Jul 19, 2017

8th Grade Reading List


Nate's list is a little crazy. He will be doing Lightning Lit 7th grade, so he will read (or actually re-read) :

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
All Creatures Great and Small
The Story of My Life

However, that is not nearly enough books for his voracious appetite. My goal with his book list is to keep him thinking and moving forward. He loves "easy-for-him" books and will reread his favorites until he has them memorized. I did that too, as a child, so I'm not complaining at all! But sometimes he needs a shove to indulge in a different genre or maybe try something a little more challenging. That is the point of the book list for him. So I am adding these books:

Red Sails to Capri     Ann Weil
The Giver      Lois Lowry
The Yearling      Marjorie Rawlings
Little Britches     Ralph Moody
Cheaper By The Dozen   Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Lassie Come Home   Eric Knight
Penrod    Booth Tarkington
Pinocchio      Carlo Collodi
Peter Pan    J.M. Barrie
The Scarlet Pimpernel     Baroness Orczy
A Tale of Two Cities     Charles Dickens
Freckles  Gene Stratton-Porter      
Johnny Tremain   Esther Forbes  
Miracles on Maple Hill    Virginia Sorensen
Hatchet  Gary Paulson
The Westing Game           Ellen Raskin
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM   Robert C O'Brien
The Borrowers    Mary Norton

It's difficult to put together a book list for Nate. I roam the Internet but all the books on all the lists are ones he has already read! He is a prolific reader and rarely refuses or dislikes a book. With the other kids, I prefer to make up my lists off our home library shelves, but that absolutely will not work for him because he's read them already. We actually own very few of these books, all of which I have hidden away for just such a need as this! :)

He helped me with this list, mostly just by saying, "I've read that book already, Mom," to all of my suggestions. When I finally gave up, I asked him if nineteen books was enough and he said, "Yeah, I guess. I'll read more than that, though."

And he is right. He will. But at least this will get him started.

And then, after making this list, I had to take one off because he had read it after I finished when I wasn't looking.

Jul 18, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Mapelle Films


My kids like movies. And my girls really like to watch movies with me. I'm not much of a TV person, but I will, occasionally, watch something with the kids as a special treat. Especially the girls. So when we got the movie Trust Fund from Mapelle Films, the girls and I popped some popcorn, Kaytie brewed a cup of peppermint tea, and we settled in to enjoy it together.

Trust Fund Movie

There is a companion book: Love Was Near that is meant for after the movie, so I will discuss that after I tell you about the movie.

Trust Fund is the story of Reece, the youngest of two girls and the daughter of an influential publisher. Unlike Audrey, her dependable older sister, Reece is restless and unfocused. Although she is a gifted writer and is supposed to be writing a book that she has already been paid for, she spends her time blowing through her monthly allowance and borrowing money from her dad, Grayson. Right at the beginning of the story, she finds out that her mom (who passed away several years before in an accident) left her an inheritance of five million dollars. Grayson has been keeping this money a secret from the girls while insisting they learn independence and responsibility.

Instead, Reece sneaks the money and runs away to Italy with a cute guy (Milo) who she believes she is in love with. Unfortunately, the cute guy is not all he appears and he cons her out of her money for less than savory reasons and then tries to involve her in his schemes. Scared and broke, Reece runs back home where her father shows her true love and unconditional forgiveness.

This story is a retelling of the Biblical parable, The Prodigal Son. It has all the elements, the rebellious kid, the self righteous sibling, the unimaginably loving father. And we loved those parts. We felt the main characters (which also included a sweet, grandmotherly figure, Gloria) were well-developed and likable. That part of the story was great.

On the other hand, we felt the plot-line was a little convoluted and hard to follow. Extra characters appeared and disappeared with little introduction and we were often confused as to what exactly was going on. I think there were too many things going on that kind of clouded the main focus of the film.

One of the extras was a romantic add on. A guy named Sam who showed up unexpectedly and we finally figured out they had been friends for a long time and that he had been pursuing her for years. He also demonstrated unconditional love to Reece when he overlooked, without question or recrimination, the fact that he saw Milo kissing her.

On the positive side, though, this was a clean, wholesome movie with a positive message. There was no language or suggestiveness that made me cringe. Neither God nor the Bible were actually mentioned in the movie, although the message of love and forgiveness was loud and clear. After her unfortunate trip to Italy, Reece demonstrated remorse and repentance, accepting a previously scorned job at her father's company, completing her book for her publisher, and all around accepting responsibility for her actions, both past and present.

It is certainly a good movie to watch and discuss with your family, I feel safe recommending it for kids of all ages.

After we watched the movie, Kaytie and I read the book. It is recommended for girls ages 12 and up to follow up on the themes of the film.

Love Was Near Book

Love Was Near is a paperback book of a little over 200 pages. It is basically a retelling of the movie with insight about what Reece was thinking and feeling. It goes a little deeper than the movie and explores the themes more thoroughly.

It is part devotional, part story, part discussion questions on the movie. The story, told by Reece in first person, is mixed together with her diary entries. Also scattered throughout are photos from the movie and cute sketches that she draws in her diary.


At the end of each chapter are a couple of questions for you and your daughter to answer or discuss. For example,

  • "When you make mistakes, do you feel overwhelmed with the feeling that you are somehow flawed or inferior?"
  • "What happened today you don't want to forget? Remember, it only needs to feel special to you!"
  • "What if you chose to encourage someone, gave more compliments, and remembered to be grateful? What would it cost you? Tell someone you're thankful for something they did."

There is a place to write the answers to the questions, or you can just discuss, like we did. It might be fun to have two copies of the book so you can each write your answers and then get together to compare and discuss!
The companion book was our favorite part of this package. It's really true, the book is always better! haha! We felt it cleared up a lot of the questions we had about the movie, "Oh! So that's what was going on/ who that was/ what they were talking about/ why that was in the movie!"
As for the questions at the end of the chapter, Kaytie and I enjoyed discussing them together. We both read the story and are slowly working our way through the questions. It's a fun mother/daughter activity. 
In short, the girls and I recommend this movie/book combo. The movie makes for a fun mother/daughter(s) evening with plenty of food for discussion afterwards.
Trust Fund Movie {Mapelle Films Reviews}

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Jul 12, 2017

6th Grade Reading List

If you read my 5th grade list, you will notice that this 6th grade list is remarkably similar. When you homeschool your kids and they are super close in age, they wind up doing a lot of things at the same time. Daniel and I read over Abbie's list and he chose what he wanted to keep on his list and what he wanted to cross off. Then we added books we thought would suit him better. He wanted some books with action in them, so I tried to accommodate. He likes to read the least of all the kids; I am still tempting his appetite. But he has come so far in the last couple years! I'm pretty proud of him.

Socks       Beverly Cleary
Charlotte’s Web     E.B. White
The Cricket in Times Square      George Seldon
Ginger Pye     Elenor Estes
Mr. Popper’s Penguins      Richard Atwater
Snow Treasure      Marie McSwigan   
Caddie Woodlawn     Carol Ryrie Brink
Half Magic      Edward Eager
Trapped in the Old Cabin        Patricia Kershaw
Prince Caspian     C.S. Lewis     (He has already read The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe)
The Saturdays    Elizabeth Enright  (I hope he likes this and reads the rest of the series)
Big Red      Jim Kjelgaard
Sarah Whitcher’s Story       Elizabeth Yates     
A Lion to Guard Us    Clyde Robert Bulla
The Little Green Frog    Beth Coombe Harris
Nim’s Island      Wendy Orr
The Indian in the Cupboard     Lynne Reid Banks
Star of Light      Patricia St. John
Winnie the Pooh      A.A. Milne


Jul 11, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Make-a-State

We have been crazy busy this summer, but the kids and I have still managed to squeeze out some time to work on a few review products. We have been learning some Texas history with Home School in the Woods. This is one of my favorite places to get hands-on history products and we have been enjoying their Make-a-State Activity, which is a part of the Activity-Paks series. 


This product is a quick download. It comes in a zipfile and after you extract the files you have PDFs, images, and an autorun button. The PDFs and images can also be found in the autorun section, it just gives you options in case you have troubles with your browser or just have different printing preferences. I generally just use the autorun, which pulls everything up, in order, on my browser and I just go from there. It keeps my brain organized because I am easily confused if there are a lot of different pieces.

Hands-On History Activity-Paks: Make-A-State

And Make-a-State has a lot of pieces! It is basically a lapbook that you can use to study any of the 50 states that you want, or all the states that you want! It is not a complete study because it does not contain the information that you need about the states. There is a page of info, but it is pretty brief. Texas had three paragraphs, a list of famous people, symbols, facts, and a few "on this date in history".  So you  do need to incorporate books, websites, and other materials to round out your study. However, with 20 projects to complete and a file folder game to play, it is a great foundation to start with!

Hands-On History Activity-Paks: Make-A-State

The projects are:

1. Key State Facts 
2. Origin of State Name 
3. State Motto 
4. State Symbols 
5. State Song 
6. State Industry / Agriculture / Climate 
7. State Wildlife 
8. Regions 
9. State Geography 
10. State Government 
11. State Seal & Flag 
12. State History 
13. Famous People From... 
14. Native Tribes 
15. State Landmarks 
16. Sports Teams 
17. State Quarter 
18. Recipes 
19. State Vocabulary 
20. State Timeline 
BONUS #1: State Page for each state and Washington, D.C. 
BONUS #2: “Name That State!” File Folder Game


These are either adaptable for each state, or there is one for each state. So you can chose to use this for one state study, like we did, or you can use this over and over for all the states. The only drawback is that if there is one for each state, there are multiple states on each page. So for us, just wanting Texas stuff, I did have to waste some ink printing off other state's quarters and flags and etc. This would not be a big deal if you were learning all fifty states, but I would have liked the option to just print Texas stuff.


One of the reasons I enjoy Home School in the Woods so much is that they make it so easy for me to use! I open the file, read the simple instructions, scroll, click and print and we are ready to go. I can choose the pieces that will work for my family and skip the ones that won't. 

My kids are between the ages of 10 and 14, so we tend to ignore the more imaginative pieces and spend our time on the parts that require research, writing, thinking, and effort. But when they were younger, it was totally the other way around! That is another great thing about Home School in the Woods! They work great for any age and if you have a big family or a wide age spread, you can easily make it work for everyone.


My kids are not big into lapbooks, either, but that's okay. We still use the pieces to record the information that we discover and we then put those pieces into our history notebooks or a binder, or just hang them on our wall for awhile to enjoy. 

So we focused on Texas, and learned about the native tribes, did some mapping, hunted down the key state facts, sang the state song, read some history, explored some biographies, and even learned about chicken fried steak, which my little Texans didn't even know existed, ha!


As I mentioned before, Home School in the Woods is one of my favorite resources for hands-on history, we have used their History Through the Ages Timeline Figures which is a part of the Timeline Trio for a few years now. We have also used Composers Activity Pak (review here), Artists Activity Pack,  Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt, and Project Passport: The Middle Ages. And that is just a small sampling of what they have to offer! 

And now, they have another great offer... A-La-Carte projects! You can buy just an item or two to round out your history theme without having to buy the whole pack. And for a limited time, the Erie Canal is FREE for you! The code to use at checkout is alacarte. If you have never used Home School in the Woods before, it is a great way to start!

Hands-on History {Home School in the Woods Reviews}
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Jul 6, 2017

5th Grade Reading List

My younger two kids are not voracious readers, but my ten year old daughter does have the ability to get lost in a book. She enjoys reading but is just now fully conquering the mechanics and becoming what I would consider a "strong reader".

She and I sat down together and chose her book list for her fifth grade year. She is a lover of animals, and that is certainly reflected in her list. For my part, I tried to put down books that would challenge her, but not overwhelm her. My older kids were a great help with that. They have read and re-read almost all of these books and could give me a really great perspective on what might be too difficult or what she would really love.


Socks       Beverly Cleary
Charlotte’s Web     E.B. White
The Cricket in Times Square      George Seldon
Ginger Pye     Elenor Estes
All of A Kind Family (I have the first one down, hopefully, she will get interested and read the whole series on her own)      Sydney Taylor
Mr. Popper’s Penguins      Richard Atwater
Snow Treasure      Marie McSwigan   
Caddie Woodlawn     Carol Ryrie Brink
Half Magic      Edward Eager
Trapped in the Old Cabin        Patricia Kershaw
Prince Caspian     C.S. Lewis     (She has already read The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe)
A LittlePrincess     Frances Hodgson Burnett
Justin Morgan Had a Horse    Marguerite Henry
The Saturdays    Elizabeth Enright  (Another one I hope she adores and reads the rest of the series)
Big Red      Jim Kjelgaard
Sarah Whitcher’s Story       Elizabeth Yates     
A Lion to Guard Us    Clyde Robert Bulla

We are really relaxed with book lists around here. Abbie will choose books off the list in any order. She is required to read a little bit each day. I usually have to make her stop and do other work after awhile. I try to encourage her to leave reading till last so she can read as much as she wants, but she doesn't always follow my advice.

She will read until the book is finished and then she will chose another. Hopefully, we will finish this list. If we don't, we will roll the remnants over to her 6th grade list. If she runs out before the end of the school year, I will just find other books for her to read! There is no shortage of good books in our house! 

It is also possible that at some point, she will ask if she can read another book for school. As long as it is a "real" book ie: not a comic book or a book way too easy for her, I will say yes. I want my kids to love reading and I don't believe there is only path to get to that love. As long as she is reading a wholesome book, I am happy.

Jun 28, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Lightning Lit

Nate and I have been working together on a review for Hewitt Homeschooling  using their Gr 7 Lightning Lit Set .

He has never technically done a real literature program before. He pretty much taught himself to read at age 4 and has rarely put down a book since then. He has always been the kind of kid that would read anything I handed to him, and then tell you all about it. So I have never put the time and energy into making it a "school subject", he just reads and reads and reads. Mostly I just try to keep him in quality books to read and stay out of his way. However, high school is looming so he and I thought we would give this a try and see how we liked it.

 Lightning Literature and Composition Pack
Grade 7

We received four books: the Teacher's Guide; the Student's Guide; a workbook; and the anthology Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages. There are four other books that are required for this course, and you would get them as a part of the pack, but as reviewers, we were not given them. That was okay though, because they are pretty common classics and we own them all already.

The Guides and the Workbook all look alike, which honestly caused us some confusion. It was way too easy to grab the wrong book. They are all slick, paperback books, slim but sturdy.

The Teacher's Guide starts with an overview of the course. It describes all the different components and explains why they are there and how to use them to best fit your particular student. 

This section is followed by a weekly schedule. If you follow this schedule it will take you 36 weeks to complete the course.

Next, organized by chapter, are all the answers to the questions in both the Student Guide and the Workbook. There are also suggestions of things to keep an eye out for, expectations you should have, how to grade assignments, discussion questions, and other hints and tips.

The Student's Guide is written directly to the student and is the first book your child will turn to after they read an assignment. The schedule and assignments are not in the student's books, you have to tell them what to do when. 

Each chapter in the Student Guide has its own reading assignment. For example, the first chapter covers the reading of short story Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (found in the anthology) and the second chapter covers the entire book of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The student should start the Student Guide before they read because each chapter starts with a brief bio of the author. Then there is a paragraph of things to look for while they are reading the assignment. For example, in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the student is asked to look for creativity in the book, "people, beings and things that could never exist in the real world".

Next is a list of vocabulary words with a quick definition that the student will find in the reading and might not know.


This is followed by comprehension questions. After that is a Literary Lesson, which discusses things like Plot Line, Dialogue, and Sound in Poetry. Then there is a Mini Lesson, which covers things like Choosing a Topic, Limerick and Haiku, Brainstorming, and Nonce Words. 

Finally, there is a writing exercise which is to be done after the Workbook exercises for that chapter.
There are seven different types of Workbook exercises but each chapter doesn't necessarily have one of each. Sometimes there are several of one and not any of another. The exercises are labeled in the workbook so you can easily tell what type they are. There are exercises for the Literary Lessons, and for the Mini Lessons. There are exercises for composition skills and thinking skills. There are exercises that review grammar, puzzles, and extra-challenge exercises. The last two are completely optional. The grammar is meant to be review.

We found this to be a fun program that was easy for us to implement. The hard part, in the beginning, was dragging him away from the anthology and keeping him from reading it straight through, cover to cover. But the benefit of his fascination with the book was that he was engaged right away in the curriculum as a whole. 

He is a literary, academic sort of guy, so we just stuck to following the curriculum as is. With the exception that it did not take him seven weeks to read Tom Sawyer. It didn't even take him seven days! 

He loved the reading assignments, he enjoyed the Literary Lessons, and he was fine with most of the Workbook exercises. The only part we really struggled with was when he was required to write. Not because there was anything wrong with the writing assignments, but simply because he loathes writing of any sort. So we compromised a lot. I let him type any answer requiring more than one sentence into a word document on his computer. I let him choose ONE writing assignment per chapter out of the three or four suggestions given, and I (figuratively) held his hand throughout each assignment. 

Hewitt Homeschooling offers an assortment of products for all ages, Kindergarten through 12th grade. They offer Lightning Lit for grades 1-3 and 7th and up. They are currently working on 4th grade. Although this is the first time we have ever used a Lightning Lit course, it has been highly recommended to us by several homeschool friends. Now I can see why! Nate and I are strongly considering using these for his high school literature courses.

Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}

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