Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Difficult Name

No one thinks to suggest you should name your first child something easy for later children to say. My brother and his wife had wonderful luck with their first, without really planning it, but we did not fare so well. First Son could not say his own name for many years. First Daughter managed a little better with his name. At least you could see where she had put together some of the correct sounds. (She said her own name quite well, but it's a very easy name to say.)

Second Daughter has been able to say her own name and her sister's name for months, or at least a reasonable approximation of her own name. Her brother's name, however, continues to elude her. Currently, she has settled on "Beda" which I can share with you because it is different from what his name really is. I imagine those who know us in real life will be amused. (No, she's not saying brother. She says that quite recognizably.)

Review: Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Educationby Laura M. Berquist

I've perused this book many times, combing through the kindergarten, first and second grade sections for curriculum ideas, but I hadn't actually read much of the introduction or explanations. I still haven't read the section on the high school years (no reason to get too far ahead of myself). Ms. Berquist gives a very basic explanation of a classical education, a good place to start if you think you may be interested. Though I haven't read it yet, I plan to read Dorothy Sayers' essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning" (available online here), which Ms. Berquist quotes often and recommends.

The real treasure of this book, I think, is the broad range of curricula suggestions. You can easily find a list of the resources at online retailers which sell the materials for the Mother of Divine Grace School created by Ms. Berquist, but this little book gives a small description for using the resource you won't find on the websites unless you purchase the syllabus. I prefer to select a few of her suggestions for our homeschool, so this book is perfect for us.

I did find the Appendix enjoyable. I especially liked how Ms. Berquist gives some sage advice to those of us just starting our homeschooling journey, perhaps a bit too eager.

There is often a temptation, when planning curriculum, to include material that is too difficult. We want to see the students moving on to the next stage of development. We want them to excel, and we do not want them to miss out on the "classics". But when we include difficult material before the students are ready to do it, they will not do it well. They may or may not realize that the material is too hard for them, but the chances are good that they will not enjoy it. They are also apt to make the mistake that I made and think that they have understood something when they have not. This is not necessarily a question of intelligence. It is a question of maturity.

I haven't read enough on a classical education (much more on the style and philosophy of Charlotte Mason), but the more I read the more I think they work well together. We'll probably end up somewhere between the two here on the Range. I think I'll find this book even more useful once we begin third grade.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quote: Books Before Five

From Books Before Five by Dorothy White:
Spent an hour at the children's library sorting out some books for Carol. Up till now I have relied on books she has been given; she would be quite willing at this stage to go on reading Mother Goose every night, but this palls for the parent. Even perfect love won't cast out boredom, whatever other devils it may exorcise. An important point this: parents must be considered, for if the reading becomes a chore one is too much tempted to give it up.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: Young at Art

Young at Art: Teaching Toddlers Self-Expression, Problem-Solving Skills, and an Appreciation for Art by Susan Striker

I have had this book on my shelf for years; I think I received it as a gift just after First Daughter was born. I've started to read it many times, but have always set it aside after a few chapters. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I found the tone of the book pretentious and grating.

It seems clear Ms. Striker has only one child and is most familiar teaching a group of students of similar abilities. For example, she condemns those who would give a toddler a box of 64 crayons, claiming such a child should be limited to one color each session (even suggesting such an act could scar the child emotionally). I wonder how she would react to Second Daughter when she's at the table with the older two. While I don't always give Second Daughter what she wants, it seems prudent to choose my battles and the 64 box of crayons is simply not on the list.

She also insists parents should save every single creation for each child, that we should have a corner of the house devoted to art where a child can choose any material at any time, and other such things that are simply impossible for most families. She gives time with art materials a higher place than just about anything else in a child's development, emotionally, intellectually and physically. I would tend to agree, if she didn't take her theories so far. (If by any chance you do not feel the opportunity to create art is important for your child's development, then you should read this book and take it very seriously. She's not wrong, just extreme.)

The tone aside, this is a fabulous book for anyone living or working with young children who wants to guide toddlers and preschoolers, even young elementary students, as they create art. Ms. Striker provides nearly step-by-step instructions for the types of materials, the method and their introduction beginning with a single crayon and a large piece of paper. Her suggestions are fabulous and offer plenty of guidance on when to splurge on materials.

If you are home alone with an 18 month old, I suggest you find a copy of this book and start right at the beginning. Skim the overwhelming bits and give your child a huge sheet of paper and a black crayon. You'll find ample ways to fill hours of time and give "baby" wonderful experiences. It's not clear to me you can go wrong following Ms. Striker's suggestions, as long as you don't take her too seriously.

It is much more complicated if you add children of other ages or if you have a less-forgiving space for art in your home. I have successfully used some of her suggestions, though, including a recent afternoon on a red collage with First Son and First Daughter. They would have gone on for hours if we hadn't needed to stop for dinner and we will certainly enjoy similar times in the future. Not every day, though. Despite their help cleaning up, we were sweeping and mopping bits of red fluff (thanks to First Son whose scissors became a Tyranosaurus rex that ate the pom poms) and red glitter (that would be First Daughter) for a week! (Special thanks to Grammy who provided a great majority of the red materials we had on hand.)

A significant portion of the book is devoted to lists of books for every topic of art you can imagine, with categories for Art Concepts, Art History and Cultural Arts, Artists, The Environment and Weather, Imaginary Creatures, Imaginative Thinking, Media (Collage, Crafts, etc.), Music Inspires Art, People (faces, feet, hands, portraits in art, etc.), Signs and Symbols (alphabet books, numbers, reading, etc.). A great many books are out of print. I believe it is a record of her personal library, built up over her many years teaching and sharing art with children, as opposed to a list of books you could carry to the bookstore. Because the book was published a number of years ago (2001), there are a great many recent books that could not be included. I suspect after reading a few of her suggestions (perhaps from the library), we would be able to discover more recent books, still in print, that would meet the same needs. She also includes songs (and scores), some of them written specifically for her art programs.

Her suggestions for parties are wonderful. I am most certainly going to let the children decorate their own cake (or cupcakes) at our next big birthday party. I even imagine one day we'll be able to set up musical paints in our outbuilding some day. (You'll have to read the book for more detailed instructions.)

For those with older children, I highly recommend the Anti-Coloring Books, created by Ms. Striker. I think they're wonderful. First Son isn't quite ready for them, but we will certainly include them in our art arsenal in the future. (I probably will not use them as part of our formal homeschooling, just have them around for the children to pick up on their own.)

You can learn more about these books and Ms. Striker at her website.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Review: Shades of Gray

Shades of Grey: A Novel by Jasper Fforde

I have enjoyed every novel written by Mr. Fforde, and his newest release is no exception. He has created a remarkable and disturbing world. It is full of the familiar inexplicable bureaucracy and convoluted regulations, as we find in the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime books, but with something much darker beneath the surface. It's the first of a trilogy and I fully expect the next two books to be even more engaging as a significant portion of this novel simply develops the world in which the characters live.

If you haven't read anything by Jasper Fforde, start with The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel, though if you haven't read Jane Eyre you really must start there.

As a note to myself, I promise to relinquish my next Jasper Fforde book to Kansas Dad no later than 11 pm each evening.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I Have Heard You Calling in the Night

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.
I've been thinking of this song a lot lately, as we teach Second Daughter to stay all night in her own crib. I try to hear His voice calling, even as He sounds just like Second Daughter, First Daughter or First Son.

Query XVIII

Is it a good thing I can hear First Daughter saying she's changing Second Daughter's diaper and getting her dressed to help Mama?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Love Is Hauling Books

Every Friday, I send Kansas Dad to the "big" library in town. He hauls in two big bags full of returns, then stands at the desk while they retrieve 20-30 books from the back for him, ones I've requested over the past week. The wonderful library ladies know him and are always gracious. I think they are happy to see him and glad to see the books going in and out of the library. Who would work at a library and not be pleased to see books being read? Kansas Dad, though, is always a little sheepish, but he goes anyway. Every week. For me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Entertainment in the Van

I've been meaning to write this post for about six weeks. For the holidays, we drove about twelve hours to my parent's house and then another twelve hours to get home. I was dreading the drive, anxious about keeping all three kids entertained for such a long time. I emailed a great many wiser moms to gather all the ideas I could and thought I'd share what worked best for our family.

I sat in the middle of the van, so I could reach all the other seats. This way, I was able to hand things up to Kansas Dad (like CDs or water bottles) and also reach the two older kids in the back seat. We used the front passenger seat for more luggage. It's amazing how much we hauled with us!

Movies once were the staple of our drives. Monitoring the DVD player is a bit of a hassle for me, though. (And watching them makes me queasy.) I was also worried about positioning it so all three could see it or if Second Daughter would protest when it was playing (because she couldn't see it or because she could; I could see either happening). So I decided we'd try to limit the time more this trip than in the past. I let First Son and First Daughter each pick three and added some of my own choice (mainly the holiday ones). First Son was at first distraught he'd only have three choices, but then resolved to at least pick the three longest ones he could. Smart kid. They each picked one to watch on the way there and one to watch on the way home, so the screen time was pretty limited. (It was nice to have some extras to pull out when we were all sick at Gram and Papa's house.)

I found a great website was full of entertainment ideas. I printed the bingo cards, scavenger hunt and license plate lists, but we didn't really use any of them. We tried the bingo cards, but First Son didn't really understand the rules. He kept crossing things off randomly.

The most fun and entertainment came from the peanut butter jars I filled with rice and random objects from around the house. I found the idea on the same website (scroll down to Treasure Bottle). It was amazing how many little things I found to fill the jars once I started looking (Lego pirate head, tiny sea turtle, pony bead, miniature pom pom). I think I put about 12 or 13 in each jar (two so each older child could have one at the same time). Because First Son is young, I wrote out lists of the items and had him search for specific items rather than telling him how many there were and asking him to write them all down. We still have these jars. Even Second Daughter likes to shake them and see the objects appear. I probably spent less than twenty minutes filling the jars and they easily entertained the kids for an hour or more each way.

The best idea was from another mom in my homeschool group. She suggested clipboards so the kids could draw and write. They loved them! I have to work on my technique for attaching the pencils as they kept coming off. (I brought extra tape and a pencil sharpener for emergencies.) I wish I had thought to buy a smaller one for Second Daughter. We'll remedy that before the next long trip. It really didn't matter what paper we gave them, they just loved the clipboards. (I started them out with a map of our trip and tried to mark where we were on the way.)

My favorite way to pass the time were the books on tape. I brought along four, but we only listened to two: Magic Tree House Collection: Books 1-8 and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They were both a hit, though we didn't finish either of them on the trip. I enjoyed listening as much as the children and they were much better than listening to children's songs as we had in the past. First Daughter was not as interested in the stories, but she didn't complain too much. I think Kansas Dad wasn't that interested, either, but he was willing to give up radio privileges for sanity's sake. Since the trip, the kids and I have been listening to all the Narnia stories (just started the fourth book). They make the trips in and out of town so much more enjoyable for me!

It was easier to fill our time than I expected. Second Daughter was the toughest. She didn't like any of the toys I brought for her and the books only entertained for a short time. (We brought five books for each child, which limited the piles of books in the van as they really don't entertain for very long on the road. I can't read to them because it makes me queasy.) Mostly I fed Second Daughter crackers, sliced grapes and other such snacks one or two at a time to keep her quiet (bits of chocolate bar in times of absolute necessity). For hours and hours at a time. We liked it best when she was sleeping, but she does not like bedtime or nap time in the car so quiet sleeping time was always preceded by much crying and unhappiness all around. I'm open to more toddler ideas as we're contemplating another trip in a few months.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How Montessori Fits In

Many of you may remember all the blog posts I wrote on the Montessori materials my mom and I made before the school year began last fall. Right now you're thinking to yourself, "Yes, I do remember all those posts. I wonder how they've been used this year."

Um, they haven't.

My revelation came after completing many of the materials. First Daughter has three more years before she even starts kindergarten. Three years is a long time. I began to feel my priorities should be focused on First Son's kindergarten year and my own development in organization and planning for a homeschool.

With three years ahead of us and a houseful of puzzles, building toys, art supplies and pretend play, I truly believe our home allows for plenty of growth for a three year old without formal schooling. First Daughter also listens to all our stories, participates in our art projects and science experiments and is learning math right alongside First Son.

I haven't abandoned Montessori. I still think these activities are wonderful in the preschool years. The practical life exercises help us (adults) introduce everyday life to a child and encourage her to participate. Some of the suggestions I've read include how to close a door and how to turn the page of a book. You may think these are silly things to show to a child, but remember she learns by watching us and we may do these things too quickly for her to see accurately what to do. Then we may get upset when a task is done improperly. So here on the Range, we work on things like turning pages and washing hands. These are good skills for the three-year-old set. (There were a few things like buttoning that I wanted to encourage in First Son, all skills he demonstrated on his own just before we started school.)

So, we haven't pulled any of activities out on a regular basis. Every once in a while the girls request the scent and sound bottles or the dressing frames. Other than that, they sit and wait. It will be nice to be able to plan on them for next year without having to make everything!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love Is Spinning

The spinning whirl of our washing machine, on its third load since Kansas Dad wrestled it apart, dug through it, researched online, bought a tool to test the electronics, tested it, researched more online, ordered a part (overnight), and repaired it.

This Valentine's Day we received a functioning washing machine. Clean clothes are a beautiful thing.

Review: Saxon Math K for Kindergarten

There are a few very well known homeschool curricula available for math. I've read enough discussion boards and reviews to know they are each loved fanatically by some devotees and dreaded by those who tried them and found themselves floundering.

I wanted to purchase a math program for our kindergarten year for two main reasons:
  • I didn't want to worry that we were covering the "wrong" material or insufficient material. I was not confident I could identify all the concepts or develop lesson plans for them.
  • I did not want to have to plan math lessons at all. I chose from a number of sources for our other subjects, but I liked the idea of using something packaged for math. It's a linear subject and lends itself to a package.
I was looking for security and simplicity.

I tried to identify our math goals and criteria:
  • To address a wide range of skills including (but not necessarily limited to) reading a calendar, telling time, the concepts of addition and subtraction, shapes, sorting by various characteristics, counting forwards and backwards, counting by twos (fives, tens, etc.), counting money and learning the values of dollars and coins, and concepts of volume and length.
  • No worksheets. While I think worksheets can be extremely valuable for practice and memorization, I don't think they contribute to understanding. They certainly have more usefulness as the student grows.
  • Limited amounts of writing. First Son was working on his handwriting separately and I wanted him to spend math time focusing on concepts, not worrying about how well he wrote his numbers.
  • Manipulatives. These could be handmade or purchased, but I wanted physical things First Son could hold in his hands and move around to demonstrate the math concepts.
After quite a bit of research and talking with Kansas Dad, I limited our choices down to ones I thought addressed our needs and goals. I can't even remember now how I specifically picked just one because I distinctly remember thinking many of them would be adequate. Eventually, however, I purchased Saxon's homeschool math for kindergarten. (I can't remember where, but you can find some details here.)

Now, we've completed nearly 50 lessons and I feel comfortable reporting back on how it has worked for us. I don't think I'd consider it a complete review, but you can find those in lots of places.

In the beginning, I was a little disappointed in how First Son responded to the math lessons. After his eagerness to begin, he was groaning every day I pulled out the book. Eventually, I had an epiphany: We did not need to complete every lesson. At first, I thought this would destroy my goal of simplicity, but I realized it would be easy to just skip a lesson. I had to modify the calendar part a little, but after a few days the rhythm of the calendar was easy to discern. Looking back, it seems obvious that any kindergarten program would need to be modified at least slightly to reach First Son where he was in knowledge and skills. Everyone was much happier when I skipped lessons that did not challenge him at all. I'm so glad I'm not in a room full of kindergartners trying to teach math!

I also quickly realized we didn't need the assessment days. I could easily tell if he needed more work in an area and would extend the lessons as necessary.

In terms of skills, I've found Saxon math to be exactly what I hoped. It has addressed everything I desired without overwhelming First Son at all. I was also pleasantly surprised at how well he tackled the graphing lessons, something I probably wouldn't have done at all on my own. He has made dramatic improvements in reading a calendar, understanding time and dates and sorting by different characteristics.

So far (we're officially at lesson 67 out of 112), we have not tackled any topics I think we could not have done on our own. It has been so much easier for me, though, to be able to scan the lesson ahead of time to gather materials and then just read through it with First Son. (I don't follow the script exactly every day, but it is nice to have it all laid out.) Many of the materials are found lying around the house. We've recently played store with canned goods and boxes of things like brownie mix.

There are, of course, disadvantages.

The program does not travel well. I've taken some of our books to doctor's offices and read to the kids while we wait, but I can't do that with our math lessons. Luckily, each lesson is brief (15-20 minutes, depending on how many repetitions we do) so we can easily fit it in at a different time.

The program requires a teacher to sit right at the table with the student and focus on the student and the lesson. I can't give First Son his math and then turn my attention to something else. Right now, this is not a great problem for us. We have only one official student. Because First Daughter loves the math lessons as much as First Son, she's right at the table with us (as opposed to wandering the house looking for trouble or helping her sister make trouble in the bathroom). I know she doesn't understand as much, but I have seen great improvements in her skills as well. (I have a feeling we'll be skipping a lot more lessons when it's her turn.) This may even be an advantage. Many sources say time snuggling together and reading a book help develop a love of reading that extends far into the future. Why should math be any different? I could see, however, how having older students and younger siblings and a house to clean and dinner to prepare, would make Saxon a less suitable choice for kindergarten math.

I purchased the manipulatives kit offered by Saxon. For the most part we've been pleased with the quality of the materials. I think the balance, though, leaves much to be desired. I hope to purchase a quality one before we need it. Also, the linking cubes are very hard to link and unlink. They are a bit hard for me and First Son has no hope whatsoever of putting them together. (Sometimes he can get them apart.) I expect they will loosen up a bit as we use them over time, but so far we're still struggling with them. I think he'd enjoy linking cube lessons more if he could use them himself instead of just handing them to me in the correct order. (I've also seen "cubes" that don't actually link together. These could be placed next to each other to demonstrate the same concepts. I may seek out something like these for our homeschool.)

In considering our options for next year, we've decided to purchase the Saxon materials for first grade. It's working well for us and we're sticking with it. (The cheapest place I've found it so far is Seton, in case anyone is interested.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Some New Looks

There have been some big changes on the Range. First Son lost his tooth! (If you haven't read of Kansas Dad's heroics, go here now.)


Not to be outdone, First Daughter visited a salon last week for the very first time. She asked and I promised we would.


We had trimmed her bangs, but it's the first time ever that the rest of her hair was cut. I think she looks adorable.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Aunt Carolee's Apple Cake Recipe

Way back for First Daughter's birthday, I mentioned making an apple cake based on my aunt's recipe. It is absolutely scrumptious, the best apple cake we've ever tasted (and we've tried quite a few). I asked her, back in October, if I could share her recipe and she responded immediately "Yes!", but I am a slacker so it's taken all these months. Now none of you probably have many fresh apples lying around, but you can bookmark it and make it this fall. I don't think you'll regret it. (I haven't tried this cake with frozen apples. I was tempted, but I think I really want to make pie with the apples I have left in the freezer and it's just enough for that. If anyone tries it, let me know how it works!)

Illinois Aunt's Famous Fresh Apple Cake

2 cups flour (I use whole wheat.)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil (I use applesauce; it seems appropriate for the apple cake.)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts
4 cups raw apples, chopped

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the sugar through vanilla in a mixer and then add the dry ingredients. Don't overmix. Fold in the walnuts and apples.

Bake in a greased and floured 13 x 9 pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Frosting (or you could use your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe):

6 ounces cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 stick butter
2 cups powdered sugar

Blend first three ingredients. Slowly add powdered sugar until smooth.

I frost the cake right in the pan.

Serve with friends or you'll eat the whole cake yourself!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What He Loves

I don't try to see things from my husband's perspective because I want a "good relationship" with him. I want to see what he sees because of something I learned from Sheldon Vanauken years and years ago: I love him (my husband, not Vanauken). Because I love him, what he sees is worth seeing, his perspective is worth knowing, and what he loves must be worth loving.

Because I love him, I will learn to love like him, and he like me, over time.

If our method doesn't pour forth from a heart full of love, it is nothing but an empty technique, or an interesting experiment in perspective.
Read more here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Thinking About Virtual Education

Kansas Dad has been hard at work on a online course for a new masters program. The current list of virtual schools in Kansas is five pages long. (It seems like every district in the state has one, though ours doesn't, so I know that's not really true.) It is with great interest, therefore, that I've read some recent reviews on Milton Gaither's blog, Homeschooling Research Notes. Read more here and here.

In our homeschool, we find ourselves developing our own curriculum (combining resources suggested by Charlotte Mason, Laura Berquist, and Mater Amabilis, with lots of help from wiser homeschooling families). Enrolling in a virtual school would certainly not fit within our goals...at the moment. The idea is interesting, though.

Second Daughter, Very Excited

LarryBoy

Bad Ideas

Do not feed couscous to children right after mopping the floor.

I don't know what would be acceptable, but not couscous.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Lost Tooth

Otherwise entitled: My Husband Is My Hero

Today, First Son lost his tooth! He was eating a snack (popcorn and raisins) and suddenly said, "My tooth is gone!" I was certain he'd swallowed it, but he found it on the floor. He kept saying, "I can't wait until Dad gets home so I can show him my tooth."

As soon as Kansas Dad walked in the door, First Son was hopping in front of him, "Can you see anything different about me?"

The tooth was stored carefully on the kitchen counter so First Son could put it under his pillow. But tragedy struck. I was cleaning up after dinner, pulled the cord for the electric griddle and sent that little tiny tooth flying...right down the crack between the counter and the stove. Kansas Dad found me in tears and said he'd take care of it.

He pulled the stove away from the wall and carefully swept section by section the grossness that has accumulated in the past year until he found that tooth. Such relief for the poor mama who did not want to explain to her little boy how she'd lost his very first tooth!

As a bonus, the area under the stove is very clean.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow, Finally

Last Friday, we braved the cold to play in the snow. We haven't gotten too much here (and missed a big Christmas snow, though I didn't tell the kids about it) so they were so excited to be outside. I had to carry Second Daughter back in kicking and screaming, but it was really too cold to stay out for very long.





The Love of a Belly Button

Second Daughter rubs her finger in her belly button like some kids suck a thumb. Last week, we were going out for the morning. I dressed her in a new onesie and (oh horrors!) buttoned it underneath. She kept rubbing her tummy and asking, "Bebo, where are you?" So cute!

When we were home, I left it unbuttoned so she could reach it the rest of the day.


History & Culture: Reconstruction, Urbanization, and Industrialization (1865-1889)

The first book we read was John Henry by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. You can listen to the traditional ballad. (My kids were more interested in the book than the music, but perhaps that has something to do with me trying to interrupt their play once I found it online.)

Anna, Grandpa, and the Big Storm by Carla Stevens. My mom found this book at a thrift store and I'm always a fan of using what you have. I spread the reading over two days and enjoyed it myself quite a lot. First Son's favorite part was when they were saved by the firemen. Otherwise, he wasn't overly interested. It's too bad it didn't coincide with a big winter storm here. It would be interesting to talk about how blizzards can still bring everything to a standstill. At least we have more warning these days.

The Story of the Statue of Liberty by Betsy and Guilo Maestro was a favorite here on the Range. First Son read it himself many times (before and after I read it) and now wants to see the Statue of Liberty himself. (I'm not sure he believed me when I told him he'd seen it many times when we lived in New York. We'd often take the Staten Island ferry across and back again. It was free and offered fabulous views of Lady Liberty.)

Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner, illustrated by Don Bolognese. This is a wonderful little early reader following a black family moving to Kansas. The father leaves his three boys in Nicodemus and then sends a map for them to come find an even newer home. It's really wonderful, with lots of exciting stories and the love of a family, based on a true story. We loved the illustrations as well.

Klara's New World by Jeannette Winter is the story of an immigrant family from Sweden in the 1860s. I am trying to include immigration tales each month, as I feel it's an important part of American history (and current events). The kids were not very interested in this particular story, and it's not one of my favorites, either, though I can't exactly say why. Just as a warning, an infant dies on the trip over and his coffin is shown being dropped into the sea. First Son and First Daughter didn't blink an eye.

Keep the Lights Burning Abbie by Peter and Connie Roop. We own this book, but I wasn't sure how the kids would like it. On the recommendation of a friend, I scheduled it for this month and Kansas Dad said they enjoyed it. (He's doing some of our readings on Wednesday afternoons now, when I'm working.)

Buffalo Music by Tracey Fern, illustrated by Lauren Castillo. The kids found this book in the library pile and requested it even before I'd scheduled it. Based on the true story of a Texas woman who took in buffalo calves and helped build the wild herds that remain today, it's nicely illustrated and not too preachy. We love reading about buffalo. I think First Son's favorite picture was one that showed all the buffalo skulls piled up.

Moving now into the Progressive Era!