Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent and Christmas Poetry Selections

For years we read our Advent poetry readings from two anthologies: Bright Star Shining: Poems for Christmas and The Oxford Treasury of Christmas Poems. I still like those books, but in 2013, I wanted something different and starting looking for other illustrated books of Christmas and Advent poetry.

Poetry in 2013

A Joyful Christmas: A Treasury of New and Classic Songs, Poems, and Stories for the Holiday compiled and illustrated by James Ransome. This was the first of our Advent poetry books. I love the illustrations of Ransome and read most (though not all) of the poetry from this book aloud.

Song of the Camels by Elizabeth Coatsworth tells the Nativity story from the point of the view of the camels of the Wise Men. You can read the poem online here or in Favorite Poems Old and New (a perfectly wonderful anthology). The illustrations are quite lovely and worth quiet pondering.

The Night Before Christmas: A Magical Cut-Paper Edition by Clement Moore with illustrations by Niroot Putttapipat is one of many versions of this famous poem. I loved introducing it to my children, but we were very careful with the artwork as we read a library copy.

Do Rabbits Have Christmas? by Aileen Fisher is delightful and fun. The little girls loved it.

Sleigh Bells and Snowflakes: A Celebration of Christmas compiled and illustrated by Linda Bronson is a wonderful collection of poems and carols. The three-dimensional illustrations are brilliant and bright against the white pages.

Poetry in 2014

We only read through one book this year, taking our time and reading a few poems a week.

Christmas in the Stable poems selected and illustrated by Beverly Duncan is a book I requested from I love the illustrations, especially the background borders on each page, which the illustrator explains in a note at the end of the book. We liked some of the poems better than others.

I've got a few selected for next year already, but leave a comment if you have other poetry recommendations for us.

I probably won't post again until after the New Year, so Merry Christmas and many blessings in the coming year!

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. We read from library copies except for Christmas in the Stable. If you sign up for and post ten books using this link, I receive a credit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2013-2014 Memory Verses: Fourth Grade and First Grade

Here are a few lists of the memory verses for fourth grade and first grade in 2013-2014.

We also sometimes memorize entire psalms or parables, but I put those in our poetry memorization rather than Scripture verses. Basically, if it's too long to go on an index card and gets put in the memory binder, it's "Memory Work." If it's on an index card, it's "Memory Verses." We practice and review them both about four days a week.

For all our memory verses and parables, I use the NRSV (except for one difference, noted below). If it's a psalm and in our memory binder, I usually use the KJV.

First Son's Fourth Grade Memory Verse List
  • Psalm 27:4 (from previous year)
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
  • Ephesians 4:31-32
  • Isaiah 11:1-3
  • Mark 8:34-36 (in progress)
First Daughter's First Grade Memory Verse List
  • Psalm 45:10 (from previous year)
  • Psalm 33:22
  • Jeremiah 31:25
  • John 6:35
  • Psalm 139:13-14
  • Philippians 4:13
  • Isaiah 9:2 (RSV)
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (in progress)
Here's a link to First Son's first grade memory verses.

    Monday, December 8, 2014

    2012-2013 Memory Verses: Third Grade and Kindergarten

    I'm organizing our work on Scripture memory verses and realized I haven't posted our memorized verses in a while. I like to have these on the blog for my own benefit and you never know when someone might search for something like "good memory verses for a third grader" and find what we did.

    We also sometimes memorize entire psalms or parables, but I put those in our poetry memorization rather than Scripture verses. Basically, if it's too long to go on an index card and gets put in the memory binder, it's "Memory Work." If it's on an index card, it's "Memory Verses." We practice and review them both about four days a week.

    For all our memory verses and parables, I use the NRSV. If it's a psalm and in our memory binder, I usually use the KJV.

    First Son's Third Grade Memory Verse List
    • Matt 5:43-45
    • Matt 19:26
    • Phil 4:19
    • Matt 7:7
    • Matt 5:42
    • Romans 15:13
    • Psalm 27:4
    First Daughter's Kindergarten Memory Verse List
    • Matt 18:20
    • John 3:16
    • Psalm 45:10
    First Daughter was not very interested in memory work after the first few weeks of school. As I recall, she had already memorized a handful of poems and I just stopped the memory work until first grade. You can see First Son's kindergarten memory work on this page.

    Friday, December 5, 2014

    Book Review: Close to the Wind (supplement to Mater Amabilis Level 1A Weather)

    Close to the Wind: The Beaufort Scale by Peter Malone

    Earlier this week, our assignment for second grade Weather centered on the Beaufort Scale. (We're following the Mater Amabilis Level 1A schedule of lessons.) I happened to know about Peter Malone's book and was delighted to have a way to incorporate it into our studies. I read it aloud to second daughter, talking about wind and waves and ocean travels in the early 1800s.

    This book conveys a lot of information about Beaufort, the scale he designed, and life at sea during his time. Along the way there are many interesting tidbits of information. The illustrations are excellent, including one at the end showing all the masts and sails with descriptions and names for each of them.

    At the end of the book (a certain sign of a good one), Second Daughter wanted to learn more. She wanted to see the wind and waves in action. So of course I did what any American homeschooling mom with a bit of time to spare would do and we pulled up YouTube. This video is an excellent representation of the progression of the scale. Second Daughter, however, preferred this one. It's a little more entertaining but still informative.

    The real treasure for me, though, is this recording of Sir Ian McKellan reciting the scale. (It would be even better without the laughter.) Can't you just imagine someone daring him to read something mundane and make it dramatic?

    Back to the book...It's an excellent addition to any study of weather and recommended for a wide variety of ages.

    Thursday, December 4, 2014

    November 2014 Book Reports

    Draw-a-Saurus by James Silvani - read my review here (review copy from Blogging for Books)

    Another Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup is the second in a series of middle grade fiction. It is just as silly as the first with the addition of actual time traveling. I think First Son is going to enjoy these tremendously. I'm pretty sure they'd be fine for him to read, but I'll probably pre-read the third one. These would be summer reading. (library copy)

    A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller is a book I found at a library book sale just after reading about it at Afterthoughts. Written by a man who was an actual shepherd in the Middle East, it provides tremendous insight into the twenty-third psalm (and other sheep and shepherd analogies in the Old Testament). I found this book particularly interesting given the prominent place of the Good Shepherd in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (which I teach at our parish), but the best parts of the book were those in which he explained how shepherds and sheep interact rather than his explanation of how the metaphor works in modern life. Those parts weren't terrible, just not as interesting. (purchased copy)

    The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow is a brief book of advice and memories as dictated by Dr. Pausch to a reporter after the overwhelming response to his last lecture (which I have not actually watched), a farewell speech he prepared after learning he was dying of pancreatic cancer. It contains much of the special memories he wanted to share with his very young children. It was sweet and sad, but I think it's nice now and then to step back from the business of our lives and make sure we're concentrating on what's most important. This book is a nice way to focus on that for a while. (library copy)

    The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt was one of the books listed in The Reading Promise. I found the title intriguing so checked it out right away from the library. I loved it because Gaylen, a young boy sent to poll the citizens about the food they find most delicious finds himself in the middle of intrigue to overthrow the king and then must decide whether to act. Should he intervene? Does he act for what is right? In the end, we don't even know if his actions made a difference, which is most marvelous of all. Sometimes doing what is right takes great courage and the act itself is what is most important, not the results. I think First Daughter (an excellent reader in second grade) could read this herself, but it's a perfect family story, so I've added it to our read-aloud list. (library copy)

    The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare is a book I never read when I was younger about young boy left in the wilderness of Maine for a summer while his father journeys back to retrieve his mother and sister. After a series of mishaps, he is rescued by a Native American elder who arranges for him to teach his grandson, Attean, how to read and write. I'm not sure how authentic a story it is, historically, but it is a fine tale of friendship between two boys who initially view each other as enemies. I think this will be an option for First Son's summer reading. (library copy)

    The Light at Tern Rock by Julia Sauer is a quiet tale of a young boy who is disappointed to find himself stuck at a lighthouse for Christmas. I like how the focus is not on how the lighthouse keeper misled them, or what his punishment will be, but on how our reactions to circumstances make our own lives better (or worse). It's quite short, only four chapters, so it's an easy one to add to our read-alouds for Advent. It was recommended by a member of the Read Aloud Revival Community facebook group. (library copy)

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is the story of six unwanted unruly kids who bully their way into a Christmas pageant and begin to discover the glory of Jesus' birth, teaching some of the townspeople a bit as well. I plan to read this book to the children this year during Advent. They will think it is hilarious. I would caution there is a lot of misbehavior in the book. I always worry such descriptions will give my children ideas, but there's not much in here they would do that they don't already do (like lighting things on fire or smoking cigars). (library copy)

    The Caine Mutiny: A Novel by Herman Wouk - read my review here. (library copy)

    Books in Progress (and date started)

    Links to Amazon are affiliate links. Other links are not affiliate links.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    Our Homeschool: Poetry in 2013-2014

    I've been thinking about poetry recently, as we continue to enjoy our weekly poetry readings so very much and realized I never posted our poetry for last year (fourth grade, first grade, prekindergarten, and trouble-maker). We read poetry once a week and that's all. We just read it and look at any illustrations there might be. Sometimes the kids enjoy a poem and sometimes they don't. That's fine. I try to choose poems and collections I think they might enjoy or appreciate and always with illustrations. During Advent and Christmas, we read seasonal poetry, but that's another post. (We also memorize poetry, but that happens during our memory work time. You can read more about it in this post.)

    The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning. A few lines of this poem are in one of the Writing with Ease books and fascinated my children (Level 3, maybe?) so I searched through all the options at the library to find the one with the illustrations I liked best and selected this one with illustrations by Kate Greenway. I'm always pleased when I can share a famous poem or poet with the children in a stand-alone book rather than a poetry collection.

    Shakespeare's Seasons ed by Miriam Weiner and illustrated by Sharon Whitt is a delighful collection of snippets of Shakespeare wonderfully illustrated. I chose this to entice my children with some lovely Shakespearean lines as we were just beginning our study of Shakespeare. I think they liked the illustrations more than the poetry, but I intend to request it again after they've come to know the Bard a bit better.

    Something Rich and Strange A Treasury of Shakespeare's Verse compiled by Gina Pollinger is one of my favorite collections of Shakespeare for children (in my admittedly limited experience). I still request it every few months. This is a full book, so we went through about ten pages a week for a few months. Even going slowly, I did not read every page but chose a few as we went along.

    This Big Sky by Pat Mora with illustrations by Steve Jenkins is a book of poetry of the American southwest. We enjoyed it and I think it would be a fantastic selection for anyone who lives in the southwest or wants to share it with their children. I personally love the illustrations by Jenkins, too. Perhaps someone would like to write a small book of Kansas poems for him to illustrate?

    Animal Poems by Valerie Worth also illustrated by Steve Jenkins delighted the children. They loved the poems and the illustrations. With that porcupine on the cover, how can you resist?

    A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children selected by Caroline Kennedy, illustrated by Jon J. Muth. I love everything about this book. I love the selection of poems and the illustrations. We didn't finish this book before the end of the school year, so we read more from it in 2014-2015.

    The links above are affiliate links at Amazon and I receive a small commission if you make a purchase. I received nothing in exchange for this review. We checked out copies of all of these books at our library.

    Tuesday, December 2, 2014

    An Invitation to Relationship

    Apparently, it's Giving Tuesday. We don't participate much in Black Friday (if I can only afford it by going out at 3 in the morning and battling hundreds of other people for deals, I'd rather live without it) or Cyber Monday (who needs a special day to shop online?), I thought I'd take a minute on Giving Tuesday to remind you about my favorite charity.

    Unbound provides a connection to another person, a child or an elder. It's an invitation to participate in another person's life and to develop a relationship with someone who has much to teach about another culture, hope, faith, and life.

    It's not a small gift once a year or even a large gift once a year (though you can do that, too). It's a commitment to improving the life of a person and a community. Don't make Giving Tuesday a once-a-year afterthought to the Christmas shopping frenzy. Take a few minutes today or in the next few days to prayerfully consider your budget for 2015 and whether there might be $30 a month to change a life.

    Monday, December 1, 2014

    Book Review: The Caine Mutiny

    The Caine Mutiny: A Novel by Herman Wouk

    I almost didn't read this book. I am so glad I did!

    The novel follows the military career of Willie Keith, who joins the Navy during World War II in order to avoid the Army. As time goes on, he grows as a seaman and as a man, recognizing his growth as he goes and yet seemingly blind to the growth that will continue. The first half of the book covers the time onboard the Caine under Captain Queeg. The second half describes the trial for the mutiny and the end of the war.

    I find it difficult to explain more of the plot because I don't want to give away the most powerful moments. More than anything, I think the book is about authority. It's also about how the people around us influence us, how we can find courage within ourselves, and how we come to recognize the good and bad characteristics of all people, including those we believe we knew.

    Every teenage boy should read this book (and just about everybody else, too). There's a lot of swearing (despite a note at the beginning that the "general obscenity and blasphemy of shipboard talk have gone almost wholly unrecorded") and an instance of premarital intimacy (which is not described graphically), but I think most teenagers are eager to read and talk about the questions surrounding authority and peer influence that fill the pages of this book. I look forward to reading it with First Son in a few years (not aloud, though; I could never read all those swear words).