Our Favorite Christmas Books for preschool and young elementary

Standard

Clarissa has so many books that they don’t fit all fit on her bookshelf (side effect of your mother being a former reading teacher I suppose). There are certain books we like for each season so I rotate them out. I pull out the Christmas books about Thanksgiving time. But she knows where they are, so sometimes she will go and get them at random times during the year.

We have so many Christmas books that we really enjoy. This is our list of our favorite Christmas books for preschool and young elementary children.

  • Peek A Bible The Christmas Story by Tracy Harrast
    This is a lift the flap book that tells the Christmas story from Gabriel coming to see Mary until the wise men arrive to worship Jesus. Clarissa has always enjoyed lifting the flaps and I like that it is the true Biblical story.
  • Crystal Bowman’s Christmas board books are some of my favorites. I love the rhyme to the stories and the pictures are great. Clarissa really enjoys these as well.
    Jesus, Me, and My Christmas Tree talks about how every part of your Christmas tree (lights, the star, angels, presents, etc) points you back to Jesus, the real reason for Christmas.
    J is for Jesus talks about how a candy cane tells you Jesus’s story and gives details about the shepherds and angels at Christmas. It also talks about Jesus on the cross. Think Legend of the Candy Cane but for little ones.
    A Star for Jesus talks about how the star appeared in the sky and led the wise men to Jesus.
    My Christmas Stocking talks about St Nicholas and why we put presents in stockings today.
  • A Christmas Prayer by Amy Parker
    This rhyming book talks about being thankful for each part of the nativity set from the angel, to Mary and Joseph, the donkey, shepherds, star, and of course baby Jesus who was the best present of all.
  • God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    We like Little Cub in this house. In this installment, Mama takes Little Cub to go find God and see how He gave us Christmas. Little Cub is very excited that she can go and see God in things like the light, a glacier, and a star. They talk about how Jesus is the real reason for Christmas and the best gift ever.
  • The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
    I think I need to write a blog post specifically for her books. The Pine Tree Parable is about a family who comes to a poor family who comes to a pine tree farm and the little girl wants the biggest tree there. The family who owns the pine tree farm ends up gifting the family the tree, even though she was planning to keep it for their family. A wonderful story about giving.
  • Of course the Berenstain Bears have some fun Christmas books as well
    Trim the Tree is a flap book that watches the Bear family put up their Christmas Tree.
    In The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, the cubs learn that it is better to give than to receive. They also are the camel in the Christmas Play where you can see the Nativity story.
    In The Very First Christmas, Papa Bear reads the cubs the Christmas story from the Bible. It has fun illustrations. Clarissa always thinks its funny that they are bears instead of people though.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia by Sue Corbett
    In this story, a brother and sister are supposed to visit their aunt in Virginia but the sister gets hurt so she can’t go. The brother writes his sister every day to tell about his adventures. We’re originally from Virginia so I like that Clarissa can learn a little bit about the state she’s from.
  • Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
    I like this story better than the original Gingerbread Boy because this one isn’t obnoxious. He just wants some friends and goes on an adventure to find them.
  • The Three Gifts of Christmas by Jennie Bishop
    This is a new favorite for me this year. In the beginning of the story, the princess is quite spoiled. So the king and queen come up with a plan. By the end of the story, the princess has given away all of her gifts and become truly gracious and kind. Clarissa is a little unsure because she thinks I am going to make her give away all of her presents though.
  • The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson
    Clarissa was more excited about this new book about giving. Emma and her dog are invited to the king’s palace for his birthday party. Along the way Emma gives away all of her presents for the king. The king explains to her the verse that talks about “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” The end of the book gives some suggestions on how your family can give a birthday present to Jesus. Clarissa immediately was like, “Let’s do that!”
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
    This book isn’t about Jesus at all. But. It has all of the usual Little Critter antics that we enjoy. He tries to get the ornaments out for mom, but the box was upside down. He wants to give her Christmas cookies but he got hungry. You get the idea…

 

As a side note, I noticed as I was linking these to Amazon, most of these books are on sale right now. They are also not new books, so some are available at your local library.

Teaching Science without textbooks

Standard

One of Clarissa’s favorite things to do is to read. It is also one of her favorite ways to learn. If we read about it in a book (or watch a show on TV), she is more likely to remember it. She will bring up facts that we read about months ago that I have already forgotten about.

A big favorite right now is a series of chapter books about Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro. In these books, a young girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras meet some magical creatures who ring a doorbell on her scientist mother’s barn office. Each creature has a problem that needs to be solved. Zoey (sometimes with help from her mom) use the scientific method to figure out what is causing the problem and how to solve the creature. There are some black and white pictures, so it is a good bridge for kids who are used to reading picture books. The story is so engaging that my five year old often makes me read the entire book (95 pages) in one sitting!

With six books in the series, each book has a different creature and a different problem. Since Clarissa is only in kindergarten, we mostly read these books for fun. But there is a website about the book series that also has printables for science and literature activities that go with each book. Those would be great for families or teachers who want to go deeper with the books.

We also really like Magic School Bus in this house as well as the Magic School Bus Rides Again. We have watched every show, but we also own many of the books. When Clarissa is excited about any science topic, I can usually find an episode or two on netflix and a few books as well. The original series has been around long enough that there are picture books, early readers, and chapter books to talk about many topics. So far I have only seen chapter books for the Magic School Bus Rides Again but they are well written and have a few pictures throughout the book.

Last year, her favorite topic was the human body. So we watched all of the body episodes on both series as well as read the books. Then we spent a lot of time drawing pictures of the different systems in our bodies.

20171017_125248

Another of Clarissa’s favorite topics is animals. We have watched so many episodes of Wild Kratts to learn about animals. They also have a great website with information, videos, and games for kids to explore more about any animal they choose. Our library also has a few early reader books based on the Wild Kratts series.

Our library has a great section of picture books that are both fiction and nonfiction. Whatever topic Clarissa is interested in, I can usually find both fiction and nonfiction stories to read. Recently, we borrowed My Leaf Book so that we could talk about fall. Clarissa wanted to learn more about leaves so we walked around our apartment complex one day to collect various leaves. Then we made our own book by drawing pictures of the leaves and looking them up, either in the leaf book on online, to label each leaf. She was so proud of herself.

A new favorite is our Steve Spangler Science Club. Once a month we receive a box of 4-5 experiments. We received our first box this month. The experiments are related but you can still spread them out over several days. This is something that Tim and Clarissa like to do together during daddy daughter time.

Our favorite books for five year old girls

Standard

Clarissa and I read A LOT. We read as part of our school day, at bedtime, if Clarissa’s mood is out of control, or just because she wants to read. If she gets sent to her room, she just looks at books until I tell her she can come out.

img_20181119_1530108595758329727776527.jpg

When she was younger, we could read the same book several times in a row for days at a time. Now we may repeat a book later in the week. But we have shifted to reading books in the same series instead of just reading the same title.

Some of our favorite series right now:

  • Fancy Nancy
    Fancy Nancy is hilarious. She is your typical six year old girl. Super girly and proper but still quite silly. Her idea of fancy is using big words. Clarissa loves her crazy adventures. I like that Clarissa learns new vocabulary. Nancy also comes from a great family so you see family dynamics including a good relationship with her little sister and she has some other great adults in her life.
  • Anything by Mo Willems
    Mo Willems is a wonderful children’s author and illustrator. He writes several series of books. We have been reading Gerald and Piggie for a few years. The pigeon books are growing on Clarissa as well lately. But her new favorite is his Knuffle Bunny series (pronounced k-nuffle in Dutch). The books are mostly written in short dialog which makes them funny but also great for new readers.

img_20181120_1352363123366595659099755.jpg

  • Magic School Bus/ Magic School Bus Rides Again
    The original series has been around long enough that there are picture books, early readers, and chapter books to talk about many topics. So far I have only seen chapter books for the Magic School Bus Rides Again but they are well written and have a few pictures throughout the book. Clarissa doesn’t ask for these everyday like she used to. But we still read Magic School Bus at least once per week. Especially if she is in the mood to learn something or if we talk about something during our lessons and she remembers she has a book about it.
  • Zoey and Sassafrass
    In these books, a young girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras meet some magical creatures who ring a doorbell on her scientist mother’s barn office. Each creature has a problem that needs to be solved. Zoey (sometimes with help from her mom) use the scientific method to figure out what is causing the problem and how to help the creature. There are some black and white pictures, so it is a good bridge for kids who are used to reading picture books. The story is so engaging that Clarissa often makes me read the entire book (95 pages) in one sitting!
  • Berenstain Bears
    I used to read Berenstain Bears as a kid. In fact, we still have some of my books in Clarissa’s bookshelf. I like that the stories come from a pretty conservative worldview. Clarissa likes that they are a family of bears and that Sister Bear wears pink. I also like that they have several Christian books now so she can read about Jesus, Christmas, Easter, and prayer while reading her favorite characters.
  • Skippyjon Jones
    Skippyjon Jones is a cat who thinks he is a chihuahua. He goes on crazy adventures in his closet where he goes to places like Mexico and outer space. He’s pretty crazy and his books are funny. But they don’t really have any moral lessons included in them.

Books that aren’t in a series that we read often:

  • Amazing You
    Last year, Clarissa was very interested in the human body. We have all of the Usborne books about the inside of the human body. This summer we spent some time talking about appropriate touch and private parts. She still asks to read this one often.
  • There are No Moose on This Island
    My aunt sent Clarissa this book for her birthday last year. A boy and his dad go on a trip to Maine and take a ferry to an island. The dad is very interested in his guide book and insists that there are not any moose on the island. But the boy definitely sees one. The moose and the boy spend most of the day trying to convince the dad that the moose is real. He finally sees them as they are on the ferry going back to the mainland.

This year I was introduced to Sarah Mackenzie who has curated book lists for just about everything.

The changing nature of Kindergarten

Standard

Clarissa and I did a preschool curriculum together last school year. She really liked it in the beginning and then started to lose interest in April so we stopped. By May she was asking to do “real school” at home so I planned a June start to kindergarten.

I spent hours looking through all of my school supplies and the activities that I had downloaded. I tried a homeschool planning course to see if that would help me. But I think that stressed me out more because it encouraged me to plan for the entire year before I start the school year. I decided to plan unit studies since I don’t have a formal curriculum to just break down into sections. I did make an outline of what units I thought we would do this year, but I knew it could change because I wasn’t sure how much Clarissa would enjoy doing each day.

I wanted to start slow and get into a habit of doing lessons 20-30 minutes per day just four times per week. Our June Bible story was about Joseph (his coat, his brothers, and his life in Egypt). We read some of the Bible story each day and did a few crafts. We spent some time learning about our five senses, colors, shapes, and emotions. She also learned how to make a peanut butter sandwich and a peanut butter waffle. Some days Clarissa would enjoy school so much that she wanted to do more so we would do two or three days worth of lessons in one day and then she wouldn’t want to do school for a few days. The weather was so nice that we would often do school outside.

In July, we started doing more academics, adding letters and numbers to our days. We went to Japan in July so we spent some time watching videos and reading books about Japan. We also learned about the letter J; it’s sound and how to write it. I wanted to spend the month memorizing Jeremiah 29:11 instead of focusing on a Bible story, but Clarissa kept asking for Bible stories anyway so we did both. I knew that one of our next family adventures would be to the aquarium so we started studying sea animals when we returned from Japan. We learned about the letter C and Clarissa practiced writing her first name. She can already count past 10 but we focused on writing just those numbers and counting things or playing board games that require counting dice and spaces.

IMG_20180813_105101

By mid July, Tim thought that I was spending way too much time planning our activities. He suggested that I buy some curriculum instead of making my own in order to make the planning of school less stressful. I agreed that although I enjoy planning, I was spending too much time “trying to do it right.” I was also printing so much that we were spending plenty on ink. So I went online and ordered some kindergarten books.

In August, Clarissa learned how to make her bed. Since it was been so hot outside in Korea, her new favorite place to do school was actually on her bed. We spent two weeks reviewing a literature study on Paddington Bear that was excellent. We then went back to studying ocean animals, worked on counting and writing numbers to 20, and learned the sounds and letters P, B, F, and S. We focused on Bible stories about fish; Jonah, Jesus calms the storm, and feeding the 5,000. For her birthday we went to an aquarium in Seoul and she really enjoyed looking at all of the animals and feeding the fish. At the aquarium, Clarissa and Tim got really excited about the kits to grow triops and angel fairy shrimp, so we have a few new pets at our house. We learned about life cycles too.

September was less stressful. The weather was cooler so we read and explored outside again. I also have a reading curriculum, math workbooks, and some unit studies that we both enjoy so I don’t have to do as much prep. We also read a lot of books. When we studied Noah’s Ark we spent a couple of weeks reading about animals. After a walk last weekend, she is all about bugs. I am so thankful for the library these days! Clarissa is also enjoying attending AWANA, a Korean class, and gymnastics one hour each per week to round out our lessons.

Reading Eggs Review

Standard

Online Reading Eggs Suite

Most days when I am making dinner, I listen to a podcast. Each podcast episode will have a sponsor. I have been hearing about a website called Reading Eggs for months. I was really excited when I had the opportunity to review their website and new workbooks. The new workbooks are grade specific and focus on either reading or math. Specifically, Clarissa and I worked with the 240 Essential Reading Skills for Kindergarten workbook.

Online Reading Eggs Suite
Clarissa turned five while we were working on this review, so she isn’t very far in her reading skills yet. She can generally recognize the letter names (especially the capital letters), but isn’t super familiar with their sounds. The website has three levels of reading instruction: Reading Eggs Junior (ages 2-4), Reading Eggs (ages 3-9), and Reading Eggspress (ages 7-13). The first time she explored the website she thought that Reading Eggs Junior was way too easy and Reading Eggs was way too hard. It was hard to convince her to try again so we took a break from the Reading Eggs portion for about a week.

During that week, we focused on the workbook lessons. The workbook lessons actually match the website really well. In the workbook, the child completes four pages of one letter. You learn the sound of the letter, decide which words start with that letter sound, finding the letter in a list, and practice writing the letter. It took Clarissa a few days to gain confidence with discriminating the letter sounds. She did enjoy writing the letters. I also really liked that each day, she was able to circle which letter she wrote the best.

Clarissa actually really started to enjoy the workbook the more we did it. Now she is recognizing “at” and “am.” On the day we did “at” she was really excited because the directions said to “draw a cat.” So she wanted to sit on the couch near our cat Mittens so that she could draw her correctly.

As she started to gain confidence with the workbook, we went back to the website. Each website lesson covers the same skill as the workbook. She wasn’t as frustrated with the website this time. She was able to choose the correct words that started with each letter. She also liked the videos that went with each lesson and that the little ant friend would read the words for her to help her figure out the answer.

I really like the way the website is set up in that you have to complete the first lesson before you can go on to the next. This way, children are learning skills in a logical order. Also, there is a parent dashboard on the website so I can see which lessons Clarissa has completed and how well she mastered each lesson. At the end of a unit, the website emails me so I can see her progress.

Another thing to note is that the website also has a math section for children ages 3-9 called Mathseeds. Clarissa loves Mathseeds! Even on days she didn’t want to do Reading Eggs, she asked to do Mathseeds. It is set up in a similar way in that the child has to complete one lesson before moving on to the next one. The dashboard and parent email works the same. She really enjoys the lessons and games. There are also workbooks available for math that you can read about from other reviewers.

I think that both the workbook and the website are beneficial because it is more reinforcement of the same skills. The prices are reasonable too. Workbooks are normally $19.95, but you can use the coupon code WK10IYWAG6J for  10% off before October 15, 2018Also, if you register before October 7, 2018, you can do a four week free trial of the website. The website membership is normally $59 for the year.

Online Reading Eggs Suite {Reading Eggs Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Learning About Science Collection Review

Standard

WriteBonnieRose has created a new series of homeschool elementary science curriculum that Clarissa and I have really enjoyed working on together. There are three levels of this curriculum so far. For the purposes of this review, Clarissa and I were given Learning About Science Collection, level 1.

Learning about Science Collection Level 1

Learning About Science Collection, Level 1 included seven different units as well as a list of website links that you could use to supplement the material if you chose to go further. Units included Familiar Plants and How they Grow, Fruits and Vegetables Around the World, Animal Habitats of the World, Our Senses and Systems and How They Work, Learning About Life Cycles, Earth Layers, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes, and Exploring Senses of Matter.

The collection is a pdf download, so it was easy to access and use. I emailed it to my kindle and we read each unit like a book. Each unit read like a story. It was a nonfiction story because there were facts and information to learn, but it was easy to read. Another thing that we really enjoyed were the illustrations. They were outlines in black and white. This is great because Clarissa wanted to color them in herself. Also, each page had some copy work, which is perfect for my pre-reader. During the review period, Clarissa and I had time to get through Learning About Life Cycles and Animal Habitats of the World. These were the two longest units in the collection. We enjoyed several things about each unit.

Clarissa really enjoys babies and watching animals grow up so she was very excited to learn about life cycles. After most animals, she would ask me to stop reading and ask me to print out the page so that she could color in the pictures of the animals at each stage and trace the words provided for each stage. Each page felt like just the right amount of information for my kindergartner. It was enough to teach her something but not so much that she would lose interest. I liked that there were different kinds of animals included: mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles. This way Clarissa was able to see that animals have many different kinds of life cycles.

The unit on habitats was also laid out very well. There were several different habitats listed. Included with each habitat was a description of the habitat as well as information about animals in each habitat to color and trace the names. She really enjoyed this unit as well and never wanted me to stop reading for the day.

This collection of units feels more like a literature unit than a science textbook. That was probably my favorite thing about it. I also liked that I could work on writing with Clarissa during our science lesson. I think a young reader in first or second grade would be able to read at least part of this to himself.

Each level of  the Learning About Science Collection retails for $12 or $13, or you can buy individual units for prices from $1.49-$3.49 depending on the unit. Bonnie is offering a deal for my readers. Until August 15, you can use coupon code REVIEWCREW50 to buy all three sets for $6 or $6.50 each. I went ahead and purchased levels 2 and 3 to use as future science curriculum.

As I glance through the level 2 and level 3 lessons, the set up is similar with copywork and illustrations. The content does increase in difficulty with each level. I think the level one would be great for kindergarten or first grade. The level 2 is probably better for late first grade to second grade if you want your student to be able to read the content to himself. Level three is a good fit for third grade. You can also read reviews of those levels to get a better feel for them.

Bonnie is planning to expand this collection of lessons, so if you have ideas for units to include, please comment on this post or email them to her directly.

Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews}Crew Disclaimer