Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Homeschool Update: Week of 10/12/20

Morning Time 

  •  Poem from Sing a Song of Seasons by Sara and John E. Brewton (The Macmillan Company, 1955): "Columbus" by Leroy F. Jackson, 
  • 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): "The Mountain Peak" translated by John Wesley Powell from a Southern Paiute song, "Rain Poem" by Elizabeth Coatsworth, "Rain Sizes" by John Ciardi, and "First winter rain" by Matsuo Basho, translated by R.H. Blyth
  • Questions from The Big Book of Tell Me Why by Arkady Leokum, illustrated by Howard Bender: "What was the first musical instrument?", "How did basketball get its name?", "When did boxing begin?", "Did baseball really originate in America?", "What was the first motion picture?", "Who invented television?", "How do we grow?"
  • Questions from the 500 Questions Game Book (Parragon Books, 2017) for fun on Friday
  • "Dingle Dangle Scarecrow" from 1,2,3—Boo! by  Marylee, sung with the recording 
  • "Panis Angelicus" sung from the Vatican II Hymnal
  • "Hornpipe" from Water Music by George Frideric Handel
  • Memory work: C. is memorizing "Witch Cat" by Rowena Bennett and M. is working on "Halloween" by Harry Behn. C. recited the planets and M. recited the countries of Europe. 


C. continued studying natural history this week. She is especially interested in prehistoric animals, including trilobites,  amphibians, and early reptiles. We read from Life Story by Virginia Lee Burton and First Days of the World by Gerald Ames and watched videos from the PBS Eons channel, "The Trouble with Trilobites" and  "Why Triassic Animals Were Just the Weirdest

M. read about the rise of the papacy and Pope Gregory with my husband early in the week. In the second of the half week, since we were ahead of schedule, we went back in time a bit to read Science in Early Islamic Culture by George Beshore.  

Table Time

On Monday, I printed out these geoboard pattern cards and M and C worked on copying them onto their geoboards. M. did fine, but C. took a while to warm up to it. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had markers, crayons and oil pastels out for drawing, and M., C., and E. all created a variety of art pieces. On Thursday, I gave them felt pieces for making different Halloween figures and they followed the patterns provided and then invented their own creations. On Friday during this time, I took M. for a long walk with baby R. and baby A. and my husband took the other girls out to ride their bikes.


C. continued working on beginning multiplication in Singapore Math. She also worked on Khan Academy and read with me from Life of Fred: Butterflies. M. finished her review and moved on to the Capacity unit in Singapore Primary Mathematics 3B, which is about converting milliliters to liters and vice versa. She is still working through Life of Fred: Goldfish and fourth grade math on Khan Academy. 


This was not a big school week for E. She did some coloring, and happily pointed out familiar letters on the covers of books, but there wasn't much formal activity. She's been enjoying our Halloween  books, including Ollie's Halloween by Olivier Dunrea.  She and M. have also been reading together a lot. They enjoy the Bink and Gollie books and they read Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle aloud to Gran on Skype.


Our topic for the week was gravity. We again used Early Elementary Science Education as our guide to the topics presented in BFSU, and we discussed why things fall to the ground when dropped and why the people in Australia don't fall off the Earth, the difference between horizontal and vertical, and the uses of a level and a plumb bob, and how gravity keeps the planets in orbit around the sun, and the moon in orbit around the earth.

Reading and Writing

M. wrote a narration about Charlemagne, and continued reading Mossflower. C. and I started reading The Happy Hollisters and the Ghost Horse Mystery aloud together. C. also wrote two thank you letters for birthday presents. M. also did a few pages in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills: Grade 3


Both M. and C. practiced piano and recorder every day.

Physical Education

M. did a three-mile walk with me and the stroller on Friday, while C. and E. went with my husband to ride their bikes.

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Read-at-Home Mom Report for 10/19/20

Finished Books

I flew right through the second Mitford book, A Light in the Window, on audio and I've already borrowed the third one. I love them so much.

I ended up having some issues with Chuck Klosterman's takes on a lot of things in I Wear the Black Hat, and many of his arguments have not aged well since the book was published in 2013. I gave it two stars. 

My husband had me read A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith. It reminded me of the movie My Girl, and also of the book On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer. It handles the subject of death very honestly but tastefully and the writing is strong. 

I read Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham with two friends on Instagram, and I absolutely loved it. This one I'm hoping to save to review here on the blog. 

I also loved Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs and plan to do a review. One of my goals this year was to read five books related to Concord, Massachusetts. This was my first one, but now I feel a renewed desire to complete that challenge.

Currently Reading

I'm still reading Pegeen by Hilda van Stockum but hope to finish soon. I'm also nearing the end of Ulysses. I took a bit of a break from Rekindled by Mallory Smyth, but it should be quick to finish once I pick it up again. I also started listening to Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos and I'm reading a digital ARC of The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop by Fannie Flagg.

Up Next

I have to remember to start The Story of the Trapp Family Singers pretty soon because my book club moved up its meeting date from the third Thursday of the month to the second. We're meeting even earlier in December, so I'll also need to leave a good amount of time to get to the December book, The Reed of God Caryll Houselander, even though it's a re-read. I also really wanted to read Murder Makes a Pilgrimage by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie this month because it's set this time of year, but I may not get to it. 

I'm linking up today with The Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Cozy Halloween Picture Books Old and New

In our family, Halloween has always been more of a cozy celebration than a spooky one. We typically make donuts, drink apple cider, have the kids parade around the house in their costumes, and, of course, read festive stories. Today's post lists some of our favorites as well as a few new titles that have been added to our collection for this year.

The Little Kitten is a recently published picture book by Nicola Killen about a little girl named Ollie, who, while out walking with her cat, Pumpkin, meets a lost kitten. Ollie and Pumpkin look after the kitten, feeding her and making friends with her until she can be reunited with her surprisingly magical owner. The illustrations are key to appreciating the true identity of the kitten's owner, and the reveal is subtle. My five-year-old missed it completely and had to be shown exactly what to look for. Still, it's such a sweet and gentle read that it's worth reading twice to get the full effect. 

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything isn't explicitly connected to Halloween, but it's a fun read about not being scared. A little old lady walks home from picking berries, nuts, and twigs. On the dark path, she encounters various articles of clothing, each of which makes a signature motion that repeats throughout the book. When the clothes are finally accompanied by a scary pumpkin head, the little old lady takes measures to ensure that she won't be bothered by this menacing outfit ever again. My kids love to act out this story, as they perform movements to imitate each article of clothing.

In Bears and Boos by Shirley Parenteau and David Walker, the focus is on sharing, as the bears discover a costume trunk and accidentally leave out one of their friends as they all choose costumes. I have to confess that the rhyme scheme and rhythm feel a little bit off in this one, but the illustrations are absolutely adorable. My three-year-old has been the ideal reader for this book, as she is just the right age to be learning to share without hurting other people. She also really loves the end papers in the book which feature a gathering of smiling ghosts.

Ollie's Halloween by Olivier Dunrea is a holiday title in the Gossie and Friends series. Each of the characters from the Gossie series appears here in costume as they celebrate Halloween together, prowling through the chilly autumn evening and sharing treats together. The Gossie books are always a huge favorite with my toddlers, and even my older kids still like to revisit the characters.

Room on the Broom is a rhyming story by English writer Julia Donaldson, with illustrations by Axel Scheffler. In repetitive verse, it tells the story of a witch and her cat. As the wind blows the witch's belongings off of the broomstick one by one, each item is rescued by a different creature who inquires whether there is room for him to fly along on the broom. After the broom is full of animals, the group encounters a dragon whose defeat requires quick-thinking teamwork. My three-year-old loved this book so much last Halloween that she has been reading it weekly ever since. 

In Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, Farmer Brown dislikes Halloween, and is maybe even a bit afraid. His animals, on the other hand, love to celebrate, and they dress in costumes, trick-or-treat, and host a big party. This book is a good one for defusing Halloween fears, as the spooky figure outside of Farmer Brown's house proves to be something far less sinister than he suspects, and he joins the fun in the end. 

Finally, Sheep Trick or Treat by Nancy Shaw is another pleasant rhyming story. The sheep put on costumes to collect treats from their farmyard neighbors. Afterwards, they trick some unsuspecting wolves who would otherwise have had them for dinner. As with other titles in the series, the humor and wordplay are the highlights in this one. My three-year-old is a big fan. 

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing and Candlewick for the review copies of The Little Kitten and Bears and Boos, respectively.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Homeschool Update: Week of 10/5/20

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): "Conkers" by Clive Samson, "The farmer flings" by Anonymous, "The Scarecrow" by Anonymous, and "Cliche" by Alison Chisholm 
  • Questions from The Big Book of Tell Me Why by Arkady Leokum, illustrated by Howard Bender: "When were rockets first used?", "How was glass discovered?", "Who invented the thermometer?", "Who invented the microscope?", "Who invented the camera?", "Who invented the automobile?", "Who invented the airplane?", "How was the telephone invented?"
  • "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" sung from The Vatican II Hymnal
  • "Arkansas Traveler" sung from Wee Sing Fun 'n' Folk 
  • Painting from Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard (Charlesbridge, 1996): The Old Stagecoach by Jonathan Eastman Johnson
  • Listening to Rodeo: Hoe Down by Aaron Copeland
  • Lesson 5 from The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism 
  • Recording weather, including temperature, sky color, wind strength, and clouds, as well as animal activity and observations about the leaves. 


C. did ask Gran her questions about her family history, but after that she was tired of thinking about it, so we shifted gears and jumped right into natural history. I know this is really science, but since we're using it as a prelude to ancient history next year, it feels right to think of it as history for her purposes. We read a couple of pages each day from Life Story by Virginia Lee Burton and First Days of the World by Gerald Ames. She absolutely loves it. We also supplemented with YouTube videos: "Where Did Earth Come From?" from SciShow Kids and Earth & Its History from turtlediary. 

M. read about the Franks and Charlemagne, and she also heard part of The Song of Roland. 

Table Time 

On Monday, we did a craft where the girls glued googly eyes and drew faces on foam acorns. On the other days of the week, I took different combinations of kids for a walk. On Tuesday, M. and baby A. went with me to deposit our ballots in the board of elections drop-box. On Wednesday, C. went on a hunt for acorns with baby R. On Thursday, we went to the dentist and then I tried taking all three big girls for a walk. but M. kept running off, so she was forced to go back home while I took C. and E. On Friday, I took M. for a 3-mile walk on her own. 


C. started the second Life of Fred book, Butterflies, and M. continued in Goldfish. C. started basic multiplication in Singapore while M. finished with pounds and ounces and moved onto review. Both girls also did Khan Academy daily.


E. played a few Halloween games on Khan Academy kids, and we read picture books together, including a new review copy, Bears and Boos by Shirley Parenteau. My husband also worked with her on holding up the proper number of fingers for the number three. We (along with C.) discussed fire safety on our walk. 


We had mostly finished our BFSU lesson on energy, but we reviewed everything from last week and then talked about how energy moves. C. is especially attentive to these lessons, which I'm pleased about because I don't always think of her as being very science-minded.  

Reading and Writing

C. finished Happy Birthday from Carolyn Haywood. M. continued reading Mossflower. M. worked on worksheets about proper and common nouns and plurals in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills: Grade 3. On Saturday night, they listened to the audiobook of Half Magic; during the week we're still reading aloud Magic by the Lake, and my husband is reading Robin Hood after dinner.


Both M. and C. practiced recorder and piano every day. 

Physical Education

In addition to our walks, the girls also did the 10-minute exercise video from the Ten Thousand Method one day.  

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Read-at-Home Mom Report for 10/12/20

Finished Books

I started this week by zipping through Three Stuffed Owls, a vintage teen mystery from the Carson Street Detective Agency series by Keith Robertson. I didn't love it quite as much as The Crow and the Castle, but it was well-written and funny and I thought it would pair well with  Owls in the Family. The dialogue was probably the best part. 

After that, my husband handed me Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop insisting that I read it immediately. I previously enjoyed All Alone by this author so I had no objections, and I was definitely not disappointed. This is a great story about a group of French schoolchildren who assist in hiding a group of Jewish children from the Nazis. 

A friend on Instagram was reading The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg and I realized I didn't remember much about it from my previous reading 15 years ago and decided to listen to the audiobook to refresh my memory. I remember loving it a lot more the previous two times I read it (once as a kid and once in library school), but it was still enjoyable. My friend mentioned that she had compared it to Wonder and I see the parallels, but I think The View from Saturday is the superior book by far.

At Home in Mitford
 by Jan Karon was my other audiobook for the week. The audio recording was 20 hours long and yet when I reached the end of the book, I was disappointed and wanted more! Thankfully, this is the first of a long series, and they all seem to be available through the library. 

Currently Reading

I'm still listening to I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman, but it's taken a back seat to the Mitford books. I'm almost 15% of the way through the second Mitford book, A Light in the Window.

This week, I also started Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs, which I'm really enjoying and Pegeen by Hilda van Stockum, which I borrowed from a local homeschool mom. 

Up Next

I have a buddy read of Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham planned with the same Instagram friend who read The View from Saturday. For book club in early November, I also need to read The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp. And those ARCs continue to linger unread...

I'm linking up today with The Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/28/20

 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): "Apples" by John Siddique, "New Sights" by Anonymous, "The Leaves Are Green" by Anonymous, and a short excerpt from "As You Like It." 
  • Poem from Exploring Nature with Children by Lynn Seddon: "September" by Helen Hunt Jackson
  • Questions from The Big Book of Tell Me Why by Arkady Leokum, illustrated by Howard Bender: "How did candy originate?", "How was fire discovered?", "Who invented matches?", "Who discovered electricity?"
  • "Now Thank We All Our God" sung from The Vatican II Hymnal
  •  "Cindy" sung from Wee Sing Fun 'n' Folk 
  • Painting from Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard (Charlesbridge, 1996): Interior of a Ropewalk by Charles Bird King
  • Painting from Exploring Nature with Children by Lynn Seddon: Haystacks - End of Summer by Claude Monet 
  • Listening to The Happy Farmer by Robert Schumann
  • Lesson 4 from The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism 
  • Questions from the 500 Questions Game Book (Parragon Books, 2017) for fun on Friday
  • Memory work: C. mastered "The Fairies" by William Allingham and M. mastered "If" by Rose Fyleman. Both girls recorded their recitations on video.
  • Recording weather, including temperature, sky color, wind strength, and clouds, as well as animal activity and observations about the leaves. 


C. worked on learning the names for the different relationships on a family tree and began mapping a family tree of her own. We got stumped on my husband's side of the family a little bit and wrote down some questions to ask Gran during our weekly Skype date. 

Table Time 

On Monday, we skipped this time because we met up with our friends in the nature study group. On Wednesday, we skipped it again to celebrate C.'s birthday. The other days of the week we colored Archangels (for Michaelmas on Tuesday) and played with Legos.  


M. and C. both started working on review sections in their respective Singapore workbooks. C. finished Life of Fred: Apples. M. worked independently in Life of Fred: Goldfish. They also both did work on Khan Academy. 


E. enjoyed sorting buttons in a muffin and stringing beads on pipe cleaners. She colored one page in her Melissa and Doug alphabet pad. 


The BFSU lesson for the next two weeks is C-1 Concepts of Energy I - Making Things Go. Using Early Elementary Science Education by Shannon Jordan as our guide, we discussed four different types of energy - heat, light, movement, and electricity - and categorized different actions based on the type of energy that causes them to happen.  We also talked about how energy changes from one form to another and emphasized the fact that matter never becomes energy and vice versa. 

Reading and Writing

C. started reading Happy Birthday from Carolyn Haywood. M. finished Redwall and has moved onto Mossflower. She also read Riding the Pony Express by Clyde Robert Bulla.


Both M. and C. practiced recorder and piano every day. 

Physical Education

During our time with the nature group on Monday, all three girls ran around with friends and played some sort of game involving bodyguards. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Read-at-Home Mom Report for 10/5/20

Finished Books

In the last two days of September, I read more than half of September by Rosamunde Pilcher in order to finish it before October. It really picked up as it got past the halfway point and I wound up giving it four stars.  

I recommended Feed by M.T. Anderson to a local friend and decided to listen to the audiobook so I could discuss it with her. I think it's actually more disturbing and interesting now, in the age of Tik Tok and Instagram, than it was back in 2002 when we really only had Facebook. 

The Nantucket Inn and Nantucket Neighbors by Pamela Kelley are entertaining women's fiction novels that I listened to on Scribd while I decided what I really want to read this month. I'm not sure these books even had any real conflict or character development but they were easy to breeze through. They were easier for me to read than Elin Hilderbrand, but very similar to her books in terms of content.

Currently Reading 

I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman took a backseat to other books this week, but I plan to get back to it and finish it before the audiobook expires on Libby. 

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon is an audiobook I picked up because someone on Instagram recommended the series for having a "fall vibe." I'm totally hooked. The story is gentle and wholesome, but also funny, and I love the writing. (My one qualm: I feel like toilets are mentioned a lot. It feels weird.)

Up Next

I have a stack of books on my desk and I'm still trying to decide where to start. Two options are Three Stuffed Owls by Keith Robertson, a vintage middle grade mystery I've had on my shelves for a couple of years now, and Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs, which my Instagram friends chose over Walden by Henry David Thoreau as my "friend pick" for a bingo challenge.  

I'm linking up today with The Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/21/20

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): "Windsong" by Judith Nicholls, "Auguries of Innocence (Excerpt)" by William Blake, "Summer Goes" by Russell Hoban, "Noisy Noisy" by Jack Prelutsky, and "The Swallows" by Elizabeth Coatsworth
  • Questions from The Big Book of Tell Me Why by Arkady Leokum, illustrated by Howard Bender: "How did medicine start?"; "When did people start cutting their hair?"; "When was soap first made?"; "Who invented shoes?"; "Who made the first false teeth?"; "How did forks originate?"; "When did man begin to drink milk?"; "Where did ice cream originate?"
  • "Lead Kindly Light" sung from The Vatican II Hymnal
  • "The Wabash Cannonball" sung from Wee Sing Fun 'n' Folk 
  • Painting from Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard (Charlesbridge, 1996): Portrait of Baby with Dog by Joseph Whiting Stock
  • Listening to Hungarian Dance No. 2 by Johannes Brahms
  • Lesson 3 from The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism 
  • Liturgical year: Padre Pio (9/23)
  • Questions from the 500 Questions Game Book (Parragon Books, 2017) for fun on Friday
  • Memory work: M. recited "If" by Rose Fyleman and C. recited "The Fairies" by William Allingham
  • Recording weather, including temperature, sky color, wind strength, and clouds, as well as animal activity and observations about the leaves. 


C. spent the week carefully copying all the events we decided to put on her timeline onto a large piece of paper in chronological order. On Friday, she added some illustrations.

M. read about Mohammed and the development of Islam in A Picturesque Tale of Progress. She wrote and illustrated a narration about Mohammed and filled in a chart listing the five pillars of Islam. 

Table Time 

One day, I moved the girls outside to do kinetic sand during this time. The other activities for the week were lacing cards (which only M. wanted to do), the "Doll People Dress Up!" coloring page from this set of printables (which M. and C. both loved), and sticker collages. 


M. and C. did the usual Singapore and Khan Academy math work. M. is still doing weights and measures (mostly kilograms) in Singapore 3B and C. is still working on addition and subtraction in 1B. They also did a chapter each in Life of Fred on Wednesday. M. is in Goldfish and C. is in Apples. 


E. is kind of a preschool dropout right now. She likes the idea of school, but would prefer that it consist primarily of snacks and videos. She doesn't like most of the things the older girls did at her age, so I mostly just say yes when she asks me to read aloud and offer activities when she seems receptive.  


In our second week with Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding, we did Lesson B-2: "Distinguishing Living/Natural Nonliving and Human-Made Things." This included organizing this set of items into their proper categories and discussing how we can tell by looking at something whether it is alive or not. 

Reading and Writing

M. continued working her way through the worksheets in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills: Grade 3, and she also wrote a few more sentences in her story about Mr. Albatross. (See last week.

C. and I finished our shared read-aloud of The Boxcar Children

We also started a new lunchtime read-aloud: Magic by the Lake Edgar Eager. 


M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder for 15 minutes every day this week.

Physical Education

We have been skipping the daily exercise video in favor of running on the deck. I think that is likely to continue until the weather turns uncomfortably cold. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Read-at-Home Mom Report for 9/28/20

Finished Books

 I finished three adult novels this week. 

The first was Finger Prints by Barbara Delinsky, which I zipped through on audio. Because I'm more used to reading mysteries rather than romantic suspense, I was a little bit annoyed when I was able to easily figure out who was secretly causing problems for the protagonist, who was in the witness protection program. Still, I like Delinsky's writing, and in general, I like reading these backlist titles from 30+ years ago. This book also gave me a chance to use my free trial of Audible Plus. 

The second book I finished was Beartown by Fredrik Backman. This was my first time reading a book by him and though the language and subject matter were rough, the writing was excellent. This book started out strong and actually got even better as it went along. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel Us Against You, and it looks like there is a third book in the works for 2021 as well. I'm also really impressed that Backman isn't even 40 but has already written so many novels and seems to have a lot of perspective on various stages of life, including some he hasn't yet lived himself.

And finally, after nearly four weeks, I finished Green Dolphin Street! Every time I read Elizabeth Goudge, it seems to take forever, but the payoff is always so good. I gave this one five stars and would read it again even though it was such an undertaking for me. I wish that I had the brain power to join in the discussions more on Instagram, but I never feel like I have an answer to the questions that are posted, and I usually end up just reading other people's comments. 

Currently Reading 

I'm still determined to finish September by Rosamunde Pilcher by the end of September, even though I have 400 pages to go. I really felt like I needed the audio to help me out so I got a free trial at Audiobooks.com because none of my usual audiobook apps had it. I had some issues with the app because I was out of data on my phone and didn't realize the book didn't download all the way, but now it is fully downloaded and I'm hoping to listen to a lot of it to try and get it done by Wednesday night.

The other book I started is a nonfiction I heard about on an old episode of What Should I Read Next? and that's I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman. This is an exploration of villains and how we feel about them. It's a great palate cleanser after reading a lot of fiction this month. 

Up Next

I have several books from Netgalley I didn't touch at all in September. I think I may need to do a weekend ARCs-only read-a-thon to get through them.

I'm linking up today with The Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/14/20

We mostly stuck to the same schedule for week two of the school year with just a couple of exceptions. One was that we "skipped" school on Monday morning to go with some friends on a nature hike through the woods. C., especially, really took to the whole thing, climbing fearlessly over fallen tree trunks and otherwise diving headlong into the natural world. The other change was that M. is now doing English while C. does math and math on her own with me at a later time when all the other kids are busy or asleep. She was just sitting and staring off into space otherwise, so we made the change on Friday.

Morning Time

  • Poem from Exploring Nature with Children by Lynn Seddon (used for the nature hike): "Autumn" by Emily Dickinson 
  • 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): "Plum" by Tony Mitton, "I Had a Little Nut Tree," "Magpies" by Judith Wright, and "Seven for a Secret" by Anonymous. 
  • Questions from The Big Book of Tell Me Why by Arkady Leokum, illustrated by Howard Bender: "When were books first made?"; "Who invented cartoons?"; "How did our system of counting begin?"; "What makes money valuable?"; "How did coins get their names?"; "How did we get our system of measurement?"; "When were the first police organized?", "What is the F.B.I?"; "How did fingerprinting start?"
  • "Lift High the Cross" sung from The Vatican II Hymnal
  • "Polly Wolly Doodle" sung from Wee Sing Fun 'n' Folk (accompanied by Daddy on guitar on Friday)
  • Painting from Exploring Nature with Children by Lynn Seddon: Squirrels in a Tree by Archibald Thorburn
  • Painting from Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard (Charlesbridge, 1996): The Oddie Children by William Beechey
  • Listening to Symphony No. 5 First Movement by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Lesson 2 from The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism 
  • Liturgical year: Exaltation of the Cross (September 14), Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15), Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian (September 16), St. Robert Bellarmine (September 17), St. Joseph of Cupertino (September 18)
  • Questions from the 500 Questions Game Book (Parragon Books, 2017) for fun on Friday
  • Memory work: planets, days of the week, months of the year, birth dates, address, phone number, 50 states, countries of Europe, four directions, 13 colonies, four marks of the church, poems (M. is working on "If" for Rose Fyleman , and C is working on "The Fairies" by William Allingham. They have both almost mastered them.)
After morning time, we went outside to record the wind, sky color, temperature, humidity, precipitation, animal activity, etc. The girls were supposed to do this independently but they were misbehaving so much I have to go out with them. We skipped the exercise video each day, but we had hours of outdoor playtime on Sunday and Monday, including M.'s first-ever game of kickball. 


I read our schedule wrong last week and did two weeks of history for M., so this second week was pretty relaxed for her. She illustrated her narration about the Empress Theodora and made her own list of laws modeled after the Code of Justinian, after which she watched "Why We Have Rules." She also watched Khan Academy's video about Hagia Sophia and another YouTube video about the Byzantine Empire. (Note: this video looked great at first glance, but when I previewed it, I heard talk of Justinian's sex life and had to pass.)

C.  watched two YouTube videos explaining timelines ("Timelines for Kids" and "Timelines Introduction"), started listing events for a timeline of her life and, on Friday, began to copy them in chronological order onto a big piece of paper. 

Table Time 

This week's activities at the dining room table were sticker collages, drawing with chalk, stringing beads (which they all refused to do), and a memory game involving a spinner that caused many tears when M. won the first round.


M. and C. did the usual Singapore and Khan Academy math work. M. is still doing weights and measures in Singapore 3B and C. is working on addition and subtraction in 1B. 


E. was not as interested in doing school this week. She did a few minutes of Khan Academy Kids each day and played with magnet letters. We read a couple of picture books: First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger and On Market Street by Anita Lobel.  She also asked to do some questions from My First Brain Quest and she agreed to do a coloring page a couple of times. She spent a good amount of time playing with our large collection of finger puppets as well. 


This was our first week of Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding and we did lessons A-1: Organizing Things into Categories and  A-2: Solids, Liquids, Gases. We mainly just discussed these topics, but one day, I gave each of the two girls a tray of random objects and asked them to organize them into categories. Another day, my husband had them write down various categories that our family members could be placed into and then had them play a "Guess Who?" style game where one girl thought of a family member and the other one asked category-based questions to narrow down who it might be.

Reading and Writing

M. is still working her way through the worksheets in Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills: Grade 3. This week, she focused on spelling homophones. She said her favorite exercises were the ones requiring her to find mistakes in existing sentences and correct them. She also started writing a story entitled "Mr. Albatross: A Detective Story." 

Here it is: 
One day Mr. Albatross was going for a walk. He passed a tree under which was a man's body. Mr. Albatross went over to the tree and shook the man,  but he didn't move. He didn't talk either. He just lay there silently. Then Mr. Albatross said, "Methinks you are dead." The man said nothing, but a voice said, "I am lord of these trees." Mr. Albatross looked beyond and a saw a row of trees stretching all the way to the west. "And I came to you in the form of a man."

C. and I read a chapter of The Boxcar Children together each day. She also worked on some writing about her experience on the nature hike. For her, I'm primarily working on slowing down enough to comprehend what she's reading (a problem I had as a kid) and developing a love of writing.

We also finished our lunchtime read-aloud of Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. 


M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder for 15 minutes every day this week.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Read-at-Home Mom Report for 9/21/20

Just a quick Monday update. I didn't get to write up my post about how our school week went yet, but I still wanted to sneak on and share how my reading went this week.

Finished Books

Thanks to a challenge on Instagram to read 500 pages in three days, I finished two books over the weekend. 

The Lord God Made Them All is the fourth memoir by James Herriot about working as a veteriniarian in the English countryside before and after World War II. It wasn't as good as the first book of the four,  but it captured that same spirit as the author related anecdotes both amusing and heartfelt about the farmers he encountered over the years. It was definitely better than book three, which focused too much on the war for my taste. 

Summer by the Sea by Susan Wiggs was a standard "second chance' romance, but with some added layers of family strife. The hero and heroine have both lost their mothers -he, recently, and she, as a child, back when they knew each other the first time around. Both struggled to come to terms with how their own relationship went wrong while also trying to untangle the truth about their families. Since reading The Lost and Found Bookshop earlier this year, I have a newfound respect for Wiggs's writing, and in this book, I could see hints of the same themes covered in the newer book. 

Currently Reading 

I'm still reading Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge and September by Rosamunde Pilcher. 

I also started Finger Prints by Barbara Delinsky on audio. I've never read anything by her, but the premise, about a woman in witness protection, appealed to me. 

I also sampled a bit of Beartown by Fredrik Backman on Scribd, and I think that's going to be my next book after I finish September and Finger Prints.

I'm linking up today with The Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Read-at-Home Mom Report for 9/14/20

I'm Back! 

For the past year, I haven't been posting regular updates about my reading at all. Last year at this time, I was in the throes of first trimester nausea with our twins, and all the formatting and such that was required to create these posts just felt exhausting. Then, in March, the twins were born just days before everything was locked down due to the pandemic, and posting weekly still felt too burdensome. With this new school year, however, I decided it was a good time to revamp my reading life to make room for a better homeschooling schedule and for time to devote to writing. Now that I expect to be reading fewer books, it seems much easier to post about them here. Since I already have a feature where I talk about reading with my kids, I'm going to stay away from kids books in these updates and instead focus on the adult books I'm enjoying (or not.)

What I've Read So Far This Month

All but one of the books I've finished so far in September have been audiobooks. 


The one that wasn't was Bless Us, O Lord: A Family Treasury of Mealtime Prayers by Robert M Hamma, which I received for review on Netgalley from Ave Maria Press. It looked good on the surface, but I thought it had some issues that bumped my rating down to 3 stars. My Goodreads review explains my qualms.

Three of the audiobooks I've finished have been cozy mysteries. 


One for the Books by Jenn McKinlay is the 11th book in the Library Lover's Mystery series, and it features Christmas and a wedding. I read the first 9 books of this series in print, but have found the last two really enjoyable on audio and will probably continue reading them that way in the future. I wasn't that into the mystery, but I liked all the details surrounding the main character's wedding and the way her friends and neighbors were incorporated into that storyline. (My review on Goodreads.)


Death with a Dark Red Rose by Julia Buckley is number 5 in the Writer's Apprentice Mystery series, and it's another one where I love spending time with the characters. I liked the way this one shifted focus to a previously minor character and allowed her to take center stage some of the time. I would not read this book out of order, as it does spoil earlier mysteries in the series, but it's really enjoyable for long-time readers. (My review on Goodreads.)

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Telephone Line by Julie Mulhern is book 9 in the Country Club Murders series, and it wasn't my favorite. The wit and humor were there, but the plot felt dull. I typically give books in this series 4 or 5 stars, but this one only got three. (My review on Goodreads.)

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Finally, I listened to Your Blue Flame by Jennifer Fulwiler for the second time. (The first was when it came out in May.) This is my book club book and we'll be discussing it this Thursday via Zoom. Not many self help books genuinely feel inspiring, but this one truly is. And it's very funny too. (My review on Goodreads.)

Currently Reading

I have seven books going right now. 

Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge HCDJ BCE | Green dolphin,  Elizabeth goudge, Book worth reading

My main focus is Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge, which I'm reading with a book group on Instagram. (I also won my copy in an Instagram giveaway.) I have been dividing the sections according to when the discussions are to take place, and then I read a set quota of pages per day. Her books are slow and descriptive, which I love, but they take me a long time to get through. 

September | Rosamunde Pilcher | Macmillan

The other book I really want to finish this month is September by Rosamunde Pilcher. Obviously, if it goes over into October, that's not the end of the world, but I do like the idea of sometimes reading a book during the time of year in which it's set. 

I also have three audiobooks in various stages of completion. I'm listening to Who Does He Say You Are?: Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels by Colleen Mitchell for another book group on Instagram, as well as Summer by the Sea by Susan Wiggs and The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriott. 

Theoretically I'm also reading Ulysses by James Joyce, but I haven't touched it in a couple of weeks.

Finally, I've been reading my way through Flannery O'Connor's short stories through the course of the year, and I'm still sticking with that plan.

I'm linking up today with The Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/7/20

This past week was our first week of the new school year. This year we still only have one official school-age kid, M. (6 years, 9 months) who is in first grade according to the school district and second grade for our purposes. C. (4 years, 11 months) misses the cut-off for being in kindergarten this year by about four weeks, but she's reading and doing first grade math for fun, so there is no reason to wait, and we are calling this her kindergarten year. E. (2 years, 10 months) wants to be included, so she is doing a bit of preschool every day too. 

Because there are now five kids in our family this year we created a detailed schedule showing what needs to get done not just for school but in terms of chores as well. Chores, academics, meals, and play time rotate throughout the day, stretched primarily over the hours between 8 am and 3 pm.  Here's a summary of what we did during our school time this week. 

Morning Time 

We're beginning each morning this year with a morning time which begins over breakfast and continues for about 45 minutes. The girls come to the table at 8 and say the morning offering and the pledge of allegiance. As they eat, I share different items of interest with them. This first week, morning time included:

  • 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): "The Magic Seeds" by James Reeves, "Spin Me A Web, Spider: by Charles Causley, "Hurt No Living Thing" by Christina Rossetti, and "Dew on a Spider's Web" by Dorothy Snow 
  • Questions from The Big Book of Tell Me Why by Arkady Leokum, illustrated by Howard Bender: "How did Halloween originate?"; "Who first thought of the alphabet?"; "Why don't we all speak the same language?"; "How did the English language begin?"; "Who invented the pencil?"; "Who discovered how to make paper?"
  • "Immaculate Mary" sung from The Vatican II Hymnal
  • "Kitty Alone" sung from The Fireside Book of Children's Songs by Marie Winn and Allan Miller, illustrated by John Alcorn (Simon & Schuster, 1966)
  • Paintings from Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard (Charlesbridge, 1996): Edward VI as a Child by Hans Holbein the Younger and  Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zúñiga by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes
  • Listening to Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 Movement 1 by Johann Sebastien Bach 
  • Lesson 1 from The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism 
  • Liturgical year: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8), St. Peter Claver (September 9), St. Nicholas of Tolentino (September 10), Sts. Protus and Hyacinth (September 11)
  • Questions from the 500 Questions Game Book (Parragon Books, 2017) for fun on Friday
  • Memory work: planets, days of the week, months of the year, birth dates, address, phone number, 50 states, countries of Europe, four directions, 13 colonies, poems (M. is working on "If" for Rose Fyleman , and C is working on "The Fairies" by William Allingham).
Morning time concluded each day with the ten-minute exercise video from the Ten Thousand Method on YouTube. Our phys. ed. requirement was further fulfilled this week by an afternoon of sports with the local homeschool community. 


M. has picked up right where we left off in July, with the Byzantine Empire. This week, we read the chapter in A Picturesque Tale of Progress entitled "The Eastern, or Byzantine Empire," which included the following sections: "Justinian and Theodora, the Circus-girl Empress," "Byzantine Life and Art", "The Justinian Code," "Christianity in the Days of Justinian," "Justinian the Warrior and Builder," and "Struggles with Lombards, Slavs, Avars, and Persians." (I misread the spreadsheet where we mapped out our history plan for the year. Those last two sections were meant for this coming week.) M. wrote a narration about the Empress Theodora.

C. is starting the year with My Backyard History Book by David Weitzman (Little, Brown, 1975). We read the opening pages of the book, including the section on names, and then looked up the first names of people in our family and read the information provided in What's Your Name?: A Book of First Names and What They Mean by Beth Goodman, Nancy E. Krulik (Scholastic, 1991). 

Hands-on Activities

This year, we have set aside an hour each morning for all three girls to do the same hands-on activity together at the table. This week, these activities were play dough, watercolor painting, pattern blocks, and making a weathervane. 


Both M. and C. continued their work on Khan Academy. They also worked in their Singapore workbooks. M. completed exercises 5-8, and half of 9, in Singapore Primary Mathematics 3B working primarily with units of measurement and convering between centimeters and meters, meters and kilometers, and feet and yards. C. did more than 20 pages in Singapore Primary Mathematics 1A, dealing mostly with place value, and simple addition. Each of the girls also did a chapter of Life of Fred on Wednesday. C. is still in book one, Apples, and M. is in Goldfish. 


While the older girls work on math, E. has her school time. This week, she heard Mr. Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham, Just Me by Marie Hall Ets, Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, and The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio. We sang songs using a song cube I created using a dry erase die from the Dollar Tree, and she played a few games on Khan Academy Kids. We also sang "Five Little Pumpkins Round," "I Went to Visit the Farm One Day," and "When Cows Get Up in the Morning" with the flannel board, and practiced identifying letters using magnetic letters and the Melissa and Doug Alphabet Activity Pad.


We are gearing up to restart Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding, this time with both M. and C. This week, we did our preparation for beginning to gather data about the weather for a lesson we will do next year that requires a year of data. My husband was in charge of this, and he showed them how to use a thermometer, how to identify the color of the sky, how to figure out which way the wind is blowing, where to find the times of sunrise and sunset, and where to look up high, low, and average temperatures for a given day. He also created a simple tool for measuring barometic pressure. 

Reading and Writing

M. is doing language arts worksheets from a workbook my mom sent us, Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills: Grade 3. This week's topics were alphabetical order, antonyms, and plurals. C. practiced reading aloud from a McGuffey Reader and The Boxcar Children. Both girls practiced writing in cursive. M. wrote her narration in cursive, and C. practiced strokes. During lunch, I read aloud from Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, and my husband read at dinner from Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle.


M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder for 15 minutes each every day this week.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Read-at-Home Kids Report: Summer 2020

I typically think of summer as a very reading-heavy season, but since every day since March has felt more or less the same, this year's summer reading didn't feel that different either. I also stopped keeping track of the huge piles of picture books the two olders girls read because there were just so many, and they read a lot of the same books over and over again, so the numbers on their reading logs were way down this year compared to last summer.  Still, all the kids certainly read or heard a respectable number of books between June 3 and September 2. 


My husband read aloud a number of classic children's books after dinner during these months: Matilda by Roald Dahl, The Willow Whistle by Cornelia Meigs, Treasure Island, The Men Who Found America by Frederick Winthrop Hutchinson, and The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. Treasure Island probably made the biggest impact, as now all three older girls frequently break out into spontaneous recitations of "Fifteen men on the dead man's chest, yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum." Little Bo Peep (4 years, 11 months) kept falling asleep during The Swiss Family Robinson, claiming she was bored. 

I read aloud almost daily after lunch. I read Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfeld as we were finishing up with our homeschool studies of Ancient Rome, and everyone enjoyed the suspense of the mystery in that book. Next, I read two in a row by Elizabeth Enright: Thimble Summer and The Saturdays. We followed that up with Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat. Then Jumping Joan (2 years, 10 months) brought me The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell, and asked me to read it. None of us knew anything about it, but we gave it a try, and it was fantastic! Odd (it's about a hunter and a mermaid and their family of adopted animals), but really very good. We ended the summer with one of my childhood favorites, Ten Kids, No Pets by Ann M. Martin. 

Little Miss Muffet (6 years, 9 months)

Miss Muffet hasn't been plowing through the novels as much lately as she did earlier in the year,  but she has a read a few: Tik-Tok of Oz by L. Frank Baum, The Tree House Mystery by Carol Beach York, The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit, Our Little Celtic Cousin of Long Ago by Evaleen Stein and The Legend of Pocahontas by Virginia Watson. She also revisited Stella Batts Needs a New Name by Courtney Sheinmel and The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes as audiobooks. Her favorite thing, though, has been reading through the Favorite Fairy Tales books by Virginia Haviland. She has read the tales from Germany, Russia, Sweden, France, England, Spain, and Denmark. As the summer ended, she was just getting into Redwall by Brian Jacques, which has inspired lots of drawing and pretend play surrounding Cluny the Scourge. 

Little Bo Peep (4 years, 11 months)

Bo Peep is still reading tons of easy readers and chapter books. This summer, among other titles, she read three of the Penny books by Kevin Henkes (Penny and her Song, Penny and her Doll, and Penny and her Marble), both Sam the Minuteman and George the Drummer Boy by Nathaniel Benchley, Tom and the Two Handles by Russell Hoban, and The Spice of America by June Swanson as well as Betsy and Mr. Kilpatrick, Annie Pat and EddieAway Went the Balloons, Eddie the Dog Holder, Betsy's Busy Summer, and Eddie and Louella, all by Carolyn Haywood. She also revisited Little House in the Big Woods and Rufus M. on audio. 

Little Jumping Joan (2 years, 10 months)

It's been  a summer of big-name toddler favorites for Jumping Joan, who has discovered Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, A House for Hermit Crab, and Mister Seahorse), Beatrix Potter (The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Two Bad Mice), and Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny).  She also fell in love with a few different story collections: Sheep in a Jeep: 5-Minute StoriesSweet Dreams 5-Minute Bedtime Stories, and my childhood copy of 366 Two Minute Bedtime Stories and Rhymes. I also took out all of the old copies of Babybug magazine I saved from when Miss Muffet was little, and my mom sent us a few more she picked up at the Salvation Army, and Jumping Joan has me read two or three aloud every day before her nap.  

Jack and Jill

The twins are starting to love books. Jack especially loves Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo, Things That Are Big by Natalie Marshall, and Summer Babies by Kathryn O. Galbraith. He will happily sit and listen to any book and he tries to turn the pages and stares happily at the illustrations. 

Jill is a bit more focused on physical milestones at the moment, but in addition to the books Jack likes, she has also heard Ten Little Babies and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox.  

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Homeschool Progress Report: July/August 2020

We do some kind of schooling all year round, so we did continue many of our subjects straight through the summer. In a normal year, this may have included some field trips, but with the pandemic, we stuck mostly to read-alouds, workbooks, and computer programs.


M. (6 years, 9 months) practiced her mental math skills using Mental Math Kids Can't Resist, and she continued with the Intensive Practice book for Singapore Primary Mathematics 2B (for review), while also starting Primary Mathematics 3B. To save paper and to make it possible to re-use the workbook in the future, we scanned the whole thing and she has been using a stylus and the Kami app on her Chromebook to write her answers on the pages. I then use the stylus to mark wrong answers, and she corrects them right there on the page.

On Khan Academy, M. has reached the fourth grade level. These past two months, she focused on adding, subtracting, and multiplying fractions and mixed numbers, multiples and factors, basic geometry, decimals, graphing, and line plots.

We also printed a set of multiplication flashcards to replace Xtra Math, as M. was no longer doing the work and was instead waiting for the program to give her the answer to each question. We have been slow in getting started using these, but they will be a daily part of her routine this fall.

C. (age 4 years, 11 months) also has a set of flashcards for addition and subtraction facts which I bought for her at Dollar Tree, and she also spent her summer doing most of her math on Khan Academy. She is at the 2nd grade level, which covers topics such as analyzing shapes, measuring length, line plots, bar graphs, and picture graphs, time on a number line, counting money, adding four 2-digit numbers, and adding on a number line.

For fun, both M. and C. also spent time using geoboards and pattern blocks.


In the first half of the summer, M. was still finishing up her first year of history. We covered Christianity using several books: National Geographic Kids Who's Who in the Bible, National Geographic Kids The World of the Bible, The Parables of Jesus by Tomie dePaola, The Miracles of Jesus by Tomie dePaola, St. Paul The Apostle: The Story of the Apostle to the Gentiles by Mary Fabyan Windeatt, and The Holy Bible Adapted for Young Catholic Readers edited by Elsa Jane Werner and Charles Hartman and illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky and the Provensens. The National Geographic books are great except that neither of them contains an image of the crucifixion. (Was this decision made to protect children from seeing violence? That seems preposterous and likely at the same time.) The St. Paul book was also excellent for illustrating what life was like during the early days of the church, but it was too long for a read-aloud. I intentionally did not use In Bible Days by Gertrude Hartman because it felt oddly antagonistic toward Christians. 

M. and C. also watched The Witnesses Trilogy (God With Us; The Messengers; and To Every Nation) on Formed.org, which they loved. I would definitely recommend all three films.

After Christianity, we covered the Fall of Rome in A Picturesque Tale of Progress, stopping just before the reign of Emperor Justinian, which is where we will pick up this week when we begin the new year.

For the month of August, we decided to do a "quickie" unit on U.S. History, using all the books we've collected on various topics and time periods. Here is our reading list: 
  • Meet the North American Indians by Elizabeth Payne
  • Little Runner of the Longhouse by Betty Baker
  • The Men Who Found America by Frederick Winthrop Hutchinson
  • The Columbus Story by Alice Dalgliesh
  • On the Mayflower by Kate Waters
  • Sarah Morton's Day by Kate Waters
  • Samuel Eaton's Day by Kate Waters
  • Giving Thanks by Kate Waters
  • Pocahontas by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
  • The Legend of New Amsterdam by Peter Spier
  • The Boston Tea Party by Russell Freedman
  • Mary Geddy's Day by Kate Waters
  • George vs. George by Rosalyn Schanzer
  • Six Silver Spoons by Janette Sebring Lowrey
  • And Then What Happened Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz
  • Paul Revere's Ride illustrated by Paul Galdone
  • Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley
  • George the Drummer Boy by Nathaniel Benchley
  • Shh! We're Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz
  • The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Ormonde de Kaye, Jr.
  • Locomotive by Brian Floca
  • Who Let Muddy Boots into the White House? A Story of Andrew Jackson by Robert Quackenbush
  • Quit Pulling My Leg: A Story of Davy Crockett by Robert Quackenbush
  • Stagecoach Sal by Deborah Hopkinson
  • The First Book of the California Gold Rush by Walter Havighurst
  • Quick, Annie, Give Me a Catchy Line!: A Story of Samuel F.B. Morse by Robert Quackenbush
  • The Drinking Gourd: A Story of the Underground Railroad by F.N. Monjo
  • Meet Abraham Lincoln by Barbara Cary
  • Meet Robert E. Lee by George Swift Trow
  • The Silent Witness by Robin Friedman
  • Mark Twain? What Kind of Name is That? by Robert Quackenbush
  • Who's That Girl with the Gun?: A Story of Annie Oakley by Robert Quackenbush
  • Along Came The Model T!: How Henry Ford Put The World On Wheels by Robert Quackenbush
  • Coming to America by Betsy Maestro
  • Klara's New World by Jeanette Winter
  • Peppe the Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone
  • First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers by George Shea
  • The One Bad Thing about Father by F.N. Monjo
  • Don't You Dare Shoot That Bear: A Story of Theodore Roosevelt by Robert Quackenbush
  • A History of the United States for Young People by Arensa Sondergaard
  • Empire State Building by Elizabeth Mann
  • Letting Swift River Go by Barbara Cooney
  • Meet John F. Kennedy by Nancy Bean White
  • Moonshot by Brian Floca
  • American Adventures: The Battles
  • American Adventures: Westward Journeys
  • American Adventures: Voices for Freedom
  • American Adventures: Troubled Times

Additionally, I showed M. and C. multiple episodes of Reading Rainbow featuring historical fiction picture books ("Ox-Cart Man," "Watch the Stars Come Out," "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch," "Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express," "Follow the Drinking Gourd," "Ruth Law Thrills a Nation," and "My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States") and several other videos available from the public library through Just For Kids Access Video, including a few by Weston Woods ("Where Do You Think You're Going, Christopher Columbus?" by Jean Fritz, "Martin's Big Words" by Doreen Rappaport, "Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln" by Jean Fritz, and "The Pilgrims of Plimoth" by Marcia Sewall, and one from Sunburst Visual Media featuring colonial American reenactors ("Plymouth Plantation.") They finally finished watching Liberty's Kids, too.

This looks like a lot, but it was really just a quick read-aloud session each day, followed by a video, and no other formal work. They did play a lot with their historical figures from their various Safari Ltd. Toobs, but that was of their own volition and not part of school per se.


We didn't do a lot of formal science during the summer months. There was lots of impromptu studying of insects, flowers, trees, birds, etc., but no sit-down lessons. We did watch some episodes of Wild Kratts and some videos from Sci Show Kids.

Reading and Writing

For M., the big books of the summer were Tik Tok of Oz by L. Frank Baum, The Legend of Pocahontas by Virginia Watson, and Redwall by Brian Jacques (which she is still reading.) She also wrote a letter to a bookseller friend my husband and I met on Goodreads who has kindly sent us several books.

C. read mostly Carolyn Haywood and books in the Dan Frontier series.


Hygiene is still the main focus here: brushing teeth, washing hands, brushing hair, etc. All three of our big girls also talk about "the germs" that prevent them from going anywhere , and they have experienced having to go out wearing a mask a few times. They also play a game I can't stand called "The Covid is Strengthening," where they just run around shouting that into pretend phones.


In July, we finished listening to all the episodes of Classics for Kids. For the rest of the summer, we sang for fun, sometimes hymns and sometimes folk songs. Both M. and C. practiced their piano and recorder lessons daily.


We had our twins baptized the first week in August, so there was lots of talk about that, and we watched the Brother Francis baptism episode on Formed.org to prepare. We also watched Mass online every Sunday and introduced the Morning Offering prayer into the girls' morning routine.


Aside from projects the girls came up with themselves and birthday cards for my sister, Grandma (my mother) provided most of the art for the summer during her visit the first week in August. She had them make lighthouses from plastic cups, jellyfish from paper plates, and butterflies and unicorns using chalk pastels. She also left us with a lot of the supplies she used to use at her summer camp, including a ton of markers.

Physical Education

Summertime PE is usually just going out the playground by our house as much as possible, but the HOA closed it for the entire summer, so instead the girls rode bicycles, ran laps on the deck, galloped hobby horses to the mailbox, and on a couple of occasions met friends at a county park to run around.

Stay tuned...

For us, the new school year starts on Tuesday. I'm going to start the year trying to post an update like this weekly, on Saturdays, and see how that goes for a bit. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Reading Through History: The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry (1933)

Set on the island of Crete during the rule of King Minos, The Winged Girl of Knossos (of which Paul Dry books sent me a review copy quite some time ago) retells the popular myths of Theseus and of Icarus and Daedalus. Inas is the fearless bull-jumping daughter of Daidalos, an inventor of sorts who has been working on a pair of wings that allow Inas to fly. These wings must be kept secret lest the government accuse Daidalos of using magic and condemn him to death. Inas is also a close friend of the princess Ariadne, and when Ariadne desires to rescue a Greek prisoner called Theseus, she entrusts Inas with the task of leading him away from the labyrinthine halls of his prison by way of a long black thread. With danger encroaching from a variety of angles, Inas must do her best to save the life of herself and those she loves.

In many ways this book is to Ancient Crete what J.G. Fyson's books are to Ancient Mesopotamia. This story, which provides a plausible explanation behind centuries-old popular myths, immerses the reader in its setting so completely that it becomes easy to imagine the customs and daily living of these ancient people, and to believe that these legends actually have their basis in reality. 

Inas, especially, is an engaging heroine, but without becoming what I sometimes call an "anachronistically woke female." (I've seen some reviews labeling this book feminist. That's a buzzword that typically turns me off from wanting to read a book, and I would not apply it here). She is definitely not interested in domestic arts like the nearby citizens of Siceli, but neither is she incredulously wise beyond her station in life or the era in which she lives. She feels real, and therefore the reader is entirely invested in her fate throughout the story. The tone of the story, too, is surprisingly contemporary-feeling despite this book being 87 years old! It truly reads like a much newer middle grade historical fiction novel. 

I plan to assign this book to my kids during their fifth grade years, as they study the ancients for the second time around, during the logic stage of the classical trivium. I think it would also make an excellent read-aloud, possibly even for a first grader with a particular love for ancient history and the appropriate background knowledge. At any age, however, prior knowledge of the myths is needed to fully appreciate this fascinating tale. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Reading Through History: A Bone From a Dry Sea by Peter Dickinson (1992)

A Bone From a Dry Sea is a 1992 Carnegie Medal winning middle grade novel with a dual timeline. In the past, Li, a primitive young woman in a prehistoric tribe, begins to imagine beyond her culture's current capabilities. In the present day, Vinny, the daughter of an archeaologist  accompanies her father to work on a dig and must contend with the oppressive behavior of his difficult boss.

While this book has an interesting premise, the execution mostly fell flat for me. The segments of the story set in prehistoric times are well-written and engaging, but their connection to the present isn't developed that well. The present-day chapters don't delve as much into actual archaeology work as they do into the inter-personal relationships of the characters. There's the tension between Vinny's divorced parents, as well the question of whether Vinny's dad's coworker is his girlfriend, and the overbearing tendencies of Vinny's dad's boss. With all of these issues commanding attention, there isn't much room left to contemplate the implications of any of the archaeology work that is accomplished. The story ends without a strong sense of what the reader is meant to take away from it. The ending is also so abrupt, it feels like there is no conclusion to the story.

Since we own The Dream Time by Henry Treece, which explores prehistoric society in a beautifully poetic way, and the present-day section of this book is so weak, I don't really see a reason to assign this in our homeschool. If my oldest daughter continues to show an interest in archaeology, however, I would like to find a better novel that explores archaeology without all of the side plots. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Reading Through History: The Dream Time by Henry Treece (1967)

The Dream Time tells a story set not long after humans first began walking the Earth, and its main character, Crookleg, is an artist whose capabilities are not fully understood by others. He wanders between different primitive civilizations to escape possible punishment for creating forbidden pictures.

The writing in this book is deliberately unusual as it tries to portray a consciousness that is not yet fully human, but is just waking up to its potential. Everything is new in these early days of civilization and the characters often have thoughts they can't yet express verbally or ideas that have never occurred to anyone in their tribes before. Attempting to capture how it would have felt to be a person during this time period results in a very poetic text from which the reader feels a bit disconnected.

There is a lot to philosophize about in this book, and for that reason, it seems best suited to middle school readers and older. Treece raises questions about what it means to be human, and reflects on how it might have truly felt to live in a time before most tools and techniques we use today hadn't even been imagined. I think it is hard for even adult readers to fully grasp this concept, so a book to help young readers begin to comprehend this idea is a true gift. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Book Review: Francie on the Run by Hilda van Stockum (1939)

In this sequel to The Cottage at Bantry Bay, Francie O’Sullivan has finally had the surgery required to heal his foot, and he is ready to head home. Unable to stand being cooped up in the hospital any longer, he takes to the streets of Dublin, determined to get himself home to show his twin brother Liam how well he can walk. When Francie gets on the wrong train, however, he sets into motion a series of encounters with kind strangers who, through roundabout means, help him to get home to Bantry Bay.  

The premise of this book is the kind of thing I tended to avoid as a kid. I was always troubled by the idea of a child going off somewhere without his parents knowing, and the idea of Francie having fun on the road while his mother doesn’t know where he is bothers me even now. Still, Francie’s indomitable spirit comes alive on the page, and it’s hard not to get caught up in his cheerful enthusiasm. It was really fun reading about how each new friend Francie made reacted to his strong little personality, and of course, there was never any chance that everything would be anything but well in the end. 

Francie on the Run is a great everyday adventure story. Though best enjoyed as part of the series, it could also stand on its own. Personally, as it is part of that larger series, I would have liked to see more of the rest of the family, but it does work just fine as just Francie’s book. It also piqued my curiosity with its introduction of Pegeen, whose name is also the title of the third and final Bantry Bay book. I’ll be reading that as soon as I can find a copy!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Fumbling Through Fantasy: Half Magic by Edward Eager (1954)

 Mark, Katherine, Jane, and Martha, the children of a single mother, find themselves entrusted with a lot of responsibility when they discover a magic coin that works by halves. Their mother unwittingly has the first adventure with the coin, during which she suddenly finds herself halfway home from visiting her aunt and uncle, but soon the children are making carefully calculated wishes that take them to far-flung points in time and space.

My husband and I listened to the full cast audiobook recording of this book on a car trip years ago, but I believe I slept through some of it and therefore didn’t add it to my Goodreads shelves because I hadn’t read the full story. This time around, I read the book aloud to my three oldest daughters (ages 2, 4, and 6) and enjoyed it much more. My intended audience was really the oldest two girls, and they both loved the idea of the magic coin and its tricky way of granting wishes. Each time we sat down to read, they were curious to know who was going to have a turn with the coin next and how they were going to use it. 

For me, the appeal was largely that, despite the magical elements, the story is grounded in reality. I have a hard time diving right into fantasy worlds, so I always appreciate it when an author begins in the real world and slowly introduces magic. I also thought it was a fun way to encourage my kids to think mathematically, and also a great excuse to introduce them to the legend of King Arthur, which figures heavily into one child’s adventure with the coin.

Half Magic will appeal to readers who like old-fashioned family stories, like Elizabeth Enright’s Melendys series or Eleanor Estes’s Moffats books, as well as to those who enjoy stories where magic enters the real world a la The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit. I plan to read aloud the sequel, Magic by the Lake, possibly during the upcoming school year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Book Review: Family Grandstand by Carol Ryrie Brink (1952)

The Ridgeways, Susan, George, and Dumpling, live with their father, a college professor, and their mother, a mystery writer, in Midwest city, in a house very near to the university campus. A student named Dorothy helps out with the family’s housework, and Tommy Tokarynsi, the university’s star quarterback who is better known locally as Tommy Tucker, mows the family’s lawn. When Tommy’s grades begin to suffer to the point that he might not be allowed to play football anymore, the Ridgeway kids look for ways to solve the problem while also trying to convince their father to allow them to rent out parking spaces on their property during football games and working on figuring whether Dumpling is a child prodigy.

This book has old-fashioned charm similar to books like The Davenports are at Dinner by Alice Dalgliesh and Those Miller Girls! by Alberta Wilson Constant, with similar family dynamics to those depicted in the Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry. The characters are just quirky enough to feel believable, and the dialogue among the family members is really entertaining. There isn’t much of anything groundbreaking about this book, but anyone who enjoys football or dreams of living near a university will absolutely love it. This may not be as memorable as this author’s Caddie Woodlawn or Baby Island, but it’s a worthwhile read nonetheless. If you enjoy Family Grandstand, also look for the second book about the Ridgeways, Family Sabbatical.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Read-at-Home Mom Report: 2020 Challenges Check-In

Before the pandemic turned the world upside down, I had big plans for completing reading challenges in 2020. Though I have read a lot of books so far this year, I'm not sure that all of my challenges have been getting the attention they deserve. Today we'll find out. Here is how things are going with each challenge in which I am participating: 

A Year of Flannery O'Connor

The goal of this one is to read all of Flannery O'Connor's short stories in a single year. This started out as a project with a real-life friend who is also on Instagram. We decided to open it up to the wider bookstagram community and started out trying to run individual discussion groups. After a while, that felt burdensome so I switched us over to a dedicated account for Flannery O'Connor read-alongs where anyone could discuss the short stories. Unfortunately, my friend hasn't been able to keep up with the reading, and I am terrible at writing discussion questions, and the whole thing has not yet proven to be a huge success. I am typically good at running online groups but I am finding that I'm not really cut out to lead book discussions. 

2020 Classics

This challenge started in May of 2019, and the goal was to read 20 classics by the end of 2020. As of the middle of July, I have reached the goal but I plan to keep counting until the end of the year. The classics I read for the challenge are: Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Red Pony by John Steinbeck, Gunnar's Daughter by Sigrid Undset, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, Nutcracker and Mouse King and the Tale of the Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman and Alexander Dumas, The Bridal Wreath by Sigrid Undset, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Mistress of Husaby by Sigrid Undset, The Cross by Sigrid Undset, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Adam Bede by George Eliot, O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, Common Sense by Thomas Paine, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 

The Unread Shelf Project

Thanks in part to the pandemic, this has been my favorite challenge of the year so far. With the libraries closed, I read like mad from my unread shelf all during the spring, and now it has become habit for me to constantly have a book that I own on deck to read next. I have read 47 (!!!) of my unread titles so far this year and DNF'd or unhauled a bunch more. I've also read at least one book each month to fit the monthly challenges that go along with the project. 

The Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge

My enthusiasm for the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge and the What Should I Read Next podcast have waned a bit in 2020, and so, while I have completed all of the prompts for this challenge, it has largely been by accident. (I am also kind of disappointed in the MMD Summer Reading Guide this year. The lack of nonfiction was a bummer, and I have DNF'd a bunch of the selections.)  

Scholé Sisters 2020 5x5 Challenge

I loved this challenge idea, but it feels awkward doing it when I'm not really part of this community. My five categories I decided to read from were biographies and memoirs, Catholicism, books about books, Concord, Massachusetts and linguistics. Oddly enough, though I have 5 titles sitting in my house that have to do with Concord, this is the only category in which I have not yet read a single book! 

For the biography/memoir category, I've read five titles: My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary,  Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman, The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle, and A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel. 

For Catholicism, I've also read five:  Made This Way by Trent Horn and Leila Sales, Into the Deep: An Unlikely Catholic Conversion by Abigail Rine Favale, Giving Thanks and Letting Go by Danielle Bean, No Greater Love by Mother Teresa, and Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn and Kimberly Hahn. 

I've only read three books about books so far: For Reading Out Loud by Margaret Mary Kimmel, The Proof of the Pudding by Phyllis Fenner, and Books in Search of Children by Louise Seaman Bechtel. 

And I've read two linguistics books: The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson and Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. 

Catholic Reading Challenge: A Year of Short Stories

This reading challenge depends upon a podcast. I have not been into podcasts at all and never even started the challenge. 

Craving for Cozies

I have read 18 of the 25 cozies I plan to read this year. This isn't really a challenge for me to complete; I just like keeping track of them in the Facebook group and seeing what others are reading. 

Cathlit 2020

I added this challenge after my initial challenge post. I am not going to get to all ten of the categories, but I like the way the prompts expand my spiritual reading horizons. So far I've read a memoir by a Catholic (Into the Deep: An Unlikely Catholic Conversion by Abigail Rine Favale), a book by a Catholic novelist (Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset),  a book about a saint (St. Paul The Apostle by Mary Fabyan Windeatt), and a recently published Catholic book (Your Blue Flame by Jennifer Fulwiler). The other categories are: a spiritual classic (I think I'll probably read Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich), poetry by a Catholic, a book by a doctor of the church (this is the one I feel most certain I will not complete), a book about beauty (I have Leah Darrow's The Other Side of Beauty in mind for this one), a book about feasting,  and short stories by a Catholic (which I can check off at the end of the year when I finish Flannery's Complete Stories).

I think chances are good that I will complete most of these by the end of the year, but I do wish I felt more enthusiastic about them.  I think I'll need to be more selective about challenges next year.