Monday, April 5, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: March 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

In March, I read 16 books, 8 of which were middle grade titles I chose for #MiddleGradeMarch on Instagram. I gave up audiobooks for Lent, but I did allow myself to finish listening to the Lord of the Rings trilogy since I was already more than halfway through my re-read of the series by Ash Wednesday. Here are the 16 titles: 

Sounder by William H. Armstrong
[reviewed on Instagram]
I'm not a dog person (or a dog book person), but this is a truly beautifully written children's novel about a young black boy whose father has gone to jail, leaving behind his hunting dog who was injured during the arrest. 

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
[reviewed on the blog]
I set a goal to read three Newbery medal winners in 2021, and since this was the most recent winner, I decided to just knock it off my list. I was really not a fan. 

Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather
[reviewed on Goodreads]
While there are Cather novels I prefer over this one, I still really liked this story of a young music student and her misguided, broken heart. 

The House on the Point by Benjamin Hoff
[reviewed on Goodreads
This is a retelling of a Hardy Boys book. It was fun to read a new take on an old series. 

Sunshine by Marion Dane Bauer
[reviewed on the blog]
This was an ARC from Candlewick Press that wound up being a big disappointment. I couldn't get past the message that it's heroic for a woman to abandon her child. 

The Green Poodles by Charlotte Baker
[reviewed on the blog]
I read aloud this vintage children's novel to my three big girls, and they loved it. It had a lot of, bordering on too many, details about raising and training poodles, but my kids didn't mind. 

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was my first Binchy and my favorite book of the entire month. I loved all the characters as well as the central setting of a new heart clinic in Ireland. 

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois
[review coming soon on the blog]
This was another read-aloud with my big girls, and it was a huge hit, even with my 5-year-old who is usually not into this kind of story.

Trace by Patricia Cornwell
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I go up and down with how I feel about this series, but this one was okay, so I'm going to keep reading through them for now, since I own used copies of all the rest of the titles. 

It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville
[review coming soon on the blog]
I first read this in library school before I had Goodreads or a blog, so I counted it as unread on my list of Newbery winners until re-reading it this month. I will post a review soon. 

Death Takes Up a Collection by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This series of murder mysteries starring an amateur detective who is also a nun is a fun palate cleanser every now and then. I picked up this book to read after realizing it was set in mid-March.

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I left this book unfinished years ago and never knew how the ending differed in the book and the movie. Now I know, and I was not disappointed.

Glass Houses by Louise Penny
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This is the first book in this series where I've seriously questioned Gamache's behavior. I think my ultimate opinion on this one will be determined by the trajectory of the series in future books. 

Motherhood Redeemed by Kimberly Cook
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I read this for an upcoming post at Catholic Mom. Stay tuned!

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
[reviewed on the blog]
The writing in this book was really excellent. It wasn't a good choice when I wanted a whodunit or a more typical true crime book and I had set it aside, but it was great when I went into it with no expectations.  

The Next Great Jane by K.L. Going
[reviewed on the blog]
This was a nice, light middle grade read to close out the month. 


The Best of the Bunch

My favorite book this month, without question, was Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy. I immediately bought two more of her books that are related to this one and I can't wait to read them. I'm also keeping this book, which is basically unheard of. 



As for the rest of the family's reading...

My husband finished reading The Ramsay Scallop by Frances Temple, and he insists that I need to read it next so I can warn people away from it. Apparently its treatment of Christianity leaves much to be desired. He is now reading The Summer Birds by Penelope Farmer which is enjoying much more.

My seven-year-old daughter M. is reading On Tide Mill Lane by Melissa Wiley, book 2 in the Charlotte series spun off from Little House on the Prairie. 

My five-year-old daughter, C., is still plugging along in the Betsy-Tacy series. She has also read Elisa in the Middle and Rip-Roaring Russell, both by Johanna Hurwitz, which my mom bought in response to C's request for books involving babies. 

My three-year-old daughter, E., has started listening to me read aloud from The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook, and she is hooked! 

My one-year-old twins, son R. and daughter A. are not getting as much read-aloud time as I would like, but they recently enjoyed looking through First 100 Words by Roger Priddy. 


Up Next For Me

Heading into April, I've started Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I had planned to read this later in the year, but there were so many lovely tributes to the author when he died that I decided to move it up. I'm also reading And Then They Stopped Talking to Me: Making Sense of Middle School by Judith Warner and I just started listening to American Royals by Katherine McGee. Beyond these, I have no solid plans yet, other than to read The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God by Ruth Pakaluk for book club. 

Linking Up

I'm sharing this post to four link-ups: 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 3/22/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Spring" by William Blake,  "Six Little Ducks" by Anonymous, "Riddle" by Anonymous, "Two Wrens" by Anonymous, "Crows" by David McCord, "In the Fields" by Anonymous, "Pippa's Song" by Robert Browning, "If Once You Have Slept On an Island" by Rachel Field 
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 1 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Extreme Animals" by Lynn Brunelle, "Amazon Adventure" by Cynthia Overbeck Bix, "Wedge It" by Glen Phelan 
  • Art appreciation: The House of Cards by Jean-Simeon Chardin from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Catechism: Lesson 20, "The Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Singing: "Waltzing Matilda" (recording by Slim Dusty)
  • Music Appreciation: The Four Seasons: "Spring" by Antonio Vivaldi 
  • Memory work: 
    • C: planets, marks of the church, continents, days of the week, months of the year, address, phone number, "The Tiger" by William Blake
    • M: seven sacraments, books of the Bible, 13 colonies, countries of Europe, address, phone number, "Sea Fever" by John Masefield 


Science

M. and C. started BFSU Lesson B-4b: What is a Species? I read aloud from The Kingdoms of Life: Classification by Bridget Anderson. We also watched a fun video about Carl Linnaeus.  M. and C. also worked with Snap Circuits together.


History 

M. read about the Mongol Conquest of Persia. C. read more Greek myths and colored more pictures.


Math

M. did some work in Singapore math. She continued practicing two-digit multiplication. C. continued practicing two-digit addition with renaming on the soroban.


Reading and Writing

M. received a letter from her bookseller pen pal and started drafting a reply. She and C. both listened to me read aloud Dandelion Cottage. C. read Elisa in the Middle and Rip-Roaring Russell by Johanna Hurwitz.  


Other Activities

The girls did a Crayola Craft Fingerprint Paints kit and played with play dough. The HOA also finally opened the neighborhood playgrounds this week and they were able to play there three times. 

Homeschool Update: Week of 3/15/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Wind Song" by Lilian Moore, "March Weather" by Tessa Ransford, "Silent Song" by Roger Stevens, "If You Find a Little Feather" by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, "Dayflight" by Geoffrey Summerfield, "Brooms" by Dorothy Aldis, "Pigeon and Wren" by Anonymous 
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 5 of National Geographic Young Explorer (Scout edition): "Puffin Parents,"  "A Giant Cactus," and "Looking in a Mirror" 
  • Art appreciation: Archery of the Mandan by George Catlin from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Catechism: Lesson 20, "The Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Singing: "Molly Malone" (recording by the Dubliners)
  • Music Appreciation: The Four Seasons: Spring by Antonio Vivaldi 
  • Memory work: 
    • C: planets, marks of the church, continentsl days of the week, months of the year, address, phone number, "The Tiger" by William Blake
    • M: seven sacraments, books of the Bible, 13 colonies, countries of Europe, address, phone number, "Sea Fever" by John Masefield 


Science

We continued working on BFSU Volume 1 Lesson B-4a. We finished Birds in their Homes and read Discovering Trees by Douglas Florian. We watched Home Sweet Habitat from Crash Course Kids. We also watched "Classifying Living Things," a video from Visual Learning that I accessed through the library's subscription to Just for Kids Access Video. 


History 

M. read about China and Japan in A Picturesque Tale of Progress. C. continued listening to me read D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths and she did some coloring pages of the gods and goddesses she heard about. 


Math

M. and C. both did Khan Academy daily. M. also worked on two-digit multiplication and C. also worked on two-digit addition with renaming on the soroban. M. did two more chapters in Life of Fred: Ice Cream.


Reading and Writing 

We started reading aloud Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin at lunchtime. C. is still reading Betsy-Tacy. M. did some grammar pages in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills Grade 3.


Physical Education

We had a playdate at the playground on St. Patrick's Day and our regular weekly playdate with the neighbors' grandkids on Friday.


Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder daily. 


Other Activities

M. and C. worked with modeling clay and E. used play dough. C. made a birthday card for my grandma's boyfriend. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 3/8/21

We had four days of increasingly warm and beautiful weather this week, so we lightened the school load a bit to be able to spend more time outside. Basically, this meant we didn't do Catechism or much memory work and no one did any Singapore Math. 


Morning Time

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Spring Song" by William Blake, "After Winter" by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, "Cat and Crocuses" by Eva Martin, "Rabbit" by Caryl Hart, "Spring" by William Blake 
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 6 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Parrots in Peril" by Christine Dell'Amore, "Pulley Power" by Glen Phelan, and "Food for the Future" by Joe Levit
  • Art appreciation: Blind Man's Bluff by Kitagawa Utamaro from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: "Tom Dooley" (recording by the Kingston Trio); "Molly Malone" (recording by the Dubliners)
  • Music Appreciation: Polonaise in A Major: No. 1, "Military" by Frederic Chopin 


Health

M. had her cast removed on Monday. We are planning to have her record one final video about the experience.


Science

Lucky for us given the nice weather, this week's science unit about animals and their habitats called for outdoor nature walks. I took M. and baby A. on Tuesday and C. and baby R. on Thursday for a long walk to the Adventure Playground and back. On Wednesday, E. did an outdoor scavenger hunt here in our neighborhood. We also started reading aloud Birds in Their Homes by Addison Webb and Sabra Mallett Kimball and looked up the calls of each bird we read about on AllAboutBirds.org.

On Wednesday, C. did the Capillary Action Kiwi Crate, which involved dyeing paper flowers and playing a balancing tree game.

 

Physical Education

M. and C. both had the chance to play on the Adventure Playground 


History

M. studied medieval Russia. C. started listening to me read aloud D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. (We're laying some foundation for next year's history studies.)


Math

M. and C. both did Khan Academy. C. practiced two-digit addition on the soroban, but not every day. M. started Life of Fred: Ice Cream


Reading and Writing

Our read-aloud was The Twenty-One Balloons. We read the entire thing in one week. M. loved it. C. eventually got interested about three chapters before the end. 

C. continued to read Betsy-Tacy and Tib and M. continued reading The Boxcar Children. E.'s audiobooks of choice were Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. She also continues to love Frances. 


Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder most days. M. began to ease back into playing.


Other Activities

On Friday, I went on Instagram live for Catholic Mom to lead a decade of the Rosary and M. and C. prayed along. That same day, we had our playdate. 

Homeschool Update: Week of 3/1/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "I am the Song" by Charles Causley, "Paper Dragons" by Susan Alton Schmeltz, "Seasons" by Steve Turner, "Seasons" by Anonymous, "Think of It" by Zaro Weil
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 5 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Lions on the Loose" by Joe Levit (about lion fish), "Round and Round with Wheels and Axles" by Glen Phelan, "Saving History" by Brenna Maloney
  • Art appreciation: Children's Games by Peter Bruegel the Elder from Come Look with Me: World of Play with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: "Tom Dooley" (recording by the Kingston Trio)
  • Music Appreciation: Symphony No. 8: Movement 2 by Ludwig von Beethoven 
  • Catechism: Lesson 19, "The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Commandments of God " from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Memory Work: 
    • M.: Monarchs of England, books of the Bible, seven sacraments, countries of Europe, Great Lakes, "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, addition and subtraction flashcards
    • C.: days of the week, months of the year, marks of the church, cardinal directions, "The Tiger" by William Blake, multiplication and division flashcards 
    • E.: "Icicles" by Anonymous, letters and numbers flashcards 


Science

We continued talking about mixtures and chemical reactions in BFSU and EESE and watched some videos about how the  body uses energy:  Fuelling the Body and Gotta Eat. Then we learned about the carbon cycle and watched Real World: The Carbon Cycle

On Wednesday, E. did the Bugs Koala Crate, which involved making a bug costume. She wore it pretty much every day after that. 


History

M. read about Genghis Khan and drew an illustration of Robin Hood for her book of centuries. 

C. finished History Can Be Fun and watched several episodes of Liberty's Kids


Math 

M. worked in Singapore 3B and finished Life of Fred: Honey. C. continued doing two-digit addition problems on the soroban.  


Reading and Writing

M. did some more pages about sentence structure in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills Grade 3. She finished Dr. Dolittle's Return and started Boxcar Children #13: Snowbound Mystery. C continued reading Betsy-Tacy and Tib and she also picked up Jasmine Green Rescues: A Duckling Called Button.

E. finally moved on from Mercy Watson and is branching out to other books. Favorites from this week included Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, as well as all the Frances books by Russell Hoban. 


Instrumental Music 

C. practiced piano and recorder most days of the week. M. still couldn't practice because of her cast.


Other Activities

M. and C. received from Grandma little Dover "Make a Masterpiece" booklets featuring different works of art that they had to reconstruct using stickers. M. did Starry Night and C. did A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. E. had a Dover sticker book as well, Puppy & Pal Dress Up. We also had our usual weekly playdate with the neighbors' grandkids. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Book Review: The Green Poodles by Charlotte Baker (1956)

Allan Green, who lives at Pond Farm with his Aunt Lena and older siblings Ann and Charley, really wants a dog. Aunt Lena likes dogs, but she insists that they can't have one on the farm - at least until the newly-orphaned cousin Fern moves in along with her poodle, Juliet. Little do Allan and Aunt Lena realize how the arrival of this champion canine will change their lives, first by having puppies and then by bringing the entire Green clan into the world of dog shows, kennels, and obedience classes. 

I read this vintage middle grade novel aloud to my three oldest daughters, ages 7, 5, and 3, and they all liked it. There are lots of details that kids find interesting about dog training, dog breeds, dog shows, and dog haircuts, and there is a bit of a mystery woven throughout the story as well. I found the book pleasant enough, but a bit longer than necessary. The middle of the story really drags under the weight of a few too many doggie details and the payoff on the mystery plot is way too late in coming. By the time the truth comes out, the initial details of that thread of the story are all but forgotten! (I also predicted how things would turn out, but I don't think my kids saw it coming, so that's less of a criticism, and more a comment on how the book is really tailored to its intended audience, rather than to the expectations of adults.)

The Green Poodles is a good book for modeling family cooperation and for showing how sacrifice, perseverance, and teamwork can help even a group of young kids achieve their goals and find success in the world of business. Absolutely nothing that happens in this book is likely to happen in real life,  but the positive spirit that the Greens maintain in the face of adversity is a positive influence I don't mind passing on to my kids. This book is in our home library, and I'm sure we will revisit it when my little ones are old enough to enjoy it. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Book Review: Sunshine by Marion Dane Bauer (2021) (ARC)

Ben has been living with his single dad and an imaginary dog named Sunshine ever since his mom left the family when Ben was very young. This summer, though, Ben has been invited to visit his mom on the secluded island where she lives, and he is determined to get some answers. He also believes that if he is appealing enough, she will want to return to their family home and pick up where they left off. 

This review contains spoilers because it's the only way I can explain what is wrong with the book.

This book rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning. To me, Ben is obviously a character with a lot of psychological trauma associated with his mom leaving home, and his imaginary dog is a very sad and somewhat creepy manifestation of that trauma. Neither of his parents seem to care about the deeper issues underlying the fact that their son speaks to, pets, and even feeds an animal everyone knows is not there. His dad is disapproving, and his mom is overly accommodating, but no one is taking a healthy approach to dealing with what is very obviously a deep pain in this boy's life.

I also nearly flew into a blind rage when I heard that the mother, a victim of physical abuse herself, lost her temper with her preschooler once, and immediately walked out on the family never to return as a means of keeping her son safe. The author clearly wants me to view this woman as a hero, but the character doesn't strike me that way at all. There were plenty of ways she could have dealt with her brief instinct to hit her child, and to say that abandoning her son, who then develops a hallucination as a coping mechanism, was the right thing to do is appalling. 

I'm honestly not sure why the world needs this book. The writing is fine, but the idea that this kid accepts his mother's explanation and immediately forgives her is troubling, as is the ending where the imaginary dog goes to live with the mother until Ben comes back next year. I left the story feeling as though no one learned anything and the mother was absolved of her wrongdoing without even apologizing for the right thing. I thought I was reading a book about a boy who would face the questions of his past and move forward for himself. Instead, it wound up that Ben's mother keeps his weird doggie delusion going and apparently gets to continue to live without the responsibility of caring for her child even now that she can clearly be trusted to look after him without beating him up. And Ben has learned to feel good about his mom leaving him because it was actually heroic. There are too many mental gymnastics involved in trying to make sense of how this is a happy ending. 

Candlewick provided me with an ARC of Sunshine, which comes out May 18, 2021. I chose to read it based on the author, but in the end, it was just not the book for me or my family. Your mileage may vary, but, especially if you are a mom, probably not by much.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Fumbling Through Fantasy: Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson (1999)

Three sisters, Etta, Coral, and Myrtle, have been tending to the unusual creatures on their island without help for years. Realizing that more hands would make lighter work for them as they age, the sisters pose as aunts and each one kidnaps a child. Two of the children, Minette and Fabio, are mostly agreeable and pleasant, but the third choice, Lambert, proves to be difficult and even dangerous in a variety of ways. As Minette and Fabio adjust to life on the island, and distance themselves from the troubles they left behind in their regular lives, they come to feel a strong affinity for the aunts and their creatures, but Lambert feels no such sympathy and soon brings a major threat to the island in the form of his greedy father.

I absolutely love Eva Ibbotson's historical novels for kids and teens, and I decided to read this book aloud to my kids based on that. Unfortunately, though my kids enjoyed the book, I found it to be a slog. The  sense of humor puts me in mind of Roald Dahl, but the execution is both more preachy and more zany than I wanted it to be. The ecological lesson the book wants to teach, about respecting the environment and caring for animals, is very heavy-handed, and there are quite a few vaguely religious aspects to the story that seem to contradict a Christian worldview and felt uncomfortable for me to read to my kids. The story also involves a lot of brokenness in each kidnapped child's family of origin, and I felt that the cavalier attitude with which bad behavior was treated  was a bit much, even for my oldest. There was also a hint at an idea I've seen in three middle grade books I've read recently: that it's okay, and maybe even heroic, for parents to abandon their kids for the greater good. Granted, the parent in question in this book is a kraken, but I still felt uncomfortable. 

My kids are big fans of fantasy and I'm not, so I think some of my weariness with the book does stem from having to read aloud something so vastly different from what I enjoy myself. But had this been a great fantasy story, it would have won me over, as others have done in the past, and that never happened. Depending on the subject matter, I may not be opposed to letting my kids enjoy others of Ibbotson's fantasy stories on their own, but for myself, from now on, I'm sticking to her historical fiction. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/22/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Snowman Sniffles" by N.M. Bodecker, "Snow Spell" by Berlie Doherty, "Tam Snow (To Kaye Webb)" by Charles Causley, "Icicles" by Anonymous, "Whether the weather be cold" by Anonymou
  • Articles from Vol. 3 No. 5 of National Geographic Explorer: "Weird and Wonderful Caves" by Glen Phelan, "Freaky Frogs" by Dan and Michele Hogan, "Vanishing Cultures" by Wade Davis, and "A Wild School" 
  • Art appreciation: Shahnama (The Book of Kings)  of Shah Tabmasp, Siavush Plays Polo Before Afrasiyab (180 verso) by Abu'l Qasim Firdausi, Qasim, Son of Ali, Mir Musarrir (Supervised by) Shah Tahmasp from Come Look with Me: World of Play with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: "Camptown Races" by Stephen Foster
  • Music Appreciation: Tritsch-Tratsch Polka by Johann Strauss, Jr.
  • Catechism: Lesson 18, "The Second and Third Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Memory Work: 
    • M.: Monarchs of England, books of the Bible, seven sacraments, countries of Europe, Great Lakes, "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, addition and subtraction flashcards
    • C.: days of the week, months of the year, marks of the church, cardinal directions, "The Tiger" by William Blake, multiplication and division flashcards 
    • E.: "Icicles" by Anonymous, letters and numbers flashcards 


Health

M. was interested in learning about the sense of taste, so we watched an Operation Ouch video featuring some taste test experiments. 


Science

This week we started lesson A-7 in BFSU, which is about the mixture of gases that make up air and about the difference between mixtures and chemical reactions. Rather than perform the experiments ourselves, we looked them up on YouTube and watched these video demonstrations: 


History 

C. and I read up to the American Revolution in History Can Be Fun. M. read about Marco Polo and started reading about Genghis Khan. She drew a picture of Genghis Khan for her book of centuries.  


Math

C. did a worksheet of two-digit addition with renaming to practice with her soroban. M. went back and corrected mistakes she made in previous lessons of Singapore 3B. 


Reading and Writing

We continued reading aloud The Green Poodles by Charlotte Baker. 

C. did some exercises in a workbook called Rhyme Time Language Workbook Grades 1 - 3. She also read some chapters in Betsy-Tacy and Tib. To Gran on Skype, she read aloud Stardust by Jeanne Willis and Briony May Smith, A Holiday for Mister Muster by Arnold Lobel, Bernadette's Busy Morning by Ila Hodgson. 

M. did some exercises in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills Grade 3 involving putting words into the right order to form a sentence and identifying complete sentences.  She's still reading Dr. Dolittle's Return independently, and White Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry to Gran over Skype.

E. continues to be completely enamored of the Mercy Watson series. She is also enjoying the Frances series, especially A Birthday for Frances


Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder each day.


Other Activities

We had a playdate in the neighborhood gazebo on Wednesday. On the weekend, M. and C. played the board game Trouble. We attended the Latin Mass on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Book Review: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller (2020)

In When You Trap a Tiger, the 2021 Newbery Medal winner, Lily, her mom, and her sister, Sam, have recently left California and moved to Sunbeam, Washington to live with Lily's halmoni, her Korean grandmother who has always been surrounded by an air of magic and mystery. Upon arriving, Lily sees a tiger in the road outside Halmoni's house, but when she realizes it isn't visible to anyone else, she understands that something unusual is happening. In fact, after talking with Halmoni and learning that she is ill, Lily comes to believe that Halmoni has stolen stories and the tiger has come to take them back. If only Lily can bargain with the tiger, she believes she'll be able to save her grandmother's life. 

Just like the 2018 Newbery medal winner, Merci Suarez Changes Gears, this is a mediocre and surface-level story about a young non-white girl and a beloved grandparent, only this time with a bit of a fantastical twist. Compared with the high standard set by Newbery winners of decades past, this one is largely unremarkable and forgettable. The writing is very commercial and conversational, with lots of tween-friendly dialogue and not much in the way of figurative language, other than a beaten-to-death tiger metaphor. It is impossible for me to accept that this book was the most distinctive of 2020, even given the very small number of new middle grade books I read last year. 

As always, though, I can easily find all the "woke" elements that must have made this book so appealing to the committee. In the scene where Lily first visits the public library, the teen girl who works there (who later becomes the object of Lily's older sister's crush) tells her that she doubts they have any books on Korean folktales because "this town is pretty white." This makes sure to blame not the librarian who purchases the books, but the entire white population of the community for apparently excluding Lily's entire culture from the shelves. (I also don't buy that a public library doesn't have Korean folk tales. The folk tale sections of every library I've worked in have been robust and diverse regardless of the color of the majority of patrons' skin. If this specific library doesn't have them, the author needs a more nuanced explanation.)

A few pages later, Lily meets Ricky, an excitable middle schooler who doesn't have many friends and is awkward in social situations. Within two sentences, Ricky has been painted as sexist because he tells Lily he's "never met a girl who likes tigers before." Ricky is shown to be insensitive later in the book as well, when he mocks Lily's grandmother for her cultural customs. When he apologizes, he is not only portrayed as an idiot (he can't pronounce halmoni, even after being corrected) but he also actually uses the phrase "hostile environment." I'd hate to be a boy reading this story; with Ricky representing the male sex, he won't walk away feeling particularly good about being male. The talking tiger in the story also makes a comment about gender when Lily assumes she is a boy: "Typical. You hear one story about a male tiger and think we're all the same? Humans are the worst." Not the most uplifting message for the 8-to-12-year-old audience.

I also really felt uncomfortable with some of the story's messages. I didn't like the constant feeling that the reader was being led to reject old stories and to celebrate writing new ones to replace them, as it reminds me of the way libraries are starting to remove older titles for dubious reasons. I also really hated the idea that "sometimes people feel trapped in their own skin and they have to leave" as an explanation for why Ricky's mother (a stay-at-home mom) abandoned her family. Stay-at-home motherhood is not a trap, and I don't like being asked to empathize with someone for escaping it by basically neglecting her role as a mother entirely. I also felt that this book took a very bleak view on death, commenting that after someone dies, "the person you loved is gone" and not really leaving any room for Halmoni's suffering to have any meaning.   

A line from this book says, "Even if things aren't perfect, they can still be good." Unfortunately, this book's imperfections are so numerous that it's just not good. We own most of the Newbery medal winners from previous decades, but just like the winners from 2018, 2019 and 2020, we will not buy this one, nor will my kids be reading it. It's endlessly frustrating that an award given for high-quality writing keeps singling out middling books because they check the right political boxes. I'm more annoyed by the content than I would have been had this book not been awarded a Newbery. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: February 2021 Wrap-Up

 My Month in Books

In February, I read 13 books, bringing me to 30 for the year so far. Here's the full list: 

Affairs of Steak
by Julie Hyzy (4 stars)
This is book 5 in the White House Chef Mystery series, which was one of the first cozy mystery series I started reading a few years ago. I took a break from it for a while, but decided to read one this month for the #fedbybooks challenge on Instagram.  

Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo (5 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram]
This was my book club book for this month. I listened to the audiobook read by the author, and it was very well done. I enjoyed learning more about an amazing Catholic woman and about the creation of EWTN even in the face of objections from clergy.

The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista Davis (2 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was another one I picked up with the #fedbybooks challenge in mind. I owned the paperback, but listened to the audio. I didn't really like it and I have decided not to read more from the series for right now.

Treasures: Visible & Invisible by CatholicTeenBooks.com (5 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
I received a .PDF review copy of this book from one of the authors, and I just absolutely loved it. If you or your teens need something to read to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, this is a great choice.

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This is book 2 in the Renee Ballard series. It wasn't as good as book one, but I enjoyed it and will be reading book 3. 

Killer Kung Pao by Vivien Chien (4 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram]
One more #fedbybooks read. This is book 6 in the Noodle Shop Mystery series. This series is still going strong, and I'm excited for the next one. 

Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last by Patience Bloom (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I read this one around Valentine's Day. Though I have nothing in common with the author, and would not have made any of the life choices she made, I really enjoyed listening to her read the story on the audiobook.  

Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson (2 stars)
[review coming soon on blog]
I read this aloud to my kids, who loved it. I felt like it went on forever and I have mixed feelings about some of the content. I am working on a full review to be published soon. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (2 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
I read this book as part of my continuing quest to understand why majoring English was such a terrible experience for me. I'm pretty sure I've figured it out now: reading literature like a professor is something I never ever want to do. My review goes into greater detail as to why. 

Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
After enjoying Treasures and realizing how many wonderful Catholic authors I haven't been reading, I decided to seek out the novels of some of the authors. I started with contemporary romance because that is one of my favorite genres, and I absolutely loved this book. I was so invested in the characters, and I loved the way Catholic teaching about chastity was woven into the story in a very realistic and non-preachy way.  

Be Bold in the Broken by Mary Lenaburg (3 stars)
[reviewed on Instagram]
Mary is such an inspiring presence in the Catholic corner of the Internet. I love what this book has to say about the worthiness of all women in the eyes of God. 

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West  (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I read this with the Everyday Reading book club on Instagram, and learned so much about life in the White House in the mid 20th century. I especially loved that this took a human interest, rather than a political, angle. 

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was a re-read for me. It's still great. Gollum is still so intriguing, and Shelob is still terrifying. I've never read to the end of Return of the King, so I'm looking forward to finally doing that during this next month. 


The Best of the Bunch


Surprisingly, neither of my favorites were books I had initially planned to read this month, but both were clear five-star reads. 






As for the rest of the family's reading...


My husband finished reading Zeb by Lonzo Anderson, a middle grade novel by the husband of illustrator Adrienne Adams. He gave it three stars. 

M., age 7, read a few titles in the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald Sobol, which inspired a lot of wandering through the house speaking in a faux British accent about "the culprits." She also started reading aloud White Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry to my mother-in-law over Skype.

C., age 5, has been on a nonfiction kick with books from the '60s by Leonora Hornblow: Animals Do the Strangest Things, Reptiles Do the Strangest Things, Birds Do the Strangest Things, and Insects Do the Strangest Things. She also finished Betsy-Tacy and is now reading Betsy-Tacy and Tib.  
E., age 3 fell in love with Ezra Jack Keats this month after reading A Snowy Day. We have since read Pet Show, A Letter to Amy, Peter's Chair, and Hi, Cat. Other frequent requests have been A Birthday for Frances, the Mercy Watson books on audio (as always), and the first book in the Deckawoo Drive series (the chapter book spin off of Mercy Watson), Leroy Ninker Saddles Up.

A. and R., both 11 months, listened to Freight Train by Donald Crews, Hello Lamb by Jane Cabrera, and Goodnight Bear by Jane Cabrera and lots of nursery rhymes. 

Up Next For Me 

I started Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather, so I want to finish that up in early March. It's also Middle Grade March in the Instagram and Booktube communities and I have a whole stack of middle grade books I want to read, including a digital ARC of the newest Greenglass House book and Newbery winners like Sounder, The Hero and the Crown, and Twenty One Balloons.

Linking Up

I'm sharing this post to four link-ups: 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/15/21

Lenten Activities

Lent started on Wednesday. This year, we are praying a decade of the Rosary every school morning, and counting to 40 before we eat dinner. On Wednesday, the girls also did an Ash Wednesday coloring page. On Friday, we watched a full children's rosary from EWTN at breakfast, and in the afternoon, M. and C. watched a livestreamed Stations of the Cross from last year on YouTube. 

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Owl" by Anonymous, "Winter Scene" by Archie Randolph Ammons, "Night of Wind" by Frances M. Frost, "Shiny" by James Reeves," "Afterpeace" by Patrick McDonough, "Winter Morning" by Ogden Nash, "Thaw" by Eunice Tietjens 
  • Articles from Vol. 17 No. 7 of National Geographic Explorer (Pathfinder edition): "Sailing with the Blue Fleet" by Brenna Maloney, "In Search of the Lost City" by Douglas Preston, "The Ups and Downs of Ramps" by Glen Phelan 
  • Art appreciation: Bull Jumping from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: "Old Folks at Home" by Stephen Foster
  • Music Appreciation: Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Catechism: Lesson 18, "The Second and Third Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Memory Work: 
    • C.: "The Tiger" by William Blake, planets, four directions, marks of the church, oceans, continents, days of the week, months of the year, addition and subtraction flashcards
    • M.: "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, seven sacraments, monarchs of England, Great Lakes, books of the Bible, countries of Europe, address, phone number, multiplication and division flashcards
    • E.: "Portrait" by Marchette Chute, alphabet flashcards, number flashcards 

Health 

M. is continuing to manage life with a cast. This week, we figured out how to bathe her without getting it wet. She and C. also watched some Operation Ouch videos about sprains and strains and about our sense of taste. 

Science

We focused on muscles this week. We read Muscles by Jane P. Gardner on Hoopla, and watched Muscles Experiments from Operation Ouch and How Muscles Work from Kids Health. M. and C. each labeled the major muscles on a worksheet as well.

On the weekend, M. and C. watched the Perseverance rover land on Mars. 

History 

M. studied Renaissance Art this week. She read Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd and Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley with my husband. They also watched some snippets of BBC art history shows together. 

C. continued reading in History Can Be Fun (we are almost done), and she watched the Weston Woods video adaptation of Where Do You Think You're Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz. 

Math

C. did another worksheet of double-digit addition with the soroban. She finished Life of Fred: Butterflies and we have decided to take a break from Fred, probably until the fall when she starts her first official year of school.

M. did some more work in Singapore 3B, finishing Review 5 and starting Review 6. She also did a chapter in Life of Fred: Honey.

Reading and Writing

We finished our lunchtime read-aloud of Islands of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson and started a new read-aloud, The Green Poodles by Charlotte Baker.

C. continued reading Betsy- Tacy and Tib. M. continued reading Dr. Dolittle's Return and she read several books from the Encyclopedia Brown series. 

Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder each weekday. M. still can't practice because of her arm.
 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Catholic Book Review: Treasures: Visible and Invisible by CatholicTeenBooks.com (2021)

Treasures: Visible and Invisible
is a brand-new collection of Catholic short stories from a variety of authors and genres, all centering on St. Patrick. In each story, regardless of setting, a shamrock-shaped stone plays an important role. Included here are eight stories, presented in chronological order based on setting:
  • "Treasure in the Bogs" by Theresa Linden tells of the spiritual coming of age of a young man named Magonus Saccatus in 4th century Ireland, and how Magonus comes to use the shamrock as a symbol of the trinity when explaining his faith to others.
  • "A Single Day... Or Not" by Susan Peek follows Brother Dearmad, a 16-year-old monk living several centuries after St. Patrick who wishes he could speed up his path to holiness.
  • "Lucy and the Hidden Clover" by Antony Barone Kolenc is set in 12th century England, where a young girl works to unearth the treasure that will fulfill an elderly nun's dying wish in a surprising way.
  • "Lucky and Blessed" by Amanda Lauer takes place in 1540 in England and brings together Honora, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a baron who finds herself in desperate circumstances and 18-year-old Ambrose, who has recently fled during the dissolution of the monastery where he lived. 
  • "Danke" by Carolyn Astfalk jumps ahead to 19th century Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where we meet William and his large Irish Catholic family, the youngest member of which is very ill with scarlet fever. William needs a miracle for his family, but he's not sure his weekend job at a lake club will be enough help. 
  • "Grace Among Gangsters" by Leslea Wahl is set in the Midwest in the present day, when three teens visit their grandmother and hear for the first time a story from her childhood about a close encounter with mobsters and a surprising source of help.  
  • "In Mouth of Friend and Stranger" by T.M. Gaouette takes place around the year 2000 in London. When Hannah runs away from a dangerous family situation and finds herself on the street, she is befriended by a kind young man named Pat who makes it his mission to see that she finds a safe place to stay. 
  • "The Underappreciated Virtues of Green-Fingered Monsters" by Corinna Turner follows Kyle through a futuristic England in which faith is outlawed and to practice Catholicism or consider the priesthood is a matter of life and death. 

Each story is accompanied by an author's note and a brief author bio. Several of the stories feature characters who appear in full-length works of their own. 

I was completely blown away by how good every single one of these stories is. Most of the time, collections of stories will have highs and lows, stories that work really well and others that don't quite accomplish their goals. This collection, however, is consistently excellent from beginning to end. Every story is engaging. Genres that I typically don't enjoy drew me in anyway, and each of the characters is so memorable I'm still thinking about them weeks later. I loved that each story had the common element of the stone, and of St. Patrick's presence either physically or spiritually, but that each author did such different things with these central themes. 

There is also something so comforting about reading an entire book that aligns with Catholic teaching. I didn't really appreciate how much my guard is often up when I'm reading mainstream fiction until I felt myself relax into the world of these stories. It was so rewarding to be able to settle in fully and trust that the authors were never going to lead me into offensive or blatantly anti-Catholic content. I had a personal affinity for this collection, too, I think, because my father's family is Irish and many of these characters had experiences similar to those I imagine my ancestors must have gone through.

I loved this book so much that I immediately went on Amazon and downloaded the Kindle editions of the two previous collections Catholic Teen Books has published: Secrets: Visible and Invisible and Gifts: Visible and Invisible. I also started making a list of other titles I want to read by these authors. I have mistakenly been of the opinion that Catholic fiction would somehow be boringly pious or otherwise saccharine, and this collection has opened my eyes to all that I have been missing in the world of YA Catholic writing.  I also feel like I want to take another crack at Catholic fiction writing myself and see if there might be room for me in that world. 

All Catholic readers, adults and teens, and even younger kids who are ready for a bit more sophisticated content, need books like this one on their shelves and in their reading lives. I truly cannot say enough good things about this book. There are not many new books I would allow my kids to read because either the content is objectionable or the quality is poor. This book I will absolutely allow - and definitely even encourage - my kids to read when they reach the target age range. 

I was sent a .PDF review copy of this book by one of the authors, Carolyn Astfalk, in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (2014)

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster was originally published in 2003. I read the revised edition, issued in 2014.  This book teaches the reader how to look for symbols, themes, and patterns in works of literature in the way that is expected by English professors. Using widely read examples by authors such as James Joyce, Toni Morrison, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Flannery O'Connor, and Katherine Mansfield, Foster highlights the meaning hidden between the lines of literary works and explains the commonly understood significance of everything from heart disease to highways. 

I have long wondered why so many of my college classmates seemed to get such wildly different things out of reading assignments than I did, and I suspected this book held a lot of the answers. I was not wrong. This book does indeed unlock a secret code that true English majors seem to know and happily follow. If I had read this book before applying to college, I would have done things very differently because there is one thing I now know for sure: I never want to read literature like a professor. 

I think one of the most irritating aspects of my college English classes was the obsession with sexual imagery. I started college at 17, coming from a (happily) sheltered background and honestly I don't think I fully realized that an author would put sexual content into a book on purpose. Even now, 20 years later, I think there was still a part of me that felt the same way the author of this book says many people feel: that English professors just have dirty minds. This book, however, makes it pretty clear that 20th century writers, at least, were writing about sex whenever they mentioned bowls, keys, waves, and/or staircases, and that a part of the job of the reader is to find these subtle cues and make sense of them. I don't like the idea of spending my time that way, and if my ignorance of sexual innuendo is a reason that I wasn't a better English major, that is fine by me. 

Another thing that struck me was in Foster's chapter on Christ figures. He writes: "[I]f you want to read literature like a professor, you need to put aside your belief system, at least for the period during which you read, so you can see what the writer is trying to say." For better or for worse, when I was in college, I did not do this. Refusing to set aside my beliefs while I read was not a conscious decision, but I think my established worldview was such that it would never occur to me to assume anyone thought certain topics were appropriate to include in books, or that it was appropriate for me to discuss those topics with other people in front of a professor. Obviously, we need to be able to empathize with points of view other than our own to make sense of certain books, and I think I am better at that now, but I definitely was not about to go looking for immoral subject matter in my homework assignments.

This book also disagrees with me about authors as authorities. When I wrote my thesis on Flannery O'Connor, my chief argument was that she wrote her stories to fulfill a particular mission which she stated over and over again in her lifetime. I was specifically refuting a collection of essays which argued that her book could be read without a religious lens. Foster, though, argues that what an author intends isn't relevant and that if we see something in a text, that means it's probably there. This way of thinking opens the Pandora's box for every self-important undergraduate to rewrite texts in their own image, and I hate that. What the author means matters. If he hasn't conveyed it well, so be it, but to use the author's words to tell whatever story you wish to read is obnoxiously narcissistic and represents everything I hated about majoring in English. 

Obviously, I have a big chip on my shoulder about academia, so I went into this book with negative preconceptions and that colors my reading of it quite a bit. Just to counteract my criticisms, I do want to mention the positive aspects I saw in the book. I really appreciated Foster's willingness to consider books through the lens of the time period in which they were published. Too often nowadays books fall out of favor because they don't express contemporary beliefs on a given topic. But a book is a product of its time and to understand it, we have to stand in the shoes of the characters in the story and/or the reader of that time period. I also loved the way he used "The Garden Party" by Katherine Mansfield as a case study. The analyses of the story were so interesting, and though I could never have come up with them on my own in a thousand years, I enjoyed them. Really, though, the moments I enjoyed most in this book involved Foster's thoughts on Ulysses. He says two things that validated my experience with that monster of a novel: 

  1. "The only thing that can really prepare you to read Ulysses is reading Ulysses."
  2. "Ulysses is not for beginners. When you feel you've become a graduate reader, go there. My undergraduates get through it, but they struggle, even with a good deal of help."
Last year, I concluded that it would be impossible for an undergraduate to really get Ulysses and it does make me feel better to realize that I'm not alone in this opinion.

Ultimately, I think this is a great book to read for high school juniors or seniors who are considering majoring in English because it will help them decide whether they'll be able to stomach it or not. This book accurately represents the kinds of things that were discussed regularly in my college-level English classes, and had this book been available prior to my applying to college, I might have made a different decision. I despise the kind of literary analysis that attaches symbolic meaning to everything and insists that what the author is "really" saying is never on the surface and has to be coaxed out through endless debate and argument, and that any reading is valid so the author doesn't actually matter anyway. I learned that about myself during a very expensive four years. Even in hardcover, this book would have been a much cheaper investment.

I usually love a good book about books, but I didn't love this one at all. If anything, it made me want to stop reading altogether because there is no hope of my ever getting it "right." Readers who genuinely enjoy dissecting the books they read will probably love this book, but if that's not your thing, there isn't much this book can do other than rain on your reading parade.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/8/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Winter Morning" by Angela Topping, "Icy Morning Haiku" by James Carter, "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost, "When" by Dorothy Aldis, "White Sheep" by W.H. Davies
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 2 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Why Birds Matter" by Jonathan Franzen, "Out of Eden" by Paul Salopek, "The Magic Behind Their Movement" by Brenna Maloney
  • Art appreciation: Michigan Avenue with View of the Art Institute by Richard Estes from Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard (This was the last painting in this book. The girls loved that it looked so real that it could be mistaken for a photograph. We also reviewed all the previous paintings.) 
  • Singing: "Old Folks at Home" by Stephen Foster, Ave Regina Caelorum, Gloria from Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis)
  • Music Appreciation: William Tell Overture: "Finale" by Gioachino Rossini
  • Catechism: Lesson 17, "Honoring the Saints, Relics, and Images" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • From Picture Book of Saints by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, SV.D. (Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1979): St Bernadette (for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on 2/11)


Health

This was our main subject this week, as M. got her cast on Monday morning and had her regular check-up at the pediatrician on Tuesday. She told the whole story of her injury and treatment to us, and to Gran, and then we recorded a more formal narration for school. 

Science

We were meant to discuss muscles and tendons this week, but we missed a couple of days and only really started at the end of the week with a few notes from EESE. We also read aloud You Can't Make a Move Without Your Muscles by Paul Showers and watched a video from Operation Ouch

C has been reading Sea Creatures Do Amazing Things by Arthur Myers, and she developed an interest in coral reefs. She did a coral reef coloring page and watched a National Geographic video about the Great Barrier Reef.

History

M. finished A Picturesque Tale of Progress: New Nations II with chapter VIII "Italian City-States and the Renaissance." She watched some related art history lessons on Khan Academy. She also learned about the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and about perspective. 

C. read up to the time of Columbus in History Can Be Fun. She watched Marco Polo from PBS World Explorers. 

Math


C. is practicing double-digit addition on the soroban with worksheets from WorksheetWorks.com. She also completed Life of Fred: Butterflies Chapter 18 and worked on Khan Academy every day. 

M. didn't do much math in her Singapore book because she was out and about for medical appointments, but she did Khan Academy every day and flashcards drill of multiplication and division on Friday. 

Reading and Writing 


C. finished Betsy-Tacy and moved onto the second book. She also read Birds Do the Strangest Things and Jenny's in the Hospital,  a book from my childhood about a girl who breaks her arm and hits her head and has to stay overnight in the hospital for observation. 

M. read The Valentine Party by Pamela Bianco to Gran on Sunday. She's still reading Dr. Dolittle's Return by Hugh Lofting and Ereth's Birthday by Avi. She also read Stella Batts: Broken Birthday by Courtney Sheinmel, which was a get-well gift from my mom.  


Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder, though not as often as she was supposed to. M. didn't practice because of her cast.

Other Activities

On Tuesday, we had lunch over Skype with Aunt B. On Thursday, all three girls made valentines for each other and for friends with whom we had a quick exchange on Friday. On Saturday, we had our annual Valentine tea party. On Sunday, we attended the Latin Mass. We also got to Zoom with my brother- and sister-in-law so we could see their new baby. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/1/21

Morning Time

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "When Skies Are Low and Days are Dark" by N.M. Bodecker, "Snow Toward Evening" by Melville Cane, "Red Fox" by Coral Rumble, "February Twilight" by Sara Teasdale, "Spellbound" by Emily Bronte 
  • Articles from National Geographic Explorer magazine (Trailblazer edition): Vol. 18. No. 3: "Extreme Plants" by Lynn Brunelle, "Living with Lava Domes," "Something Screwy Going On" by Glen Phelan 
  • Art appreciation: Mountains and Sea by Helen Frankenthaler from Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: Simple Gifts, Gloria from Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis)
  • Memory work: C.: continents, directions, planets, months, days of the week, "The Tiger" by William Blake; M: marks of the church, 7 sacraments, oceans, Great Lakes, 50 states, 13 colonies, first 16 books of the Bible, "A Christmas Carol" by Kenneth Grahame, countries of Europe; E: numbers 1-10, letters of the alphabet
  • Catechism: Lesson 16, "The First Commandment of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Music Appreciation: Orpheus in the Underworld: "Can-Can" by Jacques Offenbach  

 

Science  

This week, we did the first two sections of BFSU lesson B-6: "How Animals Move I: The Skeleton and Muscle System" using EESE as a guide. On Monday, we labeled the bones of the human skeleton using a blank labeling sheet from Twinkl.com. (The answer key they provided didn't use scientific names so I didn't bother printing it out.) I modified this game so that all the bones were included. Drawing one card at a time, I had M. and C. take turns pointing to the bones on their own bodies. On Tuesday,we read Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman and again had the girls point to the bones as they were named, and we also read Skulls by Blair Thornburg. 

I also showed these videos: 

E. did her next Koala Crate, Glowing Nature, which involved making a mushroom lantern, a stuffed firefly, and a jelly fish game. 

History 


M. read about the Holy Roman Empire in Germany from A Picturesque Tale of Progress.  She has also started The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff. C. watched National Geographic videos about Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Ancient Egypt 101, Ancient Greece 101, Ancient Rome 101. She also watched Castles for Kids: What is a Castle?

Math 

M. and C. continued working in their respective Singapore books. Both did review sections with word problems, and C. finished Singapore 1B. M. completed Life of Fred: Honey Chapter 12 and C. did Life of Fred: Butterflies Chapter 17.
 

Reading and Writing 

M. read aloud to Gran from Cricket magazine over Skype. She also practiced putting words into alphabetical order. She also read a few books in the Poppy series by Avi, a few chapters in Schoolhouse in the Woods by Rebecca Caudill and a few chapters in Dr. Dolittle's Return.

C. read The Rackety Packety House by Frances Hodgson Burnett, then attempted to read a book called Angela, Private Citizen but it was a little bit too hard so she has switched over to Betsy-Tacy.

E. is still on an Ezra Jack Keats kick, but she also asked to hear The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Alfie Gives a Hand by Shirley Hughes. 

Instrumental Music

Both girls practiced piano and recorder.

Other Activities

The girls played in the snow on our deck on Monday and Tuesday. On Friday, they worked with geoboards. 

Health

On Sunday morning, M. was "planning a jump" from the bunk bed, and she fell and fractured her arm above the elbow. She had x-rays at urgent care, and learned some new vocabulary, including "supracondylar" and "humerus." This happened on the heels of me saying to my husband that I should probably just go ahead and publish this post because "What could possibly happen on Sunday?" Famous last words. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 1/25/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems from Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018): "Star Wish" by Anonymous, "The Star (Extract)" by Jane Taylor, "January" by John Updike, "Winter Time" by Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Furry Ones" by Aileen Fisher, "Maggie" by Anonymous 
  • Articles from National Geographic Explorer magazine (Trailblazer edition) Vol. 17 No. 4: "Turned to Stone" by Michael Greshko, "Mineral Mania" by Beth Geiger, "Frozen...Again!" by Cynthia Overbeck Bix  
  • Art appreciation: Red Hills and Bones by Georgia O'Keeffe from Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: Simple Gifts, Gloria from Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis)
  • Memory work: C.: continents, directions, planets, months, days of the week, "The Tiger" by William Blake; M: marks of the church, 7 sacraments, oceans, Great Lakes, 50 states, 13 colonies, first 16 books of the Bible, "A Christmas Carol" by Kenneth Grahame, countries of Europe; E: numbers 1-10, letters of the alphabet 
  • Catechism: Lesson 16, "The First Commandment of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism.  
  • Music Appreciation: "Appalachian Spring: Variations on a Shaker Tune" by Aaron Copland 


Science 

This week's section of BFSU was "C-4: Concepts of Energy III: Distinguishing Between Matter and Energy." Using EESE as our guide, we compared matter and energy.  We read Matter: See It, Touch It, Taste It, Smell It by Darlene R. Stille and  Heat by Sally M. Walker and the girls watched Science Video for Kids: What is Energy? We had scheduled two weeks for this topic, but we didn't even need one full week to cover everything. 

History

M. read about medieval France in A Picturesque Tale of Progress. C. continued reading History Can Be Fun, covering Ancient Greece and the beginnings of Ancient Rome. 


Math

M. and C. both worked in their respective Singapore books. Both did review sections with word problems. M. completed Life of Fred: Honey Chapter 11 and C. did Life of Fred: Butterflies Chapter 16. 


Reading and Writing 

M. finished reading Our Little Crusader Cousin of Long Ago to Gran on Skype. She also composed a thank you note to my sister-in-law without help and then we corrected her spelling and punctuation. 

C. read Beezus and Ramona

E. discovered A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and started looking for other books about Peter on our shelves. 


Instrumental Music

Both girls practiced piano and recorder.


Other Activities

We had a masked outdoor playdate with our neighbors' grandkids on Friday. On Sunday, the girls played out on the deck in the snow. We also made Valentines for our long-distance relatives to they would get in the mail early enough to arrive on time. We used construction paper, crayons, and heart stickers from Dollar Tree. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: January 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

January was a great reading month for me. I read 17 books, of which 10 were books for adults and 7 were kids' books. Here's a quick run-down: 

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt (5 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
This middle grade novel is set in the same universe as The Wednesday Wars and deals with Meryl Lee Kowalski's grief following the death of a beloved character from that earlier book. It was tough getting past the death but Schmidt's writing is impeccable as always. 

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
The memoirs discussed in this book are more literary than what I typically like to read, but I enjoyed reading the author's thoughts on honesty in memoir writing and on the impact of writing down difficult memories on the family members who share them. 

The End of Her by Shari Lapena (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This author's books are always quick reads, and this was no exception. I didn't think this one was quite as good as some of her previous titles, but I still mostly enjoyed all its twists and turns. I just didn't love the ending.

Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald (4 stars)
[reviewed on the blog in 2016]
This middle grade book was a re-read for me, but this time I read it aloud to my oldest two girls. They loved it and they are still talking about the adventures Nancy and Plum had at the boarding house run by the horrible Mrs. Monday.

The Bookish Holidays of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I meant to read this short story during Christmas and forgot, so I decided to just read it instead of hoping to remember next year. It was a nice follow-up to The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and a very cozy winter read. 

The Late Show by Michael Connelly (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I loved this police procedural book which is the first in a series that is connected to the author's long-running Bosch series. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the straightforward writing style and the interesting main character. 

Felicia the Critic by Ellen Conford (4 stars) 
[reviewed on the blog in 2020]
This short middle grade novel was our other January read-aloud. Unfortunately, I think the lesson - that criticism is not always welcome or necessary - was lost on the child who needed to hear it most. 

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
After enjoying The Late Show, I went back and read this first Bosch book. Though I liekd it, it took me a while to get into it, and I actually abandoned the second  book of the series at 60% when I realized I was bored and not retaining any details. In the future, I plan to skip around among this author's books and just read the ones that grab my interest. 

A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This adorable middle grade novel is a love letter to public libraries. Though there is a bit too much young teen dating and use of the Lord's name in vain for me to want to hand it to my kids at this stage, it was otherwise the perfect book for me and it made me completely nostalgic for my old library job in New York. 

The Love of Friends by Nancy Bond (3 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
This was a disappointing third book in a trilogy that started with The Best of Enemies in 1978. I had been hoping that this book would redeem some of what happens in book two, A Place To Come Back To, but the first book turned out to be the only one worth reading. The writing was great, but the story left a lot to be desired.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I first read this trilogy 20 years ago and I'm re-reading it via audiobook over the first three months of 2021. I loved it just as much this time as the first time, but I was a little surprised that it wasn't the intimidating tome I imagined it to be as a college student. 

The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was a fitting ending to a wonderful trilogy about family, faith, home, and so much more. I'd love to own these books.  

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. It was more like a romantic comedy than I think is typical for this author, and the best parts of it were about the daily lives of the characters rather than the central relationship. 

The Professor's House by Willa Cather (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads
I have learned to go into Cather books with no expectations, and this one was a very pleasant surprise. It was a bit melancholy, but the characters were very well-drawn and I zipped through the whole thing in just a few days. 

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (5 stars)
[review on Goodreads coming soon]
I listened to this one on audio, and it was beautiful from start to finish. I can't wait to read the companion novels. 

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (5 stars)
[review on the blog coming soon]
I borrowed this young adult graphic novel about basketball at a Catholic high school from Libby on a whim after seeing two positive reviews on Instagram, and I could not put it down. I'll save the details for my review, but this is absolutely deserving of all the praise it's getting. 

Over the Blue Mountain by Conrad Richter (4 stars)
[review on the blog coming soon]
My husband read this story about what happens to two Pennsylvania Dutch boys on the day when it is said  that "Mary goes over the mountain," and he loved it and insisted that I read it immediately. There are lots of parallels to the story of the Visitation, but I felt like something was missing to really connect the dots, so I only gave it 4 stars.  


The Best of the Bunch



This year I've decided to join the link-up hosted by A Cocoon of Books and share my favorite titles of each month. I had seven 5-star reads in January, but  of all of them, the ones I enjoyed the most were The Professor's House by Willa Cather and Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang.






As for the rest of the family's reading...

In addiiton to Over the Blue Mountain, my husband read Ezra Jack Keats: A Biography with Illustrations, which he also wants me to read ASAP. (I am counting on it to be a much better representation of Keats's life than A Poem for Peter.) 

M., age 7, finished the Ramona series and has now moved on to Avi's Dimwood Forest series. She got three of the books for Christmas, but we didn't realize we didn't have book one, so she started with Poppy rather than Ragweed. Grandma ordered the rest of the books, though, and they'll be here in a few days! 

C., age 5, finished Henry Huggins and Henry and Beezus and started Beezus and Ramona. (Beverly Cleary is extremely popular here right now.) She is also reading History Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf as part of her homeschool work, and she is really loving all the information about ancient civilizations that she has gathered from it so far. 

M. and C. are also both enjoying our read-aloud of Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson, but I'm finding it kind of a let-down. 


E., age 3, discovered The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, as well as The Summer Snowman by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham and White Snow Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin. She is also still really into Mercy Watson and quotes entire passages from the books all the time. Another current favorite of hers is Little Sleepyhead by Elizabeth McPike and Patrice Barton. 

Baby girl A. and baby boy R., age 10 months, received new books from Grandma in the mail. Two of them were three-in-one books from Cottage Door Press showing what you can see if you Look Up!, Look Around! and Look Down! on the farm and in the forest. The others were Melissa and Doug EZ Page Turners board books to help them practice turning pages.  


Up Next for Me

I actually made a to-read list for February because there are so many things I'm interested in reading.  Among the titles on my list are The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, Motherhood Redeemed by Kimberly Cook, Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy, Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather, Mother Angelica by Raymond Arroyo, and How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster.  



Linking Up

I'm sharing this post to four link-ups: