Wednesday, February 24, 2016

First of Many: Zoology!

So, it occurred to me when I first began this blog that you all will basically be following along with whatever our current obsessions and book loves are!

#sorrynotsorry ;-)

This past few years, we have been reading more and more, going deeper and deeper into our studies of zoology. All three of my children are really fascinated, but just recently this interest has become a little more serious, with requests for more extensive research and study. Okay then!

(Thus the title of this particular post: 'First of Many' ... I have a feeling there will be quite a few zoologically themed books over the next few months).

We have been big fans of Gail Gibbons for years, and if you have an elementary aged child who is even interested in zoology or science in even a passing way, you have no doubt seen her books too. They are perfect introductions to scientific topics, from animals to botany, astronomy to meteorology. 

You may have seen the photo that I recently posted on my Instagram and Facebook accounts (are you following me there? No! Find me here and there!)

This was my eldest, The Little Guy, and Baby Girl with Wolves by Gail Gibbons. We recently found four copies of Gibbons' books that came with read-along CDs, and my children were literally smitten. Smitten!

We read through each of the four several times over the course of a few days - the partnership of the wonderful books along with the cd was such a winning combination. 

The Little Guy's favorites - Spiders and Wolves

Baby Girl loved Whales

And Little Boy was particularly engaged with Sea Turtles

Whether you find these with the read along CDs or not, these are fabulous books for preschool to early elementary aged children interested in science. So, so good!

What are your favorite zoology books for children?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Different Kind of Fairy Tale

I know I can't be the only mama with this dilemma ... I'm mama to a young girl, who is interested in fairies and mermaids and princesses and unicorns, but struggling to find decent books that fit her requests for read aloud books in that genre.

My four year old daughter is just such a little girl, but as neither of us are 'girly girls', and I have a particularly low tolerance for reading twaddle (this article from Simply Charlotte Mason does a much better job of describing 'twaddle' than I could!)

Enter my amazing local librarians!

When I asked the librarians in the children's department of my local librarian for recommendations for picture books about fairies that were rich and beautiful, I was pointed in the direction of these two gems.

The Mud Fairy, by Amy Young, is a lovely tale of Emmelina the young fairy who would rather play in the mud with the frogs than traipsing around in pink tutus. The story follows her journey of self discovery, becoming a fairy in 'her' way! This was a huge hit with all three of my children (boys and girl alike!)

This book is just so magical, a lovely book for wee folk who are enchanted by the idea of fairies living in the world around them. The illustrations are lovely drawings incorporated into photographs, which further deepens the idea that the young reader could go off in search of their own fairies. Beautiful!

What are your favorite fairy books? Feel free to share in the comments!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What We've Been Reading, 17th February 2016

We have had some pretty amazing picture books in our stacks just recently, you know the ones? where all three kids are sitting as quiet as little mice (usually one at each elbow, while the third lies across the back of the sofa next to my shoulders!)

By chance we checked out two library books just recently, by Janice May Udry. We read another book by her last month (Let's Be Enemies, which we loved and mentioned in this post!)

Our latest two are A Tree is Nice, and The Moon Jumpers. Both are lovely, whimsical, and beautifully illustrated.

The Moon Jumpers, illustrated by Maurice Sendak especially captured us. The story is deceptively simple; a group of children play outside one evening, but the pictures and the story are really magical! We read it quite a few times over the course of a couple of days - this Caldecott Honor book is definitely one to look for.

These three full page illustrations are from The Moon Jumpers - I must admit, I could eat them up with a spoon! They are just so magically beautiful and enchanting. This book - *such* a treat.

We also dived into a bit of Jan Brett love-fest! I must admit that I adore her illustration style; I can look at her books for hours, they are just so beautiful.

Her fore-shadowing style (with secondary pictures on most pages) is such a lovely little extra nugget on each page. I don't usually mention them to my children, just wait until someone notices them and their significance.

If you are a fan of fairy tales, her Beauty and the Beast is a treat. Those illustrations? Sumptuous!

The Three Snow Bears is perfect for the return of our snowy weather, and a lovely twist on the well known Goldilocks story.

And, finally The Mitten! This is a firm family favorite for us, one that we return to over and over again. (Every family has those books that are worn with multiple readings, the page corners softened by multiple fingers and the bindings suffering from a child's often less than respectful handling. But I must confess, I rather like to see those books in a home - the really well LOVED ones!)

What about you? What are you reading, and loving, right now?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Our Homeschool Basket: Math, February 2016

True - when you think about children learning Math as part of their home education experience, one does not typically first think of lovely books!

Honestly, we tried a couple different of the more traditional text book style of math books, which were pretty disastrous in our homeschooling. They either resulted in tears (mine and/or my child's) or complete boredom (again, often both me and my young student). It was not good. It was very very bad.

Since those painful days we have turned to a different way of learning math, which is (dare I say it?!) fun and engaging. Math fun? Yes!

The core of our math is Life of Fred, a story based curriculum centered around a young university math professor called Fred. The story is amusing, engaging and wide reaching. Early topics and concepts introduced include astronomy, Archimedes, algebra and basic arithmetic facts.  The books begin with Apples and conclude at College level!

I could add that this series is so beloved in our home that we have ongoing Fred jokes, and that all three of my children ask for additional chapters frequently - they are *that good!*

(And just in case you are confused with the random seeming names, as I initially was - they are alphabetical! Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, Edgewood etc etc!)

In addition we often read a chapter or two of Mathemagic each week. This is additional annual to the ChildCraft series, and although it is out of print, it is worth hunting for on eBay or Amazon. The chapters are fairly short, and informative, with a range of puzzles, stories, or factual information. We started reading this book a few months ago, and it has quickly become another favorite.

We also love living math books, picture books that share math facts and information in fun and engaging ways.

The Sir Cumference books, by Cindy Neuschwander, are fabulous math books for early to mid elementary children; we recently enjoyed three titles from this series (Sir Cumference and All the King's Tens, Sir Cumference and the Viking's Map, and Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert). There are a total of nine books in the series, and we are planning to add them all to our home library - they are that good!

The books of Greg Tang are also firm favorites; we have collected a few of his books including , and love the math puzzles they contain. We have particularly enjoyed these two: Math for All Seasons, Math Fables: Lessons That Count, Math Appeal and Math-terpieces. So much fun!

If we have some spare time on a weekend, we will often chose an activity from either Family Math for Young Children, or Family Math. These two books have puzzles, games and activities for children and families from preschoolers to middle-schoolers. We have had so much fun with these two books over the past year or so.

And, lastly, board games! We play a lot of board games as part of our 'school' experience, including Yahtzee, Math Dice Junior and Sum Swamp. Each of these is great for practicing basic math skills, such as additon and subtraction, while Yahtzee is also wonderful for introducing multiplication, doubling, probabilities and skip counting.

We also recently added Battleship to our game shelf - and introduced the concept of axis and plotting coordinates. This was a firm favorite of mine as a child, and I'm having so much fun playing it again with my own Little Ones!

What are your favorite living math books or games?