – From the author of the beloved Jesus Storybook Bible, this is a lovely collection of 101 simple-yet-profound thoughts on faith.  The readings are short, which make them perfect to read anytime!  We enjoy reading this book in the morning at breakfast for a short, yet helpful reminder as we start our day.

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy – This book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been an outstanding read!  As DeMoss says, “Gratitude is a choice.  If we fail to chose it, by default we choose ingratitude.”  I want to live my life filled with joy, thankfulness, and gratitude and this book has served me well.

american challengewise words
Sisters in Time: American Challenge – Hailey continues to thoroughly enjoy the Sisters in Time books.  These historical fiction books are filled with important lessons of Christian faith and history, making them a great option for spare time reading.

Wise Words: Family Stories that Bring the Proverbs to Life – The kiddos love the stories in this book!  They are funny, engaging, and thought-provoking.  The stories are short and only take about 5 minutes to read, which make them a great bedtime story or short family devotional.


Classical Conversations – Fine Arts: Drawing

We are getting ready to begin another year of Classical Conversations.  I will be tutoring one of the classes again, and in preparation I have been pulling together ideas for the first 6 weeks of Fine Arts, which happens to be drawing.  I thought I’d post all of the different ideas I have come across in case they are helpful to other tutors and/or parents.  Even if you are not a part of CC, there are some great ideas for art lessons.  My kids love doing extra art projects at home, so I’m sure we will be using these resources beyond the classroom this year!

Drawing with Children 

Drawing – Week 1: OiLS

Book to Read:
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

For Practice:
~Have children fold a piece of art paper in half and then into thirds.  Unfold paper and using the fold lines of the 6 boxes, create an OiLS chart.  In box square have them label it with “Basic Elements: OiLS” and in the other squares have them draw examples of each element (circles, filled in dots, straight lines, angles and curves).
~Have children practice drawing the 5 elements of shape using these Donna Young worksheets.
~Use Draw-Write-Now Books or Ed Emberly’s Drawing Book of Animals to have the children draw some simple animals.  Show the children how to add different elements by using OiLS.

~Use this tutorial to draw owls.  Have the children use the different elements of OiLS to add detail to their owl(s).  If time permits, allow children to add color.
~As mentioned previously, allow children to use Draw-Write-Now books or Ed Emberly’s Drawing Book of Animals to draw a simple animal.  Be sure to have them add detail using the different elements of OiLS that they learned about.  They can also add color to these drawings if desired.
~Use this picture of a giraffe as a guide for the children to draw and then have them fill in the long neck of the giraffe with different elements of OiLS that they learned.
~Use these pictures as a guide for using OiLS to draw trees, leaves, flowers, and clouds.  

Draw-Write-Now 8

Drawing – Week 2: Mirror Image

Book to Read:
Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer

For Practice:
~Fold a sheet of paper in half.  Cut out shapes on the fold and try to guess what the mirror image is going to look like and then open it!
~Have the students come up to the whiteboard one at a time to finish the mirror image of something you draw.  Add another element to the picture for each student instead of starting new each time.
~Have the students practice drawing mirror images using these Donna Youn worksheets.

~Trace leaves to make these Andy Warhol inspired leaves.
~Use leaves to complete this Line Art Leaves project.
~Use leaves to complete this Contour Fall Leaves project.

Draw and Write Through History 1

Drawing – Week 3: Upside-Down

Book to Read:
The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst

For Practice:
~Have the students write their names (only first name for younger students, first and last for older students) on a piece of paper, turn it upside down and try to rewrite their name upside down by focusing on OiLS.  Turn it back around and see how they did!

~Use drawing projects from week 1 (owls and/or other animal(s) they drew), turn it upside-down and have children try to draw from this new perspective.
~For a more challenging upside-down project, this idea using a drawing with flowers in a jar looks neat.  The children could use watercolors as suggested or just color their drawing when finished.
~For another more challenging project, use this picture with instructions.

Ed Emberly's Drawing Book of Animals

Drawing – Week 4: Abstract

Book to Read:
What’s the Big Idea?: Activities and Adventures in Abstract Art by Joyce Raimondo

~Using this picture or this tutorial, make a 3D hand (you will need thick markers to color it in).
~Have the kids practice making abstract art using this tutorial (use basic idea, but make it smaller and more simple).
~Have the children make this Delaunay Marker Drawing using circles.
~For something simple, this Kandinsky Abstract Circles project would work well.  Instead of oil pastels, just have the children used crayons and/or colored pencils.
~For a really simple project, use a simple drawing and do something like this.
~Use cardboard templates of different shapes (triangle, square, circle) to make a project like this one.
~For a more challenging project, this Abstract Flower Drawing project is great.

Draw-Write-Now 7

Drawing – Week 5: Perspective

Book to Read:
The Pencil by Allen Ahlberg

For Practice:
~Practice turning planes (squares, rectangles, and triangles) into 3-dimensional figures and show how to draw other 3D objects such as cube, pyramid, cone, sphere and cylinder.  Show how shading also adds depth and the perception of perspective.  Have the kids practice on the white board or on a piece of paper.
~Ask these questions about perspective (bring in a piece of artwork** to represent these things):
     – What do you notice about the size of objects in the foreground compared to those in the background (SIZE)
     – What do you notice about the spacing of objects in the foreground compared to those in the background (SPACING)
     – Do any objects in the foreground overlap objects in the background (OVERLAPPING)
     – Can you see a light side and a dark side in the picture?  Where is the light source?  (SHADING)
     – Do you notice any shadows in the picture (SHADOW)
     – Where do the ground and sky meet (HORIZON LINE)
     – Is there a point in this picture where distant objects seem to disappear from sight (VANISHING POINT)
**Suggestions of art pieces to bring in (Google and print something from online or use a book with a picture): The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Grant Wood [1931], View from Mount Holyoke (The Oxbow) by Thomas Cole [1836], The County Election by George Caleb Bingham [1852] or Allies Day by Childe Hassam [1917]

~Using this fun perspective tutorial show the children how to make objects look closer and farther away.
~Use these pictures and instructions as a guide to make a one point perspective project with a city or farm in the skyline.
~I love this project that teaches about horizon lines using tracing paper.
~For another one point perspective drawing, this project always works really well.
~For older students, this project would be challenging.

Draw and Write Through History 2

Drawing – Week 6: Final Project

Book to Read:
Harold and Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

For Practice:
~Take time to review everything that was learned over the past 5 weeks and review the differing elements and techniques of drawing.

Final Project:
~The goal for the final drawing project is for the child to create and own the drawing they choose.  I always provide plenty of “how to draw” books (see below for ideas) as well as criteria (again, see below) and then ask them to spend the class drawing their final project.  If they finish drawing, they can color what they draw with colored pencils and/or crayons.

~How to Draw book ideas:
Bring in some pages (or the entire book on your laptop/ipad) from What to draw and how to draw it.
Bring in Draw-Write-Now books.
Bring in Draw and Write Through History books.
Bring in Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes.
Bring in Ed Emberly’s Drawing Book of Animals.
Download and print this free Trojan Horse art project.

~Criteria for Final Project:
Use OiLS to break down what you want to draw
Include Perspective and Mirror Image
Fill the page and add background
Put in your best effort!


Here is a glimpse into what we’ve been reading (actually, it’s primarily the kids who have been reading these) in our spare time…

Farm Mystery Series – Justin received this set for Christmas and both he and Hailey have been thoroughly enjoying reading them.  There are currently 10 books in the series, but each year a new one comes out.

Annie Henry: Adventures in the American Revolution – Hailey received this set (4 books total) for Christmas and read them all within 2 weeks.  She was begging to stay up past 9 every night to continue reading while she read this series!  Since we are studying American History this year, this set was given to Hailey at the perfect time.  She devoured these books and loved reading about the young, adventurous and exciting Annie Henry (Patrick Henry’s daughter).

Simonetta Carr’s Illustrated Christian Biographies – This set of 4 books includes the Biographies of  John Calvin, Augustine, John Owen, and Athanasius.  A wonderful set that introduces children to several key people in church history.

The Complete Little House Set by Laura Ingalls Wilder – A classic set that everyone probably owns already!  I’ve read this set aloud at least twice to the kiddos, and Hailey has read through the set on her own as well.  Even Justin enjoys reading these books (especially Farmer Boy)!  So, if you don’t own this set or haven’t read it … buy it and read it to your kids!

Ginger Pye , Pinky Pye, The Moffats, The Middle Moffat, Rufus M., and The Moffat Museum by Eleanor Estes – These books are all a lot of fun to read aloud because they make us laugh!  Ginger Pye and Pinky Pye are one set, and the Moffat books are another set.  The Hudred Dresses, also by Estes is another book that Hailey enjoyed reading.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle – Another set of books that makes us laugh!  All of the kiddos love silly Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

The Melendy Quartet  which includes The Saturdays, The Four-Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright – These books are an engaging and warm series about the close-knit Melendy family and their surprising adventures.  This is a new addition to our library!

Light Keepers: Ten Girls Who … by Irene Howat – This set of books includes Ten Girls Who Changed the World, Ten Girls Who Used Their Talents, Ten Girls Who Made a Difference, Ten Girls Who Didn’t Give in, and Ten Girls Who Made History.  These books show children that some of the greatest people in Christian history were once kids just like them who grew up to influence the lives around them.  There is also a set for boys called Light Keepers: Ten Boys Who … that covers the same topics, but with boys instead.  We currently only have the girls set.  Since each chapter covers 10 girls, they are brief stories, not in depth biographies about each individual, but still an enjoyable read.

Betsy-Tacy Books by Maud Hart Lovelace – These classical books depict the delightful friendship between two young girls who share adventures and have wonderful imaginations.  Hailey loves every single book that she has read in this series.

The Imagination Station Series (Adventures In Odyssey) – This is a relatively new series that is still being added to.  Our 3 oldest kiddos all love these books and have read them numerous times.  These books make history come alive and are easy to read (with some pictures) chapter books.  Our kids haven’t read the Magic Tree House series, but from what I understand, this series is a Christian spin-off of that series.  Even if your kids aren’t familiar with Adventures In Odyssey, they will still love these books!


That about covers the books we’ve been reading recently (both aloud together or the kids to themselves) … well, other than books for school!  If I include all of the history books, readers and read-alouds from our Sonlight: Core D that we’ve been enjoying than this list will get entirely too long!  Besides, you can easily follow the link and look at the list to see everything we’re reading for school this year!  I love that our kids love to read and it’s fun to see how much they look forward to reading every night before bed. 

homeschool … what we use and how we get it done!

Since I’ve had numerous people ask me about what we use for homeschooling (and how we get it done) I thought I’d post about a day in the life of homeschooling at our house! 

From the time our children can read numbers on a digital clock, we have trained them not to come out of their bedrooms until 8 a.m.  Anytime after 7:30 a.m. they are allowed to quietly look at books or play in their room.  Around 8 a.m. (or whenever they wake up) they come downstairs to eat breakfast.  We do Bible together during breakfast; we are currently using Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware in the morning and Long Story Short  at dinner time.  Right after breakfast the kiddos each have a few chores that they complete. 

On a typical day we usually start school between 8:30-9 a.m.  Hailey and Justin begin their independent work (copywork, vocabulary/phonics workbooks, handwriting, spelling, etc.) while I spend a little time with Sydney doing her Kindergarten work with her.  Then eventually I take turns working with Hailey or Justin doing things like math, writing and listening to them read to me (the other one completes independent work or spends time with the little girls if they are finished); Sydney also helps by playing with Callie and Emma after she is done with her school.  Around 10 – 10:30 a.m. Emma goes down for her morning nap and we transition to our memory work for Classical Conversations.  Callie likes to practice with us, so we include her in this time!  Callie also loves doing the Preschool Activity Bags that I assembled a couple years ago and they keep her very busy when I need something to occupy her! 

I mentioned our homeschool group, Classical Conversations.  We meet every Monday for class time, so on Tuesday-Friday we have normal school days at home that include going over our memory work.  This year is cycle 3 (American History) so we are working on memorizing over 400 facts including 160 events and people through a chronological timeline, 24 History sentences, 24 Science facts, the US Presidents, 120 locations and geographic features (including the states/capitals), Latin rules and vocabulary (including memorizing John 1:1-7 in Latin and English), 24 English Grammar facts, and numerous Math facts that include the multiplication tables up through 15×15.  In addition to the memory work, all of the kids give an oral presentation each week, participate in a Science experiment, and have a Fine Arts lesson (drawing techniques, tin whistle, orchestra, etc.)  This has been a highlight to our year so far and the kids are loving being a part of CC. 

After we finish up with our memory work, we move onto our group subjects that include Language Arts, History, Science, our Read-Aloud Book and any other random projects (art, creating lapbooks, etc.).  We do what we can while Emma is napping and then we take a break for lunch.  After lunch we always have things to finish that we didn’t get to in the morning so we spend time finishing anything that is left.  We are usually wrapped up by 2 p.m. and then the older kids get some free time to play outside, read books, etc.  Callie and Emma both take afternoon naps.  This is usually when I spend some time with dinner prep, laundry, cleaning, tidying up and anything else that I need to get done!  Of course there are also days that we are still trying to wrap up some things with school at 4 p.m.; I’ve realized that part of homeschooling means having flexibility to venture away from my desired schedule.   

As to what we actually use for homeschooling; here is our current curriculum choices:

~History, Read-Alouds and Readers – we use Sonlight – Core D  which lines up perfectly with our cycle this year for CC since it is American History.  The core that we have includes History books, read-alouds (books that I read out loud to the kids) and Readers (books that they read to me).  I love Sonlight because they are such a literature-rich curriculum.

~Language Arts – we use Explode the Code Books, Wordly Wise Books, First Language Lessons , Writing With Ease and Getty-Dubay Handwriting.

~Math – we currently use RightStart Math (it is a very heavy teacher involved math program, so I will possibly be using something else as the kiddos get older even though I love RightStart).

~Science – we are using Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology by Apologia and this My Body book; they both go along well with our science from CC.

~Art – the kiddos absolutely love the Draw, Write, Now Art books and use them daily; currently they have been practicing drawing about Columbus and the Pilgrims since those are topics we’ve been studying!  We also use parts of Drawing With Children.

~Learn to Read – we use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons; this year I’m going through it with Sydney. 

~Spelling (Hailey) – we use Phonetic Zoo which is an independent spelling program that uses CD’s.

I think that covers everything we’re doing!  Maybe one of these days I’ll actually remember to take pictures during a school day; this is the only picture I have currently …

The older kiddos with our Memory Work Board that I made to review

memory board

>Easter Resources

>Here are some of our favorite Easter resources …

Jesus, Keep me Near the Cross by Nancy Guthrie is a collection of short writings and sermons by 25 classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers, focusing on the wonder of Christ’s sacrifice. This is a perfect companion to use in the days leading up to Easter as we linger near the cross.

The Very First Easter by Paul Maier is a favorite for the kiddos. It is a bit lengthy, but our 3 older kids (ages 5-8) especially love to sit and listen. In this book, a Dad and Mom tell their son all about the real meaning of Easter. Passages from scripture are weaved throughout the story, along with many questions from Christopher (the boy in the story) and answers from his parents. The full page illustrations are beautiful as well.

Journey, Easter Journey by Dandi Daley Mackall presents the story of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. This book is geared towards younger children as it is much shorter and has a rhyming/singing kind of text that is easy to read and very engaging. Callie (age 2) loves this book, although all of the kids will sit and listen.

Resurrection Eggs – this is something that you can buy or make as a fun resource for teaching children in the days leading up to Easter Sunday. Our set is homemade, but I know there are places (such as Family Life) that sell them too. To make your own set, here is what you’ll need:
~12 plastic eggs, labeled 1-12
~1 egg carton (to store them)
~The following items (there are different options; what we use includes the birth, life, death and resurrection):
straw, wood, mustard seed, cloth, bread, flowers, three dimes, thorns, nails, cloves and heart
~A printout with descriptions of each egg/item/description/scripture reading; here is what ours looks like:

The Story of Easter

Egg 1: Straw – Jesus was born in a manger. A manger is what animals eat from in a stable. Luke 2:1-12

Egg 2: Wood – Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, was a carpenter. Jesus learned carpentry from Joseph. Matthew 13:54-58

Egg 3: Mustard Seed – Jesus helped us understand that even small is big in a way. Matthew 13:31-32

Egg 4: Cloth – An old woman was sick for a long time. She believed that if she only touched Jeses’ clothing that she could be healed. She did, and she was healed! Matthew 9:20-22

Egg 5: Bread (we use a crouton) – When Jesus had the last supper with His disciples He said that the bread was the symbol of His body being broken for them. The disciples didn’t know it yet, but Jesus was going to die for their sins on a cruel Roman cross. Matthew 26:17-30

Egg 6: Flowers – Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray the night that He was taken by the Romans. Matthew 26:36-46

Egg 7: Three dimes – Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins. Judas told the chief priests where Jesus was so they could go and arrest Him. They wanted to arrest Him for blasphemy because He said that He was the Son of God. They did not believe Him. Matthew 26:47-50, 27:1-5

Egg 8: Thorns – Jesus was tortured by soldiers and they made Him a crown of thorns to press into His head, to hurt Him and to mock Him. They said “if you are the King of the Jews save yourself!” John 19:1-6

Egg 9: Nails – People didn’t want to believe that they were sinners and that they needed to repent from their sins. Jesus, who is the Son of God, came to die on the Cross to take the punishment that all of our sin deserves. John 19:16-27

Egg 10: Cloves – After Jesus died on the Cross, Mary Magdalene went to take spices for Jesus’ body but found that the tomb where they had laid Jesus’ body was empty! Mark 15:42-47

Egg 11: Empty – Jesus rose from the dead, conquering sin and death once for all! John 20:1-18

Egg 12: Heart – Jesus took our punishment for our sin when He died on the Cross! Jesus is God; He can’t sin. He loves us so much that He took our punishment and died for us. We need to ask His forgiveness for our sin against Him as our holy God and surrender our lives to Him. John 3:16