Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 10/18/21

Weekend Activities, 10/16/21-10/17/21 

On Saturday, the girls rode bikes and the babies rode in the wagon. On Sunday, we attended the Latin Mass. 

E.'s Birthday

E. turned four this week. On her birthday, we didn't do a lot of school. She opened presents, rode her bike, and ate chocolate cake. Her gifts included dolls, Eric Carle stickers and magnets, and an axolotl puppet.

Morning Time 

Music: To kick off our study of Bach, I read aloud the first chapter of Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher. 

Singing: We practiced singing "Abide with Me." 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud "Daddy Fell into the Pond" by Alfred Noyes, "Play Time" by William Blake, "The Ant Village" by Marion Edey and Dorothy Grider, and "My Dog" by Marchette Chute. 

Art Appreciation: In 100 Masterpieces in Color (Hamlyn, 1972), we looked at Bull Aurochs and Roman Mummy Portrait

Catechism: We continued learning the Apostle's Creed using I Believe in God: the Apostles' Creed by Lawrence G. Lovasik. This week, we read about the birth of Jesus. On Friday we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Pope John Paul II with prayers from the Catholic All Year Prayer Companion.  


First Grade: C. has finally started her long-awaited unit on Ancient Egypt. We read Ancient Dwellers of the Nile and Tillers of the Soil from Builders of the Old World, and she labeled and colored the Old Kingdom of Egypt from MapTrek

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

  • The Great Chief Powhatan
  • John Smith at Jamestown 
  • A Compass and Talking Paper
  • Pocahontas and John Smith
  • John Smith Draws a Map of Virginia 
  • Half Moon on the Hudson River
  • French and Indians on Lake Champlaign
  • President John Smith 
  • Starvation and Shipwreck
  • Tobacco to the Rescue
She watched 1607: A Nation Takes Root on YouTube. 


First and Third Grade: We started BFSU Lesson B-7: How Animals Move II: Different Body Designs; Major Animal Phyla. Using our set of animal x-rays we studied the structure of the bodies of animals that have backbones. We also discussed arthropods and animals without backbones. We watched several videos: 
Preschool: E. and I continued to read from the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of How


M. and C. both continued working on Communion and birthday thank you notes. They also did some work in their Mad Libs workbooks. 

C. finished reading Farmer Boy and started King Oberon's Forest by Hilda van Stockum. She read some of 26 Fairmount Avenue to Gran.  

M. continued reading The Man Who Was Don Quixote by Rafaello Busoni and The Adventures of Don Quixote by Leighton Barret and illustrated by Warren Chappell. (She is reading the Barret and Chappell version to Gran as well.)

E. continued to practice beginning blends in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading

We continued our read-aloud of Anna Witch

My husband read Honey Bear aloud to A. 

We finished reading the section Three Children and Shakespeare about A Midsummer Night's Dream. M. and C. watched the Globe theater production of the play on video on Wednesday and Thursday. 

We had story time on Wednesday with friends, and I read aloud The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, Give Me Back My Bones by Kim Norman, Web Opposites by Rob Hodgson, and Pick a Pumpkin by Patricia Toht. 

Typing and Handwriting 

M. and C. wrote their thank you notes in cursive. Both girls did typing most days. 


C. started working on learning two Halloween songs in ASL from We Play Along: It's Halloween and 10 Little Jack-o'lanterns


M., C., and E. made a birthday card for Aunt B.'s boyfriend, S. 


M. continued working on Challenging Word Problems 3. C. worked on measuring length in Singapore 2A. C. also worked on addition and subtraction with renaming on the soroban. 

Physical Education

Almost every weekday, the three girls rode their bikes before dinner. 

Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily. 


M. went to the orthodontist on Monday for a palate expander, but it didn't fit her mouth. While the lab fixes that, we went to the next step in the process and she got braces on her four front teeth. She learned a lot about caring for braces, including how to floss under the wire and how to use wax to reduce the irritation of the brackets against her cheek. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

New Picture Books for Halloween and Thanksgiving

I love seasonal picture books! Today, I have a list of brand-new titles to help young readers celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. All of these titles were sent to me by their respective publishers in exchange for honest reviews.

Here Comes Fall!
written by Susan Kantor and illustrated by Katya Longhi (Little Simon) is a cheerful rhyming story about saying goodbye to summer and enjoying the crisp air, delicious apples, and crunchy leaves that come in the fall. Each page shows sweet anthromorphic creatures celebrating the season in cozy scenes of family fun. My 19-month-old son fell in love with this book instantly. He loves the faces on the little animals, as well as the shades of orange and red the illustrator used for the leaves. This is a fun book to share with little ones who might not yet be ready for true Halloween content. 

Boo! Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton (Little Simon) is a Halloween take-off on her popular Moo! Baa, La La La. There isn't much to the story other than a sort of call-and-response exchange between a cow saying Boo and a sheep saying Baa, but the rhythm of the text and the exaggerated faces of the figures really appealed to my 19-month-old daughter, who eagerly snatched the book from me after I finished reading it aloud. You truly can never go wrong with Sandra Boynton books for toddlers.

Knock Knock, Trick or Treat! by Amy E. Sklansky, illustrated by Chiara Galletti (Little Simon) is a lift-the-flap book that follows the format of a guessing game. On each page, there is a house decorated to suit its spooky occupant, and then the text invites the reader to figure out who will be found lurking behind the door. I read this aloud to my 19-month-olds and my four-year-old, and my six-year-old and almost-eight-year-old were nearby listening in. Everyone was engaged by this book! The four-year-old was able to guess most of the creatures correctly, but a few were challenging for her, and the older girls figured them out. I was disappointed that this review copy didn't come in time for my Halloween-themed story time. I'm putting it on my list for next year.

Another fun lift-the-flap book is How to Hide a Ghost by MacKenzie Haley (Little Simon). The text in this one was a bit confusing for me to read aloud, but the pictures are adorable. The child characters are all dressed in fun costumes, and the ghosts are playful and friendly. It's another great choice for kids who want to get in on the festive fun, but for whom a more traditional ghost story would be too much. 

Friendly ghosts also make an appearance in Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). The title house worries that its strange creaking and shrieking noises mean it's haunted, and it worries that no one will want to live in it. Thankfully, a family of ghosts finds that it is just the place for them. None of my kids got from the illustrations that the family members were meant to be ghosts, so that made me realize how much scaffolding on an adult's part would be required to help this go over well in story time. Still, the onomatopoeia of the house's spooky noises just begs to be read aloud, so it's probably worth the little bit of extra explanation that might be required at the end. 

In addition to ghosts, pumpkins are also the perfect theme for this time of year. The Robin Hill School series includes a book called The Pumpkin Patch, written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by Mike Gordon (Simon Spotlight). Though this is meant to be an easy reader book, I actually think it works as a good read-aloud to prepare kids for visiting the pumpkin patch, or to help kids (read: mine) who won't get to the pumpkin patch this year understand where the grocery store pumpkins originate. A pumpkin in the story is also baked into a pie, which makes this a book you can keep out on the shelf through Thanksgiving.

Similarly, How to Help a Pumpkin Grow by Ashley Wolff (Beach Lane Books) introduces the process behind the growing of pumpkins. A dog gardener encounters a series of animals in his fledgling pumpkin patch. Though the animals at first glance seem like they might destroy the patch, the dog invites them to help the pumpkins grow instead. At the end, there is pumpkin pie for everyone, and a bunch of glowing jack-o'lanterns. This is another book that can bridge the month between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The minimalist text and bright expressive pictures make it a strong story time contender for toddler and preschool audiences.

Finally, I'll finish this list with two Thanksgiving titles. 

Thankful, written by Elaine Vickers and illustrated by Samantha Cotterill (Paula Wiseman Books), is not explicitly a Thanksgiving story, but it certainly suits the theme of gratitude. In December, a little girl and her family write down the things for which they are thankful and add them to a paper chain. The text of the book is a litany of the items the girl includes on her links of the chain: everything from her dog and her heart, to seat belts and snow. The diorama-style illustrations have really interesting and eye-catching details that are fun to pore over. The text may be somewhat abstract in its listing of random pieces of the girl's life, but the pictures are very particular and precise, and they paint a warm portrait of a loving family whose members appreciate their blessings. The only thing that would improve this book for me would be for the family to acknowledge to whom they are directing their thanks, but I know my own kids will intuit that it's meant to be God even if the author doesn't necessarily intend that. 

The other Thanksgiving book I'm really excited about is the board book version of Thanks a Lot by Raffi (Random House Children's Books), which is illustrated by Jaime Kim. This is a song I have used in Thanksgiving story times for years, but I'm so thankful to have a book to replace my poorly put together flannel board. The pictures are very bright and cheerful, depicting a young black boy who ponders all the natural wonders for which he is grateful. Again, there is no clear indication in the book that the child is thanking God, but it won't be hard to spark a discussion with my preschooler about who created the sun, clouds, moon, etc. I am planning to read this to the story time group that meets at my house at our last meeting before Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 10/11/21

Weekend Activities, 10/9/21-10/10/21 

This weekend, Grandma, Aunt B. and S. came to visit and celebrate M.'s First Communion with us on Sunday. The girls went to the playground,  played Yahtzee, and ate Munchkins, and we had cake on Sunday. 

Morning Time 

Music: On Monday and Tuesday, M. and C. listened to Beethoven Lives Upstairs by Susan Hammond (1992), and on Wednesday, they watched the 1998 video adaptation. 

Singing: We learned to sing My Home's in Montana

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe, "The Mountain and the Squirrel" by Ralph Waldo Emerson,  and "The Secret Cavern" by Margaret Widdemer 

Art Appreciation: We discussed Lady in Blue by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. 

Catechism: We started learning the Apostle's Creed using I Believe in God: the Apostles' Creed by Lawrence G. Lovasik. On Thursday, we prayed a Rosary, and on Friday, we listened to the St. Teresa of Avila episode of the Saint Stories for Kids podcast.  


First Grade: In addition to the "Trading and Counting" section in Builders of the Old World, C. read two books on Open Library: One Small Blue Bead by Byrd Baylor (Macmillan, 1965) and Time of the Bison by Ann Warren Turner (Macmillan, 1987). 

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

  • Sir Francis Bacon Rings the Bell
  • The King James Bible
  • Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot
  • A Meeting in Scrooby Village
  • A Frenchman Reports on New Spain 
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Champlain Visits Canada
  • Off to Virginia 
  • New France, the First Colony


We finished BFSU Lesson D-4, Land Forms and Major Biomes of the Earth. We looked up the body of water that our watershed feeds into, and then followed it on the map until we reached the ocean. We also discussed how irrigation and transportation make it possible for people to have food that would not necessarily grow naturally in a given climate.  


M. and C. both worked in their Mad Libs reading workbooks. C. finished the first grade book and moved into the second grade book. M. worked on composing thank you notes for her First Communion cards and gifts and C. composed and started copying her birthday thank you notes in cursive.

C. continued reading Farmer Boy. She also read The Snowbound Mystery from the Boxcar Children series. 

M. finished Martin the Warrior  and started reading The Man Who Was Don Quixote by Rafaello Busoni and The Adventures of Don Quixote by Leighton Barret and illustrated by Warren Chappell. 

E. practiced beginning blends in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading

We started reading Anna Witch by Madeleine Edmondson at lunchtime. My husband is still reading from Polly and the Wolf in the evenings. 

We continued reading Three Children and Shakespeare, and got close to the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Typing & Handwriting 

M. and C. both wrote their thank you notes in cursive. They also both worked on their lessons on Typing.com. C. completed the beginner level and received a certificate. 


Caroline continued working on This Little Light of Mine in ASL. 


Using kits from the Dollar Tree, we glued together some felt Scarecrows. We also colored some wooden pins with Halloween designs and used them to hang some Halloween-themed coloring pages on the string we use for our art display. On Wednesday, the girls drew with chalk in the driveway. 


M. started working on Challenging Word Problems 3. C. finished Review 1 in Singapore Primary Mathematics 2A. She continued to practice addition and subtraction with renaming on the soroban.  

Physical Education

Almost every weekday, the three girls rode their bikes before dinner. 

Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Book Review: Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace (1980)

Recently orphaned, Emily Luccock has been sent to live with her aunt and uncle at Sugar Hill Hall. Emily remembers the mansion from past visits, and is looking forward to enjoying its grandeur. When she arrives, however, it becomes clear that something is very wrong. The house is now under the control of Mrs. Meeching and Mrs. Plumly, who are running a home for the elderly, with Emily's aunt as their servant. Emily's uncle is missing, and there is a mysterious bowl of peppermints in the parlor that no one is allowed to touch, or else. Only Kipper, who visits occasionally to deliver fresh fish to the mansion, is at all friendly to Emily, and it is with his help that she will figure out the secrets of Sugar Hill Hall and drive out the evil lurking within its walls.

I read this book to my oldest three girls, ages 7, 5, and 3, and they were really intrigued from beginning to end. The characters are just exaggerated enough that they don't feel threatening to the reader,  but there is still plenty of suspense to make the reading experience a fun emotional rollercoaster.

For me,  this book was also an interesting conversation starter for how the elderly are sometimes treated in our society. The residents of Sugar Hill Hall are discounted and mistreated by the people who are meant to look after them, and it is utterly detrimental to their mental and physical health. When Kipper and Emily begin to enrich their lives by reaching out to them and offering companionship, everything changes for the elderly characters, and their will to live returns. I think the fantastical tone of the book, and the odd feel of the setting make it an ideal medium for exploring this deeper issue. 

Peppermints in the Parlor made a great read-aloud for us. I think to be read independently, the sweet-spot age range is probably ages 7-10. It's an interesting and fresh take on the age-old struggled between good and evil and a great opportunity for kids to examine some real social issues within the safety of a fictional environment. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 10/4/21

Weekend Activities, 10/2/21-10/3/21 

On Saturday, M. made her first Confession and went to the 5pm Mass. On Sunday, the girls rode their bikes in the morning. 

Morning Time 

Music: I finished reading aloud Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1942), and we listened to the rest of the pieces referenced in the book: 

Singing: We continued working on "Be Thou My Vision." 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: Praise for Created Things by St. Francis of Assisi, "A Vagabond Song" by Bliss Carman, "Goblin Feet" by J.R.R. Tolkien, and "Travel" by Robert Louis Stevenson.   

Art Appreciation: We looked at St. Francis of Assisi by Margaritone d'Arezzo found in The Vatican Art Deck by Anja Grebe. 

Catechism: On Saturday, we sang "Dear Angel Ever at My Side" to celebrate the Feast of the Guardian Angels. On Monday, the feast of St. Francis, we read The Canticle of the Sun illustrated by Fiona French  and Clare and Francis written by Guido Visconti and illustrated by Bimba Landmann. We prayed a Rosary on Thursday for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and again on Friday.


First Grade: C. and I read Skara Brae by Olivier Dunrea and we started Life Long Ago: First Farmers by Leonard Weisgard. We also read Wheels and Sails, The Beginning of Settled Life, and Learning to Live Together from Builders of the Old World by Gertrude Hartman. C. watched a short video about Skara Brae to finish out the week. 

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

  • John Smith, Sightseer in Italy
  • Galileo
  • A Royal Wedding
  • Grand Opera and the Violin
  • John Smith and the Terrible Turks
  • John Smith, Slave
  • Cervantes and Don Quixote
  • Boris Godunov
  • The Queen Is Dead
  • King James I
  • The Globe Theater
  • Ben Jonson

On Thursday, she also read about the Battle of Lepanto from National Catholic Register  and watched Christopher Check: The Secret Weapon at Lepanto on YouTube.


First and Third Grade: We started Lesson D-4, Land Forms and Major Biomes of the Earth. From EasyTeaching.Net, I printed fact sheets about Deserts, Grasslands, the Rainforest, and the Tundra and the girls and I used them to fill in a worksheet for each of those four biomes. We also used a biome map to help us identify the climate at different places on Earth, and we looked at a climatograph for Damascus, Maryland.

Independently, M. read Tundra by Delia Goetz and Deserts by Gail Gibbons, and C. read Grasslands by Delia Goetz and In the Rainforest by Kate Duke. 

On Friday, we reviewed the water cycle and discussed the concept of a watershed. We watched What is a Watershed? on YouTube. 


M. had rubber bands put on her molars on Monday to get ready for her orthdontic appliances to be put in on the 18th. We talked about making sure not to eat anything chewy or sticky in order to prevent having them fall out too soon. 


M. and C. each did a few pages in their Mad Libs reading workbooks. 

I started reading aloud the next section of Three Children and Shakespeare, which retells  A Midsummer Night's Dream. M. is still working on her Shylock speech.

E. continued practicing words beginning and ending with consonant blends in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. We started reading aloud More Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories together. C. continued reading Farmer Boy. She also read a Boxcar Children mystery and continued reading 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola to Gran over Skype. M. continued to read Martin the Warrior to herself and she read a short story from The Little Bookroom to Gran. 

We finished Tatsinda on audio. My husband is still reading aloud Polly and the Wolf in the evenings.

We also had story time this week with a few friends. Because different people came, I re-used the farm theme. We read Early One Morning by Mem Fox and Christine Davenier, Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, Catch That Chicken! by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank, and To Market To Market by Anne Miranda and Janet Stevens.


C. started working on This Little Light of Mine in sign language. 

Typing & Handwriting 

M. and C. both practiced typing skills on Typing.com. M. copied questions from the Catechism in cursive and C. practiced some new letters.


The girls did chalk art in the driveway. 


M. continued to work with a protractor in Singapore 4A. On Wednesday, she and my husband read a chapter from Life of Fred: Jellybeans. M. did Khan Academy every day. 

C. worked on subtraction with renaming using the soroban in both Singapore and with me for extra practice. She finished the addition and subtraction of Singapore 2A. She also did Khan Academy every day. On Wednesday, I read aloud a chapter from Life of Fred: Cats

 E. continued to practice adding and subtracting within 9 on the soroban and she worked on being able to identify the numbers represented by different configurations of the beads. 

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

Physical Education

The girls rode bikes around the park near our house on several afternoons. 

Instrumental Music

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

ARC Review: The Halloween Moon by Joseph Fink (7/20/21)

Thirteen-year-old Esther Gold loves Halloween, and she can't believe her parents want her to stop trick-or-treating, even if she is almost in high school. Determined not to let go of her childhood traditions, Esther tells her parents she is going to the movies with her best friend Agustín, and then drags him out into the street to trick-or-treat instead. After visiting just a few houses on their planned route, however, Esther and Agustín discover that something unusual is happening in their neighborhood. There are no kids out, and all of the adults have fallen into such a deep sleep they can't be roused. The only other people who seem unaffected by this strangeness are Esther's arch-enemy, Sasha, and the dentist who gives out toothbrushes instead of candy. As this unlikely quartet begins to investigate the odd things they have observed around town, they uncover a magical plot by the queen of Halloween herself which will endanger everyone they love if they can't destroy her power. 

This was a really fun Halloween story. The plot is a little muddled and a little simplistic at times, but Esther and her friends have so much heart and sweetness to them that the story is irresistible and impossible to put down. The atmosphere of the whole novel is very festive and includes all the cozy seasonal details that readers want in a holiday-themed read, but there is also enough sinister spookiness to build up a bit of spine-tingling suspense. Aside from Halloween, the story also focuses on growing up: what that means, how to face it, and when to let go of childish things and move onto the next phase of life. For Esther, this means not just letting go of trick-or-treating, but also coming to terms with the changes in some of her relationships, particularly with Agustín, who is beginning to appear to her as more than just a friend.

This story also addresses issues of prejudice, both in the real world, as Esther faces occasional anti-Semitism and Sasha deals with racism toward her Korean culture, and in the fantasy world, where black cats have been scapegoated and given a bad name. These elements mostly felt like an organic part of the story, especially since Sasha is one of the people who has made anti-Semitic comments to Esther in the past, and I appreciated that the author used them in the story and didn't just include them for the sake of preaching. I also liked that Esther was able to forgive Sasha after she changed her point of view. This is a healthy way to handle the situation, and I appreciated that the author presented it as such. 

The Halloween Moon is more of a fantasy novel with Halloween elements than a true scary story, but for me, that is a huge plus. I would have happily read this as a kid despite not being very fond of spooky things, and if my kids were a bit older and there wasn't talk of eighth graders kissing, I'd probably read it aloud to them too. I listened to a few chapters on audio, and it works well in that format. Some of the male narrator's female voices were a bit shrill and stereotypical, but for the most part, his voice suited the story quite well.

I received a physical ARC of The Halloween Moon from Quill Tree Books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 4, 2021

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

My Month in Books

I read 19 books in September, which is the most of any month in 2021 so far. Interestingly, last September I read 18 books and it was my slowest month. Go figure. A good chunk of my reading during the month was taken up by series books because I participated in Series September on Instagram. I also listened to 10 audiobooks, because I just kept getting hooked on quick suspense novels. Here are all 19 books in the order that I read them. 

American Adventures, 1620-1945 by Elizabeth Coatsworth (4 stars)
I actually read most of this book in August, as it was our history read-aloud for our homeschool summer session. Each chapter is a story set during an important time period in American History, followed by an author's note explaining which parts of the story are rooted in real history. The stories were pretty long to read in one sitting, but I managed, and they really got my girls interested in the various events they covered. 

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (3 stars)
I borrowed this one from my sister. It was my second Ruth Ware book ever, after The Woman in Cabin 10. I liked this one better, but it was still only a three-star read. I enjoyed the fact that it was such a quick read, but I didn't love the way it ended.

An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn (5 stars)
This month, I participated in Series September, hosted by Sarah and Krista, and this was the first of seven series books I read. I listened to this one on audio, and it is my favorite of all the Bridgerton books I've read so far. I loved that it was a Cinderella re-telling, and I felt I got to know the characters even better than the couples in the first two books. I did have to skip the sex scenes, but that wasn't that much trouble. 

Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children’s Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls by Mitali Perkins (4 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
I didn't agree with everything this author argues in this book, but I am pleased that a Christian (and Catholic, I think?) take on "problematic" books is out in the world. I think there is a lot of great food for thought in this book, even if Perkins does sort of miss the mark in her understanding of Tolkien and Lewis. 

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (4 stars)
This is another one my sister lent me, and it's my favorite Ruth Ware so far. I loved that the book was structured as a letter to a lawyer, and I didn't see the reveal at the end coming at all. I will most likely read more Ruth Ware based on how much I enjoyed this one. 

Come Back to Me by Carolyn Astfalk (5 stars)
I listened to this sequel to Stay with Me on Audible, and I absolutely loved it. I really care about the characters in this universe and could not put the book down. As much as I tolerate and even enjoy secular romance novels, there is something so nice about reading a love story with a Catholic worldview. There is a depth and substance to both books of this duology that has made them some of my favorites of this year.

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (4 stars)
This was another fun read from this series, which answers a burning question: who is Lady Whistledown? I'm a little curious about how things will be in future books that we know her true identity, but I really like the way this reveal was done. 

I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached (4 stars)
After several false starts (see the DNF section below), I finally settled on this book as my title about the Middle East for #WorldFullOfBooks on Instagram. It was pretty short and consisted of simple statements describing the author's childhood during the Lebanese Civil War with accompanying illustrations. I thought it was very interesting, but not especially educational about the war itself.

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda (4 stars)
After reading the two Ruth Ware titles, I wanted to read some similarly fast-paced thrillers or suspense novels. I borrowed this audiobook from the library and it wound up being the first of three Megan Miranda books I listened to this month. I liked that the story involved a cliquey HOA, and I enjoyed all the details of the neighborhood and the relationships between the residents. 

Seventeen Against the Dealer by Cynthia Voigt (4 stars)
I read the first 6 books in this series back in the 2000s, but somehow never got to this last one until now. Like the others, it's an introspective story, and it focuses on Dicey stubbornly trying to make her way as an adult without help from anyone. She makes a few missteps and must face the consequences. I love Cynthia Voigt's writing throughout this series and this book was excellent. 

The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear (3 stars)
This is the fourth book in the Butternut Lake series. It took me forever to get to it because it's an ebook and not available to me on audio, but I'm glad I finally did. It was a pleasant story about two sisters working out their differences and then each falling in love with a good man. I read it in the Kindle app before bed each night and it was a very easy and undemanding read for that hour of the day. 

Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children’s Great Books and How to Experience Them by Cheri Blomquist (3 stars)
My husband bought a copy of this for me because I was excited about it, but it wound up falling kind of flat. The book lists are interesting, but I'm not sold on the whole reading program the author sets up. I think I was hoping for more discussion of the importance of reading great books and how exactly those books prepare kids to read classics later on. 

Light from Heaven by Jan Karon (3 stars)
After many months away from this series, I dove back in this month. This is the first book of this series that didn't totally wow me. I'm not sure if that's because I read 8 in a row last fall and kind of burned out, or if this book is actually less good. There were definitely things I enjoyed about it, and the setting is as charming and cozy as ever, but it was just not my favorite of the series.

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young (2 stars)
I should have DNF'd this romance set in a small English village. There was way too much sexual content, and I didn't like most of the characters, including the heroine. I was listening to the audiobook, though, and it just became background noise on my daily walk, so I decided to just listen to the end in case it got interesting. It actually did for a few minutes around the 80% mark, but that seemed like an odd time to introduce a new conflict, and ultimately, as a whole, the book didn't work for me. 

Tamar by Gladys Malvern (4 stars)
My husband found this author on a children's book list and I read this book aloud to him so we could get a taste of her writing. The story is based on the Gospel of Matthew and Tamar is the daughter of Jairus. I found it very interesting, and I think it does a nice job of immersing young readers in the daily lives of people who were on Earth at the same time as Jesus, which really personalizes the story of His Passion in a way that reading the Bible on its own may not. That said, I wouldn't have a child read this book until the child knows the Gospel pretty well. The author invents some details - it is historical fiction, after all - and to an unfamiliar reader, it might be hard to differentiate Scriptural truth from the author's imaginings. 

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (4 stars)
This was the second Megan Miranda book I listened to, and I just zipped right through it. I found the details about the main character's dad's health and his life in a nursing home very true-to-life, and that made me sympathize with the main character right away. I also love that the story is told in reverse, so that the characters are privy to information before it becomes known to the reader. It was a little hard to follow in the audiobook and some chapters dragged a bit, but it was really fun to readjust my expectations and predictions at the end of each new chapter, and I was only partially correct in my guesses about how it would end.

The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda (4 stars)
My last Megan Miranda read of the month, this one had a fascinating backstory to it, involving a girl who was rescued as a child and her inability to escape from the publicity that followed. There were some good twists and turns in this one, too - some I saw coming and others that took me by surprise. 

Last Seen Alone by Laura Griffin (2 stars) 
I was approved for this audiobook on Netgalley. At first I thought it was a straightforward police procedural, and I started out enjoying it, but then I found out on Goodreads that it's meant to be romantic suspense. A few chapters into the book, that finally became apparent in the text as well, and then the whole story just fell apart. The investigation at the heart of the story was pretty interesting, but the romance felt so forced and awkward. I also didn't like the way the female audiobook narrator did male voices, of which there were many.

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross (4 stars)
I finished the month with this fun paperback about a Southern lady whose life is turned a bit upside down when it becomes known that her late husband had a secret lovechild. This had some elements of a cozy mystery, and the writing was really strong and at times, laugh out loud funny. This is the first of a series, and I plan to read some more at some point.  

DNF in September 

I had three DNFs in September. The biggest one was The Source by James Michener. It was just too long and I didn't have enough context to understand all that was happening. I still want to try Michener, but I think I need more familiar territory. I also DNF'd Waging Peace: One Soldier's Story of Putting Love First by Diana Oestreich solely because of the unpolished writing and All the Right Mistakes by Laura Jamison, which I got from Netgalley and which has too many characters with an unbelievable number of problems. 

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

My husband finished Knight Crusader by Ronald Welch and is currently reading Beneath the Hill by Jane Louise Curry. He is also reading aloud Polly and the Wolf by Catherine Storr to the kids after dinner. 

M. (7 years, 10 months) enjoyed Alfred Hitchcock's Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries, and then switched gears and started Martin the Warrior from the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.

C. (6 years), is still reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She is also reading 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola aloud to Gran on Skype, and she read Franklin Endicott and the Third Key by Kate diCamillo in two days after receiving it for her birthday. 

E, (4 years, 11 months), is starting to pick up random books around the house and look in them for words she can read. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw and the Sophie mouse series have been her favorites.

I'm currently reading aloud Tatsinda by Elizabeth Enright to the three older girls at lunch each day.  

A. and R., (18 months), have both been enjoying Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo. R. refers to it as "Diggy" and A. repeats the refrain, "They can work all day." (Mostly it sounds like gibberish, but it's clear that's what she means.) They also like the Stanley books by William Bee. 

Up Next For Me

In October, I'm continuing with the Fall into Reading challenge on Instagram, since the categories are things I would most likely be reading anyway. The theme for the #WorldFullofBooks book club on Instagram is Spooky, so for that I'm reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Halloween Moon by Joseph Fink. I am also considering joining #Victober and reading Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. There is also a Month of Mystery Bingo challenge happening on Instagram this month, so I'm planning to throw in a few mysteries as well to fulfill some of those prompts. For book club, I'm reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/27/21

Weekend Activities, 9/25/21 - 9/26/21 

On Saturday, the three girls rode their bikes, M. to the park with me and the twins, and C. and E. around the playground near our house. Grandma read aloud a chapter of Hickory by Palmer Brown over Skype. On Sunday, we went to the Latin mass as usual. 

Morning Time 

Music: I continued reading aloud 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, we worked on learning to sing "Be Thou My Vision." 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "Joy of the Morning" by Edwin Markham,  "A Boy's Song" by James Hogg,  "Laughing Time" by William Jay Smith, "The Birthday Child" by Rose Fyleman, and "The Flowers" by Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Art appreciation: This week, we studied St. Jerome by Leonardo da Vinci found in The Vatican Art Deck by Anja Grebe. 

Catechism: We went over lessons 8 and 9 The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism, in preparation for M.'s first confession this weekend and first communion next weekend. We had already covered the content, but it was a good review. On Friday, we read the readings for the feast of the Archangels from The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion by Kendra Tierney (Ignatius, 2021), and prayed the prayers to St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. We also prayed the Novena Rose Prayer each day until St. Therese's feast day on Friday. On Thursday, C. and I read St. Jerome and the Lion by Margaret Hodge for his feast day, which was also her 6th birthday.


First Grade: It was a light week for C. On Monday, she read about prehistoric worship, and learned about Stonehenge. For the next few days, we followed up with some videos The History of Stonehenge for Kids (from FreeSchool on YouTube), Stonehenge Monument (from National Geographic on YouTube), Stonehenge for Kids (from The Touring Teacher on YouTube), and Ancient Engineering: Stone Age Secrets (from Curiosity Stream). She also colored this Stonehenge coloring page. On Friday, she read about prehistoric clothing and watched a video about primitive weaving

Third Grade: M. heard these sections from The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster:  
  • Akbar of India
  • Mr. Pilot in Japan 
  • Entrance to China
  • Sun, Moon, and Stars
  • A Star Gazer, Tycho Brahe and His Dog
  • Gustav Adolf, Star of the North


First and Third Grade: We worked on Lesson B-5A from BFSU Volume 1: Adaptations and Survival. We discussed the adaptations animals and plants have to suit them to their environments. I read aloud Plant Adaptations by Julie Lundgren from Hoopla, and showed the girls Living Things Change (from Crash Course Kids on YouTube) and Adaptations at Animal Wonders (from Nature League on YouTube)

Pre-K: E. and I started reading the first section of the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of How. We also read What Happens to a Hamburger by Paul Showers after she specifically requested to learn more about digestion. 


I recently purchased The Care and Keeping of You from American Girl for M., and it's going to serve as our health curriculum this year. I forgot to mention it last week, but we have covered the first chapter so far, and she is very interested in learning "how she will grow up." M. also went to the dentist this week to have four baby teeth removed in anticipation of some upcoming orthodontic work. This invited lots of discussion of baby teeth among all the three girls, and C. was inspired to the point that the loose front tooth that had been hanging by a thread was finally wiggled loose enough to fall out.


M. and C. continued working in their Mad Libs reading workbooks. 

On Tuesday, we finished up the section of Three Children and Shakespeare about The Merchant of Venice, and on Wednesday and Thursday, M. and C. watched a video performance from the Globe. They really seemed to follow it, and they laughed loudly throughout the whole thing. M. is now working on memorizing Shylock's famous speech.

E. worked on some more words containing consonant blends in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. C. continued to read Farmer Boy to herself and started reading 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola to Gran over Skype. M. continued to read Martin the Warrior to herself and Ol' Paul to Gran. 

At lunch, I started reading aloud Tatsinda by Elizabeth Enright. My husband is still reading Polly and the Wolf after dinner.


C. worked on learning "What a Wonderful World" in sign language. For her birthday, she received a copy of A Show of Hands: Say it in Sign Language and she and M. spent some time practicing signs from that as well. 

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 and some other simple names in cursive.


We created autumn gnomes using a printable template from Krokotak and some leaves and flowers from outdoors. The girls also created chalk art in the driveway. 


M. finished all the algebra quizzes on Khan Academy, and worked on measuring angles in Singapore 4A. On Wednesday, she and my husband read a chapter from Life of Fred: Jellybeans

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. On Wednesday, I read aloud a chapter from Life of Fred: Cats

E. practiced adding and subtracting within 9 on the soroban and she worked on being able to identify the numbers represented by different configurations of the beads. 

M. drilled multiplication and division and C. drilled addition and subtraction using the Flashmaster app a couple of times, but they missed a few days due to the dentist, C.'s birthday, etc. 

Physical Education

In addition to their morning exercise routine, which I'm fairly certain was not completed every day, the girls also rode bikes on Wednesday morning and again on Friday morning. C. received pedals for her balance bike for her birthday, and she is making great progress. She also received a jump rope and is working on learning to jump with it. 

Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder almost daily. (M. took some time off for her teeth.)

Friday, October 1, 2021

ARC Review: Crashing in Love by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (10/12/21)

At the start of summer vacation, Peyton is riding her bicycle when she notices someone lying in the road, unconscious. It turns out to be a boy her age, Gray, who has been the victim of a hit-and-run. Already a bit boy-crazy and determined to find a boyfriend, Peyton begins to romanticize what is going to happen when (and if) Gray wakes up. Since her mother is a journalist, and Gray's mother is grateful to her for finding her son, Peyton is able to manipulate things so that she gets to spend time with Gray in his hospital room, and she imagines that, one day, he will wake up and realize they are meant for each other. When she's not at the hospital, she's around town trying to find out who was driving the car that hit Gray, and dealing with tensions between her divorced parents and her paternal grandmother, who has very different ideas about how Peyton ought to spend her summer vacation.

This book has a little bit of everything: some romance, some family drama, and a real-life mystery to be solved. As an adult, it was hard not to feel frustrated with Peyton, but I definitely think girls in the tween age range will understand her motivations and even entertain their own hopes for Peyton and Gray's future together. Similarly, while I guessed who the hit-and-run driver was, I'm not sure that tween readers would figure it out quite so early on, especially if they are invested in other aspects of the book. I was definitely reading the book with the goal of figuring it out, and I think that probably colored my reading experience.

The relationships throughout this book feel very true-to-life. Though it was upsetting to read the scenes in which Grana gave Peyton a hard time, her grandmother felt like a believable human being, and Peyton's strained connection with her best friend, Mari, also perfectly captures the tumultuous changes friendships often undergo during middle school summers. 

I read this book for my own enjoyment because it's not the kind of thing my kids will be ready for or interested in for a long time. It was a pleasant read for me, and though summer is over, I think it's still worth picking up for girls who like romance but want a story of a bit more substance with some higher stakes. 

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