Newbery Challenge Update and Favorite Children’s Books

Maybe you are wondering how we are rolling with our Newbery Book Reading Challenge. We are going strong! We all read Holes, and now can’t stop repeating phrases and referring to it in everyday life. I also enjoyed The View from Saturday, The Midwife’s Apprentice, A Single Shard and Adam of the Road. (I seem to have a thing for literature in a medieval setting. I could read the Crispin series over and over again, too.) Other recent family favorites on the Newbery list include: When You Reach Me, Miracles on Maple Hill, Rifles for Watie, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. (My daughter gave me an enthusiastic summary of that last one as we drove into town, and I felt like I had just watched the movie! She loved it.)

Some Favorite Children’s Books

I have been negligent about blog writing and also for the Storyworth stories I am supposed to be creating. This week’s Storyworth question was: “What is one of your favorite children’s books?” Alas, I cannot choose just one, so here’s a full list of them. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Be sure to comment with your favorites, too!

Pickle Chiffon Pie

by Jolly Roger Bradfield. It’s the story of three very different princes seeking to win the favor of the king and the hand of the princess. They go off into the forest to see who can bring back the most wonderful thing and marry the princess. The book made pickle chiffon pie look like the most delicious thing in the world. My sister Sara gave me a fresh copy of it when I was forty-something!

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

by William Steig. I discovered this when I was taking a Children’s Literature class in college. I loved the author’s humor, the delightful illustrations and the engaging story.

The Sheep of the Lal Bagh

by David Mark / illustrated by Lionel Kalish. Sara gave me a copy of this one too – and I had almost forgotten about this dear book! I think the original was given to me by my childhood friend, Beth McCarty. This story, based in India, is about a beloved sheep that used to mow the grass in beautiful patterns, until the town decided to get a new lawn mower.

The Beatrix Potter Treasury

I never especially liked Beatrix Potter books when I was young. Fast forward to the year after we got married, had no children of our own yet, and we were housesitting & babysitting the children of some friends. One of the little boys had just received the Beatrix Potter Treasury and wanted it read to him over and over. So, I did – and I found myself enamored with the perfect illustrations, quirky animal personalities and superbly funny stories.

Stone Soup

Retold by Marcia Brown. This timeless tale is about three hungry soldiers who approach a town and are turned away at every door. They teach the stingy townspeople how to make stone soup, so they will never be hungry again, and they leave as heroes.

Tikki Tikki Tembo

Retold by Arlene Mosel. I can still remember: “Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.” It’s the made-up legend of why Chinese people have short names.

Caps for Sale

By Esphyr Slobodkina. A true classic that’s as memorable as the monkeys are mischievous.

The Story of Ferdinand

By Munro Leaf. All sweet Ferdinand wanted to do was sit in the shade of the trees and smell the flowers. But a bee sting changed his life.

The Five Chinese Brothers

By Claire Bishop. This is kind of a horrific story for children, involving death, torture, and suffocation, but it does have a happy ending after all. Clever and suspenseful.

Curious George Takes a Job

By H.A. Rey. I especially like the part where George paints the lady’s room to look like a jungle.

The Jesus Storybook Bible

By Sally Lloyd-Jones. We discovered this a few years ago in audio and print versions. It includes excerpts of Bible accounts, revised for children. Keep a box of tissues handy while reading; these stories of faith are poignant and beautifully told.

Now…what are some of your favorites?

2022 Newbery Book Reading Challenge

As a homeschooling mom, I threw out a reading challenge this week – to celebrate the 100th year of the Newbery Book Award:

Let’s read 50 Newbery Award Winners this year!

This is mostly because I want a reason to read children’s books – new ones and old favorites. (See below for a printable reading record.)

While I was working up a lather of enthusiasm about the books I am already reading and how everyone should too and how fun it will all be, Johnny interrupted by asking: “How does a book get to be a Newbery Award Winner?” 

Good Question. 

There are guidelines for Newbery Award winners, but his question led into another question for all of us:

“What – in your opinion – makes a good book?”

(Jumpstarting my rusty math brain to help students with their algebra is generally not a fun part of a good homeschool day but discussing books we’ve read and what makes a good book is the fun stuff.)

Here is a list we made about what makes a good book. We realized that there is no wrong answer and different people may have different opinions. Please share your own ideas in the comments!

A good book:

  1. Transports me to a place or situation. I feel like I am there.
  2. Creates believable characters who I can understand in some way.
  3. Even if it’s a fantasy book, there is something that I can relate to.
  4. Teaches timeless truths about people and life.
  5. Contains some type of realness – like historical facts or events. (That one was from my historical-fiction-loving child.)

New School Year

This year we will

Dive into our DNA

Dodge Vesuvian ash

Watch the Roman Empire Fall

See castles rise

Design paper plate skeletons

Conquer their, they’re and there

Discover the troublesome value of “X”

Meet El Cid, Chaucer & Charlemagne

Type tiny treatises

Provide public orations (in our dining room)

Before a restless audience (our siblings)

Find free field trips

Create archaic crafts

Travel through time

Circle the world

Build brain cells

Solve problems

Inhale books —

All at home

and

in

our

slippers.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

{ Tribute to the Homeschooling Mother }

It’s a little late for Mother’s Day and National Teacher Appreciation Week, but I am reposting this blog post, originally published on May 9, 2018 ~ in celebration of homeschooling moms everywhere. 

The homeschooling mother has no paycheck, union, or prep hour

     She wears a comfortable uniform and decorates with toddler art

She doesn’t weave her way through crowded hallways

     She treads a path littered with laundry and Legos

She doesn’t eat her lunch in the Teacher’s Lounge

    She nibbles between dish-doing and question-answering

When a stranger asks her daughter,

     “What’s 3 x 4?”

And her daughter looks at the ceiling

     And her son doesn’t seem to know his countries from his states

The homeschooling mother never says,

“What are they teaching you at school?”

     She just blushes

and vows to get out the flashcards.

But the homeschooling mother’s students:

Can divide the last cookie into perfect thirds

Know how to survive in the Arctic

Translate Latin phrases

Play Bach on a violin

Have stepped into the Middle Ages — in costume

Know where to find the beginning of wisdom

Have looked at the Civil War from the eyes of South, North and the Native American

(And can tell you what else was going on in the world at the same time)

Perform chemistry magic using home ingredients

Talk to nursing home residents without flinching

And, they can tell you in which episode Eugene went missing from the town of Odyssey.

And when her children finally graduate

     Strong, able and kind

Generous and grateful

They know how to work hard

And they know where to find what they don’t know

Fueled by faith,

They stand on conviction

The homeschooling mother

Senses that her gain is good

And she truly is…A REAL TEACHER.

©  Lisa M. Luciano 2018

{ Confessions of a Reluctant Homeschool Mom }

I have been living carefree, as if summer would last forever. Casual breakfasts at 9:00, lingering discussions over the kitchen table with my cup of coffee…late lunches at 1:00…cat naps on the sofa….easy, cool dinners created with garden produce. I have awakened in the morning thinking: maybe we will go to the beach today? Or the farmer’s market? Or perhaps we will grab our books and art supplies and blankets and fall asleep in the sun?

Fun bike rides on rail trails over the summer.

Not anymore. It is time to pay for the slothful sins of summer. I should have been hunting down appropriate textbooks and gathering resources. Week after week, I saw the universe of school supplies, shining from a distance in the aisles of Walmart. But did I walk toward the light? No. I lived in avoidance, by walking the long way round, through automotive or pet supplies.

Now, I humbly and hurriedly dig through a tangle of spiral wires, only to uncover the wide ruled notebooks that nobody wanted. I have ordered books on Amazon, but they won’t arrive until next week. My younger son asked yesterday, “I wonder what the spelling words will be?” I muse internally, “Hmmm, I wonder, too…” I start scratching down a possible word list.

How could I have lived in such denial? Even now, just hours before the bell rings, am I planning? No, I am sitting here at my computer, looking for suitable photos to post here with my ramblings.

The air is chilly. The coffee is brewing. I don’t know what I will serve for breakfast. The First Day of School has arrived.

More soon.

We discovered a lovely new beach this summer. I wish we had gone just once more…
This is me. I turned 55 this summer and I have been homeschooling for around 25 years.

{ This Week In Pictures }

  1. Korean stop sign, photo taken by my son because he knows I like stop signs in various foreign languages.
  2. New local bakery where my daughter and I shared a pecan caramel roll and cherry turnover, good coffee and sweet conversation.
  3. Blueberry muffins galore, made by my daughter and gratefully consumed on ski day morning.
  4. Time alone on a chairlift– beautiful and peaceful silent time. Short and sweet and high off the ground, but I’ll take it. 
  5. Trying to walk regularly outside because I should, not because I really want to, so I grit my teeth and lean into the wind.
  6. God frosted the trees for us, beautifying our homeschool ski day with His creative handiwork plus cheerful sunshine and no injuries.
  7. My husband drove this cute little Mazda Miata down to Florida for a friend recently.  It looks like a toy car, but he sure got lots of applause / envy from strangers along the way.  The admiration sat well with my husband 🙂IMG_20200212_071404_026_2
  8. I am sad to say goodbye to a wonderful audiobook trilogy about Crispin by author Avi. We finished the last of the three books this week.
  9. From beginning to end, these stories about a young orphan growing up in the Middle Ages are adventurous, suspenseful, and touching.

  1. Avi is a talented and prolific author and his first Crispin book is a Newbery Award Winner. 
  2. We also liked The Traitor’s Gate by Avi, and his newest book, Gold Rush Girl, is coming out in March. (Avi is 82 years old and still going strong!)

~~~

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{ Blizzard-Ready}

We enjoyed Homeschool Ski and Snowboard Day last Monday.

Hyland Hills in Bloomington, Minnesota is a tame spot for beginning skiers, and the 26 degree January day was perfect.

Anyone walking in to the chalet could tell it was a homeschool event — crockpots were everywhere, and the air smelled like patchouli and lavender essential oils.

Now, we are bracing for more snow, and true to our nature, Minnesotans are frantically storming the grocery stores to stock up, like we may be snowed in for months.

I confess I left the house at 6:00 a.m., determined to beat long lines and the blizzard.

After being urged last night by one of my teenagers to get some “fun food,” (as opposed to gloomy, drudgerous food?) I grabbed a few essentials:

  • meat
  • kombucha
  • microwave popcorn
  • hot chocolate mix
  • coffee and herbal teas
  • heavy cream for the coffee
  • makings for soup and homemade no-knead bread. (Not the boring soups I usually make from leftovers) but Copycat Olive Garden soups, like Zuppa Toscana.

In addition to these staples, we are armed with *anti-cabin fever* activities:

  • Season 2 of Gilligan’s Island DVDs, purchased at GoodWill
  • Crispin: At the Edge of the World. I love the Crispin books by Avi, and I wish I’d known about these when we were studying the Middle Ages.
  • A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.

Other Mudpuppy puzzles we have ordered are the 1000-piece Ocean Life, 500-piece Songbirds and 500-piece Butterflies of North America.

I’m glad we are ready, because it’s starting to snow…

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{ Graduation Open House }

jello

Rain delayed.

Volleyball played.

Pasta prolific.

Helpers terrific.

Talkers lingered.

Cake samplers fingered.

Colorful jello.

Balloons golden yellow.

No more papers

No more books

Lots of teacher’s

Happy looks

My son

Got it done

By God’s grace

Now? Finish the race.

~~~

© Lisa M. Luciano 2019

 

{ Substitute Babysitter }

The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.

Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.

So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.

First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.

Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.

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I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.

“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.

Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:

“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”

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As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:

“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”

It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.

When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.

But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.

I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.

I had run around barefoot in the backyard.

I had read books and given hugs.

I had learned their names and the house rules.

And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.

That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credits:

Country Scene — Julian Schöll

Books — Robyn Budlender

{ This Week in Pictures }

 

Bowls cover breakfast eggs, lovingly scrambled by a repentant Mama. (She had barked at her little boy when he asked her three times if she remembered her promise to make him an egg in the morning.)

Ms. Road Construction looked so fetching in her hat and trousers that I had to snap a photo.  What else was there to do for ten minutes while we waited in line?

My dear daughter is celebrating her 23rd birthday tomorrow. “Where has the time gone?”

We invited some dear little people to play with us last week while their Mama went out to lunch.  Back when I had my babies, I didn’t have such an awkward time getting up & down off the floor. Back then, I didn’t have to grab my reading glasses to see what the puzzle looks like. I have missed these little happy little folks who give you the opportunity to get down on the floor and make animal noises.