Thursday, February 26, 2009

squirrel treat

In my ongoing efforts to provide food for the birds in our backyard, I also have to deal with unscrupulous squirrels. After getting nowhere with simply tossing the peanuts on the ground, last week I crafted a peanut feeder from the bottom of a plastic juice container. I'm so pleased to see that the squirrels are catching on.

We see mostly black squirrels here in our corner of Ontario but the occasional red squirrel can be seen running along our fence with it's bushy tail floating behind him.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh my.

Need a laugh? Watch this video of the Ellen Degeneres show from last year. My husband and I watched this this past weekend with our eyes watering and our sides hurting with laughter.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Book blogs

Here are some book blogs I have been reading lately:
A library is a hospital for the mind
Hope is the Word

And here are a few others that I have put in my sidebar in recent weeks that you may have missed:
Reading to Know
Worthwhile Books
Operation Actually Read Bible

Most, if not all of these bloggers are Christians who enjoy reading and take the time to blog about their book experiences.
I hope you will check them out.

Bob books

We have been using Bob books as our reading books as we have progressed through our phonics lessons. (For reviews of our phonic resources see here and here.) I remember these box sets from my days at Barnes & Noble Booksellers but I never examined them in light of homeschooling a beginning reader.
Once I realized how much Set 1 corresponded with our phonics lessons, we were off and reading. The illustrations are mostly simple black and white line drawings with a little color to add interest. But the best thing about these books is that they are truly geared towards explicit phonics instruction. Many, many beginner books and workbooks that crowd the bookshelves claim to be "phonics based" but a simple look inside shows that that they mainly rely on sight words repeated throughout the book. I could really post another diatribe on that whole issue, but I digress.
The first Bob book in Set 1 is entitled Mat, has an illustration on every page and goes like this:
First page: Mat.
Second page: Mat sat.
Third page: Sam.
Fourth page: Sam sat.
Fifth page: Mat sat. Sam sat.
Sixth page: Mat sat on Sam.
Seventh page: Sam sat on Mat.
Eighth page: Mat sat. Sam sat.
Final page: The End
Now to you or I as an accomplished reader, this seems painfully simplistic and well, boring. But to a child who as just learned that blending letter sounds together makes words like at, sat, cat, mat, etc. and to be able to read those newly learned words in a story is very satisfying and exciting. I was a bit, shall we say, leery that my son would enjoy reading the books and not become bored with the simple sentences. However I was soon convinced that he loved reading a whole book with little help. Especially satisfying was the "The End" at the end of every book.
We now have gone through all the books in Set 1 and 2(24 books in total) and have skipped to Set 5(8 books) dealing with long vowels. Once again, these little books are giving my son the needed practice and encouragement to learn new reading skills. These books are widely available in store and online. Also check with your local library as you may be able to borrow them instead.

Language Lessons

We are continuing to move along in the process of teaching our 5.5 year old son to read. My latest resource, Language Lessons for Little Ones 3(LLL) was ordered from Timberdoodle although it can be purchased from the author Sandi Queen at Queen Homeschool as well.
This series combines paintings, photography, poetry, narration, copywork and phonics lessons into one consumable workbook to assist your child in learning the mechanics of language. For us, this is not our sole phonics resource, as we are continuing to work our way through Jessie Wise's program The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading which I previously wrote about here. I am still relying on her book for our main phonics lessons as the lessons are more detailed and methodical than the LLL books we have purchased.
But as I was looking for something to reinforce the lessons through copywork and further practice this book seems to fit. So far we have progressed through thirteen lessons in two days including a creative art piece from my son based on one of the poetry lessons.
We are currently working hard to transition from using the short vowel sounds to long vowel sounds and it is rough terrain. We have made homemade flashcards for easy review, created lists of rhyming word families (i.e. make, take, lake, snake, etc.) and are reading Bob books in an effort to help make the new material stick. See my review of the Bob books here.
I am taking my time in picking our homeschooling resources because I know that buyer's remorse is all too common in the world of homeschooling. Lots of great products but finding the ones that match your children's learning style and needs is the key. So I read, research, and look online for sample pages before I commit to purchasing. So far I have been happy with all the resources I have purchased. Of course, next up is finding a math program for our son which is apparently not a task for the faint-hearted. Lord, help me, I pray.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Current Reads

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (first Dicken's book for me)
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin (started last year the week Baby K decided to come early, hope to finish before next baby comes)
Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin by P.G. Wodehouse (third or fourth Wodehouse book I've read)

Monday, February 02, 2009

a book ramble: chapter 2

The story started here: book ramble: chapter 1

So into Barnes & Noble I came, first as a Starbucks barista (I didn't know that term until years after I finished working there) and then into the children's department. That's where I met Natasha, the head bookseller for the children's department who was a veteran bookseller and whose knowledge and experience far exceeded mine. As she was training me in the precise location of book titles and genres, she would hand me the book and send me off to shelve it. As I would be nervously scanning the shelves to find this book a home, she would come up behind me and say in an offhand way, "I can see where it goes." I then would search harder until I too could easily find the spot.
The rest of the booksellers, with only a few exceptions treated the children's department as the ghetto neighborhood. (i.e. On the way to the breakroom and coatroom, walk quickly through it, eyes down and store badge hidden and hope that no customer snags you.) Pages and phone calls were constantly put through for the children's department to handle. I really began to know and understand children's books in a way I had never known.
When I worked there, the Newbery and Caldecott award winning books were grouped in their own special subsection. Natasha recommended many of those titles and kept it well stocked. I thought many of them looked and sounded boring.
Then there was the Returns list. Books that were selected to be returned to the publisher as unsold. Once as I was working on such a list, Natasha happened upon my growing pile and after scanning the titles, she yanked a few of them off the bookcart and said, "I don't return these titles no matter what the list says." Some of titles I remember I have since seen homeschooling moms recommend as their favorites. Books like Swallows and Amazons and other Arthur Ransome titles. I didn't know that those were the books that Natasha liked to recommend for an interested reader.
Later as a schoolteacher, I built up my own library for the kids to read and borrow from, but I still didn't work much from the Classics list or even the Newbery list. Nor did the schools' curriculum incorporate them. It wouldn't be until I started researching homeschooling options that I realized the importance using good, classic literature to help train minds.
Right now, my going on six year-old son and I are reading the original Winnie-the-Pooh books and we are loving them. We laugh over the silliness and the original songs that Pooh sings and we enjoy the humor each character brings to the story. I had no idea that the original stories had so much potential for young children. Last summer we all enjoyed listening to this audiobook version as we traveled twelve hours back to New Brunswick for a family wedding. The narrator, Jim Broadbent does an excellent job voicing all the characters.
Currently, sitting on my shelves downstairs waiting to be discovered are titles like Bambi, Treasure Island, and Swiss Family Robinson. I also look forward to sharing my favorites like From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Railway Children, Snow Treasure and The Little House Series.
This article, Has the Newbery Lost Its Way? written last October brought all these memories and thoughts to mind as I read it, especially with the latest awards having been announced earlier last week.

I also found this Newbery Ranking list interesting.

movie magic

I grew up in a very conservative Christian home without a television until my older brother gave us his cast off when I was about thirteen years old. Up until that point, my television and movie-watching experiences were limited to my grandparent's house which we visited almost every Sunday afternoon. They owned a RCA SelectaVision videodisc machine that I never saw anywhere else and apparently never really caught on. But we loved watching those movies in Pop and Grandma Shirley's living room. Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Swiss Family Robinson, The Great Locomotive Chase, The Billion Dollar Hobo and The Love Bug. So far I have acquired many of those titles and love to watch them over and over.
And because I love these old movies, I was so surprised and enlightened when I happened upon this blog post at Buried Treasure Books about Dean Jones, the racecar driver from The Love Bug. He's a conservative Christian who is still making movies. If you're interested you can read more about him here at the Wikipedia site.