Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent Books

A few years ago, we started a new tradition in our home.  We decided to follow the Advent season with a "new" Christmas book each night.  The collector in me really comes out when it comes to books, and Christmas is no exception.  I collect beautiful Christmas books all year long from used book stores and yard sales.  I then add them to our existing pile of old favorites which lives in my closet.  When we are nearing Advent, I go through the pile of books (36 this year) and plan out which 24 we will use according to our schedule.   I then wrap up each book and plan a surprise activity for each book. I also take this time to sort out the books that were not popular in years past or that can be replaced by books with the same story but better illustrations.  In the end, our Advent is filled with old favorites and a few "new to us" books.

Each night of Advent, the kids open a book and do a project that goes along with the book.  This has turned out to be such a fun way to enjoy the season.  We all look forward to it.  Below is our list of books and projects for this year.

  1. The Christmas Menorahs - This is true story about a Christian community that supports the Jewish community after a violence breaks out toward their Jewish neighbors by lighting menorahs next to their own Christmas trees.  Our activity will be to learn the dreidel  game.

  2. Just a Snow Day - This Mercer Mayer book is a nod to my youngest who is addicted to these books at the moment.  We will set up Mommy's snowman collection.

  3. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - A wonderful story about a grouchy woodcarver whose heart is changed while making a nativity set.  We will set up our nativity.

  4. Winter's Gift -  A tender story about a lonely old man who has the opportunity to help a new life come into the world.  We will decorate our tree.

  5. Jingle, The Christmas Clown - A story about a young clown who performs a Christmas show for an impoverished town.  We will make and have ice cream cone clowns for dessert.

  6. The Legend of St. Nicholas - The kids will be receiving St. Nick presents from visiting grandparents (a few new board games) and attending our homeschool Christmas party.

  7. Too Many Tamales - This is an old favorite of ours.  A girl plays with her mom's wedding ring and thinks that she has lost it in the tamales.  A sweet book about taking responsibility for one's actions.  We will go out to a Mexican restaurant and sample tamales.

  8. The Steadfast Soldier - This book almost got bumped this year for being  too upsetting (although the kids have never been upset by it, but my Mother is).  However, I have always enjoyed it, and it is less scary then most Hans Christian Anderson.   We will be eating muffins with a surprise (a quarter) inside.

  9. The Christmas Tapestry - A wonderful story about a tapestry that helps an elderly man find his bride whom he had thought died decades during the holocaust.  We will be taking my old childhood quilt and turning the salvageable squares into a pillow.

  10. The Christmas Candle - The importance of caring for the poor is emphasized in this book.  We will read by candle light.

  11. Amish Christmas - I love to read stories of how other cultures celebrate.   We will be attending our Special Needs Homeschool Support Group Christmas party.

  12. The Baker's Dozen - A colonial tale that reminds us about the importance of charity and putting forth our best work.  We will bake Christmas cookies.

  13. Grandfather's Christmas Camp - A nice story about searching for a missing dog on Christmas Eve.  I hope the weather is good enough to have hot Chocolate outside under the stars. If not, we can sit on the back porch.

  14. Santa Claus Comes to the Little House - We do not do Santa Claus, so this book is being read to them to impress upon them the simplicity of Christmases past. We will be making snowflakes to decorate the house.

  15. Christmas in the Trenches - This story is based on the song about how enemy troops put down their weapons and enjoyed Christmas together during WWII.  The song is based on a true life story.  We will listen to the accompanying CD which has three lovely songs.

  16. Drummer Boy - A modern version of the old classic.  The kids will get to stay up late and watch the Little Drummer boy video in their pj's.

  17. Silent Night - A lovely illustrated song book.  We will sing Christmas carols and watch some old favorites on Youtube.

  18. Merry Christmas, Strega Nona - This is a lovely Tomie DePaola Christmas Story.  We will have a pasta dinner.

  19. Silver Packages - A wonderful Appalachian story about the famous Santa train.  We will deliver cookies on silver plates to our neighbors.

  20. Christmas Day Kitten - A sweet James Herriot book about a very special kitten.  We will wrap our pets' gifts.

  21. The Animal Carol - This is another lovely illustrated song book.  We will put bird seed out for the birds.

  22. The Crippled Lamb - A sweet story about a lamb who is too crippled to follow the others to new grazing pastures.  He is left behind and is blessed with warming baby Jesus.  We will take the coins we have saved for charity and send them to an organization working with the disabled.  We are leaning towards Reece's Rainbow.

  23. The Twelve days of Christmas - An illustrated version of the song.  We will be making a fold-out book of the Twelve days of Christmas in our own style.  I found this project at

  24. The Christmas Story According to Luke - We will attend the Christmas Eve service at church.

I will share some of the photos of our projects when we are in the midst of Advent.  Happy planning!



Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Books...

As a bibliophile, one of the things that first attracted me to the Charlotte Mason method of teaching was the concept of filling a child's world with great books.  Often when we think of great books, we think of classic literature.  I look forward to sharing many great works of literature with my children over the years, but I do not want to overlook all of the great picture books.  There are so many books to share with my young children!  Every week brings new pleasures to look at and learn about.  This week I am doubly excited.  Not only is it Thanksgiving week and time to read all of our favorite Thanksgiving books, but we also are starting the Mayflower and the Pilgrims arrival in America in our history lessons.  I am very happy that our history lessons match up so well with the holidays this year.  Here is our list of books for this week:

Nickommoh! A Thanksgiving Celebration Jackie French Koller

The Thanksgiving Story Helen Sewell

Thanksgiving is ... Gail Gibbons

A Turkey for Thanksgiving Eve Bunting

Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast Kate Waters

A Cranberry Thanksgiving Wende Devlin

If You Sailed on The Mayflower in 1620 Ann McGovern

The Pilgrims of Plimoth Marcia Sewall

To The Rim of The Map Eric Vanderhoof

Bright Night, The Story of Anne Bradstreet Nancy Wilson

On The Mayflower Kate Waters

I've got a lot of reading aloud to do!



Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Day In The Life ... November Edition

What a race we have been in this month!  We just finished another loop of intense sensory/OT therapy and are deep in Nutcracker rehearsals.  In addition, we still have all of our normal schedule to get through.  We are some very busy people right now.  We really need to slow down a bit, so I did something different for homeschooling today.  I told the kids we were having a homeschool choice day and that they could each pick 2 educational things to do after reading lessons.  Everyone would do all of the choices, which meant that a minimum of 9 educational things would happen, including my choices.  They were very excited about my idea.

The day was kicked off with Lite Brite, followed by Addition War,

Old Maid, and Chutes and Ladders.

Next, the girls read to me while Tom Sawyer had independent reading time.  I also read them two chapters of Ramona Quimby, Age 8.  We then finished listening to a book on tape about Squanto while folding a mountain (8 loads) of laundry.

Then the kids went back to games.

They played the game Timing It Right, which is a great game to help reinforce telling time, and Dora Memory. They finished off floor time with a 4 foot 100 piece safari puzzle.

Then the children ate lunch and watched a Wishbone show.

The kids enjoyed some free time and then we went off to the Science Museum for our first homeschool class.  It was called "Weather Watchers" and was a very fun class.  In one hour, the kids were able to perform four science experiments and watch/participate in a little skit on the water cycle.  It was very nicely done, and we plan on going to another class next month.

testing water temperature

testing breath wind speed with an anemometer

We finished off the day with dance lessons for the girls.  I was pleased to see that by the end of our freestyle day, the kids had covered science, P.E., literature, history, math, fine motor skills, and language arts.  In addition, everyone got a break and there was lots of work on cooperation and sibling bonding.  Another great day down!



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Flat Stanley Returns ...

We were very excited to see our first Flat Stanley return home.  This Flat Stanley went to Colonial Williamsburg with our bloggie friends at Teacups in the Garden.  He had lots of fun and even came home in a Colonial outfit!

They sent us lots of cool info from Colonial Williamsburg including pictures of Flat Stanley meeting Thomas Jefferson and touring the governor's mansion.  They also sent us a really cool art book from an exhibit at the art museum in Colonial Williamsburg.  The book was filled with stickers of folk art that you put in the proper place as you read the story.  The kids loved the interactive book.

We then put Flat Stanley up on our Outline map.  We can not wait for some of his other friends to come home so they can take their place on the map.  This is such a fun way to learn Geography!

We are looking forward to doing some folk art crafts in the next week or so to go along with the book.  I will post those when we get to them.

If you are interested in hosting a Flat Stanley and live in the United States of America, we would love to send you one.  We have Flat Stanleys currently in Alaska, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida.  Please let me know in comments.



Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ 'Tis A Season

From the Heart, On the Homefront, Learning Time ... You name it ...

A huge part of our world is wound up in  "The Nutcracker".  All four of our children are performing in "The Nutcracker" this year and rehearsals are well underway.  In fact, between their routine classes and rehearsals, we are at the studio 5 days a week for a minimum of 12 hours total.  Normally, I would stay far away from something like this with my special needs kids and already bulging schedule.  However, this is turning into an awesome experience for all of my children.  I am glad I did not fully understand what we were getting into or I may have declined to participate.

Tom Sawyer in his mask that he made in class.

Tom Sawyer loves, LOVES, loves his all boy theater dance class.  In the performance, he and his buddies will be dragon toys that come to life and are scared off the stage by the mouse king.  Tom Sawyer is getting so much out of this class ~ friendship, respect of authority (other than his parents), dance skills, costume design, acting skills, and how a theater production is carried out.  I could not ask for more!

Tom Sawyer jumping off the ground.

My dear boy has really surprised me with how much care and attention he is giving to his own performance.  He is excited about going onto the BIG stage.  They will be performing in our city's theater that holds about 5oo in the audience.

The fencers rehearsing as mice and soldiers.

My oldest, Timothy, will be in the show, as well.  He is the fencer on the right and will be one of the soldiers fighting the mice.  When he volunteered to be in the performance, I almost fainted.  This is the guy who never wants to do any kind of public speaking or performing.  This is his third year of fencing and he is in an advanced class now.  We are so relieved that he is finding a place where he is really comfortable and enjoys the folks around him.

Goldilocks practicing balancing while catching a snowflake on her tongue.

Goldilocks is in modern dance I and will be a child playing in snow.  She even gets to be pulled off stage by  the Godfather.  Honestly, with all of Goldilocks' special issues (RAD, FASD), this is the first class outside of the home that she has truly been successful in and liked.  She has done okay in other classes but hated them or made little to no progress.  However, this dance studio does an awesome job of meeting kids where they are and helping them reach their potential.

Little Red Ridinghood is loving this dance studio, too.  She will be cotton candy in the performance.  This will be her 7th recital, so she isn't nervous at all.  I do think this is the largest stage she has been on so far.

I cannot wait to see them in full costume.  So, as you can see, this is what our world is made up of right now.

The Rest ! ~

When we are not at the dance studio, we are keeping up with the Three R's.  The kids are really enjoying doing The Boxcar Children with Beyond Five In A Row.  We are also in the midst of another Tomatis (sensory processing and OT therapy) loop for Tom Sawyer.  So ... 'tis the season to be busy!!  I am so glad to be home with my children each day watching them grow and thrive.

To see more weekly wrap-ups go over to Mary's blog.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FIAR ... The Rag Coat

This past week our FIAR group rowed through The Rag Coat.  We really enjoyed this lovely book about a young girl living in a coal mining town in Appalachia.  With all the hardships her family is going through, there is no money to provide a coat for the young girl.  Without a coat, she is unable to attend school.  The sewing circle mothers make her a lovely coat out of rags.  She treasures the coat, because it allows her to go to school and because the sewing circle moms tell her all the stories of each rag.

I am not sure why this came out all fuzzy, but alas it did.

We supplemented our FIAR book with Material World, In Coal Country, and Miracle in a Shoe Box.   I decided that for our group day we would combine our studies of The Rag Coat with making Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes.  Unfortunately, the stomach virus has hit our area hard and only one family could come.  We were barely recovered from the virus ourselves. Blahhhh!  I did not get any pictures of the making of shoe boxes.  The wrapping paper was flying, I tell ya!

Anyway, we started the event by going through some pages in The Material World book.  If you have the opportunity to look at this book, it is a real eye opener.  I think all of us tend to forget how difficult it is to just survive in so many parts of the world.  We then looked through The Miracle in the Shoe Box which is a great Operation Christmas Child story about two children in war-torn Bosnia.  After we made our shoe boxes, we put tracking numbers on them from the website.  Last year they sent us an email telling us where each of our boxes ended up, and we were able to look up their location on the map.  It was really neat to know who we were helping.

This little lady won the most charitable heart award this year in my family.  (We don't really give out an award, mom just notices.) Se did not bat an eyelash at seeing two brand new stuffed ponies going out the door.  This is great growth for this child who loves horses and often struggles with thinking of others first.  So good for this mommy's heart to see.



Sunday, November 7, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday ... Apples to Oregon

Well, it has been awhile since I have participated in a Muffin Tin Monday.  I am glad to finally make it back.  We really enjoyed reading the book, Apples to Oregon, this past week.  It is a funny and mostly true book about the first family to take a fruit tree nursery across the United States of America in covered wagons.  We had fun making yummy food out of apples, and I thought it would be fun to put our yummy apples into a muffin tin for lunch.

We had homemade applesauce, apple grape juice, noodles with sauce, apples and cheese.

Our homemade apple pie did not fit in the tin.  We all needed a bigger slice. LOL!



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Classical Music for the Reluctant Listener ...

I have a child who is a reluctant listener to all types of music.  He has sensory processing disorder and sometimes it hurts him to listen to music.  However, we have slowly been trying to help him experience more classical music through short snippets and watching videos on Youtube with classical music. Through the last six months or so, he has really started -- dare I say -- enjoying classical music in very small bites.  Then a few weeks ago, I tried the Beethoven's Wig CD.  HE LOVED IT!  He wanted to listen to it all the way through.  Then he listened to it again.  All the kids love it, and it now has become the ONLY thing we listen to in the car.

I am delighted that the kids like it so much.  However, there is just so many times you can listen to one CD.  Fortunately, our library had volumes 2 and 3.  What is so great about these CDs is that they play a famous piece with catchy lyrics and then they play the same piece again in its original form.  Finally, my kids are listening to pieces long enough to know every note and measure as Charlotte Mason instructs.  One more bonus is that many of the songs have tidbits of history thrown in.  My kids can now recite in order all of the kings and queens of England!