What I Read – February 2019

Since it is almost mid-March, I suppose I should get my list of books from February jotted down. To say that I am running a bit behind is, well, clearly obvious. In no particular order, here we go!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman) – Let me get the disclaimer out of the way from the first. There is language in this book; sprinkled through out in conversation and thought. If you are sensitive to that, please take that into consideration. There were also two scenes that took me by surprised and that I quickly skimmed through. However, this book, this journey with Eleanor was worth it. I did not know much about this book when I began. I had seen it several times on Instagram and decided to give it a go. It is a beautiful story that shows the power of the simple act of friendship and that we should love the unlovely. Is about forgiveness and healing and love. I’m so glad I got to know Eleanor.

Greetings from the Flipside (Rene Gutteridge) – A Christian Fiction story that had an intriguing story line but lacked in a bit of back story development. I think if the back story of the two characters, their connection, has been better fleshed out that this would have been super fun! I enjoyed it and a relaxing  weekend read but felt a bit cheated when I was done.

Who I Am With You (Robin Lee Hatcher) – This was a new release from an author that I typically enjoy. Humph. What is up with me? Again, I felt that there was something lacking in the connection of the two main characters, Jessica and Ridley. Hatcher is actually telling two stories at once. The book flips between the story of Jessica and her great-grandfather. I was disappointed and felt Jessica’s and Ridley’s relationship wasn’t realistic.

The Interrupted Tale: Book Four of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (Maryrose Wood) – This was, of course, a read aloud with my younger children (and husband). We continue to enjoy Miss Lumley and the Incorrigibles. Not only is it an engaging story line but Ms. Wood understands that children are smart and witty and funny. I will confess that Book Four has not been my favorite but still excellent! I have Book Five on my shelf for us to read this month. We definitely recommend this series!

A Brief Note: When I’m reading a book or have a book I want to read, I dislike when someone tells me all the details. I often think, ” well, now I don’t have to read it.” So this post isn’t a review of the books I’ve read; just a list to share. If you would like more details, let me know in the comments. I will always try to mention questionable content and other important tidbits.

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) – We finally finished! This was our Wednesday with Austen selection and since we only read it on Wednesdays, it took a few months to finish. However, it was absolutely wonderful and I loved it! My older children had read it on their own but it is a classic worthy of being re-read. Confession: It was my first time reading Pride and Prejudice. Why, why, why did I wait so long? I loved it. Of the Austen books I have read so far, it is my favorite. I did read this aloud to all of my children that are home during the day (17 down to 2). Do not doubt the ability for younger ones to not only follow the basic story line but to enjoy it. Ok, the two year old didn’t really care but that is okay.

The Austen Escape (Katherine Reay) – I happened to see this on the shelf and grabbed it. I had heard good things about this author and her books. The Austen Escape was an enjoyable weekend read. I think you definitely have to appreciate Austen to enjoy a book like this. It was fun, enjoyable, and interesting. If you are in need of some weekend reading or a book to have tossed in your bag for the waiting room, The Austen Escape is a great choice!

 

Blue Ridge Billy (Lois Lenski) – I love Strawberry Girl and decided I wanted to incorporate Lenski’s other regional books into our school readings. Since Blue Ridge Billy is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina it was an easy choice. So, I didn’t enjoy it as much as Strawberry Girl. However, I made this mistake of dragging out the reading of this book. I was suppose to read it weekly but I skipped more than a few weeks. Despite that my children, 11, 9, and 7, enjoyed Blue Ridge Billy. They always wanted me to read more. They wanted to know if Billy was going to get his banjo and what was going to happen to his dad (they were not fans of the dad). If you were to choose to read this, be consistent. I read the last few chapters in a week or so. It made a huge difference.

The Way of the Wilderking (Jonathan Rogers) – This is Book Three of The Wilderking Trilogy. If you have not read this trilogy, read it. Read it aloud to your children. Read it for yourself. It is excellent and funny and exciting and heartbreaking and adventurous. You want to see Aidan’s journey unfold. You want to travel into the Feechiefen and meet the feechies. Trust me. This was my second time reading this trilogy aloud. I read aloud about seven or eight years ago. I decided that my son, 9, would love this trilogy. So I read it aloud again. The boys in your life will love it. So will your girls. Your husband might laugh the loudest. Can you tell that we highly recommend this trilogy?

Whose Body? (Dorothy Sayers) – I was never a fan of mysteries until two of my children developed a love of mysteries. In reading books to preview them and in reading books to join in conversation with them, I have come to love certain murder mysteries. I have had Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries on my TBR for some time. I finally decided to just read it and stop putting it off. Oh, I love Wimsey! Absolutely delightful all the way around. Highly recommend.

Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) – This was as impulse selection. One of my older daughters read this and made a comment or two that had me so eager to read this book. I grabbed a copy from the library. And like so many older books, they give you no book summary or synopsis. I did not ask my daughter for details. I didn’t look it up online. I opened the book, started reading, and let the story unfold before me. Oh my. From the first page, I was hooked. My two daughters that had read it and I had the same exact reaction to the plot twist and resulting outcome.There may have been a character that I wanted to just ask “What?!?!?!?”  Highly recommend. I am eager to read more of du Maurier’s work.

That was a super quick look at what I read or finished reading in February. I will try to post soon about how my reading for the Back to the Classics challenge is going. Hopefully my March reading will be just as delightful as February.

Please share what you are reading!!

 

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What I Read – January 2019

And in a blink, January was gone! Despite how fast time is flying, I was able to finish up a nice stack of books. Some were a bit disappointing but I found a few new favorites. Satisfying, indeed. So let’s get to it!

From the Children’s Section:

Blended by Sharon Draper – This is a middle grade fiction novel that shares the struggles of eleven year old Isabella. Isabella’s parents are divorced. Since both parents live in the same town, Isabella spends alternate weeks with her mom and dad. Each “transfer” deepens Isabella’s question of where does she really belong? Where is home? How does she fit in these two very different households?

That struggle in itself is challenging enough for a young girl but Isabella is also faced with who she is on a racial level. With a father who is black and a mother who is white, where does Isabella fit? Who is she? Events occur at school and home that make this question cut even deeper.

Overall, this was a good read. I think the topics were handled appropriately for the target audience; definitely middle grade fiction.

Marie Antoinette by Bernadine Kelly – This is a World Landmark Book and a surprisingly interesting biography. This served as a read aloud during our group studies and worked well with my teens down to my seven year old. We were able to learn about Marie’s childhood and bringing all the way to the tragic end of her life.

This biography was full of information and details but managed to be engaging and entertaining as well. It definitely encourages a sympathetic view of Marie Antoinette. Considering the future her mother had planned for her, it was heartbreaking how ill-prepared Marie was for that life. During our reading we had much conversation and discussion on how the outcome could have been different and how much other’s decision directed Maria’s path. I highly recommend this Landmark Biography!

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas. This book was grabbed off the shelf totally based on the author. We read and loved Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier. It was such a beautiful, sweet book that took us all by surprise. How could I resist a book about a pet black hole!??!?!?

Oh my, this book was funny, heartbreaking, and such a great read. I laughed out loud over Chapter 11. The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is the story of Stella coming to terms with the death of her father. It is set during the 70s so kiddos who enjoy space might enjoy the tidbit of history and space thrown into this book. I had to look up one or two things myself. And! I am totally prepared if a black hole wanders into my yard. I know exactly what it needs to be happy and how to give it a hug without falling in. This is a must read!

 

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster (Jonathon Auxier) – Mr. Auxier is a favorite author in our home. When I heard he had a new children’s novel out, I requested Sweep from our library immediately. We were not disappointed! Sweep takes up to Victorian London into the world of children and chimney sweeps. Life is harsh, dirty, and unforgiving. Young Nan has faced it all and keeps pushing forward. Then she faces sure death and is saved. Saved by Charlie…a monster. Or is he? And just what exactly do you do with a monster when you are suppose to be dead?

This is a beautiful, bittersweet story of friendship, faith, and hope. It gives us a glimpse into a harsh time in history. We learn to keep our brooms up! and to save ourselves by saving others. I read this aloud and my children loves Nan, Charlie, Toby and even Prospero. I’m still torn on Prospero. We highly recommend Sweep! If you haven’t read Auxier other books, I highly recommend Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, and The Night Gardener.

From the Adult Section:

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Twelfth Night is the story of tangled relationships, shipwrecks, and mistaken identities. It is absolutely hilarious and delightful. I can not recommend enough reading Shakespeare aloud in a group. It has to be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays so far. Definitely recommend!

On Magnolia Lane by Densie Hunter. This is the newest release from Christian Fiction author Denise Hunter. This story of a pastor (Jack) falling in love with a parishioner (Daisy) sound interesting and intriguing. Then it fell a bit flat for me. I’m not sure if there were too many smaller plot lines going on or if the character development just wasn’t deep enough? In any case, this one did not live up to my expectations and I was disappointed.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. As a huge fan of World War II books, non-fiction and fiction, I was eager to dive into Scarlet Sky. A story based on a real life of Pino Lella in Italy during the German Occupation. Although this story was based on true life and events, it was fictionalized due to lack of documentation and accuracy of conversations, etc.

Sadly, not too far into the book and I was struggling to embrace Pino, Italy, and all that was happening. The writing was stilted and choppy. Sometimes it read as if Sullivan was writing a fiction novel and then it shifted to a more fact based paper or outline. Normally, at this point I would put a book aside and move on to a new selection. However, I really wanted to love this story so I kept pushing through. In hindsight I should have just shut the book and let it go. At times it bordered at times on unrealistic and some of the events and actions Pino took seemed unbelievable. If you have read Scarlet Sky, I would love to hear your thoughts? I really struggled with this!

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos. Ah, this was such a great read, y’all. Before you read this book, you need to read Love Walked In and Belong to Me. Then grab I’ll Be Your Blue Sky. I am not going to give away any of the story line. Truly. I loved these characters so much. I loved their stories. I loved the picture it paints of family and friendship and dealing with the hard and ugly parts of life. I highly recommend. Find a cozy spot, a yummy snack, and settle in! Now. Go!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This book. I read it on a whim. I had seen it mentioned online a few times and so I thought, “why not?” I am fairly confident that this book will by in my Top Ten for the year. I absolutely loved this book. Towles created a beautiful story set with the backdrop of Russian history. A gentleman who instead of facing death after the Revolution in Russia is exiled to a hotel. He must live out his life in a small servant room and never to leave the walls of the hotel. Decades pass by as The Count creates a community inside this hotel as he watches the changes of his beloved Russia.

This is a beautiful story of life and friendship and circumstance. The writing and language is beautiful and lovely. I enjoyed just reading how Towles writes as much as the story he wove together. Not only did I fall in love with his characters but I want to learn more of Russia and her history. After I was done, two of my teens (15 and 17) read A Gentleman and my husband listened to it on audio. They all loved it as well.( I want to note that I can’t recall any vulgar language. There are two incidents where the Count spends time with a woman in an intimate setting. There is a description of her lowering her dress to the floor and later they are in bed talking. It is not graphic or detailed and only a paragraph or two each time. I wanted to be upfront my letting my teens read it might encourage others to do the same.)

If you read only one book from this post, make it A Gentleman in Moscow. This is one I would love to own and would re-read. Highly recommend.

I think that covers my January reading. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about my Back to the Classic challenge. Ahem. It is moving at a bit of a slow pace. I will update where I am at on that in my next post.

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2018-2019 Curriculum Choices – 1st and 3rd Grades

Our 2018-2019 School Year began back in July.  Perhaps not the most well timed start as we had a couple of major interruptions. But such is life, right?

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that I needed to make a few adjustments to the schedule and book selections. I think that I finally have things set to a good and reasonable flow for my younger students.

We do some studies all together and those things are not included in this post but will soon follow. The selections listed below are used with my Form 1 students.

Math:

Math Mammoth is used by both students at their appropriate level. I switched a few years ago to using Math Mammoth with my younger students and they are doing well. Not only do I appreciate the presentation of the math but the price is affordable as well. I also use Ray’s Primary Arithmetic. My 1B daughter really enjoys it and I think it works very well for mental math work. We use it once or twice a week.

Reading/Phonics Instruction:

My third grade/Form 1A student is working through the Treadwell Readers and has about two pages left in the First Reader. He will immediately move into the Second Reader. He is really enjoying these books and moving at a fabulous pace. Since I prefer a hard copy, I purchase copies from Amazon at a reasonable price. But you can access these readers for free online!

My first grade/Form 1B student is about a third of the way through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I love this resource and have used it for several children. Simple, straight-forward, short lessons are a win for me. All of my children who have used this book are excellent readers!

Handwriting/Copywork:

Beautiful Handwriting for Children by Penny Gardner is an italics handwriting program that I am using with multiple children. This resource covers print and cursive writing. It includes pages to practice letters, words, and then sentences. Additional blank pages for practice can be printed as well. The PDF download is only $10! My 1st and 3rd grader are working through the print pages at their own pace.

Within this post, the books highlighted link to Amazon. I choose to link to Amazon because they offer a great “look inside” feature that often allows you to read a few pages of a text. I have always found that helpful. However, I often use ThriftBooks.com because I find better pricing. It has helped my budget tremendously!

History:

All of my children are studying 1650-1800. For my Form 1 students there is more of a focus on just the years of 1700-1800 with a slight bit of the “heroic age” tossed in for my 1st grader. A First Book of American History and Meet the North American Indians are our current history books. I am also including a historical fiction read aloud. We are currently reading Johnny Tremain. A couple of times a week, I read a chapter or two during lunch. In a separate post I will share the history free reads that are available to the children; these include picture books as well.

Geography:

I have a few resources on hand for geography. We will be working through Paddle to the Sea by Holling C Holling as well as Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography. To add a bit of fun in the mix, I am including Blue Ridge Billy by Lois Lenski. Her regional stories of America show the beauty of the different ares and people! Naturally we will work with a few basic maps and use our wall maps often to locate places we read about.

Science:

Sam and Martha will be enjoying Pagoo by Holling C. Holling. This one is always a favorite! We are also reading A Drop of Water and doing some of the experiments shared in the back of the book.  This term our Special Study will be on trees and dragonflies. I may be adding in reading Tree and Shrubs by Arabella Buckley. I do not have a copy of this yet so we shall see if we work it in. Science is a favorite with Sam and he asks for it daily!

Literature:

Form 1B typically includes Fairy Tales and Form 1A often incorporates Mythology if I am remembering correctly. I am alternating reading fairy tales and Greek myths. I am utilizing a copy I own of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. While I have D’ aulaires Book of Greek Myths on my wish list, I am trying to use what I have. I own Greek Myths by Oliva Coolidge and Usborne Greek Myths. Which one will I use? I’m not quite sure!

I am also reading Swallows and Amazon by Arthur Ransome. This was just a spur of the moment decision. I am fairly confident that my third grade kiddo is going to love it! I may also have him listen to the audio of Pilgrim’s Progress in the evening as he falls asleep.

I think that covers the Form 1 work for the coming term/year. This is such a delightful age. I love their insights and narrations on the things we read and observe. We do not read these books daily and some are not read even weekly. My goal is to spread a feast for my children. We are savoring it slowly.  My hope is that this might be helpful to someone. As time allows, I will try to share a weekly schedule for my Form 1 Students.

 

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