Tag Archives: Books

Reformation Wrap-Up

Today marks the end of our month-long study of the Reformation. Here’s a review of all the things we learned and the fun we had!

We read lots of books, some out loud, and others as book basket selections. One of our favorites every year is the Luther biography by Paul Maier.

We made eight lapbooks, one as an overview of the people and events of the Reformation, and the other seven focusing on different Reformers.

We also learned about seven rulers (plus Pope Leo X), and completed a notebooking sheet for each.

Of course, everyone’s favorite part of our studies were the crafts. We designed our own coat-of-arms:

Made stained “glass” windows:

Illuminated letters and practiced being scribes:

Made a banner to hang in our school room:

And, of course, made Luther’s Seal:

We also listened to a lot of music, some by Luther, some by Bach, and some by other Lutheran hymn writers.

We were supposed to go on two field trips this month. The first one was a visit to the Saxon Lutheran Memorial Fall Festival in Frohna, MO, I had to cancel that on account of fog, which was disappointing because it’s one of our favorite events every year. Our other field trip, that actually worked out, was going to the Seminary in St. Louis to hear Ryan sing “Ein Feste Burg” with the American Kantorei as part of the Bach at the Sem series. That same day, we also got to attend a fun Reformation Celebration at our church.

We even enjoyed a German meal at home on Reformation Day! Jägerschnitzel with buttered noodles and sauerkraut for dinner (with Leinie’s Oktoberfest beer for those of drinking age!), and homemade apple strudel for dessert…delicious!

This was a fun way to spend the month of October, and I’m glad I finally came up with an in-depth unit for us to learn all about the Reformation!


2012-2013 Curriculum

I’m trying something new this year…I put our curriculum together myself! I needed to find something for Turkey and Bunny’s fourth grade year, and Ladybug’s kindergarten year. I wanted some things they could do together, and some grade-appropriate things, and I also wanted to continue the survey of American History that we began last year. I don’t think I’ll be doing this assembly every year…I just couldn’t find what I was looking for this time around, so I decided to try it myself. Never say never, though…if it goes well, maybe I’ll look into doing it again in the future!



Language Arts

For Turkey and Bunny:

For Ladybug:

Latin (Only Turkey and Bunny will have formal Latin studies, but Ladybug is welcome to listen along and absorb vocabulary!)

History/Geography–We’re studying the Civil War to the present day. I tried to make sure every decade from then to now was covered either in a history book or a read-aloud.



Read-Alouds–I’m not sure we’ll get to all of these, but whatever we don’t read out loud will be turned into book basket selections.

Bonus Read-Alouds (a few special titles I specifically wanted to share with Ladybug in her Kindergarten year, in addition to our regular read-alouds.)

Hopefully I didn’t leave any books (or whole subjects!) out. I won’t even try to list all of the book basket titles we’ll be using, but some of the series will include You Wouldn’t Want to…, If You…, Childhood of Famous AmericansWho Was…?, and multiple American Girl series (those focusing on historical, albeit fictional, characters Addy, Samantha, Rebecca, Kit, Molly, and Julie). This list also doesn’t include the books we’ll be using for our Thanksgiving and Christmas units…and those lists are plenty extensive themselves!

Books Are Not Boring!

I really have to question the dedication of the librarians at our city’s public library.

The children and I were at the library this week, turning in logs for the summer reading program, and checking out books. While we were at the desk, Moose asked me what was upstairs. I realized the children had never seen the upstairs of the library, because that’s where the adult non-fiction books are kept, and while I’ve been up there, it’s never been at a time when the children were with me, even though I almost always choose non-fiction books for myself.

Before I could answer him, the librarian that was scanning our books interjected: “Oh, you don’t want to go up there. All that’s up there is boring books.”


Seriously? Did the librarian, someone who should be fostering a love of books and reading in children and adults alike, just tell my children that once you’re an adult, books are boring? Or that reading non-fiction is boring? Or even that a whole section of the institution for which she works is boring?

Now, maybe she was trying to save me the trouble of taking the children upstairs to satisfy their curiosity. But really, she should have left that for me to deal with. Or maybe she thought that they’d be an annoyance to the (occasionally) more serious crowd that frequents the non-fiction stacks. I’ve seen the adults up there, however, and most of them are checking e-mail on the library’s computers, or getting out of the heat, or reading a newspaper, not doing serious research. I’m hoping that her observation didn’t reflect her personal opinions regarding those books. Regardless of her motivation, though…telling my children that an entire floor of the library is filled with boring books? Completely irresponsible, and at complete odds with what her job is supposed to be!

Box Day 2011

It’s one of my favorite times of year…when we start organizing all of our new school supplies! Today, Turkey and Bunny got out all of the books we’ll be using in third grade.

It’s quite the mountain of books. They have read some of them, but many are new, and they’re excited to get started. Just a few more weeks, and we’ll be diving into early American history!

The Demise of Literature

In thinking about the demise of the bookstore, I got to thinking about the books that are sold there. And I think that may be a big part of the problem–there is very little true literature being published anymore.

This has been especially obvious to be when shopping for books for my children to read. There are plenty of fluff choices–Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Junie B. Jones, etc. But these are all books that are not welcome in our house. Aside from the fact that they often feature characters that we don’t want our children to emulate, they’re just poorly written. Poor sentence structure, simplistic vocabulary–it’s the dumbing down of America in one neat little package. Children are no longer being encouraged to read books with rich storylines and complex sentence structure and vocabulary–now they’re just encouraged to read the latest gross-out story, or something that, while it may make them laugh, won’t make them think.

But how are children supposed to learn to be good writers themselves, if they don’t have good writers to model their work after? They say that one of the best way to encourage a child’s skill in writing is to give him something well-written to read. Doing copywork based on good literature is an excellent exercise for children in discovering how a good sentence is constructed, learning new words, learning how to write himself.

And how is a child supposed to be prepared to read adult classics, if he’s only been exposed to fluff as a child? I suppose the short answer is, fewer and fewer adults are reading the classics–they’re just reading the adult version of fluff. This, too, is painfully obvious in bookstores–it seems that anyone can get a book published today, regardless of ability or creativity.

We don’t just give children candy to eat–some parents don’t even give their children any. Rather, we focus on healthy, balanced nutrition. So why don’t we take the same approach to children’s minds? Instead of filling their brains up with the literary version of candy, we should be filling them with the protein and vegetables of the literary world. Perhaps if we raised our standards on what makes acceptable literature, books, (and by extension bookstores), would experience a renaissance, and more people would want to buy, and read, good stories.

Books Everywhere!

Turkey and Bunny have started going through books at an alarming rate. They are now reading fairly long books, and they are reading them quickly (especially Bunny). And for some reason, they both insist on having at least two books going at any given time. I think that would have confused me at their age, but they seem to be keeping their stories straight–Ramona hasn’t snuck into the great glass elevator with Charlie and Willie Wonka yet, and Rose Wilder isn’t touring the chocolate factory (at least not yet!).

This makes me grateful that we have a decent start on a home library. We have our wonderful curriculum (although I do try to keep those books separate from the rest), as well as a few shelves of books-for-pleasure. I have been putting that part of library together since, well, basically since I was Turkey’s age. There are the books that I am on my second, and possibly third, copies of–books I received for the first time when I was Turkey’s age (like The Little House series); there are books I’ve had since before I got married (like The Phantom Tollbooth); there are other books we purchased before having children (like Alice in Wonderland). And then there are all the books we have bought and received since having children, and especially since we started homeschooling.

So, we have a good selection of books right here at home, but Turkey and Bunny will have gone through all of them at least once before too long. I’d sing the praises of our public library and the library-loan system, but I’m currently afraid to set foot in the place–now I’m hearing bedbugs like books?!? Who knew?

Until I’m ready to brave the library again, (because I’m not taking any chances on bringing those home!) I’ll be happy for all of the Swagbucks I can earn. And I may have to look at putting a line item in our budget dedicated to extra books (curriculum has its own line item already). But before I do that, I’ll have to come up with the extra money for it!

Lutheranism 101

I found out about a new book that CPH is publishing this fall, and I’m so excited about it! It’s called Lutheranism 101, and it covers all the key points of what it means to be a Lutheran, and what Lutherans believe.

I’m not clear if this book is meant for laypeople, or is geared more toward pastors, but I don’t care. I can see this resource being useful in so many ways! First of all, I can always use a refresher course in what my denomination is all about–no matter how much I’ve studied it, (a lot, but not nearly as much as many people I know, my husband included), I always, *always* learn something new when I read material like this. I’m no expert by any means, and I love having new insights on my faith. And it will be nice to have something a little more casual, (and injected with humor, to boot!), than, say, the Book of Concord.

I also see this being very useful in our homeschool (and I’m sure it would also be beneficial in Lutheran day schools, confirmation programs, and Sunday school programs, besides home use, and potentially adult Bible study). Based on the table of contents, it will provide us with a logical, pre-planned way to walk through the teachings of our church, and provide us with good doctrinal answers and information. I just have to wait a few more years for Turkey and Bunny to understand what we’ll be reading to spring it on them!

I can’t wait to actually get my hands on this book–it’s release date can’t come soon enough for me! Now I just have to decide if I’m going to pre-order, or just go to the CPH bookstore when it comes out. Look for a review here sometime this fall–I’m pretty sure I’ll have nothing but good things to say about it (can you tell I’ve studied the “look inside” feature of this book on CPH’s website several times?)!

The Start of a New Year

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the third year of our journey in homeschooling. I can’t believe we’ve been at it so long! Turkey and Bunny will be second graders, so I guess that makes me a second grade teacher.

One of my favorite things to do the night before the first day of school is assemble all the books that we’ll be using that week (and only that week, you should see the rest of the books we have for the whole year!) on the schoolroom table so that they’re waiting for them in the morning, Christmas style.

This year, since they each have so many workbooks (seven!!!), supplies, and their very own My First Catechisms, I also made a stack on each side of the table where they sit, with all of their very own things.

I took a picture of all my assembled teacher materials, too. It’s a little intimidating to look at them all sitting together!

The schoolroom is all clean and organized (for now, anyway)–I’m very happy with what I’ve been able to put together, even though I know I’m going to have to seriously rework things in a year or two when Ladybug starts school.

Yes, it doubles as a guest room, but the bed makes a great place to spread out all of the books we’re currently using!

Box Day!

Homeschooling families can appreciate what an exciting day this was for us–the day we opened our new boxes of Sonlight materials for the coming year.


We’ve had the two boxes since last month, but I wanted to wait until Turkey and Bunny were officially done with Kindergarten before we looked at our new stuff. I don’t who was more excited about it–me or them. Turkey found the math stuff right away, and started digging through the manipulatives. He was also very interested in the science books. Bunny just wanted to look at every single book she found–House at Pooh Corner seemed to top out as her favorite, because she kept coming back to it.


Even though *I* went through the boxes when they arrived, to double-check the order, I was still amazed today at just how many books we’re going to be reading. It’s a daunting, exciting, wonderful task.


Now I just have to put together my instructor’s guides and get everything organized. And I think I need to get another bookshelf…

Homeschool Review: Sonlight

I figured as long as I’m already reviewing books, I might as well review homeschool products, too.  I’m hoping to branch out a little more here–I’m sure I’ll review a lot of books, but I also plan on reviewing CDs, DVDs, materials, kits, and whole programs.

And what better place to start reviewing than with the product we have used the most–our Sonlight curriculum!

Having survived our first of homeschooling, I feel that I have a pretty good handle on what Sonlight is, what they provide, and what the company is like.  And I have to say, I couldn’t possibly give them enough stars!  Did I like every single item in our curriculum for the year? No. I can think of two things in particular that I didn’t like, one to the point that I abandoned it altogether.  But did I like almost everything?  Yes!  Both the children and I found many, many books that we just loved, and never would have read were it not for Sonlight.

To really explain how great Sonlight is, I need to delve a little further into the specific things that make me love them, and that make them stand apart from any other companies out there.  So, without further ado, the:

10 Reasons I Love Sonlight

  • Great Customer Service–The few times I’ve had a problem with an order, it has been taken care of immediately, and with no fuss.
  • Similar Values–Because Sonlight is a Christian company, I know that they share my values, and I don’t have to worry about the materials I’ll be using when teaching my children.
  • Honesty–Sonlight gives you a list up-front of reasons you may not want to use their curriculum.  I appreciate their honesty in admitting that Sonlight won’t work for every family.
  • Free Shipping and Discounts–If you purchase a Core from Sonlight, you receive free shipping for a year, which comes in handy when you realize you need more handwriting paper, or you decided to upgrade you Language Arts package before you start the next Core.
  • Book Selection–I love the books Sonlight uses.  It’s the perfect mix of books I loved as a child, books I’ve heard are good but never actually read, and books I’ve never heard of before.  Nice and diverse.
  • Easy to Use–The instructor’s guide plans (almost) everything out for me.  I don’t have to figure out what to do when, or worry that I’m covering all the right things.
  • Online Community–Sonlight has a good set of forums (membership is another perk of purchasing a Core) where you can connect with other parents having the same experiences in their schools.
  • Personal Phone Calls–I received probably two or three phone calls in the last year just to check on our schooling experience and find out if I had any questions or problems.  That helped remind me that I’m not alone in this adventure!
  • Time Saver–Not only does having the curriculum planned out save me time from having to do that on my own, it also frees up time for me to plan special units for use through the school year, which is a fun extra that I really enjoy (but I would never want to have to plan out our entire curriculum!).
  • Internet Presence–In addition to the forums, Sonlight also has a great website that makes ordering super-easy, and several blogs about homeschooling to read.  I’ve even received comments on my blog from Sonlight–talk about customer service!

And, a Bonus Eleventh Reason I Love Sonlight:

  • Tackling the Hard Issues–I love that Sonlight does not shy away from things some Christians would just avoid altogether (from evolution to mythology, and books that just contain secular situations).  I think that my children need to learn about these things, learn why they believe what they do, learn what is appropriate for them and what is not, and I think they should be doing these things at home with my guidance.  Sonlight allows that to happen by including the tough stuff, and a way in which to discuss it and learn from it.
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