book bonanza: when mindy saved hanukkah

Mar 4, 2014 by

My biggest strength as a homeschooling mama (well, aside from my absolute determination) is my love of reading out loud to my children. They love, love, love me to read to them. I guess I have all sorts of voices and zest that make it fun. I don’t really try to read in voices, it is just how I read…full characterization all the time. Fisher and Annesley will sit for hours and have me read to them which is pretty fortunate since I have spent so much time in bed the last two years. Snuggling in bed with them and reading the afternoon away is a common activity. When my voice or energy level give out, we stop and pick up again the next day.

Tonight we read “When Mindy Saved Hanukkah” for the first time. I must have picked it up at used book sale at the library some time ago, but I have never looked at it until Annesley brought it in and begged me to read it to her. Oh my goodness, it is so darling! All of you Jewish lovers out there need to find this book and savor the delightful story with your little ones. It is about a family of teensy people…really teensy, like the Borrowers…who live in a Synagogue and do not have any candles for Hanukkah. They need to sneak out to the Synagogue to get a big candle to melt into little candles. When the dad goes out, a cat attacks him. So then the girl of the family decides she is the one who must go and with great courage she ventures out to find a candle in spite of the possibility of being eaten by the cat. It is so, so cute!

It looks like it is out of print, so check out your library and used book stores to see if you can find a copy.

p.s. Sheri you must borrow it!

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book bonanza: infinity and me

Feb 17, 2014 by

Oh my goodness, I love Infinity and Me SO much! We found it at the library on an end display and as soon as I laid eyes on the cover, I was melting. I quickly skimmed it and fell even more in love – numbers, adorable red shoes, curiosity, wonder, and genealogy all in one book!

Uma, the narrator, is confused about the concept of infinity. She can’t understand it and feels small and insignificant when she tries. Uma starts asking people how they picture infinity and gets a wide variety of answers. Charlie, her number loving friend, sees enormous numbers. Samantha, her bestest girl friend, sees a number 8 taking a nap, then turns the 8 into a racetrack that she drives around forever. Uma is still confused and asks her grandma how she imagines infinity. Her grandma says “I like to think about a family. First, you have the great-grandparents, then the grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren…it could go on forever.”

Swoon! Oh, how I wish I had written this book! It combines all my favorite things into one beautiful picture book.

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book bonanzas: king arthur and his knights

Oct 8, 2013 by


Last week Fisher found a gem of a book in our bookshelves and begged me to start reading it to him. I have been waiting for one of my children to fall in love with The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle. I didn’t know if he would be able to understand the language as it is quite advanced and somewhat archaic to a 21st century child, but he is loving it. I have been stopping every few paragraphs to ask him to retell me the story and he nails it every time. His comprehension far exceeds his reading skills. I wonder if there is something to that? My two children with reading struggles have had amazing comprehension.


One of my favorite parts about Howard Pyle’s books are the illustrations. His drawings are oh, so lovely. Every chapter heading has its own artistic rendering of a character or event in the chapter and other illustrations are sprinkled throughout his books.


He likes to come snuggle in bed with me before anyone else is awake and while I really, really like having my early morning hours all to myself, I wouldn’t trade these head-on-my-shoulder and feet-twisted-up-in-mine reading sessions for anything. I’m sure the day isn’t too far off when he won’t be caught dead in my bed with his head on my shoulder. Today, as we read about the Trustworthy Knight, Sir Ector, we had an interesting discussion about doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it. He has brought up Sir Ector throughout the day so I know he is thinking deeply about it. Today he went out to the garage and used the jigsaw to cut out a three foot shield from a piece of plywood. I admit I was a little nervous about him being out there with a power tool all by his lonesome, but Richard has taught him well and approved the project, so I let him go and cut to his heart’s delight. He nailed on his straps and brought it in to show us, proud as punch of his work. This afternoon, he and Annesley reenacted Sir Kay’s battle in the front yard.

This is the magic of homeschooling (although certainly a public schooling parent could have the same sorts of experiences as well) – learning doesn’t have to look like learning and it often doesn’t look like sit-at-a-desk-and-do-worksheets learning. Learning through classics, discussion, real-world application, play, and snuggling up with a book are my favorite kinds of learning.

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book bonanzas: the perfect square

Sep 16, 2013 by

book bonanzas: the perfect square

Perfect-Square We checked this book out from the library and love it! The Perfect Square is a delightful little book full clever captions, and lovely artwork by Michael Hall. It is about a square who is taken apart in a different way each day of the week. After he is cut up, ripped apart, or shattered, he makes himself into something new. So fun! This week we are going to cut up our own squares and make them into the objects in the book and probably some objects of our own creations as well.

Perfect Square 07a

“But on Monday, the square was cut into pieces and poked full of holes. It wasn’t perfectly square anymore.”

On the next page, these pieces are turned into a fountain with all the holes making the bubbles. So, so darling. One day the pieces make a river, another a bridge, another a mountain. It is brilliant and has got the wheels turning in my two little ones minds. I can’t wait to see what they create!

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book bonanza: the giraffe that walked to paris

Jul 2, 2013 by

book bonanza: the giraffe that walked to paris

Oh my goodness! Guess what just arrived at my house?

The Giraffe That Walked To Paris!

Yes! You heard (read?) me right! It is back in print! After years and years and years of being out-of-print and being impossible to find for under $100, it was reissued on June 21 and is now available for a mere $13! This is one of our favorite books and is used in the FIAR Vokume 2 Literature Guide that I am using this next school year with Annesley. Miss Annes and I are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves!

If you have not heard of this delightful book, here is a review:

In an attempt to improve relations between Egypt and France, who were on opposite sides of the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, the pasha of Egypt presented King Charles X with a giraffe, the first in Europe in over three centuries. But in the days before aircraft, how do you send a large, ungainly animal such a long way? The answer is depicted in this book–a sea : voyage to Marseilles, and then a six-week march to Paris. The brief text is written in a chatty style that deals effectively with the logistics of the move and its historical underpinnings. It also includes details that will appeal to young readers: the custom-made giraffe raincoat necessitated by France’s cooler climate, the need for a cow in the entourage to provide La Girafe’s daily rations, the unusual way a giraffe moves its legs in walking. The illustrations are attractive pastel cartoons and one full-color photograph of the giraffe’s stuffed remains, still on display at La Rochelle. The book concludes with a historical note briefly outlining the background of the story. A charming illumination of one of history’s more obscure footnotes. –Barbara Hutcheson, Greater Victoria Public Library, B.C., Canada

We love checking books out from the library as it is always an adventure to go and find new treasures, but for our FIAR books I really like to own them and be able to pick them up at any time without having to make a library trip. This year I am attempting to collect all the Volume 2 books and put them on our kitchen bookshelf so Annesley can keep them all together all year long on her very own special shelf.

I am also considering doing Beyond FIAR with Fisher this fall. Have any of you used this? If so, what was your experience like?

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book bonanza: bear feels sick

Mar 12, 2013 by


We love the entire Karma Wilson line-up of books, especially the Bear books. Today we read Bear Feels Sick for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Karma writes in a wonderful, rhyming cadence that has children shouting out the last word of each line as soon as they figure out the rhyming pattern. In Bear Feels Sick, the story of Bear and his friends continues, this time with all of his forest playmates taking care of him while he has the sniffles and chills. They gather herbs, stoke the fire, wrap him up, and pat him down. Finally Bear feels better and is ready to play, but wouldn’t you know it, his faithful nurses start sneezing and now it is his turn to nurse them back to health. If you haven’t already read Bear Snores On and Bear Feels Scared make sure you check them all out as the whole set of books is adorable.

Other Karma Wilson favorites are A Frog In The Bog and Mortimer’s First Garden.

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book bonanza: lots of audios

Jun 26, 2012 by

book bonanza: lots of audios

We are spending a lot of time cleaning these days. Having a mama be out of commission for months on end has done a number on this already cluttered house. My children have tried hard to fill in the gaps for me, but quite frankly, what this house needs is ME! So, the last several days we have cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. We have rearranged the school room in our seemingly never-ending quest to find the most functional arrangement, we have started on the sewing room, are getting ready to tackle the storage room (do I have the courage?), and then the garage. Oh my, SO MUCH WORK! Yes, you should read those all-caps as screaming because that is just what I am feeling.

Anyway, during all this cleaning we have been listening to some great books and thought you might enjoy them if you are doing any big projects or taking some summer drives.

This morning we listened to Only Passing Through which is the story of Sojourner Truth. What a woman! I hope my children learned (once again) that God calls us to a mission and it is our privilege to step up to the plate with faith and do what He asks us to do. This story also comes in a picture book version if you would rather read it aloud.

Saturday we listened to Amos Fortune, Free Man. We must be in bit of a freedom mood, eh? Must be the time of the year to think about liberty and working for it for all of God’s children as was stated so strongly in The Declaration of Independence that was being drafted right about now 236 years ago. We loved the strength spirit Amos demonstrates again and again and his determination to make the best of his situation.

Now we are listening to The Land of Oz. I read the whole series to Blythe years ago, but haven’t revisited it since. Fisher decided he was interested in it and Blythe wanted to hear it again, so now we are immersed in Mr. Baum’s classic series of conquering our fears, serving others, and believing in goodness.

I can’t wait to listen to The Time Pirate which is the sequel to Nick of Time which was a huge hit with all of us a few years ago.

You can probably find these at your local library, but if not, they are all available on Amazon. What are your favorite audio books?

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book bonanza: the phantom tollbooth

Oct 18, 2011 by

We started this book as a family read-aloud eons ago. It has taken us fffffoooooorrrrrrrreeeeeevvvvveeeeerrrrrrrrrr to get through it. I don’t know why exactly. We have all thoroughly enjoyed it. It is hilarious. It has humor that made Richard laugh so hard he cried. It has math and language and culture and human nature and so much more.

It still took us forever…actually we still aren’t done. We have two more chapters, but we are determined to finish in the next few days!

Anyway, last night as I was reading, some words from the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason jumped out at me. I believe they are profound and they are just what I needed to hear. Maybe what all of us needed to hear.

It has been a long trip,” said Milo, climbing onto the couch where the princesses sat; “but we would have been here much sooner if I hadn’t made so many mistakes. I’m afraid it’s all my fault.”

You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

“But there’s so much to learn,” he said with a thoughtful frown.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Rhyme; “but it’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.”

Isn’t that the truth! I have made so, so many mistakes in my life. I have beat myself up for them over and over again. At times they have been incapacitating. At times they were all I could think of. At times I have dwelled on them far more than is healthy (is dwelling ever healthy? Probably not!) For the past several years I have been trying to focus on the lessons…what the lessons are, why I need them, and what I am to do with the learning of them. It is a much healthier approach.

I’m reminded of my favorite scenes from Meet the Robinsons. An invention doesn’t work out and the boy inventor is devastated. The family responds with applause. The boy is baffled…why are they applauding him when his idea didn’t work? The mother responds:

“From failure, you learn; from success, not so much.”

Implementing that belief in my life is difficult to say the least, but I keep being hit over the head with this concept, so I am listening and learning and trusting that everything-doesn’t-have-to-be-perfect-right-this-instant and I don’t have to beat myself up for it any longer. I can learn and I can grow and I can give life my best. I can believe deep down in my little toes that the journey is what is important and is what enables me to become the person God created me to be.

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book bonanza: nobody rides the unicorn

Oct 4, 2011 by

Nobody Rides the Unicorn

Keziah’s birthday book this year is Nobody Rides the Unicorn. It is about an orphaned, servant girl who is tricked into beguiling a unicorn so the king can capture it. She is outraged that she has been used to commit this evil act and by risking her life, she sets the unicorn free. I love the courage the young girl shows and her determination to do right no matter the cost to herself. The artwork is soft and lovely. I hope Keziah treasures it.

It must be out of print or something because it is over $30 at Amazon. Barnes and Noble had it for $5.97, so we ordered it from there. If you decide to get, I recommend you do the same…big grin!

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