Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My "Living Books" Lists

I admit it.  I love books.  I love researching books.  I'm one of those people that gets a natural high from walking into a new book store.  I love buying books, and I love book lists.

In preparing to homeschool, I am so glad that I found out about the Charlotte Mason method early on.  I was immediately drawn to the idea of a literature based program, and I am so happy that I get to expose my boys to living books and the best quality literature right from the start.

A living book is written by someone who cares, someone who is passionate about the subject.  It's interesting, uses vivid language, draws the reader in with their emotions and allows the text to come alive.  A living book is not a textbook with boring facts, and a living book is the opposite of twaddle.  Twaddle would be described as silly, trivial, and using simple language that talks down to the child.

Walking into the library, I am often bombarded with book displays full of twaddle.  In order to wade through that, I like to have a list of good books in mind when I go.  I have found a few good living book lists that are geared towards the Preschool and Kindergarten age group, so with a 2 and 5 year old, these lists are perfect for our needs.

Not only do I use these lists as a library checklist, but also when I'm shopping for books for gifts, or when I go to a book sale or goodwill looking for books.

Many of these lists overlap, so I know which books are considered "treasures" by others, and many of the lists contain different books by the same author, so I know I am generally safe choosing any other books by those authors.

I don't limit myself to these lists, because I would be missing out on many other great books, but they have been a wonderful starting point for me!

Ambleside Online Year 0 
Below the book list you will also see a short list of Advisory Favorites, and a link to a more detailed Advisory Favorites list for more great suggestions, including books for toddlers.

Simply Charlotte Mason's Early Years Read-Alouds 
This chart offers book suggestions by age group (3-5), but you can obviously choose what is appropriate for your child.

Five in a Row 
This is a literature based unit study program.  Although Charlotte Mason and unit studies do not work together, the book list itself is what I use.

Living Math
Living Math encourages using math readers, games, manipulatives, and real life activities to teach math in conjunction with, or in place of a traditional math curriculum.  While these aren't "literature" books (and some may fall under the spectrum of twaddle), they are still a great resource for those that want a non-traditional approach to math, and there are so many math titles listed that it's a great place to start.

If you know of any other living book lists, please do share with me.  I am always open to new book suggestions!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Pattern Blocks

I am a huge fan of hands-on learning, and we have a lot of manipulatives in our house.  One of our favorite activities is our Playful Patterns set, and I talked about all the mathematical concepts that can be informally introduced through patterns in Geometry (and Fractions) Through Playful Patterns.

I had recently purchased a math manipulative kit to enhance our homeschool math play, and it included more pattern blocks.  The actual shapes included in this set varied from our current set, so I wanted to find some patterns that would work for these.  I found Christmas Pattern Block Mats over at Pre-Kinders at just the right time as we approach the Christmas season.  I printed out a few, and laminated them back to back so we could get keep them around for awhile.

Elliott really enjoys watching the shapes form pictures.  He also enjoys recreating the same, or similar patterns off the mat, as well as making his own designs.

Emory still needs a little guidance with these type of activities, but it's great for reinforcing shapes, patterns and colors!

It's also very easy to make your own pattern pages.  Vicky at Mess for Less shares her Pattern Block Math Game.

An Award!

Blogland is lovely, so much sharing and support! And in the spirit of sharing and support, the amazing Jessica at What's Fun Today? has given me the Liebster Blog Award!
The word 'liebster' actually comes from the German word for love, friend or dearest - very sweet!
The goal of the award is to spotlight up-and-coming blogs with less than 200 followers. The rules are:
  1. copy and paste the award on your blog
  2. thank the giver and link back to them
  3. reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
  4. hope that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers
Now, choosing just 5 blogs was a challenge I must say, but here it goes (in no particular order):

I hope you will go visit these blogs and see what they offer including What's Fun Today. Please leave them some blog love with comments and let them know I sent you!

Have a great day!!

Christmas Sensory Tub

For our Christmas sensory tub, I wanted it to be something simple, but fun.  Emory really enjoys the tubs so far, and he got sooo excited when he saw me preparing it!

--green rice ~ I colored it the same way as I did for Our Rice Tray
--gingerbread man, gingerbread woman, and gingerbread house
--candy ornament
--2 plastic candy canes
--red and green pom poms
--Christmas turtle
--coffee scoops
--snowman tin
--peppermint twist candle
--Toy Story snowflakes
--green and silver "tree" (it fell off of a decorative piece)
--green tinsel twine
--small Christmas tree

Both boys played with it for a long time.  Emory and I talked about the size of the pom poms, and he enjoyed scooping the rice and burying different pieces.

Elliott used the candy canes to write letters in the rice, but he particularly liked the gingerbread set, and there was a lot of imaginative play and acting out as he listened to the story of The Gingerbread Man on Librivox.

He also decided the tinsel twine was a "snake" and spent a lot of time draping them around me and Emory and using the tongs to remove them.

To check out other great sensory bins all year long, check out the Sensory Bin Link-Up at Living Life Intentionally. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tot School - Relaxed Style

*Emory is 27 months old*

With this past week being Thanksgiving, we had a very relaxed week as far as "school" is concerned.  Since we didn't have much structured sit-down time, I only managed to grab a few pictures.  We were too busy having fun with family!

Linking Cubes
While Elliott was doing some bucket balance math, Emory was building and exploring with the linking cubes himself.  He can't stand the tablecloth, so he pushed it out of the way to make room for his towers.

iPad Games
Shadow matching puzzles on Tozzle

Color practice

Play Time

From another room, I hear "Help!" in a slight giggly voice.  I come out to find this.  He has dumped the shoes out from the under-the-bed tote, dragged it into the kitchen, and is "hiding" in it!

The dinosaur table was a big hit!

Field Trip
We took a trip with my husband's brother and family to a park near their house that does a wonderful light display every year.  Emory was not the most pleasant at the beginning of the trip, so Elliott went ahead with his aunt, uncle and cousins, and Emory spent some alone time with mommy and daddy calming down.  After his big meltdown in the middle of the park, he really enjoyed the lights

Apparently the Eiffel Tower looks like a Rocket Ship to a 2 year old!

Roaring like a dinosaur!

Favorite Songs this Week
Frosty the Snowman
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

This Week's Favorite Books
Polite Elephant (Little Golden Book) by Richard Scarry
Horton Hatches an Egg by Dr. Seuss
The Saggy Baggy Elephant (Little Golden Book) by K&B Jackson
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

and as always....

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Be sure to check out what other families are doing!

This post is linked up to 1+1+1=1 Tot School and Living Life Intentionally's TGIF Linky Party.

Tot School

Squabbit - a book review

Author:  Janice Yates
Illustrator:  Ann Yates Mertz

I wasn't sure what kind of reaction we would have to this book, but I figured we'd give it a try.  Squabbit is a hybrid squirrel and rabbit, who has qualities of each of his parents.  However, the other kids at school don't quite understand his uniqueness at first.

My (almost) 5 year old found the book cute, and liked that a squirrel had a bunny tail.  He also found it fun to say "squabbit" over and over!  The illustrations are cute and child-like, as you can see from the cover art.

I have mixed feelings about how Squabbit has to "prove" himself, and I think that contradicts the moral of accepting others as they are.  However, I make every effort to discuss such discrepancies in books with my children, and they understand that we don't make fun of others for being different.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team in exchange for my honest review.  Visit to see how you can become a member of the book review team.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Moments to Remember!

Moments to Remember was developed as a simple way to look back on our week as homeschoolers and find photos that encompass the memories we want to remember. 
The week may have been tough, there may have been more bumps than smiles, but in the end these are the moments that keep us going, the ones we need to remember.
 Building a pile, because they thought they were going to jump off the top bunk.

 Why would I want to send this cute little face away all day??

Balance Scale Explorations and Math Vocabulary

Recently Elliott had started doing a lot of "weighing" by holding his arms out, and asking me which hand is holding the heavier or lighter object.   It just so happens that a few weeks ago I placed an order that included many math manipulatives.  Elliott is a very hands-on learner, so I allocated a good chunk of our Kindergarten budget to math resources (my weakest subject) and many fun, hands-on materials.

One of the items was a balance scale.  Even though we're not "officially" schooling yet, I figured now was as good a time as ever to introduce it, so that when it comes time to use it for more math activities he will already know how it works.

We started out using the linking cubes that I had also purchased, and he quickly realized how to compare amounts.  Although you can't see it in the pictures, the front side has a storage drawer with an arrow, and I showed him how to make sure it was balanced by comparing the line on the balance to the arrow below.

It wasn't long at all before he was ready to move on to comparing other items.  This was part of a mast from his pirate ship.

He also did several experiments with dinosaurs that he swiped from our homemade dinosaur table.

This activity was perfect for practicing math vocabulary...heavier, lighter, more, less, we were able to do some inadvertent learning during our play!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Timeline

Thanksgiving Timeline
When Iron Man and I read The Story of the Pilgrims by Katherine Ross from our Thanksgiving Book Basket, I decided to to go ahead and use this Thanksgiving Timeline from 2 Teaching Mommies.

Personally, I was afraid a couple of the pictures might be a little ambiguous (maybe because they were intended for another book), but I gently pointed along the pictures as we read through the story.  Then we cut it apart and I mixed the cards up so he could retell the story to me.  He did very well.  In fact, I was surprised at how much he could narrate back to me.

When we were preparing to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, he started retelling the story to me again.  Normally when I ask him to tell me about what we've just read, he "doesn't remember" or tells me that "it's a secret" so I was very pleased at his recall hours later.  I know without a doubt that he has excellent memory, at least long-term anyway, so I was more pleased with his attention and narration.

Here are a few other Thanksgiving activities we've enjoyed over the last couple of weeks.

Iron Man really enjoyed Building the Mayflower.

We've been reading a few great books from our Thanksgiving Book Basket.

 Hulk particularly loved the Thanksgiving Sensory Tub.

This Clothespin Turkey Feather Activity was oh-so-cute to me, but wasn't a huge hit with the boys.  Maybe next year Hulk will be more interested in it, and Hulk won't be as interested in using the feathers to dress up like Puss-in-Boots.

Hulk wanted nothing to do with painting his hands, but Iron Man really enjoyed making a Handprint Turkey.

Iron Man made a 5 Little Turkeys Counting Book, and loved being able to "read" his homemade book to Emory and daddy.

Hulk colored a turkey in Tot School

and Iron Man halfway did some artwork when we visited a local co-op to meet other homeschoolers and inquire out about joining.

We enjoyed "fun" turkey activities, but I'm glad Iron Man was able to learn a little about the history of Thanksgiving, and what it means to our family today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dinosaur Table

Emory is really interested in dinosaurs right now, so when I saw this cute dinosaur playscape at What's Fun Today? I knew we had to make our own dinosaur table.

I had some brown packing paper from a recent online order that I'd kept for coloring or whatever project came up.  It somehow ended up very crumpled and torn, but since we're using it for dinosaur stomping ground, I didn't think they would care.  I just laid it over the train table cover and taped it to the underside of the cover to keep it from sliding around too much.

The crumpled look kind of gives it a dry, barren look, and Elliott decided there wasn't enough water for the green grass and trees to grow, which is why the leaves are all falling off the trees.

dinosaur table

I also added a cardboard divider out of another box for a tunnel/cave; whatever they wanted it to be.  Elliott's dinosaurs frequently hid in the cave while they were waiting for new "green food" to grow.

dinosaur table

The tree is part of a safari landscape set that works well for different types of animal and dinosaur play.  It also includes the watering hole, a large rock-ledge, and two smaller rocks.

Emory's dinosaurs were constantly thirsty and drinking all the water!

dinosaur table

dinosaur table

Apparently the dinosaurs had some Disney visitors!

dinosaur table

This is such a quick and easy play idea, and allows for a lot of creative and imaginative play. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tot School - E is for Elephants

This week was a little hit and miss on "planned" activities for the boys since we were busy and I hurt my foot and couldn't comfortably move around by the end of the week.  Here's a few pictures I managed to get of Emory playing.

*Emory is 27 months old*

More Puzzles
I mentioned last week (Tot School-All About Puzzles) how Emory is actually starting to enjoy Puzzles.
Elephant and Diego

Coloring a Turkey
and drawing....thank goodness for those magic erasers to clean up the brown crayon all over my table!

E is for Elephant
This is the first time we've done this activity.  I gave him bingo chips, and started to show him how to do it at the top, but he figured it out immediately and was already working the bottom.  The three colored chips at the top are mine; I found it interesting that he chose ALL blue.

This printable is from Confessions of a Homeschooler.

Number Matching
He wasn't interested in matching the numbers.  He just wanted to put more bingo chips on the numbers, so we just practiced naming the numbers as we covered them with his bingo chips.

 This activity is from Our Country Road

Color Matching
When he got bored with the activity sheets, he started pouring the chips in and out of the bowl, so I gave him a few more bowls in matching colors, and he sorted the chips by color.

Play Time
He's definitely a hands-on chef!

He didn't care about the boots being on the wrong feet.
He just wanted to wear boots like his big brother!
They were "puss in boots" all week long!

Favorite Books This Week
Polite Elephant by Richard Scarry
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Rhinoceros's Bathtime - a Smithsonian Let's Go to the Zoo book by Laura Gates Galvin
Romp, Stomp, Waddle Home! by Jack Hanna   ...  this has magnetic animals to move through the book, and as you can see, is highly entertaining!

We'll probably do some more E and Elephant activities in the next week or so before the Christmas activities really get underway.

See what other tots and families are doing at 1+1+1=1's Tot School and Living Life Intentionally's TGIF Linky Party!

Tot School