Nothing Book Review

Standard

Clarissa and I are always looking for good books to read. I get especially excited if the book points Clarissa to Jesus. This is one reason we were very excited to review Nothing by Natalee Creech published by Worthy Kids, an imprint of Hatchette Book Group.

img_20190424_1056051351728770565698481.jpg

Nothing: Nothing Can Separate You from God’s Love! is a wonderful book based on the scripture Romans 8:38-39, “Nothing can separate us from God’s Love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” The publisher recommends it for ages 4-7, but I think the age range could go wider than that. It’s a great book with a lovely message.

img_20190424_1056227849886068805873478.jpg

I love that the simple words in this book remind my daughter that there is nothing that she can do or anything that can happen to her that will make God stop loving her. The pictures are fabulous. There are pictures of space ships and the deep seas, crazy weather, and normal kids.

At the end of the book, I was ready to talk to Clarissa about the message. That it doesn’t matter what she does wrong or what kinds of crazy things happened in her life, God would always love her. And she got this silly look on her face and she said, “Mom! I know that God will always love me!” We didn’t need a long discussion to convince her and that was good for this mama’s heart. If that’s the only thing she learns before she leaves my house, I’ve done my job. I look forward to sharing this book with friends and her Sunday School class at church.

Nothing (Nothing Can Separate You From God's Love) by Natalee Creech {WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Pathway to Liberty Review

Standard

As we are getting ready to move back to the United States after being in South Korea for the past four years, I have been thinking about what Social Studies I wanted to work on with Clarissa. I thought that something with US History and Geography would be a good fit so she could learn about her home country while we are actually living there. This is one reason I was so excited to review Pathway to Liberty’s History Curriculum by Pathway to Liberty.

Pathway to Liberty has four different history curricula to choose from: Universal History, The Middle Ages, US History, and World History. We chose US History Level 1.  There are multiple levels of each curriculum so that families with multiple students can use the same curriculum with independent work at each student’s level: Kindergarten to third grade, fourth through sixth grade, seventh through ninth grade, or tenth through twelfth grade. If I had multiple students, that would be something that would definitely draw me to this curriculum since it would be less preparation for me and my children would have common lessons to talk about together.

I did like that there was a Teacher Guide and a Student Guide. The Teacher Guide was helpful because it showed a lesson plan that you could use for all four levels of curriculum. Since we have level one, I had the answer key for level one work only. So if I were going to use this for multiple ages, I would probably go ahead and buy the Teacher Guide for each level that I was using. But it was helpful for me to see how it would work to use the same curriculum for multiple ages of children. The Student Guide was laid out almost identical to the Teacher Guide except that there were places for the student to fill in the blank. The text was also larger for younger eyes and bigger handwriting. I also liked that both guides were spiral bound which makes it easier to flip the pages and keep the material together. 

The first two weeks are a foundation of history and it seems like they would be the same in each of the four curricula. You learn about what history is, creation, Moses and the Ten Commandments, as well as Martin Luther and the Reformation. There is vocabulary to learn for each lesson depending on grade level.

The actual US History itself started with Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. Then it went on to the Great Awakening before the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the events leading up to the Civil War. So US History would end after the Civil War with this curriculum. But I like that it shows history from a faith perspective instead of what I learned of US History in public school.

I will say that although they advertise level one as kindergarten through third grade, we were nowhere near ready for this curriculum. The content was great and meaty. But it was pretty writing intensive and my kindergartner did not understand much of the content. We did the basic foundations lessons and I think we will go back to this content when she is in second grade to really study the history. There are plenty of maps and pictures in both the Teacher Guides and Student Guides. There are also youtube videos that go with several of the lessons.

To learn about using multiple levels of the curriculum together, or one of the other history curriculum, you can read other reviews here. Their website says that they offer a 20% discount to active duty military families.

Universal History,  The Middle Ages,  US History & World History Curriculum {Pathway to Liberty Homeschool Curriculum Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Homeschool Complete Review

Standard

I really like when what Clarissa and I are studying can tie into to multiple subjects so I was really excited that we were given the opportunity to review Unit Studies (K-6) by Homeschool Complete. Specifically, we chose the first grade unit study Seasons.

img_20190222_1351455905526605392894025.jpg

Clarissa is in kindergarten so I knew there would be some things that would be difficult for her to do in a first grade unit study. I do feel like the unit study is labeled correctly. Clarissa could do a lot of the skills needed for the unit, except for the independent reading. It wasn’t a problem though because I just read aloud to her instead.

We really enjoyed this unit study about Seasons. There were four days of lessons. Each day we spent an hour to an hour and a half completing the lesson. This sounds like a long time until you realize that this unit study encompasses all subjects so once you finish your unit study lesson for the day, you are finished with school.

Clarissa’s favorite part of the lesson by far was reading Balto. This chapter book didn’t have a lot of pictures, but the story was engaging so she was excited for me to read it aloud to her each day. This book brought up so many wonderful discussions for us. One of our friends is moving to Alaska soon and so she wanted to learn more about Alaska. She was concerned that her friend would get sick with diphtheria like the children in the book, so we talked about how the vaccinations we receive from the doctor keep us from getting sick. Now she wants to go on a vacation to see all of the statues of Balto that they talk about in the book.

img_20190305_1101203664056067905861694.jpg

In addition to reading Balto each day, there was an additional picture book to read each day, one for each season. Clarissa really enjoyed those as well. Her favorite was probably Hot Dog, which we read for summer.Clarissa was interested to learn the science in why there are seasons; that the Earth’s tilt causes it to be warmer or colder because it is closer or further away from the sun.

We did spend some time learning what the words for each season look like. She really enjoyed a game where you had to choose which season you were trying to land on and throw a puff ball to hit your word. We used tally marks to count hits and misses. She was excited to learn how to mark the tally mark for five to make counting faster. Using the calendar and the hundreds chart provided in the unit also really helped Clarissa to reinforce the days of the week as well as how to count by tens to 100.

img_20190227_152258853217477362672498.jpg

Another math concept that Clarissa really enjoyed in this unit study was comparing numbers to see which one was larger. She liked the idea that the alligator would like to eat the most candy. So every single time she wrote greater than or less than, the alligator needed teeth…

img_20190225_1418276176197545584971306.jpg

I am looking forward to reading some of the reviews about other unit studies. There were so many to choose from and we enjoyed this one so much that I think we will need to try other titles. There is actually an active coupon code available right now. If you order before 3/31/2019 and use the code: CREW2019 you can receive 10% off your order.

Homeschool Complete K - 4th Grade & Unit Studies {Homeschool Complete Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

IXL Learning Review

Standard

Clarissa started to get bored with workbooks, so I was excited when we were given the opportunity to review an IXL annual membership from IXL Learning.

img_20190219_2156506310429645486056387.jpg

The IXL annual membership is an online learning program. There are options to study Math and Language Arts with activities for preschool through twelfth grade. Science and Social Studies have activities for second through eighth grade. Spanish is offered as well. The account comes with a parent login as well as profiles for individual students. Parents can go in to their child’s profile and put a star next to skills they would like their children to complete or they can simply have their child take the diagnostic test and the program will recommend what the child should work on next in that subject.

One thing that I really like about IXL is that there is a lot of data available to me as the parent. I can sign in to my account and pull up a report for each subject.

Each week, I also receive an email that tells me what skills Clarissa worked on and how she performed on each skill.

I had mixed feelings about IXL Learning. I thought it would be great because Clarissa was tired of worksheets. Working on the computer should be better, right? Because she doesn’t read fluently on her own, I had to really help her a lot in the beginning. For both the Math and the Language Arts, she did better if I was sitting with her and reading all of the directions. There is a speaker icon that you can press to read the questions and answers aloud, but she started to get impatient waiting for things. Also, on the laptop, she isn’t as skilled with the mouse so that was frustrating for her as well. An app was advertised, so I thought that might work. But neither of our Korean phones supported the app so we stuck with the laptop for the first couple of weeks. Eventually, we got the app to work on my kindle and Clarissa enjoyed it more that way because of the touch screen.

img_20190205_1825406715692197159541868.jpg

Also, if your child works through an entire section in a subject, they can earn “awards.” This was especially encouraging to Clarissa in the beginning. She loved “earning” stuffed animals on the screen. But that wore off pretty quickly.

By the end of the review, Clarissa was asking for her “old” school so she didn’t like IXL very much. Parts of it were too easy and other parts were too hard. She couldn’t find her sweet spot with it. We played with a little of the second grade science to see what it was about. I think she would have appreciated a kindergarten level science section, since she seemed to enjoy the second grade. She did like the ability to choose an activity and not have to go in order for any subject.

The IXL annual membership isn’t a great fit for our family with a single kindergarten student. I think it may work better for a larger family because it would give other students something to do while mom is working one on one with another child. I also think this program would be a better fit for older students who can read fluently and are in the routine of working on their own. You can read about the experience of several other families if you check out some other crew reviews.

Immersive, Adaptive Learning Online {IXL Learning Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

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.