Buck Wilder’s Little Skipper Boating Guide: A Complete Introduction to the World of Boating for Little Skippers of All Ages

There’s a lot of information packed in this comical and educational hardcover boating guide. Written in an amusing, “Where’s Waldo” style, kids as young as four and as old as me (don’t ask) will enjoy reading it. Considering we’re not a family of skippers (Gilligans maybe), all the basics of boating and types of boats that we have never learned or ever taught are adequately covered. Learn how boats float, and how to tie all those fisherman’s knots from bowline to half hitch. Each book page is bordered with Buck’s tidbits of information and words to live by, and in case that isn’t enough, your kids can go through the book again and try to find “Fingers” and “Fuzzy” hidden on every page. I can’t vouch for Buck’s other guides, but this one is a winner. Now if he would only write a snowshoeing and other winter survival skills guide for us northerners we’d be all set.

Additional titles by Buck:

Buck Wilder’s Small Fry Fishing Guide: A Complete Introduction to the World of Fishing for Small Fry of All Ages

Buck Wilder’s Small Twig Hiking and Camping Guide: A Complete Introduction to the World of Hiking & Camping for Small Twigs of All Ages

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Bridge to Terabithia

Public school, bullies, boring subjects, desks with scribbles, eating in the cafeteria, peer pressure, smoking in the bathroom, crushes, recess, riding the bus, sibling rivalry, distant parents, unikely friends, make-believe play, exploring, best friend’s death and

grief, is what you’ll find in The Bridge to Terabithia.

Though the writing is superb, the book’s a downer. My nephew read it in sixth grade last year (had to) and didn’t like it, He’s a good example of most kids- if they had a choice, they wouldn’t pick this book to read; especially homeschool kids considering a good part of the story is about public school life.

Katherine Paterson has a very interesting biography, check it out at the site below.

Related website: http://www.terabithia.com/about.html

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After Xing-Xing’s biological mother pass away, she faces a life of servitude to her rather unpleasant stepmother and spoiled stepsister. The stepmother binds her daughter Wei Ping’s foot, hoping it will secure her a marriage. When the girl develops complications from the procedure, Xing Xing must travel far for help. Upon her return, a mysterious carp plays a key role in changing Xing-Xing’s fate.

Touching and repulsive, fascinating and foul, this well written “Cinderella” story explains ancient Chinese customs and beliefs through engaging characters and a simplistic, yet poetic writing style. There are some descriptions and references to be aware of – the mutilation of the feet through the binding practice, the killing of some baby raccoons, and the terms impotence and transvestites are mentioned in passing.

Bound seems to be a very well researched book, offering a thorough and interesting look at Western Chinese practices during the Ming period. Plan to include discussions on both the strange religious rituals and the foot binding practice.

Author’s website

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Bob Books

Teaching your kids to read. That’s the first major hurdle to complete in your homeschool, and the one that will make your head swirl when you look at all the curriculums to choose from. Some people spend hundreds of dollars on phonics programs and clever books to help them accomplish the goal. Being the thrifty soul that I am, I have to admit that’s not me. Using homemade flash cards and easy reader books along with the book “Teach Your Child to read in 100 Easy Lessons” both my older boys were reading proficiently by age 5. Now I have the challenge to face with our 4 year old. Though he is not too thrilled with sitting still to begin the process of independent reading, I have learned to go with the flow, and use what works for his personality. So, when I saw at a used curriculum sale a set of Bob books for sale at a killer price I thought why not. Hey, if they don’t work, they’ll go right back for sale on my table next year.

He loved them. My older boys loved them as well. The Bob Books are very simple, short and sweet, and it took my little man only a few times of reading through the first few books to master the letter sounds introduced in level A. He looks forward to sitting down and reading them with his brothers, and then reading the books back all by himself while we all gather round and cheer and do silly dances for him as he successfully blends the sounds and forms the words correctly. The series has three levels, level A having 2 sets, 12 books in each set. Also, the books inspired my 9 year old to come up with “Gar” books. He created clever characters in funny situations to teach different letter sounds. He has used his own books to help his younger brother learn new letters and small words.

Bob books are so simple they’re brilliant, and are a great way to introduce your preschooler to reading. I don’t think I’ll be putting them on my table this year at the used curriculum sale…I’ll be keeping mine.

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Bless the Lord – The 103rd Psalm

Johanna Bluedorn, a homeschool graduate and self-taught artist, has illustrated this sweet children’s picture book of the 103rd Psalm. The words “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul”, beckons us to worship our Great God, and Ms. Bluedorn has uniquely combined each verse of this beloved Psalm to her original artwork. A girl walking in flowering meadows, a young boy in the arms of his father, a mare nuzzling her colt-each picture echoes the psalmist’s invocation, leaving the reader with an overwhelming sense of adoration towards God.

The book is intended for children, but all members of your family will want to read this lovely book, lingering on each page, enjoying the beauty of the words and pictures. As you read, it’s as if you can almost hear music, and feel the soft rustling of a warm summer breeze.

This charming hardcover picture book is a precious and endearing work, and you will plainly see Ms. Bluedorn’s love for God and family represented in her renderings. In just a few readings you and your children will have likely committed this psalm to memory, and will find yourselves giving heartfelt praises to God.

Bless the Lord, oh my soul indeed!

The Talented Ms. Bluedorn is the author and illustrator of several other children’s books, all of which can be found at her family’s website triviumpursuit.com.

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Birdwing continues the Grimm’s fairy tale “The Six Swans”, telling the heartbreaking story of the one brother who remained part swan.

Prince Ardwin “Birdwing” wrestles with memories of his past life as a swan and his present life as a human. He is angry and often bitter, and when he finds out he may be asked to sacrifice his wing to keep peace in his father’s kingdom, he runs away.

This Fairy tale does contain some mild language, consumption of alcohol (but not by the main character), violent scenes (including the murder of a snake-lord, the killing of other animals, and the burning of a bad witch), and some implied sexuality.

It’s hard to know exactly to whom this book will appeal to. Because it shows the natural tendency to mock or exclude someone who is different, I can see this book being used to help adolescents learn more compassion and empathy for others. Unfortunately, the story of Ardwin’s struggle dragged on for way too long. Though they will enjoy the setting, and the idea of the story, I would predict most readers would succumb midway (like I did) to boredom.

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Because of Winn Dixie

Deep sadness lingers in India Opal’s heart from her alcoholic mother’s abandonment, but with the help of a loveable mutt and unlikely friends, Opal finds healing and happiness.

Because of Winn Dixie was a treat to read, and made a perfect “just before bed” read aloud. We laughed heartily at Winn Dixie’s antics, and enjoyed all the colorful characters. The writing is smooth, and the hurt and misfortunes that alcoholism can cause was presented in a sensitive way. Boys and girls of all ages will enjoy this heartwarming story. Can’t say the same for the movie – we saw it shortly after reading the book, and unfortunately the charm was completely lost. What a snoozer. Because of Winn Dixie was Kate DiCamillo’s debut novel, earning her a Newbery honor.

Related website: http://www.candlewick.com/cat.asp?mode=book&isbn=0763607762&browse=Title

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After an abandoned baby girl (Sophie) is left on 12-year-old Larkin’s doorstep, her compassionate family decides to keep the baby, and care for her till the mother returns. With fresh wounds from the their own baby’s death only a short time before, they take on the responsibility with guarded hearts; none wanting to become attached because of the anticipated pain that will surely come later on.

Larkin, and her parents have not talked of their grief; but as they allow themselves to love Sophie, they begin to open up and find healing.

This tale of bereavement will not appeal to all; some may find content too heavy, or pace to slow, or think finding a toddler at one’s doorstep preposterous. This book is not offensive, though it is mentioned that Larkin’s father drinks alcohol, and I did find one “bad” word (d*** it) used by none other than Sophie-the innocent babe only repeating what she’s heard. Undoubtedly her “slip of the tongue” serves as a reminder to be careful what you say around little ears.

Baby is a wonderfully written book. The lyrical flow is reminiscent of a dance, and readers will be moved by the rhythm of the author’s words. Ms. Maclachlan’s soft, gentle tone will bring tears and comfort to those who have known the pain and healing that accompany the loss of a loved one.

If you like a good tearjerker and are known to cry during a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, then Baby will prove a satisfying read.

Patricia Maclachlan is best known for the beloved Sarah Plain and Tall.

Below is her official webpage link, where you will find more of her books, her biography, and reading guides for some of her titles.

Related website: http://www.harperchildrens.com/authorintro/index.asp?authorid=12425

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An American Plague

This dramatic account of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 is riveting. It is packed with historical facts and presents the horror of the disease, the implications for the city of Philadelphia and neighboring areas, and the reaction of both the townspeople as well as those in power with vivid detail.

Politicians, the medical community, common people, orphans, the poor are all brought to life before our eyes and we feel their pain, we share their misery, and we gain insight into what life was like for them during this terrifying time.

Author Jim Murphy chronologically follows the beginning of this epidemic, making us feel as if we were actual witnesses to this American Plague, using quotes from those who were there, newspaper clippings, period engravings and portraits.

Additionally, we are shown true acts of courage and selfless behavior as Mr. Murphy tells us of great men and woman who risked their lives to help their fellow people, and some who ultimately sacrificed their lives. He also unravels the controversies, particularly among the medical community in regards to the reaction to the disease and discusses bloodletting, ingesting poisons, bathing in vinegar, purging air with gunpowder, inhaling black pepper as well as other practiced modes of treatment.

Some people may find the descriptions of the disease and the progression of the illness horrifying, but it is truth nonetheless, Yellow fever is nothing short of horrific. I believe this fascinating book is truly deserving of the many awards it has earned (Newbery Honor, National Book Award finalist, The Robert F. Siberi Medal.) This very visual and brilliantly written book is a great tool for you to use in teaching this part of our nation’s history to your children.

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Among the Hidden (Shadow Children)

The Shadow children are third children, hidden from the population police to keep them alive. In this futuristic society, there are severe penalties for having and harboring third children. Luke is a 3rd child, and though loved and wanted by his family, he discovers a life of isolation isn’t a life at all. He risks everything to befriend another third child, and learns hundreds of other 3rd children are planning a rally to “come out of the closet”. This bold uprising results in violence, and in order to survive Luke comes out of hiding, and takes on the identity and life of a recently deceased second child. The series follows him as he adjusts to a strange school and life on the outside world.

Haddix tells a good tale, and keeps your adrenaline flowing with these page-turners. But, this is a book you want to discuss with your kids. In order to survive the innocent must lie, sneak, pretend, or face certain death. You can’t blame them for their behavior – they don’t want to die, they are forced to live this way, and unless they deceive and ultimately revolt, nothing will change. Before you read the book, decide if you want this button pushing “thought provoker”, and be aware the ending includes a violent death of a main character. There are six additional titles in The Shadow Children series

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A Little History of the World

Everyone loves a good story. That’s what makes this book work.

E.H. Gombrich has taken an overwhelming amount of dates, facts, faces and places, and has stylishly transformed it all into a fascinating, and exciting story of humanity.

A Little History of the World showcases the author’s story-telling skills. He’s like grandpa reminiscing around the dinner table, entertaining the family with his decorative tales of the past. Gombrich starts readers off with a metaphor-to imagine themselves standing between 2 mirrors, visualizing the countless reflections that represent our ancestors. He makes the past from Stone Age to the collapse of the communist system imaginable, reachable, and captivating.

Whether or not you agree with the author’s interpretation of history I cannot say, as I am no historian. At the very least, A Little History of the World will serve as a springboard, wetting your kid’s appetite for more in-depth studies on world history.

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A House of Tailors

Any woman who gives birth to 15 children in 18 years deserves a book written about her.

A House of Tailors was inspired by the true story of Author Patricia Giff’s great-grandmother, Christina Schultz, and her emigration to America in 1870.

We all love to hear the stories of our ancestors, what our great grandparents were like when they were young, and what it was like to endure a 3-month transatlantic voyage to start over in a foreign land. How did they do it?

13 year-old Dina wants nothing more than to leave her German homeland, say goodbye to her family’s dressmaking business, and go to America where the ladies wore feathered hats and danced the night away in faille gowns.

Her dream comes true sooner than expected and she finds herself in Brooklyn, and suddenly her greatest desire is only to go back to Germany, her heart aching to return home.

Dina’s new family consists of her stern, but caring Uncle, her tender, and compassionate aunt, and her adorable toddler cousin. Nina’s feistiness and determination help her rise above homesickness, tragedy, and hardship to find love and a future in America.

Giff’s graceful writing flows consistently throughout the book, keeping your interest, making you fall in love with Nina. Her characters are strong and lively and her period detail impeccable.

Girls will especially love the book, and Dina is a worthy role model.

It’s a beautiful book: inspiring, engaging, dynamic, unforgettable. Everything a good book should be. Great Grandma Dina would be proud to know her matriarchal spirit lives on in A House of Tailors.

Patricia Reilly Giff has authored more than 60 books for children and is the recipient of numerous literary awards.

Read more about this gifted author at the link below.

Related website: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/patriciareillygiff/patriciagiff.htm

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A Greek Hupogrammon

If you are planning on teaching your kids ancient Greek, this copybook will prove very useful. A Greek Hupogrammon is a consumable workbook that gives the beginning student generous practice in writing Ancient Greek words, marks, and sentences. Though designed to correspond with A Greek Alphabetarion (also by Harvey Bluedorn), the Hupogrammon is comprehensive enough to be used alone. However, the two books do compliment each other quite nicely, and the student would gain extra benefit by using them together.

Each exercise in the Hupogrammon begins with an example of a capital and lowercase Greek letter with a corresponding scripture. The student then finds the letter in the sampling, practices writing the letter in a given chart, and concludes the lesson with underlying English letters that have the same sound as the practiced Greek letter. Greek letters are reviewed through a matching exercise, where the Greek phonetic spelling is paired with its corresponding English word. Also included is a section devoted to writing out verses of scripture in Greek (the English translation is conveniently provided).

The material layout is organized, and the bold large type makes this non-threatening and student friendly.

This format works. The Hupogrammon is a very practical way to enhance your child’s Greek lessons. Your kids will find this type of copy work fresh, fun and challenging. My 10-year-old son is breezing through this and retaining what he’s learning without difficulty. Ancient Greek has suddenly become his favorite subject-I never saw that coming!

Related website: http://triviumpursuit.com

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A Greek Alphabetarion: A Primer for Teaching How to Read, Write & Pronounce Ancient & Biblical Greek

I am extremely pleased with this introduction to the Greek language by Harvey Bluedorn.

My 10-year started it this past semester, and has enjoyed his lessons in Greek immensely.

Being independent in this subject especially thrills him. He reads the lesson, listens to the proper pronunciation of the Greek letter with the included compact disc, and then works in a copybook “A Greek Huppogram” (also by Harvey Bluedorn). We then review the material together. He has picked this up so quickly, no doubt due to the skill of Mr. Bluedorn in making this material understandable.

The Alphabetarian is broken up into three parts-the basic Greek alphabet, Greek reading skills for advancing students, and the Greek phonetic system for advanced students. (We are still working on part one). The book is very well organized, and makes what I thought would be an extremely difficult language to learn approachable, uncomplicated, and fun.

It’s a great starter program for those interested in learning Greek, perfect for beginners or those in need of review.

Related website: http://triviumpursuit.com

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A Christmas Carol

No matter how many times I’ve read the tale or seen the many film adaptations of Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas, I have never grown tired of this classic tale of redemption. Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, prize turkey, Bah! Humbug, God bless, us every one! This is Dickens at his finest, and if you haven’t read it together as a family, run to the library and get a copy…you’ve still till got one week left till Christmas.

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1000 Good books List (Website)

The Classical Christian homeschooling support loop has this extensive inventory of wonderful classic reads on their website. The books are categorized according to anthologies, holiday books, literature and advanced literature, and are broken down into primary, elementary, and advanced reading levels. Be sure to scroll down and read the suggestions for using the list. This is an amazing resource! I printed out a copy of this awhile back and constantly refer to it when looking for good books for my family. I think you’ll find it useful too.

Related website: http://www.classical-homeschooling.org/celoop/1000.html

Homeschooling Through the Holidays

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The holiday season can be hectic for all families, especially homeschooling families. For many families, the holidays are a time to relax their studies and focus on family and community. Still, other families may choose to intensify studies during this period of time due to inclement weather.

Regardless of your feelings, here are some suggestions to incorporate education into your holiday plans. Read more…