Good Reads for Kids – September 2014

good reads non-fiction

Back to school! This month’s focus will be on non-fiction books we used for school so far in 2014. Perfect for book reports or to add more dimension to something they are currently studying.

1. The Butterfly – A child’s view of Nazism in France.

2. What Is the World Made of? – A short and sweet look at solids, liquids, and gases.

3. Lily’s Victory Garden – An inspiring tale of what one girl did to help aid with efforts in World War II.

4. Lazily, Crazily, Just a Bit Nasally – We think all of Brian Cleary’s language and math books are fabulous fun.

5. The Wall – I may or may not have cried through this book. About the Vietnam War memorial.

6. The Boy Who Loved Math – All about mathematician Paul Erdos.

Good Reads for Kids – June 2014

Last month I wrote about some of the chapter books we’ve read this year. This month I will highlight some of our favorite picture books.

IMG_4086

We check out probably 50-60 books per month from the library. I thought that seemed like a lot until I heard my cousin (who also homeschools) had 76 out at once. Haha! So much of our education is dependent on reading; we want our kids to enjoy it and actually DO it a lot. We keep our library bin and our kids’ bookshelves in their room (and let’s be honest, our coffee table, end tables, kitchen table, buffet…any flat surface) well-stocked with reading materials.

Here are some favorite picture books we’ve read so far this year:

1. Here’s a Penny – The kids really enjoyed the simple tales of Penny and his neighbor Patsy. (Okay, so this one’s technically still a chapter book, but it has more pictures than your average chapter book.)

2. Grasshopper on the Road – Anja read this one aloud to Markus. They laughed a lot. We are HUGE Arnold Lobel fans. Can’t go wrong with almost any of his books. See also Small Pig.

3. Cowardly Clyde – Auntie brought over this book. Our children will choose almost any book with a dragon in it, so this was a hit. And what I said about Lobel above? Same with Bill Peet. Love almost any of his books.

4. The Children’s Book of Virtues – A collection of fables, folk tales, stories and poems that inspire character in young ones (and adults!).

5. Going West – Even though I’ve read some of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s actual stories to Anja, she (and Markus) still really get into these picture books based on the Little House series.

6. The Best Nest – A P.D. Eastman classic about learning to love the home you’ve got. Anja has read many of his books aloud.

7. Up North at the Cabin – This doesn’t read like fiction because it’s based on real places and events. If you know what lake country is like in the Midwest, you’ll find it to reflect that lifestyle perfectly.

8. Audrey Bunny – I fell in love with the story before realizing that the author is Angie Smith, whose blog I read regularly when I first began this one. A tear-jerker.

9. If I Ran the Zoo – Dr. Suess is a winner in our house almost every time. The man was a genius.

10. How To – Not much word content, but makes up for it in imagination.

What picture books have you enjoyed lately? Any favorite authors? Do share!!

Summer Unit Studies

We homeschooled this past year. I plan to blog more about that later, but for now I’d love to share some of the basic ideas we have for continuing our education through the summer. We’ve done this the past several summers, and it’s worked well for our pace. I don’t always get to every activity planned (or, being honest, every theme, depending on the week!), but I know that I have something there if the kids need direction or we have a lot of open mornings in a week.

summer 2014 unit studies

A source of inspiration for me are the local and regional Community Ed/Activity calendars. I often use those as a jumping-off point for picking our theme and then incorporate simple activities I know our kids will love. Here are some our themes and related activities for 2014.

GARDENING

  • Rake, dig, plant seeds
  • Read gardening books
  • Learn about some different types of plants

GARDEN ART

  • Build fairy gardens
  • Make a homemade bird feeder
  • Continue gardening, planting, weeding

KITES

  • Read stories about kites
  • Make our own kites
  • Fly kites
  • Play kite-related games

PIRATES

  • Read pirate stories
  • Make treasure maps and a telescope
  • Do a treasure hunt at a local park
  • “Walk the Plank” game

UNDERSEA SURPRISES

  • Visit a local aquarium
  • Make under the sea drawings/crafts
  • Read books about unusual sea creatures
  • Practice math with “under the sea” worksheets and manipulatives

NATURE DETECTIVES

  • Go dip-netting
  • Hike together
  • Check out a bird identification book from the library and try to spot and name some local birds

PARADISE

  • Have a luau
  • Visit the local pool
  • Learn about rainforest biome and the creatures in it

GONE FISHIN’

  • Tackle box math
  • Go fishing at a local lake
  • Do a scientific experiment about buoyancy using different objects

BEACH FUN

  • Sand activities
  • Visit local beach
  • Paint al fresco
  • Read books at the beach and about the beach

CATERPILLARS AND BUTTERFLIES

  • Visit MN Zoo’s butterfly garden
  • Make caterpillar and butterfly crafts
  • Do simple math problems with caterpillar segments
  • Observe butterflies in our yard

MESSY FUN

  • Make slime
  • Paint outdoors using various homemade paints
  • Outdoor water and mud play

CAMPING

  • Read camping books
  • Learn about constellations and star patterns
  • Make s’mores over a fire
  • Learn how to pack by packing for our own camping trip

BUBBLES, RAINBOWS & POPSICLES (this one is admittedly a mish-mash of all things summer)

  • Count popsicle sticks
  • Blow bubbles, make our own solution
  • Rainbow crafts and art
  • Popsicle stick crafts

SPLASHES AND ICE CREAM

  • Run through the sprinkler
  • Visit the local pool
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Visit a local ice cream parlor
  • Play “ice cream shop” with Play-Doh creations, practice adding #s

MINNESOTA HISTORY

  • Visit a local history museum
  • Go to the Minnesota State Fair and learn about how it came to be (while eating delicious things on a stick)
  • Read books about pioneers in this area

Sea Life Aquarium MN

This week our family got a chance to visit Sea Life Aquarium at the Mall of America. They sent us some complimentary tickets a couple weeks ago, and Husband took the day off work so we could all go together.

IMG_4160

They just closed their octopus exhibit and are gearing up for a crab exhibit called Claws! It opens in June and includes Giant Japanese Spider Crabs. Those things are HUGE!

IMG_4163

My personal favorite creature was the garden eel. I could’ve watched those little guys for half an hour. Husband said they reminded him of Slimey. They fed them while we were there, and all these little snails appeared out of nowhere (I think they crawled up out of the sand) and started eating, too.

One other funny moment was when Husband was holding Markus in the Ocean Tunnel (where the creatures swim right over/around you), and I pointed and said, “Look!” Markus turned around and there was a huge stingray right in his face. He panicked and dug his little face into Husband’s neck.

IMG_4174

If you are looking for something fun to do in the Twin Cities and are short on time, check out Sea Life. Kids of ALL ages will enjoy it!

IMG_4182

They also have tours for school groups and even a special week for homeschools.

(Out to lunch afterward)

IMG_4186

IMG_4187

Anja, 6 1/2

Oh, the years, how they fly! I can never believe it when my kids hit their half-birthdays and birthdays, and this one is no exception. I’m a month late in even posting this! Anja, at six and a half, you:

  • Are challenging me in new ways. I wasn’t prepared for the flip that switched on your six birthday. You are more mature, yet sassier as well. And tantrums have begun anew. That could have something to do with the fact that you finally gave up naps around that time, or it could just be what you’re going through developmentally. Growing is hard. You have big emotions. We’re here for you, even when it’s tough.
  • Are still tall. In fact, you’ve grown another inch and a quarter since October. You are often mistaken for a 7- or 8-yr-old. And you wear size 7 and 8 clothes, except when the waists are too big for them to work. It’s hard, because you have the bodice size of a 5T or 6, but you need an 8 for length. I buy you dresses and have to return them all the time because the bodice and arm holes are too big.
  • Are an artist. At least, that’s what you tell people. We chuckle, but you do produce a lot of art, usually in the form of crayon/pencil drawings or cards made for others. We love your sweet spirit that is always thinking of how to bless others with your words. You made cards for each of us as surprises the other day. Mine said, “I love you more than ever.” Dad’s said, “Dad, you are rocking love.” And Markus’s said, “You are racing love.” Mine was clearly the best. Haha!
  • Have really gotten a good grasp on reading. We started The Bobbsey Twins series a couple weeks ago, and you are doing great. I remember reading those at your age and loving them, and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be poring over them on your own. Your handwriting has improved immensely, and it has been both a trial and a blessing to walk through learning with you this year.
  • Are loving Classical Conversations. As with every year, it seems, we had another big decision to make for next fall, and when asked you chose to stick with that. It is a good fit for you, and you have a much easier time with the memory work than I anticipated.
  • Are still incredibly creative in your playtime. Storytelling remains a favorite activity, though you’re much more likely to stop now when someone walks up on you. I know this self-awareness has come with age, and I should’ve expected it, but I don’t like it. I miss being able to eavesdrop on all that is going on in your world.
  • Are engaging your brother in play more and more often. As he gets older, I think you see his potential as a character in your plots, so he is sometimes given a role. OR I’ve even caught you playing cars with him and doing things he likes, which is great. Big sisters can be so bossy, and you are, but you are also so tender with Markus at times.
  • Are still learning how to tidy up. You’re always willing to pitch in and help, especially with Markus’s things, but your own room…well…let’s just say it’s not very neat (and that’s being VERY polite). We’ve had to revoke some privileges and pare things WAY down to make it manageable for you, but I’m confident that if we keep after this together, you’ll be able to be tidier than me.
  • Have favorites (though they are ever-changing). Color: purple. Food: c. Sport: ballet. Book: Redwall. Movie: Aristocats. TV Show: Jake & The Neverland Pirates. Holiday: Easter and Christmas. School Subject: art. Best Friend: Markus (awwww….).
  • Want to be a dancer or a gymnast when you grow up. Considering you have taken tap/ballet for about 3 years less than the other girls in your class, you’re doing quite well!
  • Have a great understanding of the gospel, but aren’t sure yet if you want to call yourself a believer. We keep praying that God will get a hold of your heart and that He will become your ultimate treasure!
  • Love playing with friends. You are often a ringleader and have a hard time following, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m trying to teach you about listening to others’ opinions and being a little more diplomatic. Hard things for a firstborn, I realize (from experience).
  • Still favor your doll Malia and your dog Sherman. Coco, and a few other selects are out most of the time as well. I’ve taken you to the American Girl store a couple times and asked if you would like one, but you always decline. I’m glad you’re self-aware enough to resist the materialist pull, because sometimes I kind of want one. 🙂
  • Loved the Olympics. You got very into it, and your understanding of different countries and sports grew as well. We went to a high school basketball game with Grandma, and you asked, “Are either of these teams American?” We all had a good laugh.
  • Lost your first tooth! One of the bottom front ones. You were extremely excited.
  • Love to laugh. You ask to be tickled, make terrible jokes, and sometimes just get tired-silly. Those are some of my favorite times with you.

Anja, I’m so glad you’re my girl. I say that to you all the time, but it’s true. So I’ll keep saying it.

031214 Anja 001