Doing More With Less Since 1972

Category: Curricula and Books (Page 1 of 2)

Magic Tree House Series For History And Making Connections

Pea is obsessed with Mary Pope Osbourne’s Magic Tree House series right now. If you aren’t familiar with this series, the stories revolve around Jack and Annie, two young siblings who travel through history (and sometimes space) to help an enchantress collect stories and lift spells. I won’t give away more plot than that. Each book is 10 chapters long, and the “missions” they go on are in groups of four books. It’s the perfect bedtime reading for Pea. She can’t read them on her own yet, but they help stretch her vocabulary and are a great way to introduce some history. Plus, by reading a few chapters at a time we can spread the reading of stories over days instead of minutes and go through the exercise of recalling what we’ve already read before starting each night.

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And she gets completely lost in the stories. We read three or four chapters each night, and she loves to look ahead at the pictures and try to predict what’s going to happen next. At the end of each book, she loves to go get the next book in the series and see where Jack and Annie will go next.

Keep in mind, she’s five years old. Bug is three and doesn’t quite appreciate the depth of the stories yet. I think her exact words were, “Jack and Annie aw bawing!” And of course, New Baby isn’t a huge fan either since these books aren’t very chewy and don’t have large colored photos.


Last night, something really cool happened while we were reading Magic Tree House #22: Revolutionary War on Wednesday. Pea was looking at the front cover photo of Jack and Annie crossing the Delaware with George Washington, and I was reminded of this post I wrote a while back. I was telling her how I used to lie on her bottom bunk and read a big-grown-up story about the same thing we were reading in the Magic Tree House adventures.

Just like Bug doesn’t quite get the stories on the level Pea does, Pea doesn’t understand how cool it is that she and I sat in the exact same spot and enjoyed the exact same story. Isn’t it cool that she will very likely read this story at least three or four times? I have no doubt she’ll go back and read the Magic Tree House series on her own when she’s able. She’ll also learn about the Revolutionary War and the Christmas night crossing of the Delaware when studying history (non-fiction). And if I am able to influence her, she’ll also catch it again in the historical fiction version I read last year.

We’re already on the hunt for the next series of books we think she may like. Anyone have ideas for kids who love Magic Treehouse?

Children’s Books Now Available on Kindle!

Here’s some great news!

There are over 1,000 new titles available, with support for pop-up text and highlighting the artwork in individual panels.

Ana and I were just talking at lunch today about how to keep one kid occupied while another is having one-on-one school time, and one of our main options is to use a tablet and some apps for some self-directed educational endeavors. Now Kindle with children’s books is a great option!

I loved my Kindle Touch with e-ink (until it got misplaced), but never really cared much for the Kindle apps for mobile devices. The way e-ink is so easy on the eyes was the big seller for me personally. But for children’s books that are heavy on illustrations, iPads and Android tablets are absolutely perfect and intuitive for kids to use.

We may have to get another device now! The Kindle Fire is pretty reasonably priced, and there are some other options out there like the Archos Arnova Child Pad that are both cheap and kid friendly.

Choosing Curriculum – The Never Ending Story Of History

At our house, “school” starts at birth…at least that’s the way we look at it. But things are shifting a little these days because “real school” will be starting soon. That means paperwork has to be filled out to declare that we’re officially home schooling. But there’s more…

Curricula must be chosen.

We may have a different approach than others, but here’s what we talked about and decided on for kindergarten/first grade history.

In our estimation, reading is the key to everything. The most important thing we can teach our children are the skills to read and comprehend, and (most importantly) to love it. A love of reading opens up every other subject. We’re easing the kids into this with the stories we read to them at bedtime. Pea (the 5 yo) has moved past the Dr. Seuss type books for bedtime stories since she’s able to read them herself now, so we have been increasing the density of what we read to her, continuing to model good reading habits and challenging her with tougher content and vocabulary.

Her current favorite is the Magic Tree House series, and it’s been great for introducing a little information about the histories of different parts f the world, although it’s fictional, and getting her to ask questions and wonder about different time periods and places. Admittedly, Bug (the 3yo) says that “Jack and Annie awe boawing!” There aren’t crazy pictures to look at, and they don’t do silly things like grow daisies out of their heads. That’s ok…she still listens to the stories, and she still gets her turn to pick books that are more appropriate for her.

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What we’ve decided to do to introduce history more formally is use the Story of the World books. All the reviews we’ve read lead us to believe this is the right choice for our family because it will let us introduce history as a story. What kid wouldn’t love that? We also have friends with older children who rave about these books and the results they’ve seen with their own kids. We’re hoping we can begin reading this book simply as a series of bedtime stories and letting Pea work through the accompanying activity books during the day. She loves when things “magically happen” during the day that she’s been learning about someplace else. That really helps her learn to make her own connections between what she reads and things that happen in her own life.

Feel free to share your own experiences with these books, especially if there are unseen pitfalls we need to look out for!

New Maurice Sendak Book This Fall!

Good news from the WSJ! The author of “Where the Wild Things Are” is publishing a new book, “Bumble-Ardy“, soon!

This sounds like a pretty funny book, all about about a kid (pig) who celebrates his birthday for the first time when he turns 9.  Admittedly, there are some pretty high expectations already set, but it sounds like “Bumble-Ardy” won’t disappoint! Amazon is already taking (discounted) pre-orders, and the September release date means it will be a perfect Christmas gift for 2011. We’re getting some shopping done early for A Book On Every Bed 2011!

 

 

 

Activities With “Mouse’s First Snow”

We read “Mouse’s First Snow” yesterday in our co-op as an element of our winter theme, and afterwards we did a couple of activities that tied in with the book.

In the book, Mouse goes outside to play in the snow with his dad and follows his lead as the father does all kinds of outdoor winter activities. We don’t exactly have a winter here in Central Florida, so we had to be a little creative.

First, we let all of the kids have a turn “being” a snow mouse by wrapping them in tissue paper and adding a hat and scarf.

Next the kids built their own snow mice out of marshmallows, raisins, pretzels, and peanut butter. Perfect segue into snack time, where they got to eat their project!

Sometimes you have to use your imagination a little to find ways to tie activities into a book, but the kids don’t mind. They have very active imaginations themselves, and the activities are great for tactile learners and to help them make connections between books and life.

Questions Help Your Young Child Develop Comprehension Skills

There is a big difference between being able to read individual words and being able to comprehend what you read, and this is one of the common issues older readers struggle with. One of the best ways to prevent issues with comprehension is to help your young child develop comprehension skills by asking questions while you’re reading to them.

Relax…we’re not talking about grilling them about plot development or character motivation. After all, “Very Hungry Caterpillar” doesn’t exactly have subplot or a source of conflict. But there are questions you can ask your child as you read it that will encourage them to think about what what the words mean on another level. For example:

  • “The caterpillar in the story likes strawberries. Do you like strawberries?”
  • “Do you think a pickle and a cupcake would taste good if you ate them at the same time?”
  • “Did the caterpillar eat more on Tuesday or Thursday?”
  • “Would it be fun to wrap yourself in a blanket like a caterpillar in a cocoon?”
  • “Why do you think the caterpillar was so hungry?”

Obviously, these are very simple questions–mostly yes/no, and mostly subjective. But they help your child relate to the characters (or animals) in the books you are reading and make connections between the story and their own lives. Try to keep it fun and silly, and if your child needs help with questions that have right and wrong answers give them a little nudge. For instance, if they answer that the caterpillar ate more on Tuesday than Thursday, or if they aren’t sure, help them out by giving them a strategy to find the right answer: “Let’s count and find out!”

A Thanksgiving Book We’re Enjoying – Review

We tried to check “Thanks for Thanksgiving” out at our local libraries last week, but it was already checked out at every branch. But at $6.99, that’s not a bad price on Amazon. Plus, if you weren’t aware, parents get a free membership to Amazon Prime called Amazon Mom (dads and caregivers are eligible too).

“Thanks for Thanksgiving” is a really well illustrated book for smaller kids–lots going on in the pictures and filled with images of fall. The book doesn’t deal with the history or Thanksgiving or anything like that, but instead focuses on all the things to be thankful for–friends, family, school, slides, leaves, etc.

We really wish we’d bought it earlier since it references lots of aspects of Fall, making it a great book to supplement the Autumn theme our homeschool co-op has been doing for the past few weeks.

The Mine-o-saur!

The Mine-o-saur

It’s a good thing we love The Mine-o-saur so much, because Chick Pea absolutely adores it! For the last couple of weeks this has been a nightly read for her. We’ve been reading it to her once or twice ourselves, then she gives it a shot. Sure, she’s only reciting what she can remember of the words, but it’s so fun to see her slide her finger across the page as we’ve modeled for her. She’s definitely aware that the words on the page are what we are speaking, and she turns the pages at the appropriate times. She also enjoys naming all the letters in the words and reciting their sounds. We’re one step away from putting the sounds together!

The story may be a little advanced for some toddlers, and we’re not sure that she’s picked up on the small nuances of the story, but we go a little further than the text of the book to explain to her that the other dinosaurs are sad when the Mine-o-saur screams “MINE MINE MINE” and they don’t want to play with him. “Que feo, Mami!”

We’ve been applying the book to daily life when her selfish side comes out–“Do you want to be a Mine-o-saur, or a Share-o-saur?” So what if the book never mentions a “Share-o-saur”? 🙂

Some other fun things we do with this book is practice counting objects–cars, balls, green creatures, purple creatures, etc. The last page of the book shows 11 or 12 dinosaurs huddled together. We make it a point to let her count all the eyeballs with each reading, and since she’s still having trouble with the numbers past 14, it gives us a chance to model that as well.

Overall, one of the favorite books in our family library!

More Tips For Advanced Readers

Thanks to one of our readers for seeking advice for this great problem. Great problem, you ask? Yup…it’s a great problem to have a child that is an advanced reader! Here’s our reader’s question posted as a comment on our last post about advanced readers:

I have a second grade daughter reading at a 4-5 grade level. She devours chapter books at a rate of 1-2 per day. She is tested on these books and her comprehension is incredible. She’ll read 4 books, test on them and not confuse story lines or content. I am in awe. The problem is I want to challenge her-but many books in her level are not age appropriate. What can you suggest-titles or activities?

A child who loves to read so much that she/he devours books at record speeds is a wonderful thing indeed! Yet it can be quite challenging for parents to keep up! How far ahead should I let them read? Should I keep some books off limits? How do I keep him/her engaged and interested without exposing them to innapropriate content? The questions go on and on.

As I started to write a response with suggestions on things you can do as a parent, I remembered an article I read a while back that did a great job addressing this issue. So instead of reinventing the wheel, I strongly encourage you to check this article out because it has great ideas on choosing books for your advanced reader along with some suggested titles.

Along with Bochan’s great ideas, I’ll add my own suggestions for some series titles:

Series:

  • Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time trilogy is one of my favorites!
  • American Girl History Mysteries series are written by different authors and explore American histories from a fictionalized young girl’s perspective. While not necessarily humerous, they are mysteries which are a bit more complex in language than the Magic Tree House books.
  • Backyard Wonders series by Nancy MacCoon is great for kids curious about animals and natural history.
  • Five Ancestors books by Jeff Stone (Crane, Snake, Tiger, Monkey, and Dragon). It’s the same story set in China, told from 5 different character’s points of view. The author even has a cool site that shares history, activities, and news that relate to the books.
  • The Misadventures of Inspector Moustachio by Wayne Madsen. I havent’ read this one yet , but it is highly recommended for avid readers. Here’s B&N’s synopsis: A riveting tale that is full of adventure, suspense and humor. This book will hold particular appeal to children ages 8 to 12 who want something more engaging and compelling than what typical chapter books offer their age group. Already being endorsed by educational professionals, The Case Of Stolen Time will become a classic favorite of children and educators alike!

In addition to choosing great titles, you may also want to consider doing some pre, during, and post reading activities with your child to extend their experiences with the books they love. I’m currently working on more lengthy articles to share specific ideas with you, so stayed tuned!

September Giveaway and More For October!

First of all, thanks to everyone who participated in our August giveaway by subscribing to Reading Coach Online! We’ve randomly chosen and notified our winner for the Abunga
gift card (Congratulations!), and we’re even doing another Gift Card Giveaway in September to give everyone else another chance to win.  Don’t worry, September’s giveaway is open to our current subscribers as well as new subscribers.  If you’ve already subscribed you are eligible, and if you haven’t subscribed yet, what are you waiting for?

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to browse through our Lesson Ideas and have found activities that are both fun and educational for your children.  We encourage you to not only try these ideas, but also leave comments and let us know how they’ve worked for your family (including any tweaks and variations you come up with).

We have a big contest planned for October, and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on one of our Lesson Ideas or write a blog post linking to your favorite lesson idea. We’re lining up prizes right now, and we’ll release prize details as soon as they are finalized. I just wanted to give you all a heads up on the October contest so that you have time to try out some of the lesson ideas if you decide to join in on the fun. So stayed tuned for more details!

Free Books!

That’s what we got today…a lot of free books. Our local used book store, Mckay’s, had three huge bins of free books sitting outside of their doors. So before we even entered the store, we had about 30 books in our arms ready to take to the car. Sure we had to dig to find some good stuff, but there was plenty hidden in there to find! We came away with a decent collection of fiction and nonfiction books that cover different genres…for all ages. I even found a copy of one of my favorite books ever, A Wrinkle In Time! Check out some of the titles we picked up.

Click on picture to get a closer view of the titles

Click on picture to get a closer view of the titles

If you’re lucky to have such a resource in your town, you should definitely take full advantage of it because you can never have too many books. After all, according to Russ Pulliam, having books around the house creates readers for life.

So get out there and stock up your shelves…hopefully for free!

The Latin Baby Book Club Is Here!

Thanks to The Hen over at Bilingual in the Boonies for the heads up on the launching of the new site Latin Baby Book Club.

I’m really excited about this new resource because it allows parents to find new books and music in Spanish for their kids. This site will serve as a great place to learn about latin children’s literature and culture for anyone interested in sharing a new language with their kids. As a bilingual homeschooling mom that’s trying to raise a bilingual family, I can’t begin tell you how helpful this will be! Okay, maybe I’ll try.

I’m always looking for new Spanish books and songs to read and sing with Chick Pea, but I’m so limited on local selection that I have to focus most of my efforts online. Then there’s the problem of time…I just don’t have enough of it to sift through countless sites to find quality bilingual literature and information to use at home. Enter The Latin Baby Book Club!

These wonderful ladies do all of the work for me! They feature great book reviews, author interviews, songs, tips for early readers, bilingual mom tales, and more. Be sure to check them out!

5 Questions To Ask Before Buying Homeschool Curriculum

A new school year means a new curriculum for many families. Whether you are just starting out or you’ve decided to try something new, there’s a ton of curricula to choose from. Although I have my favorites, I don’t like to recommend any particular curriculum to anyone because families and children are so different. What works great for one family (or child) might not for another, so it’s really important that you take your time choosing the one that’s best for you and your kids.

So how do you decide? You can start by asking yourself the following questions about the curriculum you are considering for reading instruction (although these could be used for any subject). I’ve put them in order of importance for me…which of course may be different for you!

  1. Does it fit my child’s learning style? As the learner, your child’s learning styles and preferences should play a major role in deciding what type of curriculum you should buy. Is she more hands on or does she enjoy listening to and discussing stories? Does she do well learning with technology or does she prefer more traditional approaches? Look for a curriculum that uses methods that work best for her.
  2. Does it fit my teaching style? Although your child’s learning style is a really important deciding factor, you are the teacher and therefore must be comfortable in how you teach the material! Do you like to have things laid out for you in a very structured way (day by day plans, lesson procedures, suggested/provided materials, etc.) or are you more interested in having freedom to choose the what, how, and when of it all? You might even fall somewhere in between – check out question # 5.
  3. Are the instructional methods solid? By this I mean…Is it a trusted curriculum that has shown good results for many kids? Is it based on reading research? Is it thorough or does it just skim the surface of what you want to teach? Try to do your own research by visiting curriculum fairs, talking to other parents, and reading reviews online (on sites other than the publishers’!).
  4. Is it fun and engaging? This is huge! This is where schools sometimes have an advantage…there are many fun things a teacher can do with a class of students that parents may not be able to do to at home to keep interest high. So it’s really important that you find something that is fun and keeps your child’s attention. Try to look for curriculum or methods that include things your child loves to learn about. It’s so important for kids to have fun reading!
  5. Does it allow for flexibility? If you home school, then you know this is a must! Flexibility allows you to change, add, or leave out certain things from your instruction. Some programs only work well if they are followed as is, so you may not see the best results if you decided to tweak it. Just make sure you chose something that lets you have some wiggle room if you need it.

Starting a new curriculum can be very exciting for parents and kids, so have fun with it! Check out what these homeschoolers have to say about it:

A to Z Home’s Cool has some great resources put together to help you avoid wasting money.

Home School Curriculum has descriptions of curricula along with comments and input from parents about each one.

PEAH shares great resources to help you save money and keep you updated on the happenings in the world of homeschool curriculum.

Have a great year!

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Back To School, Or Homeschool, Giveaway

Summer is flying by, and people are no doubt getting geared up for back to school. Whether your kids go to public school, private school, or homeschool, we want to help you get this year started on the right foot by giving away a $20 Abunga.com Gift Card to one of our new subscribers this August. To be eligible, all you have to do is subscribe to our site through email (it’s free) using the form below. That’s it!

Enter your email address:

Seriously, that’s it! Only email subscribers are eligible, but if you’ve already subscribed in a feed reader you can always subscribe by email too. As long as you subscribe before midnight on August 31, you will be included in the random drawing.

If you don’t know about Abunga, it’s a family friendly, online discount bookstore that gives 5% of its revenues to non-profits.

Thanks, and good luck!

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