Friday, September 30, 2011

September Book Report

Toliver's Secret by Esther Wood Brady is a wonderful book. Ellen Tolliver feels like she's scared of everything, but she agrees to help her grandfather with an important mission to get information to General Washington about the British as he prepares for the fateful events of December 25, 1776. The book provides a great amount of information about life for average people in the New York and New Jersey area during the Revolutionary War. It also shows some amazing problem-solving skills by the courageous Ellen. It's a great book for young ones and we'll be reading it aloud this year. (library copy)

Did You Carry The Flag Today, Charley? by Rebecca Caudill is a sweet story of Charley, just turned five, who attends The Little School in the Appalachian Mountains. He's an imaginative young boy, innocently finding himself in trouble time after time. In the end, we all learn a little about the magic of learning. This one is going on our list of read alouds, especially for the girls. (library copy)

Pocahontas by Joseph Bruchac is a much deeper and more informative book on Pocahontas than the Clyde Robert Bulla one I read last month. It is also written for much older students. I would guess at least middle school and into high school aged students would benefit the most from this book. It's still historical fiction, imagined from what little is known of Pocahontas and her people, but unlike many other authors, Mr. Bruchac seems to have a real talent for sharing Native American history, tales and lives. Recommended. (library copy)

Kateri Tekakwitha: Mohawk Maiden (Vision Books) by Evelyn M. Brown is one I decided to read with the children. We're studying Native Americans for the first couple of months of school this year and they've recently become fascinated with Tekakwitha. This particular book had one scene early on that I thought was too violent for the little ones, mainly the girls, so I edited it a little while I was reading it. Other than that, it's a solid and enjoyable piece of historical fiction. I haven't read any of the other Vision Books, but would definitely consider them. I am a little annoyed at some of the editorial problems - mainly commas and quotation marks not being properly used (or even consistently used), but those don't matter so much when a book is being read aloud. Kateri is a sweet example of loving Christ even when scared of when family members and close friends do not agree or understand. (purchased used on Amazon)

The Buffalo Knife by William O. Steele was a fun little book describing an exciting trip down the Tennessee River. First Son could read this book but I'm not sure he's quite old enough to understand the difference between Andy's language and behavior and what's currently acceptable. It will be on our list as a possible book in future years.  (library copy)

Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker (purchased copy)

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin is a fantastic book, far superior to her Earthsea novels (which I also enjoyed). The Envoy is attempting to interest the people of Winter in joining the Ekumen of Worlds. In doing so, he must bridge the gap between himself and a world in which gender does not exist except for brief times, and a bit longer if a pregnancy ensues. It is a book best saved for older students (and adults), allowing us to discuss gender, relationships, friendships, family and whether Le Guin has imagined an accurate or appealing world. My copy also included a very interesting discussion of gendered-pronouns in the afterword. (library copy)

Well, my list for September is significantly shorter than some previous months. I think it has something to do with starting school. I had no idea second grade, homeschool choir, Catechesis, story hour and soccer would keep me so busy. Though when I write it that way, it doesn't seem like I should have been surprised. I'm reading an excellent book now that I'll share in October and, if all goes as planned, I'll be sitting in on an awesome science fiction - theology class Kansas Dad is team teaching next semester. Hooray for reading!

Monday, September 26, 2011

What I Loved About Last Week (Second Edition)

1. First Daughter played in her first soccer game last Monday night. The U6 (under 6) AYSO teams are awesome! She has a wonderful coach, some fun team-mates, and they played a great game. She even scored two goals! Next week we'll tie her shorts better so she's not holding them up so often while she runs. She and First Son had their second games over the weekend. First Daughter scored three goals in the first half and had two close misses in the second half. (It helps the U6 teams play without a goalie.) First Son's team had improved dramatically after a week of practicing together. He could be a really fast player if he stopped running with his head down and his hands flung behind him. (I think he's pretending to be flying Mario.)

2. First Son's spelling practice. I love how he adds the "(s)" all on his own and insists on writing his "a" like it is typed.

3. Second Son's speech-making. Kansas Dad jokes he'll grow up to be a politician, but maybe he'll be a missionary.

4. Carmy and Claire in this video:

Watching Second Son watch this video is awesome.

If you have time, this video is also enjoyable:

5. The Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty Pageant - We went on Friday. The kids watched their first ever parade in town, then we drove out to the park for the pageant. I thought it was a wonderful and loved watching the horses and wagon train. I thought it was useful for First Son and First Daughter to see real Native American dancing, hear their war whoops and get a better feel for at least a bit of life here in Kansas from the first forays of European exploration. They were hot and had little patience for the more explanatory parts of the performance. There is a great need for help in continuing this tradition and I hope very much energetic people step forward because I would love to attend in the future as my children grow older.

6. First Daughter's birthday! She turned five this weekend, complete with a pancake as big as her head, cupcakes and ice cream with the family and a princess party with a few friends. She was delighted, dancing and laughing. The girls went through 500 Adhesive Back Jewels decorating some party hats (their princess crowns) and goblets (for their pink lemonade, of course). The pinata was a success and then the girls played a complicated version of throw and catch with a ball in our living room, princess dresses, tiaras and all. Hopefully her birthday post will post later this week. (I'm still writing it, of course.)

7. Our parish - I was thinking again this weekend of how wonderful our parish family is. We are blessed by a friendly congregation who cares deeply about the faith formation not only of their own children, but of those in the entire parish. Second Son's godparents recently moved into the parish and Kansas Dad and I were honored to be asked to be godparents for a baby due very soon. Whenever our physical house is frustrating, which happens when Kansas Dad is too busy with his university duties to work on his wish list for the property, I remember our parish family and know this is where we're meant to be.

8. Homeschooling and the ability to take a break. I've had an exhausting schedule for a few weeks and need to take a breath, wash a ton of dishes and fold a kind-sized bed pile of laundry. So this morning we're taking a break before First Daughter's well-child check up. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled lessons tomorrow.

What about you? What did you love about last week?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Busy September Days

Grammy, the kids, and I spent the day in Medicine Lodge for the Indian Peace Treaty Pageant (and parade). It was wonderful! Well, the parade and the pageant were wonderful. The kids were hot and tired, but I think it was valuable for them, too.

If you are anywhere near Kansas, you should try to make it out this weekend.

We were late getting home, late with baths and dinner. We are all tired and have a busy weekend ahead of us: First Daughter's birthday, two soccer games, the usual Sunday PSR and Mass and a princess birthday party!

I need to get some sleep so I have energy for the cleaning and preparing and partying!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


According to The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, there's a rule on how to pronounce "the." It's "/thuh/ before words beginning with consonants and /thee/ before words beginning with vowels."

Seriously? I had no idea. I think I always say /thuh/.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: Protecting the Gift

Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) by Gavin De Becker

Kansas Dad thought perhaps it would make me more paranoid about the safety of our children, but I think it did more to alleviate unnecessary fears than anything else.

The best chapter in the book, in my opinion, was the fifth: Talk to Strangers. In it, De Becker addresses the standard ways we try to teach our children to be safe and why they are inadequate or, worse, dangerous. He begins with the rule "Don't talk to strangers," showing how, as parents, we encourage our children to talk to strangers every day. ("Say hello to the nice lady.")
Never Talk to Strangers, it turns out, isn't a rule at after all, but a highly flexible and incomprehensible concept that only Mom and Dad really understand--if even they do.
He also addresses the appropriateness of our expectations.
When we assume that a young child will reliably do what we say in our absence, or that doing it will keep him or her safe, we are choosing to share our duty with the least qualified person available.
I agree wholeheartedly! My four year old (who will be five this month) is completely incapable of remembering to stay in her chair during meals. If she can't do that, when she practices at least three times a day every day, how could I possibly expect her to follow instructions in a situation with strangers when she hasn't had any practice at all. I also think it unrealistic to tell the children to stay with me or keep me within sight instead of watching the children myself. I do give my children those commands, but I try always to know where they are and keep them within my sight.

We never taught our children to not talk to strangers. In fact, we haven't taught them anything at all about these potential dangers. Our children are still young and until recently spent nearly all of their time with me, Kansas Dad or Grammy. They simply were never out of our sight or control.

Now that we are involved with more in the homeschooling group, soccer, swimming lessons and other activities, we do need to address these threats in a more concrete way with our children. Luckily, this chapter shared a lot of ideas on what kinds of tools will work to help children be aware and safe without giving them too much responsibility for their own safety.

I'll let you read the book to find the suggestions that would work best for your family, but the one we've started using already is teaching the children to go straight to a mother if they find themselves separated from me or Kansas Dad in a public place. They are supposed to say, "My name is [child's name]. Will you help me find my mom?" Mothers with young children are non-threatening, extremely unlikely to hurt another child and very likely to stick with a child until he or she has been reunited with a parent.

Another great suggestion was teaching children to yell "This is not my mom!" or "This is not my dad!" if someone else tries to get them to go somewhere they don't want to go. We will not be teaching Second Daughter this trick anytime soon, though, because she's contrary enough at the moment to yell it when she gets angry at me. I would feel like I'd need to carry photo ID and a birth certificate for her wherever we went. Sigh.

The book is full of anecdotes. Lots and lots of anecdotes. It wasn't clear if the author thought the anecdotes alone would be convincing. I certainly found the book lacking in clear source material. I think he tried to reference sources in the text itself, but footnotes or end notes with actual studies, dates, issues, etc., would have greatly increased the value of the book in my opinion. If you view the anecdotes as merely explanatory, like hypothetical situations, they are useful.

I also did not care for the chapter on gun control. According to De Becker, no one in the country outside of law enforcement should ever carry, own, or look at a gun. He seemed rather unreasonable on this issue. I would perhaps feel differently if any of my children had been injured by a gun.

I liked other things in the book and disliked other things in the book. That being said, there is much to learn in this book. I'm very glad I read it and I do recommend it to other parents or people who care for children. Take from it what is helpful and try not to let the rest bother you too much.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What I Loved About Last Week (First Edition)

1. We started reading A Life of Our Lord for Children by Marigold Hunt. I haven't pre-read this book, so we're all reading it together and I love it already. (I did pre-read The First Christians by the same author. Based on that and the Mater Amabilis recommendation, I decided to take a chance.)

2. Second Son is walking! I think I can safely say he walks more than he crawls now. I absolutely love toddlers with their cute wobbly steps! I could have a houseful...if only they didn't turn two. I tried to catch him on video but the only good one has names in the audio. I'll keep trying for you because he's just adorable. Not that I'm biased or anything.

3. I weaned Second Son last week. I admit to feeling more ambivalent about this point than the post title would suggest, but it is nice to be free of nursing. In fact, this is the first time since December 2005 I haven't been pregnant or nursing or both.

4. I had my first Catechesis class about a week ago. It was amazing. We also had our first Atrium time. I think the kids and I are going to love Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I am feeling truly blessed to be a part of it.

5. We had our first faith formation coop class last week, too. I ran the nursery (which basically consists of making sure kids don't follow the wrong mom out of the room). My room was quiet and calm (hooray!) and all three of my kids in classes had a great time.

 6. First Son played in his first soccer game! I saw marked improvement just over the course of the first game. He was exhausted at the end, too. (First Daughter's first game is tonight.)

7. Second Daughter's response when I asked who had let the baby into the office (where he was very seriously moving newspapers all over the floor): "Moses opened the door with his pointy nose."

8. I finally remade our parish website. I've been uploading bulletins and making updates on a free site that just wasn't very pretty or easy to use. Now we have a simple but (hopefully) effective Google site, also free and much more functional.

9. We went to the State Fair last week. It was lovely and a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary. (Thirteen years, for those interested in such things.)

10. I finally have a timeline! Now we just need to add some people and events.

My plan it to post something like this every week as a way to get me back into the habit of blogging. We've been so busy with soccer, Catechesis, homeschooling and life in general I haven't been posting very much. Feel free to join in by writing on your blog or the comments what you loved about last week, too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Anyone Want to Talk About Lent?

I was just going through my blog post drafts and found a note (not a post, mind you, just a draft with a note to myself) to post about our Lenten plans. I'd say I'm a little behind on that post...or perhaps I should consider myself far ahead!

I think I'm going to just delete this note to myself and hope I manage to get my Advent plans on the blog before Christmas. (Speaking of Advent plans, if anyone has new book ideas for our picture-book-a-day this Advent, let me know!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Second Daughter's Baptism Anniversary

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Second Daughter's baptism anniversary. It's wonderful to see how excited the kids are when a baptism anniversary rolls around. Second Daughter was giddy while enjoying her favorite dinner of hot dogs and cheese puffy curl things. We even had ice cream for dessert.

Second Daughter, a child of God for three years

Second Son making a funny face
For those interested, Second Daughter's baptism gift was a copy of Glory Stories vol 5. The kids are loving all the Glory Stories they can get right now.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thank You!

In the past few months, quite a few readers have made purchases through my links to Amazon and I just wanted to say I've noticed it and I'm thankful. With some of my earnings this month, I purchased these Geometric Solids. They are a total luxury, but I'm so excited to have them. Now I don't have to run around the house the night before a geometry lesson to find toys that are all these particular shapes. Sending the kids around the house with a shape in hand to find others is instead in the plans.

For those who wonder, the shapes are solid wood and of a good size. The ones in my local school supplies store were tiny and plastic. And more expensive.

Thank you!

Friday, September 9, 2011

First Nature Walk of the Year

We were supposed to go on our first nature walk during the second week of school, but it was still over 100 degrees outside. Instead, we delayed it a few days so we could enjoy some fantastic weather, about twenty degrees cooler.

Because we're studying rivers and oceans this year, I selected a park not too far from home with views of a creek and a paved path -- very nice for the toddler in the stroller. (Yes, I realize I could put him in a carrier, but he weighs 25 pounds and I have to be nimble enough to chase the three year old.)

We had a lovely walk, though my children were much more interested in taking pictures with my camera (not of the creek, mind you) or asking when we'd have our snack than just about anything else. Still, I think it was a worthwhile trip and we'll be visiting on a regular basis over the course of our school year.

Explorers, including First Son in Mario stance and Boots, faithful sidekick of Second Daughter

The Creek

Second Son enjoying his snack

We also came home with a few ticks, so I'll have to be more diligent with the bug spray, at least until we get some freezing weather. (Will we really? After this summer it's hard to imagine real cold.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Help Bring Hope to a Family with CFCA

Our copy of Volunteer Connection from CFCA arrived in the mail today and I wanted to share some of the campaigns going on right now.

CFCA President and Co-founder Bob Hentzen walked 8,000 miles recently (what an amazing man!) and is hoping to find sponsors for 8,000 children in honor of the walk, one for each mile.  I checked the website (it was here when I was looking recently) and they had over 4,500. Please prayerfully consider sponsoring a child. You can read about our experiences as a sponsor family here. View profiles at the CFCA website. There's even a search feature if you'd like to sponsor a child of a certain age or in a certain country.

In other news, CFCA is hosting a benefit concert in Kansas! We are unable to attend with about 20 other things going on that weekend (alright, 3, but one of them is First Daughter's birthday and the concert would be a bit of a drive - Kansas is big, you know), but if you will be in the area, check it out!

Shine a Light: A CFCA Benefit Concert at The Theatre in the Park in Shawnee, KS
Sunday, September 25th
Find all the details and purchase tickets at their website.


We sponsor a child through Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, an organization that creates relationships between sponsors in the United States and children, youth and aging persons in 23 developing countries. Through its Hope for a Family program, our contributions provide life-changing benefits such as education, nutrition, clothing and medical care for our sponsored friend. Through letter writing we are able to learn about our sponsored friend's life and offer our encouragement and prayers.

Grounded in the Gospel call to serve the poor, CFCA works with people of all faith traditions. CFCA receives the highest ratings from Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2011-2012 Average Day Chart...So Far

Brandy at Afterthoughts posted a look at her average day and I thought I'd share ours. Second Son is at that age where naps are a bit unstable and will hopefully settle into a single long reliable nap in the next few months, so the "average" day is likely to change a bit of the course of the year.


Kansas Dad is often up and out of the house before 7 am, right about the time I'm picking up Second Son for his morning nursing. The others stumble out as they wake and play quietly for a few minutes. We all like time to wake up in the mornings. Sometime around 8 am I call the kids for breakfast. If Kansas Dad is not home, we have cereal or some kind of oatmeal (which the kids will only eat with brown sugar, so it's a bit of a treat). I prefer meals and snacks with as little prep-mess and clean-up as possible. (Kansas Dad makes wonderful big breakfasts on the weekends - eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, biscuits and gravy, wheat pancakes with blueberries or chocolate chips...not all at the same time of course!)


After breakfast, we do chores. The three older kids all get dressed, brush hair and teeth. First Son-7 unloads the dishwasher. First Daughter-4 brings all the dirty clothes to the laundry room and feeds the dog. (First Son feeds him in the evening.) Someone also brings any sippy cups from the bedroom. I start the first or second load of laundry, get dressed, load the dishwasher and wash the few breakfast dishes and sometimes fold some clothes. I give First Son five minutes warning for lessons and set a timer. I finish my tea and brush my teeth.


We start with morning prayer and all the subjects I think might interest the girls. There are also a few picture books just for the girls, our "reading around the world" in particular. I also plan at least one Montessori activity for First Daughter that sometimes happens during this time. I don't require the girls to pay attention or even stay in the room for anything else. Early subjects tend to be memory work, P.A.C.E., history, Scripture, saint stories and our liturgical year celebrations.

First Daughter's reading lessons happen whenever First Son has something to occupy him for a few minutes. Usually he finishes before she does and has a few minutes to relax while he waits on me. She's squirrelly with her lessons. If she gets actively defiant, we'll put them on hold (she's only four), but for now we're continuing with them.

Sometime around 10 am, depending on when Second Son starts to act tired, I give First Son something he can do on his own, like copy work, and lay Second Son down for a nap.

If we are very ambitious and work steadily, we could probably finish all of our lessons in the morning, but usually we meander along until Second Son wakes from his nap. Then we transition to lunch.


We take a break at lunch time. I don't read aloud, though I intend to find audio books I could play on the laptop, now that I have Kansas Dad's old one. I don't like to cook at lunch time. I usually make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or we have leftovers. The girls get bouncy and loud. Second Son laughs and throws his food. Eventually they stop asking for more food and I send them out to the living room to play while I clean. Because I don't cook, it takes very little time to clean up lunch - probably around ten minutes or so. I take some extra time to keep the laundry moving and assess where we are on our lessons. When I'm ready to start, I give First Son a warning, set the time for five minutes and (often) sit down to check my email.

Finish Lessons

After lunch, we finish our lessons. They usually don't take very long except for our "special activity." Each day I've tried to schedule something big for us to do: art, PE (class taught by Kansas Dad), homeschool choir, a special video or a field trip or nature walk. As fall and winter arrive and it's not 100 degrees, I'll send the kids outside during this time as well. After lessons are over, First Son and First Daughter are asked to clean their sides of the living room.

Quiet Time

In theory, Second Son will one day nap for a long time in the afternoons. Currently, he's running about 30 minutes. Sigh. Anyway, for this time I've prepared a "book basket" which is really a big plastic bin. I've filled it with extra books related to our history, science or feast days. In addition, I sometimes put in special books I'll know they want to read or peruse. We only pull out the basket during quiet time. The three older ones (Second Daughter only as long as she seems able) sit on the futon and read while Second Son naps and I exercise. In theory.

Sometime in the afternoon, I file away the papers for the day. Theoretically, First Son could do this himself, but I like the papers nicely organized and placed neatly in binder or folders. First Son doesn't care for organization much at all. For now, I don't fight the battle and put them away myself.

I also take a few minutes to look over our schedule of lessons for the next day. I pull all the books and materials we need and place them in reverse order on a shelf. That way, I'm never searching for something. First Son and First Daughter both know where our day's school books are and can bring something to me if my hands are full.

Screen Time

Sometime before or after my exercise time, the older three have screen time. First Son usually chooses to spend his twenty minutes playing the Wii. First Daughter usually loses her time because she does not clean her half of the room. (Some day, I will fight this battle, but for the next few weeks at least I intend to let it go.) Second Daughter then usually chooses a twenty minute video on Netflix from a pre-approved list. (I'm in the kitchen within sight or hearing whenever the TV is on.)

Some day we're going to move the old desktop to the living room so the kids could choose to explore pre-approved sites online during this time, but for now that's not an option.

While screen time doesn't happen every day, it happens most days. It's usually less than an hour and doesn't include any commercials (other than the shows themselves, sigh), so we allow it for now.

Dinner and the Evening

Kansas Dad arrives home sometime around 6 or 6:30 pm. We try to eat soon after he finishes his chores (chickens* and dog-walking**, mostly) because our children eat for a long time, often an hour. I have made dinner a few nights since school started and will hopefully take that chore over from Kansas Dad. When dinner is over, it's time to get ready for bed. Usually we divide the duties - one parents handles dinner clean-up and one supervises bedtime preparation. My goal is always to have all the chores done so I can focus on my homeschool stuff, blog stuff, parish stuff or fun stuff after the kids are in bed.

I like lights-out by 8 pm for all of the kids so Kansas Dad and I have some time to relax together in the evenings. He usually still has work to do (the life of a professor), so I can read or prepare lessons or watch something silly on Netflix while I cross-stitch.

That's an average day on the Range.

* Kansas Dad intends to build a coop that would allow First Son to take care of the chickens for us. It's on the list.

** First Son used to walk the dog, but he started running away (the dog, not the boy), so now it's back to Kansas Dad. When the weather is not so terrible and when Second Son starts walking well enough, I think we'll start walking the dog in the afternoons. Our dog and our baby are both big enough I can't manage them both at the same time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hot Dog!

We celebrated Second Daughter's baptism anniversary last week with one of her favorite meals: hot dogs and cheese puffs (ice cream for dessert, of course).

Second Son made it clear he wanted some of those hot dogs when they were set on the table. He pointed right at them, made a happy noise, blew, and then panted -- the baby signs for hot and for dog.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Product Review: Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat

A few months before Second Son was born, I did a lot of research on infant car seats. We had never purchased one before, always borrowed them, but the ones we had were expiring and I wanted a new one for the baby. I have no problems with infant car seats, but I hate convertible car seats. I find convertible car seats are nearly impossible to adequately adjust in the rear-facing position, at least our convertible car seat is nearly impossible to adequately adjust, so I was much intrigued by the Chicco Ketfit 30 Infant Car Seat which proposed to keep our infant safely tucked into an infant car seat up to 30 pounds. Our babies tended to be big at birth and all of them had outgrown the infant car seat long before six months

We found the Chicco car seat on sale and used an exchange program to get another 25% off. I was hoping to use it for Second Daughter until the baby was born, but at 20 months (or so) she was too long for it.

Soon after Second Son was born, Kansas Dad trudged out in the July heat to install our new car seat in the van. About five minutes later he returned to the birth care center room. At first I thought he needed something else, but no, he was done! This car seat base literally installs in minutes with LATCH. I've personally easily moved it from one car to another.

Second Son was quite snuggly in the new seat for his first ride in the van, going home from the hospital. We only used the infant insert (the gray parts you see around him) for a few weeks since he was already over ten pounds when he was born. It washed up very nicely and was packed away.

Second Son is now 13 months old and around 24 pounds. About two months ago, when he was 11 months old, we moved the straps to the highest setting. Though the seat is really too heavy to carry in and out of the house, Second Son still fits very well in it. Good news, now that the recommendations say to keep children rear-facing until they are two years old. (Those of you who have read the Range for a while know I have doubts about the necessity of expensive car seats for older children -- here and here. I have no such doubts about the necessity of rear-facing seats up to one year, and tend to agree with the recommendations up to two years old.)

One of the things I like best about this car seat is the height limits are based on how the child actually fits into the car seat -- nothing like an absolute number. First Daughter was very tall, but all her length was in her legs. She "outgrew" the infant car seat by height when her ears and head were far below where it would seem to make a difference in her infant car seat. (We moved her anyway as I always hesitate to go against product recommendations and we already had a seat she could use instead.)

We never used this seat in a frame or stroller**, so I can't say how well that feature might work, but in almost all other ways we have been extremely pleased with this car seat. The only disadvantage is how difficult it is to get the cover off the seat to wash it. You'd think no one who designed such things had ever taken a child for a ride. Babies are always making messes! We've been lucky with our cloth diapers and have only had to wash the cover once or twice. (Of all our car seats, only the Britax has a truly easily-removable cover for washing.)

I heartily recommend this car seat to anyone expecting a little one!

For those that worry about such things, this review is my honest opinion. I did not receive a free car seat or any other compensation.

** Sometimes I think this feature would be nice, now that Second Son is so heavy and does still often fall asleep in the van. I doubt he'd stay asleep at home, but it's possible he'd continue to sleep if we arrived somewhere like the zoo and pushed him around in a stroller. Right after he was born, though, I felt like putting Second Son in the carrier was the only reliable way to handle all four children. Second Daughter rode in the stroller with First Son and First Daughter on either side of me. It seemed a shame to buy a new stroller when we had one I loved that functioned perfectly (and still does -- I love my ebay stroller!).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Homeschool Review: Milo Winter's Aesop for Children

Aesop's Fables for Children: Includes a Read-and-Listen CD illustrated by Milo Winter

I've mentioned this book a few times in our resource lists (2010-2011 School Year Books and Resources) and our recommendations for Ancient Greece. We've read and enjoyed this book so much, though, I decided it deserved its own post.

There are many versions of Aesop's Fables. This one is my favorite. The fables are clearly printed with plenty of beautiful color illustrations. The children would often look ahead and then ask me to read the fable for a particular illustration. Aesop's fables in general are excellent for learning how to narrate. Many of them are only a few paragraphs long. For nearly the entire first grade year, First Son could only consistently narrate well these fables. Everything else was a struggle. (He's a little better now in second grade.)

We recently listened to the included audio CD for the first time. The readers say the page numbers, which I found annoying, but perhaps others would like that. Kansas Dad enjoyed listening while he was in the van with us. He didn't have the fun of reading them during our lessons.

We won't be reading any fables this year for the first time in two years. I may bring them out again next year, when First Daughter is in kindergarten, but her narration skills are already equal to or better than her brother's so she wouldn't need them for the practice. We would read them just to enjoy them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August Book Report

The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds (library copy)

The Hawk and the Dove trilogy by Penelope Wilcock (inter-library loan book)

The House of Power (Atherton, Book 1) by Patrick Carmen is the first of a trilogy of a world created by mankind after Earth's resources were abused and depleted. It begins with a young boy, eleven-year-old Edgar, who discovers a secret book and starts on a quest to find an ally in the powerful land above, the Highlands. The balance of water and of power shift as the land does, bringing war and perhaps even greater dangers. It's a thrilling adventure of loyalty, courage, deception, fear and men's plans gone awry.  Even better, it's wonderfully written. It's recommended for late elementary and middle-school aged children. So far, I see nothing that would preclude First Son from reading it in a year or two. Luckily, I'll have to read to the end of the trilogy to be sure. Be forewarned, the first book ends very much in the midst of the story. (library copy)

Waterfall: A Novel (River of Time Series)  by Lisa T. Bergren is a young adult Christian romance, at least in theory. I was looking for something a little lighter than Charlotte Mason's Towards A Philosophy Of Education and this certainly was. Gabi and Lia, her sister, touch perfectly fitted hand prints in an Etruscan tomb (in Italy) and find themselves back in the 1300s. There, they find adventure, romance, and war. It's definitely for more mature young adults with deadly battles in which the girls participate. Though there's nothing beyond a few kisses physically, there's the hint of more, particularly in a malicious sense. I didn't find that much "Christian" about it, either, other than Gabi's occasional, "God are you real?" and "God please save me" thoughts. At first I thought it was badly written, too, but at the end I decided it was just written in a contemporary voice, something I almost never read outside of blogs. I will say this, it was quite exciting. If the next two books were available from my library, I might even read them. I can't say if or when I'd let the girls read them. I'll have to wait and see how Kansas Dad and I feel when they're teenagers. (Kindle version, which was available free for a limited time)

The Squirrel's Birthday and Other Parties by Toon Tellegen is a delightful collection of stories of animal parties and celebrations. It's silly and lovely at the same time. I'm very much looking forward to reading it with the children this year as a fun read-aloud. The illustrations are wonderful as well. (library copy)

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh is on First Son's reading list for the year. It's a bit below his reading level, I think, but I find I need to push First Son to read anything not in a series so I think it's acceptable to vary the challenges he faces in reading. The rest of us will enjoy listening to this story. Hopefully it will be just the right amount of scary for them as Jonathan discovers there still are bears on Hemlock Mountain. (library copy)

Rivers of Fire (Atherton, Book 2) and The Dark Planet (Atherton, Book 3) by Patrick Carman were both read on the drive home from our Missouri vacation. I battled carsickness the whole way, stopping when necessary to stare out the window for a while, but I couldn't bring myself to stop entirely. The second and last books of the trilogy are fascinating, thrilling and full of the unexpected. Though I'm not sure how I feel about a "created" world, and a "created" boy in particular, the story is otherwise compelling and well-written. (There's also a man-made dragon that plays an important role for good in the last book, for those that are familiar with the arguments in A Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind.) Overall, I found the trilogy excellent and intend to let First Son read them himself in a few years. The Patrick Carman website recommends the Atherton novels for ages 9-15 and I will probably wait until about the middle of that range. There are quite a few technical complications in the novels that will be better understood with a few more years. Also, there are battles, children in miserable conditions and the whole "created child" issue to address. (both library copies)

Binya's Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond is a book I found while searching for picture books on India. It's not a single-session picture book, so we won't be reading it as part of our Asian term, but it is going on the list for the girls to read in second or third grade, depending on their reading levels. Binya is a ten year old girl who trades for a beautiful sky-blue parasol, completely impractical and desperately loved. She carries it everywhere and quickly becomes the envy of everyone in her rural Himalayan village. The book recounts her adventures with the umbrella, culminating in the attempt theft by the local store-owner. Binya finds herself enjoying her umbrella less, knowing how the store-keeper has suffered for his greed and struggles to find a way to resolve her discomfort. I think it's a nice little story with an enjoyable look at life in India for the young reader. (library copy)

The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck is a heart-wrenching tale of a tsunami striking a fishing village in Japan.  Jiya is standing with his best friend, Kino, and Kino's father when the wave hits, watching as his home, father, mother and brother are swept away. While descriptions of the "gods" would need to be placed in context, Kino and Jiya learn what it is to live unafraid in a world full of the unpredictable destruction of nature. The themes of the book place it solidly in the realm of older readers (perhaps late elementary or middle school) despite it's short length. I think it could find a place as a read-aloud for younger children, though, if they have faced such fears themselves or have encountered disturbing images of such destruction and death in the news. Pearl Buck is, of course, a marvelous author. (library copy)

Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer (library copy)

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford tells the story of three pets who travel across 300 miles of rugged and dangerous Canadian land to return to their home and owners. Thrilling, tender, well-written, and a wonderful tale set in Canada. Our library has an audio copy so we'll be listening to it. I'll be keeping a close eye on the girls (and the road, of course) to make sure the more frightening parts aren't too scary for them. (library copy)

Pocahontas and the Strangers (Scholastic Biography) by Clyde Robert Bulla is the first Bulla book I've read that I didn't love. It's a fictionalized account of Pocahontas's life. Though it does seem reasonably accurate in the details of Algonquin life, it's difficult to sympathize with Pocahontas. She seems like a spoiled, disobedient princess. I suppose the idea was to recognizer her contributions to the people of Jamestown as heroic, but I was not impressed by her actions. In addition, the writing is surprisingly awkward, not at all what I've come to expect from Bulla. I am not going to ask First Son to read this when we study Jamestown. I may allow him to read it on his own if he likes (which he probably wouldn't). (

Squanto, Friend Of The Pilgrims (Scholastic Biography) by Clyde Robert Bulla is a better book than Pocahontas and the Strangers (see above), but I was not overwhelmingly impressed. Mayflower, while obviously more nuanced than a children's book could be, gave a much more interesting impression of Squanto. I think I may put this book where First Son can glace through it if he likes, but if we read anything on Squanto, it will be Squanto's Journey. (

Mr. Revere and I: Being an Account of certain Episodes in the Career of Paul Revere,Esq. as Revealed by his Horse  by Robert Lawson is an account of the events leading up to the first shots at Lexington and Concord as told by Paul Revere's horse, who conveniently has (literally) a window into the Revere kitchen. It is most certainly not historically accurate. I can't remember if Paul Revere's horse was named Scheherazade, but I do remember from Paul Revere's Ride that on the night of the infamous ride, he borrowed a horse that was subsequently captured by the British and never returned. Paul Revere seems to be a bit of a country bumpkin in the book. Sam Adams spends as much time eluding his debts and insinuating himself into invitations to meals with others as he does concentrating on Liberty. All that being said, it's a highly entertaining book. Rather than reading it aloud, I think I'll wait until the children are older and ask them to explain what they think is accurate or inaccurate after they've read it. (library copy)

Soccer Excitement

First Son and First Daughter were signed up for soccer this fall (and next spring). Grammy and I took them to pick out shin guards earlier this week. They were so excited, they insisted on wearing the shin guards home (with flip flops and sandals and no socks).