Category: Children’s Books Reviewed

Elementary Science through Stories and Activities

Children's Books ReviewedHomeschool Ideas

By far the most exciting find of this year has been the Seaside and Wayside Nature Readers I-IV. (Also available free at Gutenberg Project.) These have been great read aloud books for our kids, who are so interested in knowing the animals and insects around them. The illustrations are detailed, so the children can really see what is being described,making these books not only entertaining, but educative. When my children ask me “why?” about an insect or animal, I am much better prepared to answer now!

At the end of each unit chapter, you will find discussion questions and activity suggestions. I would recommend this book as early as Kindergarten as the discussion questions can be asked orally and the child can respond orally. The activities could be added as the child gets older, depending on the necessary skills. You do need all four books to cover the range of animal kingdoms. 

As an aside, these books were inspired by the scientist Jean Henri Fabre, who also wrote a Book of Insects, The Story Book of Science, and The Wonder Book of Chemistry. All of these books are told as a narrative, making them wonderful reads as well as informative.  You can find them free online at Gutenberg Project or you can buy reprints.

Review: Heritage History Curriculum

Children's Books ReviewedHomeschool Ideas

From time to time, my husband and I have used the Heritage History free, online archive as a resource. For adapted works from the Greek and Roman periods, especially, this resource has been invaluable. There are certainly some wonderful books to be found here, but they are not all equal.

Now, Heritage History offers a 9-CD curriculum developed with materials from their free, online archive (=100’s of books!). We have been asked lately what we think of these materials, so I thought I would finally write a review.

Overview of Curriculum: 9 Topics (as of February 2012)

For each historical topic, there are books (whole books) in a variety of genres and reading levels. These books were published before 1923 and contain not only beautiful illustrations, but a beautiful and robust language that is age-appropriate for middle-school-aged students and younger. In addition to this ready-to-use library for each topic, there are study guides, maps, timelines, and accountability sheets (in other words, progress reports for good record-keeping).

These materials can be printed and bound or placed in a 3-ring binder. In addition, if you are technically enabled, the books can be read with Kindle or Nook, making this a convenient option for many families. (I personally prefer the smell of old books, but we cannot always find nor purchase such old editions as provided here by Heritage History.)

My Notes and Caveats: The founders of Heritage History are remarkably nice people and are trying to provide a great service to the homeschooling community. The organization found in the study guides is impeccable, and the tips offered for using the curriculum in the practical day-to-day homeschool room are very reasonable. The method presented here is certainly worth replicating.  That said, my only criticism is that the Study Guides and several of the book introductions are written from a Protestant and modern understanding of history that does not give proper balance to the voice of the Church throughout the ages. There are a few Catholic authors included in the curriculum, but this does not make the curriculum Catholic or balanced.

If a Catholic is thinking about using these materials, I would recommend doing so only if you plan to provide a heavy degree of oversight and if you already have a solid Catholic history program. Even with a solid Catholic program in your belt, I would caution you not to allow students to read the study guides and/or books without first previewing them yourself. Be especially on the lookout for books that are about “Saints”; be certain there is a bishop’s approval of the book on the copyright page, for example, imprimatur, impressi potest, or nihil obstat.

For some Catholic history options, see the following:

Aesop for Children in German

Children's Books ReviewedHomeschool Ideas

We are listening to many books on CD right now! #1 and #2 are in constant debate over which book should be listened to first. Each has his or her favorite, and neither seems to share a favorite at the same moment.

#2’s top choice in the last week has been this 2 CD-book: Das Fabelhoerbuch von Aesop bis Heute (The Audio Book of Fables from Aesop to Today). Perhaps, he simply enjoys the seemingly random and absurd stories about animals. After all, what is a child to think about a frog blowing himself up because of his pride? #2 finds it hilarious! He wants to listen to them again and again, and after a few listenings, he asks “Mama, why did the frog explode?” Then, there is a virtue lesson for the day.

The Story of the Three Kings/Die Geschichte von den Heiligen Drei Koenigen

Children's Books ReviewedHomeschool Ideas

For the Feast of the Three Kings (Epiphany), we gifted ourselves this children’s book. The children have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the three kings for 12 days now! They had been nicely perched on the east side of the living room, looking down upon the start above the nativity. They awoke to three kings standing with the Christ child and a new book! The story of the three kings is sweetly written and beautifully illustrated, sure to be hours of reading for our little ones this week.

German Christmas Songs/Deutsche Weihnachtslieder

Children's Books Reviewed

What are we listening to this week? Wonderful German Christmas songs! Each year we increase our book and CD collections a few books at a time; thus, we are finally beginning to have a decent German library.

Thanks to a friend in Austria, we are listening to this wonderful CD. The music is traditional and mostly choral.  31 pieces of music to equal 63 minutes of listening pleasure. Beautiful!

The Christmas Story/ Die Weihnachtsgeschichte

Children's Books Reviewed

A gift to the whole family this year was Die Weihnachtsgeschichte (The Christmas Story)  with illustrations by Wasyl Bagdaschwili. It is very simply told with semi-quotes from the Bible.

Great for children ages 2 and up! The illustrations keep the younger children interested as the older children listen with great interest. I would recommend this book to anyone using German at home.

A Little History of the World/Eine kurze Weltgeschichte

Children's Books ReviewedHomeschool Ideas
The English Title: A Little History of the World

Next year, we are planning to study (i.e. read about and listen to stories about) history from the earliest times up to the medieval times. In preparation for next year, I have started listening to books on CD that I am interested in having the children listen to next year. While nursing baby in the evening and after the other children have gone to bed, I simply turn on the CD player and enjoy.

The first CD of choice is E.H. Gombrich’s Eine kurze Weltgeschichte. In a sense, this will form the German backbone to our history plans next year, so I thought it the best place to start. The reader, Christoph Waltz, does a wonderful job of keeping my attention, and the story is captivating, not focusing on dates, but what people and places were like. One truly begins to feel humanity, that universal humanity that is often missing from modern history textbooks…the story of man.

Winter Storm and The Little Polar Bear

Children's Books ReviewedHomeschool IdeasThe Rolling Acres Farm
Still too dangerous to play outside under the trees, so the children enjoyed the deck.

We enjoyed an early winter storm this year with comfort. Thanks be to God for wood stoves and candles. We were able to cook on the wood stove, and in the evening we could still read by candlelight. During the moments we had electricity, we filled containers with water and did other necessary things.

The children were also able to listen to “Der kleine Eisbaer” (The Little Polar Bear) by Hans de Beer in those moments. This is sure to be a new winter favorite, and the story was told so well that even my 3-year-old joined in to listen!

The first story’s storyline is simple: Kleiner Eisbaer, wohin faehrst Du? A little polar bear is separated from his father while out on the ice. He awakes to the morning alone. The story tells of his adventures as he makes his way home and of the animals he meets along the way. The story is told by Manfred Steffen, who has a gruff, elderly, yet gentle voice that makes one think of bears. At first, the children were afraid of the voice until I explained that it must be a grandpa telling the story. Then, they settled in to listen to “Der kleine Eisbaer.”

Other stories on the CD: Kleiner Eisbaer: Komm bald wieder; Kleiner Eisbaer: nimm mich mit; Der kleine Eisbaer und der Angsthase

Evening English Story Time with Papa: Wind in the Willows

Children's Books ReviewedHomeschool Ideas
Mr. Rolling reads the English children's books.

We are now deep into Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows, illustrated by Inga Moore. This is an abridged version of Wind in the Willows, but it seems a good abridgement, not too much being lopped off. The illustrations are breath-taking, and our children are constantly trying to sneak away with the book to spend hours looking at the beautiful pictures. The Kindergartener is into the story, so she is anxiously waiting each day to hear more. The preschooler took some convincing, but thankfully Mr. Rolling has created a different voice and accent for each character. Rat has a strong Scottish brogue, and Mole sounds like an erudite Englishman. These are the two favorite characters of the children so far! The toddler just loves to be part of the team, participating in whatever his older siblings are doing. What an advantage he has without knowing it yet.

Pigs A to Z

Children's Books ReviewedHomeschool Ideas

My preschooler is learning his alphabet, and as I expressed in an earlier post, he is quite the different learner from my daughter. When it came time to pick out an alphabet book from the library, I knew it had to be interesting to him in a real way.

His favorite past-time is playing outdoors, and he loves to build forts and treehouses. Imagine my delight when I came across a children’s alphabet book about pigs building a treehouse, taking the child step-by-step through the alphabet and how to build a giant treehouse! Pigs from a to Z by Arthur Geisert is a wonderfully illustrated book that truly inspires the imagination of children, but boys especially I think.

Many of the sketches contain letters within to be found by the child, or perhaps some of the pigs have gone missing and need to be found. This book is sure to provide hours of searching for your little one!

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