Tuesday, September 28, 2021

ARC Review: The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo (9/28/21)

When Brother Edik finds Beatryce in a goat stall at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing, she is very ill and curled up with a disagreeable goat named Answelica. After she is healthy again, Brother Edik comes to realize that Beatryce is the subject of a prophecy he once transcribed, and she is now being sought by the king for a mysterious and dangerous reason.  With Answelica as her unlikely traveling companion, Beatryce sets off into the woods and into the unknown, willing to meet the king - and her fate - face to face. 

When I first heard of this book, I saw it being compared to The Inquisitor's Tale, and I got really nervous. I didn't want it to be an anti-Catholic story, and I didn't want to be upset with Kate DiCamillo, whose books I generally like. Thankfully, this book is almost nothing like The Inquisitor's Tale in any way. 

The setting is somewhat medieval-inspired, though there isn't an explicit mention of a year, and there are some hints in the text that suggest the time period is left intentionally unclear. The monks in the story do seem to have a hierarchy that suggests they might be Catholic, but religion is not the focus of the book, and there is very little religious content in the story. I did think it was a bit of a stretch that a monk in dire circumstances such as some of the ones Brother Edik finds himself in would never think to pray, but other than that, the lack of religion worked better here than moral relativism worked in The Inquisitor's Tale

The story itself is everything readers expect from a Kate DiCamillo novel. There is a character on a quest, who is surrounded by a variety of helpful and quirky friends. The story has its own particulars, but it also has a universal message that can apply in many contexts. The story is also gentle, even in its scarier and more intense moments. It's an uplifting book that pays tribute to the power of friendship, and of reading, and of bravery. The illustrations are also top-notch; Sophie Blackall is one of my favorite artists, and the style she uses for this book is quite different, but very well-suited to the story.

We're still in the Mercy Watson/Bink & Gollie phase in my family, so it might be a while yet before we start on any DiCamillo novels. When we do, though, we have absolutely nothing to fear from The Beatryce Prophecy, which remains true to the standards set by DiCamillo's other beloved novels and makes no mention of any of the problematic themes that made The Inquisitor's Tale such a terrible disappointment.  

Candlewick Press provided me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/20/21

Weekend Activities (9/18/21-9/19/21)

On Saturday, M. and E. went to Dollar Tree with me to shop for gifts for C.'s upcoming 6th birthday.  C. went to the park with Daddy and the twins. 

On Sunday, we attended the Latin Mass as usual. 

Morning Time 

Music: I read aloud the rest of Chapter 3 and the very beginning of Chapter 4 of Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1942), and played recordings of the following pieces mentioned in the book: 

Singing: This week's song was "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." We also reviewed "I Met a Bear." 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "The Road Goes Ever On and On" by J.R.R. Tolkien, "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer, "Autumn" by Emily Dickinson, and "My Land is Fair For Any Eyes to See" by Jesse Stuart 

Art appreciation: This week, we studied and compared The Crucifixion of St. Peter by Michelangelo and The Crucifixion of St. Peter by Guido Reni, both found in The Vatican Art Deck by Anja Grebe. We also watched a video about the restoration of Michelangelo's frescoes.

Catechism: M. and C. worked on learning the questions and answers for Lesson 8 in The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism. On Tuesday, we prayed the appropriate prayers for St. Matthew's feast day from The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion by Kendra Tierney (Ignatius, 2021). On Wednesday, we used the same book to begin praying the Novena Rose Prayer in anticipation of St. Therese's feast day. On Thursday, we listened to the Saint Stories for Kids episode about Padre Pio and the girls watched the episode of Lukas Storyteller about him as well. 


First Grade: C. focused primarily on cave art this week. We finished reading They Lived Like This in the Old Stone Age by Marie Neurath, and we also read the sections entitled "The Cave Dwellers" and "Cave Artists" from Builders of the Old World. C. also watched Our Ancient Human Cousins from SciShow Kids, Lascaux Cave and the Stunning Primordial Art of a Long Lost World from Blast World Mysteries, The Oldest Known Cave Paintings in the World from TopTenz, and Did Humans Make These Ancient Cave Paintings? from National Geographic. On Friday she drew her own cave art on brown paper using oil pastels. 

Third Grade: M. heard these sections from The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster:  

  • John Smith, Schoolboy
  • The Faerie Queen
  • The Upstart Crow 
  • The White-Plumed Henry 
  • El Greco and Philip II
  • John Smith, Would-Be Knight
  • El Dorado, City of Gold

She also read El Greco by Mike Venezia, and wrote and illustrated a narration about John White and the Indians on Roanoke Island. 


First and Third Grade: This week, we worked on Lesson B-5 in BFSU Volume 1: Concepts of Adaptations, Food Chains, and Energy Flow. This included the differences between herbivores and carnivores and the balance among them as well as an understanding of food chains. We read Who Eats What? by Patricia Lauber on Open Library and also watched the Food Chains Compilation from Crash Course Kids. At the end of the week, I printed some worksheets about food chains from Enchanted Learning (available to us through our umbrella group) and C. and M. did those for review. 

Pre-K: E. and I finished reading The National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why


M. and C. each did a few pages in their Mad Libs grammar books. C. struggled with the page on capitalization, mostly because she has not learned to print and has not yet learned capital letters in cursive. 

On Tuesday and Friday, I read aloud two more chapters from Three Children and Shakespeare. We have just one act of The Merchant of Venice left before we move onto the next play.

E. worked on some more words containing consonant blends in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. We also read some of the Sheep in a Jeep books together; she read the words she could, and I did the rest. She also practiced her poem  "If I Had A Cardboard Box" by Aileen Fisher. C. started Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder and practiced her poem, "My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson. M. finished Alfred Hitchcock's Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries and started Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques. To Gran over Skype, M. is still reading Ol' Paul by Glen Rounds and C. finished A Brother for the Orphelines by Natalie Savage Carlson. M.'s new poem is Shylock's famous speech from The Merchant of Venice.

At lunch, we finished listening to Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. At dinner, my husband is still reading aloud Polly and the Wolf by Catherine Storr. 

On Wednesday, we hosted story time and we  read books on a farm theme: Early One Morning by Mem Fox, Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin, Stanley the Farmer by William Bee, and Barn at Night by Michelle Houts. The babies also heard Little Rabbit's Loose Tooth by Lucy Bate, Here are my Hands by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambeault, Can You Cuddle Like a Koala? by John Butler, To Market To Market by Anne Miranda, and A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes.


C. has taken a real interest in American Sign Language, so we started learning the alphabet and we're practicing some songs from We Play Along on YouTube. She has mastered Happy Birthday and is close to mastering You Are My Sunshine

Typing & Handwriting 

M. and C. both practiced typing skills on Typing.com. M. copied questions from the Catechism in cursive and C. practiced writing her name in cursive. 


M. worked on another review section in Singapore 4A as well as more quizzes in algebra on Khan Academy. 

C. worked on subtraction with renaming using the soroban in both Singapore and with me for extra practice. She also did Khan Academy every day.

E. continued to practice moving the beads on the soroban up to 9. 

M. drilled multiplication and division and C. drilled addition and subtraction using the Flashmaster app. 

Physical Education

M. and C. did their morning exercise routine almost daily. On Monday, M., C., and E. stayed with our next door neighbors while we took the twins for their 18-month well check. The neighbors took them to play on the playground and on a walk around the neighborhood and then played ball and running games with them until we got home. I also forgot to mention that I recently took M. to the high school track to see if she could run a mile. She ran it in 10 minutes, 58 seconds. 

Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

ARC Review: The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin (10/5/2021)

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain is a memoir for middle grade readers written by Eugene Yelchin, the Newbery Honor author of 2011's Breaking Stalin's Nose. This heavily illustrated first-person account relates the experiences of young Eugene, then called Yevgeny, as he uncovers his talent as an artist while living under communist rule in the USSR. 

This is a fascinating read. Yelchin easily brings the reader into the world of his childhood, where his neighbor is a spy for the KGB, ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov is a national treasure soon to escape to North America, and his mother worries he will never find the gift that will guarantee his safety when he reaches adulthood. Yelchin manages to drive home the oppression of Communism while also maintaining a levity that makes this book fun to read and very difficult to put down. (I picked it up to check out a few pages and an hour later came up for air, having finished the entire thing.) Young Yevgeny comes across as a kid just like the child reading the book, and because of this relatability I think young American readers will be better able to empathize with the parts of his life they have, thankfully, never experienced themselves. 

I learned very little about Communism in school. A book like this makes it possible to introduce the subject at an age appropriate level that doesn't overwhelm kids but also helps them to understand the seriousness of the dangers and problems experienced by families in Communist countries. Eugene Yelchin is an incredibly talented writer and artist, and this book is basically flawless. 

I received an ARC of this book from Candlewick in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/13/21

Weekend Activities (9/11/21 - 9/12/21) 

On Saturday, C. and E. practiced riding their balance bikes around the playground while M. helped me with the babies on the playground slides. Then all three girls played together on the playground. On Sunday, we attended an outdoor Mass for homeschoolers followed by some outdoor playtime with friends old and new.

Morning Time 

Music: I read aloud the rest of Chapter 2 and beginning of Chapter 3 of Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1942), and played recordings of the following pieces mentioned in the book: 

Singing: The girls learned to sing "Lift High the Cross." We concluded morning time each day with Salve Regina. On Friday, we practiced their previously learned songs in a family sing-along. 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "Me" by Walter de la Mare, "Song for a Little House" by Christopher Morley, "Frolic" by A.E. (G.W. Russell), "Feather or Fur" by John Becker and "Puppy and I" by A.A. Milne. 

Art appreciation: Using questions from TeacherVision.com and MasterpieceSociety.com, we discussed The Marriage at Cana by Veronese found in The Louvre Art Deck: 100 Masterpieces from the World's Most Popular Museum by Anja Grebe and Erich Lessing. Late in the week, we compared it to The Marriage Feast at Cana by Juan de Flandes. . We also watched a YouTube video showing the painting hanging in the Louvre

Catechism: We reviewed the first seven lessons in The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism. On Tuesday, we prayed the Collect Prayer and the Holy Cross Prayer for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, found in The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion by Kendra Tierney (Ignatius, 2021). On Wednesday we used the same book to review the Scripture readings for the seven sorrows of Mary and to pray the Collect Prayer and "To Mary in Honor of her Seven Sorrows" for the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. On Friday, we listened to the episode of Saint Stories for Kids about St. Hildegard of Bingen. 


First Grade: C. learned about the importance of the discovery of fire, and about the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. We read the sections of Builders of the Old World called "The Fire Makers" and "Buried Treasures." On Thursday, she filled out a short timeline of Early Human History, showing the progression from Old Stone Age to Iron Age. On Friday, we read the first few pages of They Lived Like This in the Old Stone Age by Marie Neurath, stopping before the section on cave paintings, which we'll cover next week. She also watched When We Tamed Fired from PBS Eons.

Third Grade: M. read (with Daddy) these sections from The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster: 

  • Little John Smith
  • To and From Holland
  • Mary Stuart and the Honest Man 
  • James
  • Lord Roanoke and Virginia Dare
  • Spanish Armada 
  • War of the Three Henrys
  • The Lost Colony 

On Friday, they read The Lost Colony of Roanoke by Jean Fritz, and M. wrote a narration about John White. 


First and Third Grade: This week, we worked through Lesson A-6 in Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding Vol. 1: Matter II: Air Pressure, Vacuums, and Earth's Atmosphere. My husband demonstrated how to use a pressure gauge using a tire pump and a rubber playground ball. The girls also puffed up their cheeks to feel how air pressure increases inside their mouths. 

From Fun Science Demos, I showed the girls Exploring Air and Air Pressure, Weather: Measuring Air Pressure, and What is Air Pressure - Egg Demonstration. We also watched Air Exerts Pressure ExperimentWeather Barometers: How Does a Barometer Work?Weather Maps (Isobar Fronts); and How a Vacuum Cleaner Works

Pre-K: E. and I read about animals in The National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why. She fell in love with the photo of an axolotl, so I showed her a YouTube video of axolotls yawning


M. and C. love their Mad Libs workbooks. This week, C. worked on pronouns, adjectives, conjunctions, and prepositions. I went to explain prepositions to her, and she immediately started singing Busy Prepositions, which we then watched together. M. worked on adverbs, abstract nouns, conjunctions, and irregular past tense verbs. 

 On Tuesday and Thursday, I read aloud to M. and C. from Three Children and Shakespeare. We are well into The Merchant of Venice now, and the girls beg me to read more each time we finish a chapter. At lunch we're still listening to Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. At dinner, my husband is still reading aloud Polly and the Wolf by Catherine Storr. Grandma started reading aloud Hickory by Palmer Brown over Skype on Thursday. 

E. recorded her video reading of Ann's Hat. She needs some more instruction before the next book we have for her, so now she's just working out of The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. This week, she learned to read words ending in -ck, -lk, and -nk. 

M. read I Will Adventure by Elizabeth Vining Gray and started Alfred Hitchcock's Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries. C. finished The Mouse and the Motorcycle, then read The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting and Jenny's Moonlight Adventure by Esther Averill. To Gran over Skype, M. is still reading Ol' Paul by Glen Rounds and C. is still reading A Brother for the Orphelines by Natalie Savage Carlson. 

I read aloud a bunch of picture books to the babies too: In the Diner by Christine Loomis, Mama Cat Has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming, Bruno Munari's Zoo, Some Dinosaurs Are Small by Charlotte Voake, One-o-Saurus, Two-o-Saurus by Kim Norman, B is for Baby by Atinuke, Stanley's Fire Engine by William Bee, and Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle.

M. recorded her video recitation of Oberon's Speech from A Midsummer Night's Dream Act II Scene 1. C. is still working on memorizing "My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson and E. is working on memorizing "If I Had A Cardboard Box" by Aileen Fisher. 


M. spent most of the week working on an algebra test on Khan Academy. It was very challenging for her, but a good challenge. She will go back and work through the algebra unit tests in the coming weeks and then attempt to take it again. M. also worked on Review 2 in the Singapore 4A workbook, but she will need to revisit some of the word problems to correct her mistakes. 

C. has been struggling to add and subtract with renaming on the soroban. My husband made her some "cheat sheets" to help her stop panicking at every step of the process. She now says the problems in Singapore 2A are fun. She especially likes the exercises where the answers help decode a secret message. 

E. learned to count to nine on the soroban, and she continued to work on moving the beads up and down with the correct fingers. She did some simple addition and subtraction up to 4 to help her practice. 

M. drilled multiplication and division and C. drilled addition and subtraction using the Flashmaster app. 

Physical Education

M. and C. did their morning exercise routine daily. They were also taken out to ride their bikes on Monday afternoon. 

Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily.


M. copied a question and answer from her Catechism in cursive each day. C. worked on cursive each day.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/6/21 (First Week of 2021-2022)

We have shifted gears and we're in full school mode once again. This year, M. (8 in November) is in third grade, C. (6 later this month) is in first grade, and E. (4 next month) is in Pre-K. R. and A. (17 mos.) are along for the ride. We have made some changes to the schedule, but most of our curriculum remains the same.  

Morning Time 

Music:  I read aloud Chapters 1 and 2 of Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1942), and played recordings of the following pieces mentioned in the book: 

  • Piano Sonata no. 19 in G minor, Op. 49, no. 1, mvt. 2 Rondo. Allegro
  • Sonatina in G Major, Anh. 5 
  • Ecossaise I in E-flat Major, WoO 86
  • Ecossaise II in G Major, WoO 23
  • Sonatina in G Major, Anh. 5, mvt. 2 Romance 

Singing: M. C., and E. took turns singing the call and reponse parts in "I Met a Bear". We concluded morning time each day with Salve Regina

Poems: from Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957): School-Bell by Eleanor Farjeon, "Arithmetic" by Carl Sandburg, "September" by Helen Hunt Jackson, and "Geography" by Eleanor Farjeon.  

Art Appreciation: Using questions from TeacherVision.com and MasterpieceSociety.com, we discussed Woman with a Mirror by Titian, found in The Louvre Art Deck: 100 Masterpieces from the World's Most Popular Museum by Anja Grebe and Erich Lessing. At the end of the week, we compared this painting with Conversation in a Park by Thomas Gainsborough. 

Catechism: We reviewed the first seven lessons in The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism. On Wednesday, we read about St. Peter Claver in Picture Book of Saints by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, SV.D. (Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1979). 


First Grade: C. has begun the first year of the classical Trivium. We are using Builders of the Old World by Gertrude Hartman (D.C. Heath and Company, 1946) as our spine, and this week we read "How the First People Lived" and "Sticks and Stones," which primarily focused on the tools of the Old Stone Age and New Stone Age. 

C. watched several videos about archaeology and prehistoric life: 

On Friday, she made paper replicas of stone-age tools using a printable from Zing-Zoom.com and dictated a narration to me, which I typed up and had her illustrate. She also used some items in the dress-up box to dress herself up like a caveman. 

Third Grade: For this segment of the year, M.'s spine is The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster. This week, she and my husband read these sections together: 

  • The Queen's Little Pirate
  • Queen Elizabeth
  • Philip II
  • A Declaration of Independence
  • The Virgin Queen and Her Frog Prince
  • Mary Stuart
  • The Three Henrys and the Queen Mother of France
  • Young Walter Raleigh and Virginia
  • No Gold - But Tobacco
They also went over a chart in the book called "Royal Relatives" which shows the successions in England and Scotland that explain how the same person was both King James I of England and King James VI of Scotland. 


First and Third Grade: We are still in Volume 1 of Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding and using Early Elementary Science Education by Shannon Jordan as a guide. This week, we started the year with Lesson C-3a,  "Energy and Force." As an introduction, we read Move It! Movement, Forces, and You by Adrienne Mason, and did  a demonstration from the book showing how more force is needed to move heavier objects. M. and C. each lifted a 5 lb. back of flour to show what 5 lbs. of force feels like, and they each completed a worksheet identifying whether the force in a particular action is  push or pull.  

In the second half of the week, we watched videos demonstrating how water wheels use the force of gravity, how engineers protect buildings against wind, gravity, and earthquakes, and how wind farms generate electricity: 

On Wednesday, C. did the Push-and-Pull Toys Kiwi Crate.  

Pre-K: E. and I read the first section of The National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (Amazing Me) and some of the second section (How Things Work).


I happened to receive some Mad Libs Reading workbooks for review from Penguin Random House, so I decided we would start the year using those to review parts of speech, spelling rules, etc. C. is working in the first grade book, and M. is working in the third grade book. I had them skip the phonics sections because they were too easy, but I will probably have them do everything else. I had also have the books for 2nd and 4th grade for whenever they finish these. 

With M. and C., I am reading aloud Three Children and Shakespeare. With C. in the evenings I'm reading aloud from My Bookhouse. To give me voice something of a break, our lunchtime book is now on audio. We're currently listening to Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. At dinner, my husband is reading aloud Polly and the Wolf by Catherine Storr. 

E. is continuing to work through The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. This week she started the section on consonant blends and learned how to sound out double letters. She also practiced with a Hooked on Phonics reader called Ann's Hat and her three-letter word flashcards. M. listens to her reading once a day after she receives instruction from me.  

M. read Valley of the Smallest: The Life of the Shrew by Aileen Fisher and The Marvelous Invention of Alvin Fernald by Clifford B. Hicks. C. read Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill and started The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. To Gran over Skype, M. is reading Ol' Paul by Glen Rounds and C. is reading A Brother for the Orphelines by Natalie Savage Carlson. 


M. has been doing math at a 6th grade level on Khan Academy, so we're starting the year having her do all the review sections in Singapore 4A. We'll review the weak spots as needed and then move forward until we reach material she doesn't know yet. This week, she did Review 1, and she got some questions about rounding and timelines incorrect, so she went back and did the practice problems on those topics. M. is more than halfway through Life of Fred: Jellybeans.  

C. resumed working in Singapore 2B, using the soroban to assist her with multi-digit addition and subtraction. In the evenings with me, she is also doing additional soroban practice with multi-digit addition and subtraction, and using the Cuisenaire rods to review the numbers that add up to equal 5 (little friends) and 10 (big friends). She started Life of Fred: Cats this week. 

E. is beginning to use the soroban. I'm teaching her from the Learning Mathematics with the Abacus Year 1 textbook. This week, we focused on Unit 1, which teaches the parts of the soroban, and which fingers to use to move which beads. We also practiced clearing it and counting up to five. 

M. and C. started using an app called Flashmaster to drill their math facts. It's a free app for the Kindle Fire and it delivers their results to my husband's Evernote account by email. 

Physical Education 

I  borrowed some of the exercises from the Ten Thousand Method YouTube videos we used the past two years and wrote out a routine for the girls to do on their own before breakfast. This is what they're doing: 

  • 15 little arm circles
  • 15 big arm circles
  • 25 punches
  • 20 marches 
  • balance flamingo (count to 20)
  • 15 kangaroo jumps
  • 15 bird wings
  • 15 monkey walks 
  • 15 windmills
  • balance flamingo (count to 20)
  • 15 rabbit jumps
  • bear crawl (count to 20)
  • 20 seal claps
  • balance flamingo (count to 20)
  • 15 frog jumps 
  • 20 horse gallops
  • 20 lizard runs
  • balance flamingo (count to 20) 
  • 20 marches  
  • 25 punches
  • 15 big arm circles
  • 15 little arm circles 

Currently, they're doing their workout on the deck, but they'll move to the basement once it gets too cold.

The girls also went for one last swim on Labor Day, and they also had an unexpected playdate on our first day of school because our public school friends had a day off for Rosh Hashanah.  

Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily.


M. copied a question and answer from her Catechism in cursive each day. C. worked on cursive each day.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Book Review: Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children's Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls by Mitali Perkins (2021)

I borrowed Steeped in Stories by Mitali Perkins from Hoopla for a few reasons. One was that I had a goal to read three books about books in 2021 and I needed one more. Another was that I had just DNFed a 55-hour audiobook (The Source by James Michener) after 17 grueling hours and this audiobook was much shorter. Another was that my husband and I had just been talking with a friend about how to handle "problematic" children's books of the past, and the topic was on my mind. I was also intrigued by the negative Goodreads reviews complaining that the book was religious. I would never have guessed it had religious content based on the description I read, and I wanted to know more.

The structure of the book is based on the seven virtues and their corresponding vices, and the author selected one book per virtue. The titles she covers are Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. For each, Perkins makes the case for why adults should continue to read these books and share them with their kids, even if they include flawed characters or outdated ideologies. She also makes references to the writings of saints, Pope Francis, and even the Catechism of the Catholic Church to point out how reading these books can enrich a reader's spiritual life as well. 

Though I think her comments on potential racial issues in Tolkien and Lewis revealed a lack of knowledge of the fantasy genre more than any problems with the books themselves, Perkins's analyses of the other titles were interesting and compelling even when I disagreed with portions of them. I appreciated that she showed obvious affection for each author (though calling each of them "aunt" and "uncle" was a shade too cutesy for my taste) and that she imagined herself posing questions to them about why they chose to write the things they did, rather than just outright condemning them all.  Her thoughts on how to think about race in children's literature on a broader scale are also interesting and far less accusatory and nasty than a lot of the rhetoric I've seen surrounding this topic. I'm a little disappointed that our culture feels so guilty for reading its classic literature, but I think this book does a good job of combatting those feelings of discomfort or shame and makes a great case for keeping those classics around. I also liked the questions provided at the end of each chapter, which would make great jumping-off points for book club discussions or prompts for journaling.

If you're a parent or just a children's literature enthusiast wondering how to deal with the problems of racism and other forms of bias in older books, this book is a very gentle and inviting way to enter the conversation. Perkins strikes a nice balance between research, personal anecdotes about reading with her own children, and thoughtful literary analysis. I listened to the entire book in two days, and I could not stop talking about it when I was done. I don't think it's a perfect book, but I'm thrilled that a Christian (and Catholic, I think?) take on children's literature is out there in the world, and I definitely think it's worth a read. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

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

My Month in Books

Despite getting off to a slow start due to my inability to get any reading done at the beach, August was another great reading month once I got going. I read a bunch of middle grade ARCs, several nonfiction titles, two Regency romances (a new genre for me!), a YA fantasy (generally not my genre) and a Pulitzer prize winner. There was definitely a very broad range. Here are the 17 books I read in August:

Soccer Trophy Mystery by Fred Bowen (3 stars)
[Reviewed on the blog]
Fred Bowen is one of my favorite living middle grade authors (which is saying a lot because there is a lot of contemporary middle grade that I don't like), and this book marks his 25th anniversary writing sports stories. This title is his first mystery, and as such, it wasn't his strongest, but it provided a great lesson about girls' sports history and the main characters are twins, which we always appreciate in my family. 

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin (5 stars)
I requested an ARC of this book based on how much I loved Breaking Stalin's Nose by the same author. Breaking Stalin's Nose is a novel about childhood behind the Iron Curtain, and this book is a memoir of the author's childhood and how his art was a source of joy and hope for him. I read this book in one sitting - it manages to get across the difficulties of life in Communist Russia while still keeping the hopeful outlook that middle grade books typically offer. I absolutely loved it. 

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton (2 stars)
The good news is I finished the series. The bad news is this book was pretty disappointing. I just found it boring, and it made me sad that one of my favorite characters had to go out on such a low note. 

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (5 stars)
I read this YA fantasy novel based on the ballad of Tam Lin (among other things) for a new book group I joined on Instagram where there is a monthly theme and everyone in the group reads whatever they want within that theme. The theme for August was Mythology, which is not my favorite, but this book ended up being really intriguing. My husband recommended it to me after reading it himself, so I went into it with high expectations, and it definitely met them.  I would need to read this book many more times before I could even begin to understand all that takes place in it, but I loved its complexity. It reminded me a little bit of The Dark is Rising - it has the same mix of magic and reality, and it gave me the same feelings of being satisfied at the end but also knowing there depths I have yet to understand.

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins (3 stars)
I intended to read this aloud to the girls at the beach, but we ended up not reading aloud at all until we got home, so we did it the week after we came home from the beach. It's such a gentle story about two sisters spending a week at the beach. It was a nice way to look back on our own beach memories and my girls all said it was "the best book ever." It was my second time reading it, and I stand by my original 3-star review, but I did think it was slightly better than I remembered. 

Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson (4 stars)
This was the last book I read from this year's Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading guide. While I don't think I'm at a point where I'm ready to overhaul how we do laundry, I was totally fascinated by all the information given in this book  and the little tidbits of laundry history it mentioned.

The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop by Steve Osborne (4 stars)
I chose this audiobook on Libby at random because I was looking for essays, and it wound up being a great choice. These recollections from the career of an NYPD cop were equal parts funny and touching. The stories were originally written to be performed on stage, so audio is definitely the best way to enjoy them. 

The Happy Hollisters at Pony Hill Farm by Jerry West (2 stars)
I read this aloud to C., who is almost 6. I've read a few of these aloud, and this one was my least favorite. It was disorganized and predictable, and it seemed to go on forever. 

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (4 stars)
This was the book I started at the beach and didn't finish. It's a nice, leisurely family story that jumps around in time and centers on the descendants of a painter who are trying to decide whether and when to sell his work. I didn't like it as much as Winter Solstice, but it was still good. 

I Was Told There'd Be Cake: Essays by Sloane Crosley (4 stars)
This was part of my essay kick this month. The author has a different worldview than I do on many things, but on others, I could completely relate to her. The highlight of the book was the essay about being asked to be in an old friend's wedding despite not having much in common with her anymore. 

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn (4 stars)
The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn (5 stars)
Based on the Netflix show (which I have no plans at all to watch), I never would have guessed that I would like the Bridgerton series, but Krista from Books and Jams on YouTube mentioned how fun they were on audio, and I know she's not big into books with a lot of sex, so I decided to try them based on her recommendation. I'm so glad I did! The first book totally surprised me by having a very Catholic-friendly view of sex, and the second book, too, only had sex between married characters and not that much of it. I'm into the third book now, and it is a bit more explicit, but the quality of the writing is good enough that I will endure the inconvenience of having to skip through scenes I don't want to hear. Rosalyn Landor, who narrates the audiobooks, is also excellent. 

Crashing in Love by Jennifer Richards Jacobson (3 stars)
This was a quick middle grade read about a girl named Peyton who finds an accident victim on the road and begins to develop a crush on him while he is comatose. The character's mother is an investigative journalist so Peyton has access to information about his case, and she keeps involving herself in the search for whoever hit the boy and ran away. I figured out who did it pretty early on, but it was a satisfying ending. The content was 95% appropriate, but this isn't one my kids will be likely to read. 

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate diCamillo (4 stars)
I was so worried about this new Kate DiCamillo book because I kept seeing it compared to The Inquisitor's Tale, which I recommend Catholic families avoid because it's so grossly anti-Catholic. Thankfully, this book is not very much like The Inquisitor's Tale at all. It's a little light on religion, which is a little disappointing in a book that includes characters who are a monk and a priest, but it's not antagonistic to faith in general. 

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (4 stars)
I listened to this on audio with my kids and eventually realized that the audio, which was the British version and our physical copy, which is the U.S. edition, have hundreds of tiny differences between them. I prefer the original UK version personally. I'm not sure what the changes for the U.S. edition were meant to accomplish - most of them were really strange choices.

Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels (4 stars)
I was a bit misled about this book. Someone in a Catholic Facebook group asked for romances that she could read without feeling she had to go to Confession and a commenter suggested this one. I had been planning to read it anyway, but after hearing that it was Catholic-friendly, I bumped it up on my list. It was a good book in many ways, but not in any way in line with Church teaching. There are sex scenes in the book, references to artificial birth control and other things that I was not expecting based on how the book had been described. I did like the way it handled the premise, of people from opposite ends of the political spectrum falling in love. It was just so reasonable and sane, and it promotes the kind of bridge-building we should all be focused on. I also loved the characters.  But this is not a Catholic romance novel, it's just a regular romance novel. 

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (5 stars)
Finally, my last read of the month was this lengthy Pulitzer prize winner. I loved it, and I'm so thankful to my library for finally getting it on audio because it was taking me forever in print, and I zipped right through it once I could listen to it. I'm finding that I have a real love for books about the American West besides never having been West of Pennsylvania. 

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

My husband finished The Flood at Reedsmere by Hester Burton and he is now reading The Night of the Comet by Leon Garfield. 

M., (7 years, 9 months) read The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye and The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. She read A Book for Jennifer by Alice Dalgliesh aloud to my mother-in-law on Skype as well. 

C. (5 years, 11 months) finished The Folk of the Far Away Tree by Enid Blyton, then  zipped through The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum in two days. She also read The Happy Orpheline by Natalie Savage Carlson and is now reading A Brother for the Orphelines. I've been reading to her from My Bookhouse Vol. 3: Through Fairy Halls and she is really enjoying it. 

E. (3 years, 10 months) mastered two more Hooked on Phonics readers: Pig Wig Can Hit and Tag. Her next book is Ann's Hat

R. (17 months) is really into Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo, Helen Oxenbury's Big Baby Book, and Winter Babies by Kathryn O. Galbraith. He says "book" all the time. 

A. (17 months) likes our big colorful word books by Roger Priddy and Animal Sounds by Aurelius Battaglia (especially the sheep page). 

Up Next For Me

My big undertaking for the month of September is to listen to The Source by James Michener, which is 55 hours on audio. This is my selection for that Instagram book group where the theme is The Middle East. I'm also participating in Series September, hosted by Sarah's Nightstand and Krista's Books and Jams on YouTube and in a fall reading challenge hosted by another group of booktubers. Right now I'm listening to An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn and I'm reading The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear in the Kindle app. 

Linking Up 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Homeschool Update: Weeks of 8/23/21 and 8/30/21

As summer comes to an end, we have slowly been winding down our summer studies in preparation for starting the new school year after Labor Day. Here is the last of our summer work. 

Morning Read-Alouds 

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) we read "The Eagle" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Hurricane" by Dionne Brand, and "I Went Up the High Hill" by Anonymous. 

For the week of 8/23 our author/illustrator was Leo Lionni. I read aloud Swimmy, Fish is Fish, Frederick, and Inch by Inch,  and Grandma read Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, The Biggest House in the World, The Alphabet Tree, and Theodore and the Talking Mushroom, all from Frederick's Fables.

For the week of 8/30 our author/illustrator was Maurice Sendak. I read aloud I'll Be You and You Be Me by Ruth Krauss, A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss, Outside Over There, In the Night Kitchen, and The Sign on Rosie's Door, and Grandma read Where the Wild Things Are. The girls also watched Really Rosie on YouTube. 


We reviewed the songs we learned this year and tested to see which the girls had memorized.  They practiced piano and recorder daily. 


The girls made birthday cards for a friend who turned 4. M and C painted with watercolors on the easel, and C. and E. drew with chalk in the driveway. 


M. is scheduled to receive her first Communion in October. We had a meeting at church to practice and we have been preparing for her first Confession. 


From The Golden Book of America adapted for young readers by Irwin Shapiro (Simon & Schuster, 1957), we read the chapter entitled " It Happens Every Four Years" about the history of presidential campaigns. From Yankee Doodle's Cousins by Anne Malcolmson (Houghton Mifflin, 1941), we read "Pecos Bill," "Pecos Bill and his Bouncing Bride" and "John Darling." From American Adventures by Elizabeth Coatsworth (Macmillan, 1968). we read "The Sod House" and "Cherry Ann and the Dragon Horse." From The Great Heritage by Katherine B. Shippen (Viking Press, 1947), we read "The Long Trail." We finished the month with two chapters about WWII from The Landmark History of the American People from Appomattox to the Moon by Daniel J. Boorstein (Random House, 1968). 


Both girls continued working in Khan Academy. C. worked on quadrilaterals and area. M. worked on data and statistics along with algebra basics. 

Reading and Writing

M. read Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye and The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger,and finished reading A Book for Jennifer by Alice Dalgliesh to Gran. C. started reading the Orphelines series by Natalie Savage Carlson. 

Physical Education

The girls did three trips the pool during these two weeks. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Big Book Summer Wrap-Up

Big Book Summer ended up being a great success for me. When the summer began, I expected that between Memorial Day and Labor Day I might read 2 or 3 books with more than 400 pages. I am amazed to look back and realize that I read 7! 

Here are the big books I read, from shortest to longest: 

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton (audio)
483 pages
Finished 8/11/21

This is the final book of Sue Grafton's series about private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Unfortunately, it was only a two-star read for me, but now that I've finished the series, I'm looking forward to going back and re-reading my favorite books from the beginning of the series. 

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

485 pages 
Finished 6/14/21 

At the last minute, I joined a read-along for this book on Instagram back in June. The rest of the members of the group seemed to really like it, but I thought it was just okay. 

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (audio)
516 pages
Finished 7/7/21 

This science fiction novel about a Jesuit priest who travels through time and space to meet an alien race from another planet was brutal at some points, but so fascinating. The story raised a lot of important questions about the purpose of human suffering. 

Fox's Earth by Anne Rivers Siddons (audio)
546 pages
Finished 6/17/21
I love to read Siddons in the summer. I didn't love this one as much as Colony, but Sally Darling is the narrator of both books and she is fantastic. It was pretty dark and depressing for much of the book, but I ended up giving it four stars because of how much I loved Rip, the black woman who works for the family at the center of the story who is the only truly sympathetic character in the book.

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (audio)
569 pages
Finished 8/31/21
I am reading this with a local friend, but we've had a few false starts. For months it wasn't available on audio at our libraries, but then it suddenly appeared in both Libby and Hoopla and it was much easier to get into it by listening. I am finding more and more that I really enjoy books set in the American West.  

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
582 pages
Finished 8/20/21
I took this to the beach and then didn't have much time to read it and wound up finishing it at home. It was an enjoyable family saga, but maybe not quite as good as this author's Winter Solstice.

Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer - America's Deadliest Serial Murderer by Anne Rule (audio)
665 pages 
Finished reading 7/11/21
My biggest book was this true crime book by Anne Rule. This was a great follow-up to The Stranger Beside Me. I really like her books that focus on crimes to which she has had a personal connection.