February Reading Challenge, Day 2

Two days into our Challenge to Read All The Books this month, and I realized I need to step it up! This is a short month! And there are hundreds of books to read! Nevertheless, we read 9 more books today! (16 down, over 200 to go! I’m not going to count them, I’ll do that after we’ve read them all!)

Disclosure: This post also contains some affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive advertising fees.

These are the books we read today, along with a short little review and our rating:

February Reading Challenge Day 2

The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons: This is a neat little story written by Gail Gibbons that tells about Arnold and his apple tree. It’s not like other books by the same author where it’s just information. It’s neat to see it in a story format. It still has some science information. Bubba liked this one- there were quite a few aspects he was able to compare to real life. (5 stars)

Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan: A story of a frog, and how it escapes from many predators. This is one of my favorites, and I just love having the children participate in this story, yelling, “jump, frog, jump!” along with me as I read. I used to read this to the kids in daycare. We even made frog hats and jumped around the house. (5 stars)

If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff: What happens if you take a mouse to school? You’ll be running all over the place! I love the If you… books. I don’t know that we’ll be reading this one much, however, only because we homeschool and it’s only a little bit relatable. We’ll probably keep it on the shelf, but it probably won’t be one of our go-to books. (5 stars)

Rainbow Fish ABC by Marcus Pfister: Not really a story book, as much as the alphabet on pages decorated with Rainbow Fish characters. Definitely not in Bubba’s age group, but a cute review- especially if you like Rainbow Fish. (4 stars)

Truck by Donald Crews: I have to admit, we’ve had this book for quite a while, and I’ve never read it. I sat down to read this one, and quickly realized it is a wordless picture book! Bubba and I had some fun looking at the illustrations, talking about how the scenarios are similar to his daddy’s job, and recognizing street signs. I normally wouldn’t rate this one as high, but it had a personal relevance to Bubba, so it gets (4 stars).

Stargazers by Gail Gibbons: This was a classic Gail Gibbons book on a fun science topic. I liked it because even though it covered astronomy, my four year old son got something out of it. He wasn’t too thrilled with the book, but it’s got some neat pictures, and can open doors to a lot of learning! (4 stars)

Can You See What I See? Toys by Walter Wick: We really enjoyed looking for the hidden images in this book. Not a lot of literary content, but the pictures are really fun to look at! (5 stars)

God Made You Special by Jennifer Holder: This is a quick read, encouraging for kids, letting them know that whoever they are, God loves them. I did, however alter the content while reading. The book gave two examples of what made a person special- neither of which Bubba enjoys, so I improvised and said “playing with trucks” and all was well. (3 stars)



February Reading Challenge

We have many, many children’s books. I mean, a lot. Trust me when I say this- some days, entire rooms are littered with books. I keep looking at the bookshelf filled haphazardly with picture books and board books and story books and wishing it were more organized. And then I think about how I don’t even remember some of them. Some of them I probably have never read, and some of them are so amazing I wish we would read them over and over again. And then I think about the *other* bookshelf in the closet filled with even more books and I just sigh!

Disclosure: This post also contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive advertising fees.

So yesterday, I looked over at Bubba and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we read EVERY.SINGLE.BOOK by the end of the month?” His eyes lit up and he said, “Yeah!” And I was getting excited about the quality couch time with my guy, and the relief from the guilt of not reading to him every day, and the habits we’ll form. I thought I would include mini-reviews on these books, as well.

We just dove into this. I grabbed a handful of books from the bottom of the shelf.

February Reading Challenge Day 1
February Reading Challenge Day 1

We actually lucked out with the first grab. These were some really great books. Here are my reviews with some ratings by me and the kids:

There’s a Nightmare In My Closet by Mercer Mayer: A classic book. Great pictures, a fun story about what happens when a boy tries to confront the nightmare in his closet. Definitely a favorite. (5 stars)

To Market To Market by Anne Miranda: A fun twist on the poem when all the animals get loose, you’ll never guess what’s for lunch! This one has some fun illustrations. (5 stars)

David Gets In Trouble by David Shannon: David always has an excuse, but at the end of the day, he knows he needs to redeem himself. My kids all love David- he’s just like them (plus, isn’t it funny to actually SEE someone run down the street without his pants on!) I actually love using this book to open conversations about obedience, manners and proper behavior.  (5 stars)

Bluebird’s Nest by Dorothea DePrisco Wang: Mama Bird makes a nest over winter to get ready for her chicks. This book is one of those value books that you find with cute illustrations and a storyline that really seems thrown together. Not to mention it has a mama bird spending all winter making a nest (and animals helping her) that just doesn’t sit with me too well. The last page has a really fun pop up that the kids just love. We’re keeping it for that reason alone. (2 stars)

Caps For Sale: a Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina: The title gives you a great glimpse into the synopsis. This is one of Bubba’s most favorite stories. And it is SO MUCH fun to read! This is definitely (5 stars)

Sammy and the Dinosaurs by Ian Whybrow, Adrian Reynolds: Sammy helps gram clear out the attic and finds a box of dinosaurs! This is another one of Bubba’s most favorites. He even has a bucket of dinosaurs just like the character in this book! (5 stars)

What Makes a Rainbow by Betty Schwartz: Little Rabbit goes around the wilderness asking all his friends what colors are in the rainbow. Another cute little pop-up book. This one is actually neat and the pictures are sweet. Not big on story, but the kids like it. (4 stars)

Like I said, we lucked out the first day! Join us this month as we read through our hundreds of books! I encourage you to read with your kids this month, too!

New Curriculum, Pajamas and Family

Another Weekly Wrap Up Post!

This week went by fairly quickly. It wasn’t an outstanding week, nor was it a boring week. But it’s over, and here comes family time, Peanut’s last basketball game of the season (whew!) and the chance to prepare for another week with my beautiful children.

Monday came the introduction of the new math program we’re using. School went well- and so quickly, and I’ve gotten completely sidetracked from doing preschool with Bubba.

Tuesday was the Pajama Party and movie day with our homeschool group. After trying to figure out the technology and which computer would work with a DVD and be compatible with the church’s AV system, we found that we wouldn’t be able to watch the VeggieTales movie that I had brought. No fear, though, we just streamed Netflix. Gotta love Netflix.

Wednesday came the next installment of our Pursuit-For-The-Perfect-Curriculum. Spelling Power arrived, and I kind of dove right in to the placement for Peanut. I’m thinking I’ll be giving the Manual an hour of my time this weekend and perhaps even watch the DVD that comes with it to explain the process. I’m fairly confident I’ve placed her correctly (I did follow those steps to the letter,) I just need to solidify my idea of how the program actually works.

Thursday was a different kind of day. I think the whole Nesting complex is combining with my utter exhaustion of this winter, and I wrote out a three page list of all the things I want done around the house. But I started in Bubba’s room. Shame on me for not taking pictures. But imagine taking out every. single. toy. from his room and piling them up in the living room. Picture a 4-foot by 3-foot pile about two and a half feet high. It disgusted me that he had so many things in his room. (I am so leaning towards minimalism sometimes.)

Then I vacuumed and shampooed the carpets. Then we went to the pile (and I had to stop Bubba from jumping into the pile for fear of hurting himself and crushing his things) and we organized everything. Peanut brought up two boxes from the basement- one for Doesn’t Belong in His Room, and one for Not Keeping Any More. We sorted all the things, making a pile for all the toys that went back in his room. Then we methodically placed his toys back. I dug out a basket for the cars, the dinos went back into their bucket, all the Pirate toys went on the correct shelves, and I brought back the toddler bookshelf from daycare days.

Now, his room is delightful and much easier to clean. We’ll see how it is next week.

Today was another up-in-the-air day. At 8:30, I called my sister to see if they’d had breakfast yet. Then I told her I was coming for her four year old, and I took him and my two kids to McDonald’s for sausage and the Playplace. They played for over an hour. I also met a nice lady with two little boys. One of which was a Cheetah who wanted to attack any children he saw playing. Fun times. I mentioned something about homeschooling to her, and she asked me some questions about it, saying she was thinking about homeschool for her older boy. I had the thought that I wish it were that easy to drop comments about my faith and witness to people like that. Because Moms who want to homeschool are almost like people searching for God sometimes. They’re afraid to ask, afraid to commit, afraid to jump off the public school bridge. If only we could be so bold to share a little about Jesus like we do with our school choices.

After McD’s, we stopped by the grocery store, and then home, where Peanut finished school in an hour. Wait, is that right? Yep, an hour. What did I do here? I switched math and spelling, and now school takes an hour? I feel like I’m missing something, or I’ve forgotten a subject somewhere in my closet… Maybe it’s because we’re nearing the end of our My Father’s World year, and things are just slowing down.

Looking forward to next week, and hoping to find ways to make it GREAT!


Adapting in Homeschool

A couple months ago, I started thinking about what our homeschooling day will look like next year. Bubba is going headfirst into pre-reading preschool activities, Peanut will be advancing in her studies, and there will be a new little munchkin to cuddle, feed, change and love on.

One of the decisions I had to make was in the subject of Math for Peanut. I had heard about Teaching Textbooks from various web reviews and from a friend who uses it with her seventh grader. The thought of a computer program doing the teaching for math was very appealing.

The website has placement tests (most math curriculums do for homeschool) and Peanut did exceptionally well on two different tests. I was confused at her placement in the curriculum, so I gave the company a call. They were extremely helpful, and they also suggested using the sample lessons on the website to give my daughter a feel for the program. Peanut loved it.

I found a Teaching Textbooks Curriculum Sale group on Facebook, and purchased the appropriate level at a discounted price. When I told Peanut that it would be arriving in the mail this week, her eyes lit up and she looked so excited. I looked at my husband and asked him if he thought we should wait until next year and have her finish the curriculum she’s using (I mean, there’s only two months left in our school year!) He said, “Not with that look, just let her start it.”

So with that, she’s started Teaching Textbooks, and she’s loving it. She’s working at her own pace, the computer is checking her work, telling her what she’s getting wrong, telling her how she should be doing the problems, grading her work, and keeping track of it.

I loved our old curriculum, and it challenged Peanut, but she started getting bored with it. I would find her staring out the window, doodling in her book, and not getting answers right because she just didn’t care. This new curriculum is cutting at least an hour (sometimes two!) out of our school day. It’s amazing the difference a little change has made.

I’m not prescribing it for everyone- not all texts work for all kids, but I would like to encourage parents to not fear change, no matter how far along in your school year you may be. A little change may mean all the difference in whether or not your child is learning something!

Weekly Wrap Up: Weather Changes Everything

This week has not gone quite as planned. But that’s okay. The beauty of homeschooling, right?

Monday, we were planning on a trip to the mall for some running around the play place with a friend of mine and her children. (Peanut was planning on taking a book because she feels weird playing where only littles are supposed to play.) I also needed to stop by Motherhood Maternity and pick up some things since my body keeps getting bigger. Not only do I now feel pregnant, but I look it also.

I woke up Monday morning and it was nasty out. So we postponed until next week. It’s not that I mind driving in the snow, but I just really didn’t want to shovel off my car. Lazy me. By the end of the day, it was 40 something degrees out and everything had melted off the car. Figures.

Cutie Patooties enjoying family time and staying indoors, YET AGAIN.
Cutie Patooties enjoying family time and staying indoors, YET AGAIN.

I did, however, sign up for the 30-day trial of ABCmouse.com for Bubba. He really likes having something on the computer to do. I actually like this program, and am seriously considering keeping the subscription after the 30 days. Not to replace one-on-one interaction, but it’s cute and he enjoys it.
Trying out the new preschool website

Tuesday came along and it honestly felt like the longest day of my life. We startd with lessons. Then at 11:30, we drove to the church for our homeschool class. (I co-teach with two other great ladies.) We did our unit on Money, handed out baggies with a predetermined amount of play coins, and set up four tables that were “stores” where the children bought snack at the grocery store, a book at the bookstore, candy at the sweet shop and a few toys at the toy emporium. The kids all loved it, and it went really well.

Straight from the church, we headed to the public library, where Peanut was in her first ever book club. She loved it. They read Anne of Green Gables. I was really surprised at how involved Peanut got in the conversation. The forum was set up for kids grades 3-6.

Bubba's Photography during the book club at the library.
Bubba’s Photography during the book club at the library.

After that, we went home, had a quick dinner packed up to eat in the car, and I drove Peanut to basketball practice. That got over at 7:30, and you’d think we were done with the day, but NO, I had to go grocery shopping still! Ah well, better get it done, right?

Once that day was over, Wednesday came and the weather WAS AMAZING. I think it almost hit 60 degrees outside. I threw curriculum out the window and sent the kids outside to play for who knows how long. The kids had a great time, and got some much needed fresh air.

Acting silly at lunch time.
Acting silly at lunch time.


Apple smiles?
Apple smiles?

Thursday came and went with an impending blizzard that caused everyone to panic and close things down early out there in the real world. Peanut was excited because she saw real hail coming down. I asked her to go out and get the garbage can from the curb, and as soon as she grabbed the handle, there was a giant clap of thunder that stopped her in her tracks and caused her to turn around looking for whatever caused the noise. When she saw me in the window, (laughing at her) she figured out what it was and smiled as she brought up the can. So she got a weather lesson in Thundersnow. I’m still not convinced we actually had a blizzard, but the weather was weird, nonetheless.

This is the hail that started the crazy weather on Thursday.

Oh yeah, and we actually got a day’s worth of schooling in.

Friday I made a first birthday cake for a friend. So the day was kind of weird with that happening. But peanut got to ice the leftover pieces. She did a pretty good job for her first time!


Icing a cake
Icing a cake


Rabbits Everywhere! Impromptu Writing Exercise

This Video is circulating around my Facebook Feed:


Peanut is a Rabbit Lover. We have a twenty-something pound Californian Rabbit in a gigantic cage in her room. Her “lovey” since she was born is a yellow rabbit (well, it used to be yellow-it’s well loved) named Hoppy.

I saw this video and assigned her the task of a creative writing exercise. It was cute and I thought she’d love it. After she watched the video, I told her I wanted her to write about it, and her face fell through the floor. NOT the reaction I was expecting.


She came back with five sentences squished together, no regard for spelling, grammar or punctuation.

Insert character lesson here. 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This is the verse that came to mind.

She came through, however. Not as wonderfully articulate and creative as I had hoped, but nevertheless, she did as she was asked.

I’m thinking creative writing assignments are going to be a struggle with this child. Unless I ask her to write about My Little Ponies or Ninjas or Rainbow Unicorns. She writes those in her free time. She even writes comics about them. Which is wonderful. And I encourage it. Those topics bore me to tears though. I loved writing assignments as a child. I loved writing assignments as a teen, and all through college. I even thought I wanted to major in English when I graduated high school. This child, however, has different interests. I guess we aren’t as much alike as I thought we were.

How WE Started Homeschooling: Part One

untitled shoot-24129I hear a lot of parents whose children are either in public school or just turning home school age that they don’t know how to start home school. Usually it’s coupled with a panic in their voice, or a distressed and overwhelmed look on their face. It makes me sad that the thought of educating one’s child causes so much stress in so many parents. While I can’t really tell you how to start home schooling *your own* children, I can tell you how *we* started.

But first I should start with the WHY:

Before my husband and I were even married, when we were just silly kids in love, talking about our future, and when we would be married, and if we were going to have kids, and what we were going to do with our kids, we considered home schooling an actual option. My husband was home schooled in high school. But not in the way you’re thinking. He was enrolled in some correspondence school, and from what he tells me there was little studying going on with him. That didn’t stop him from learning. He just pursued his own interests. He was very much in to computer programming. As a teen, he knew logarithms and algorithms like he knew his alphabet. He studied physical science because he wanted to. (weird, right?)

I went to public school all the way through high school. I loved it. I was in honors classes and I loved Algebra and English both. I had good friends who were home schooled that I had met at church. Very good friends. One of them is a Scientist at a local college back home who has been on so many missions trips and is involved in great ministries in her church, and the other is a Nurse who has looked to the Lord for guidance and just in the past few years got married and started her family. I look up to both of those beautiful women and I am so much in awe of the things they’ve accomplished in their lives.

Even though I had studied Early Childhood Development I college, my husband and I  decided to put Peanut in preschool at the local private school- more for (haha I can’t believe I’m admitting this) socialization- than anything. She entered preschool with a good attitude and honestly enjoyed going. We wanted her to be in situations where she could choose her own friends and learn independence.

We sent Peanut to preschool for two years. It cost a lot of money. Public school was not an option for our family, just based on the decisions we had made before we were even married. So, private school it was.

My husband and I still hadn’t completely decided what we were going to do with schooling at the time. Homeschooling was always an “option” but not set in stone. We were happy with the school, it was a nice, Christian environment, and had good people running it. (It still does, by the way!) We even were looking at how I would make it work to pay for tuition through high school- with lots of nail-biting, I assure you!

I still remember the day Peanut came home from preschool, and at just four years old asked the question that would change her educational fate. I asked her how her day was and she said, “Good.” Then I asked her what she learned that day, and I remember her EXACT words:

“Mom, we learned about the letter Q today, but I already know the letter Q. I know how to read. When I go to Kindergarten next year, can you teach me after school so I can actually learn something?”

I stood there in a bit of stunned silence for a few seconds, my daughter hanging up her coat and looking at me with such an honest expression. My response was, “No, if I’m going to teach you, I’m going to be your teacher and you can do school at home.” She looked thrilled.

As the years pass, my reasons for why we home school change:

  • I want to be with my children.
  • I want to watch them grow.
  • I want them to spend time with their siblings.
  • I want to have time to instill Biblical truths in them.
  • I want them to know the most important things in life center around family.
  • I want them to learn how to keep a home.
  • I want to be the one deciding what is worthwhile knowledge for my children

I’m sure in the next few years, that list with grow and grow and grow. But these are the reasons why we home school. I’m sure your reasons are very different. They may also be similar in some ways.
Stay tuned for part two:  HOW we started homeschooling.

Reading Picks This Week

Here’s a list of books we’re reading this week:

Read Aloud:

Anne of Green Gables– I signed Peanut up for a book club at the local library. I gave us about a week to read it. It’s just a tad bit above her independent reading level, so we’re reading it together.

Peanut’s Choices:

Nancy Drew: The Mystery of Lilac Inn- Peanut is so excited to be into the Nancy Drew series (and I was so excited to introduce it to her, as it was my favorite series as a kid!)

Bubba’s Choices:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom- we are working on alphabet letters, and this book is great for letter recognition while keeping it fun.

Saving Money in Homeschool

There are a few things for our homeschool that I refuse to spend full price on. Many office supplies can be purchased second hand that are like new quality, and are super cheap. Here’s a few items I won’t buy new:

  • Pencil Boxes: My kids love them. I find them handy for storing things with little pieces (like the base ten foam set). And they break so easily that I end up replacing them all the time. And I won’t pay more than $0.75 for one of them. Whenever we go thrift store shopping, I keep my eye out for these lovely little items. I’ve found them for as cheap as a quarter, and only pick up ones that latch and don’t have many marks on them. (Sometimes I find them with kids’ names blacked out in permanent marker, but no one really notices.)
  • Three Ring Binders: These I can find at a couple different places. I’ll look at thrift stores, but I find the cheapest places to buy these are from people we know who are just giving them away. The warehouse my husband delivers for was cleaning out their office and this lovely pile of three ring binders was sitting in the trash pile. He asked if he could have them, and I got ten binders for FREE! The second best place to pick these up is a garage sales. I can usually find three-ring binders at garage sales for $0.25 each. Can’t really beat that price if you do have to pay for them! I’ve looked at thrift stores, but they’re usually over a dollar each, and that’s just too much for me, so I pass them up. A lot of times, these binders have some print transfer from pages that have been left in for too long, but as long as the rings line up and they function properly, it serves our purposes!
  • Loose Leaf Rings: These aren’t something that I normally find at garage sales, but when I do, I pick them up. The last time I found them, I picked up a baggie full of them for $1.00. I do know that office supplies stores sells them in sets of 10 for upwards of $6.00, so that’s a savings in my book!

What are some examples of homeschool items you will not purchase at retail price? Share some tips at how you get them at a lower cost!

We Are The Branches

Today was probably one of the hardest homeschool days I have had in the past two and a half years. It was emotionally draining, exhausting and so very hard.

And of course, I probably made it harder.

Peanut and I clash sometimes. I love my sweet girl so very much. She is so much like myself, which is what most of our problems are.

Today was a day of struggles. Peanut struggled to stay on track. And she didn’t. Three hours later and her work wasn’t done (not for lack of understanding, just because she wouldn’t, then she’d cry because she didn’t want to, then she’d say she was horrible at it- she’s not) and I would struggle to keep my cool. And I didn’t. I struggled to stay calm about Bubba and his refusal to have a bowel movement anywhere near the bathroom. I halfway didn’t. (Is that possible?)

Although it was a hard day, and most of our bookwork, and a fun science experiment didn’t get done, all was not lost.

We sat down for breakfast, the three of us, and afterwards had Bible Study. John 15:5

I am the Vine, and you are the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will produce much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.

We actually had an amazing discussion about John 15:1-2 also, how Jesus is the Vine, the Father is the gardener, and we are the branches. We talked about being pruned to produce good, tasty fruit.

And what I loved about this, is that our neighbor actually has a wild grapevine. So the children understood how the grapes were good, but not as good as store bought grapes. The neighbor doesn’t prune them. And they understand pruning because their father is a great hobby gardener. And the kids are always out there helping him.

I am actually looking forward to more discussions this week. I think this is a great springboard for learning the fruits of the Spirit, and working on developing those in each of us (myself included!).

Academically, the day went so horribly wrong. But I believe we laid the groundwork for some amazing life lessons this week about the kinds of fruit the Lord wants to grow in us.