Summer learning routine

Every summer since the boys started in school, I have a plan to avoid the “summer slump”. The boys are so used to this that they have even started setting their own goals for the summer! A’s major goal is to read, read, read. J wants to learn to tie his shoes (we’ve attempted this several times without success), write correctly with his pencil (more on that in a minute), and learn his math facts fast! Here are a few more of our summer learning plans.

First, back to J’s writing. I noticed about a year ago that J tended to hold his pencil oddly. We tried several things to help him, and figured as he continued to write it would begin to work itself out. However, it hasn’t, and so we really need to get him back on track so he doesn’t get behind in the classroom. My Mom gave me a pencil grip corrector and a writing tablet and we are slowly beginning the process of helping him re-learn how to hold his pencil to write. I’m very thankful that he is super pumped about this because it is not an easy process.

Second, is finally nailing down shoe tying for BOTH kids. I really feel like I knew how to do this in kindergarten, but good gracious it’s been difficult to teach them. J really wants to learn, and A could really care less, but they are both going to learn because their shoes for fall will be lace-ups. In part because they stay on their feet better (if they are tied). J desperately wants shoes like these:

So that’s one of our end goals for the summer.

Third, J has the goal of nailing down his math facts (addition and subtraction), and I want him to be able to do it without using his fingers to count. We already have addition and subtraction cards like these:

But I also have plans to get this fun little math matching game:

While I’m working on math facts with J, A will be working through some Khan Academy math programs.

Now that we’ve covered J (and some A) goals, here are a few of my learning goals for the summer! First up, I’m planning to sign up for a free two months of Skillshare and take this class with the boys:

The boys love drawing, and so I thought it would be fun to test our hand at some drawings and watercolors.

Second, A is all about math and storytelling write now so we have plans for this Pixar in a Box series on just that idea.

And third, a brand new Magic Treehouse Book on Benjamin Franklin comes out in July. So I’ve got a book club lesson plan for the boys:

And that’s it! The boys have two weeks of swim lessons, a week of FCA camp, and we’ve got a beach vacation as well, so in between all of that we are going to sleep in, go to the pool, catch up on all the reading, and eat all the popsicles! If you want to check out last year’s learning plan it’s here.

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Current Reads

There are so many books on my list right now, I tend to get distracted while reading one, because I’m thinking about the next one I need to get to on my list! I’ve also got the boys’ latest reads on this list, with some titles that just came out last week!

First up is Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach.

A carefully curated travel novel, this is a fast and fun read that explores the ups and downs of traveling solo, while also providing incredibly descriptive imagery of different Europe locations. I thoroughly enjoyed traveling along with the writer!

Second is Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie.

I have to say this wasn’t one of my favorite Agatha Christie reads. It was good, but I saw the twist early, and there were parts of it that were a bit slow, and the description of the victim as dumb, idiotic, etc. was a little much.

Third, is a Bite Sized History of France by Stephane Henaut & Jeni Mitchell.

This is a slower read because there is A LOT of history embedded within the book. I really enjoyed how the authors wove modern foods with historical knowledge to create a better understanding of the France’s food obsession.

Finally, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See.

This book explores culture, adoption, and the connected ties of family. It was moving and at times heartbreaking, but overall an incredibly dynamic and intriguing story. This is a must read, friends.

And A read the brand new Stuart Gibbs’ Spy School book:

A thought it was a magnificent and satisfactory read that had a hint of mystery with twists and turns that kept the reader engaged until the end. And if you know A, yes, that was his exact wording.

While J read the new Boxcar Children book:

J said that he liked it and that’s his only opinion. And yup, that was his exact wording.

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Current Reads

Besides reading my textbook for the new course I’m teaching this fall, we’ve been reading a whole bunch of books around here, so I thought it would be a good idea to update our current reading list and reviews!

In December I read (my heaviest reading month of the year because I’m off work for several weeks):

One Day in December. Good romantic read, it got a little tedious towards the end, but if you like the movie Serendipity (which is one of my all time favorites), then this book is definitely for you.

Where the Crawdads Sing. Set in North Carolina, the tale of a girl who grows up in the marshes it runs parallel to a modern day mystery. Absolutely amazing, perfection. You must, must read this book, just prepare to not be able to put it down once you start.

Less. The story of a middle aged man, who upon learning his previous partner is to be married, says yes to all of the speech requests he received and sets off to travel the world. This was okay, I thought it was going to be more about travel, and it was more of a romance of love loss, and love rediscovered.

The Mystery of the Blue Train. An good Agatha Christie read, that if you liked Murder on the Orient Express, you’ll like this one.

In January I read:

Why Didn’t they ask Evans? An excellent Agatha Christie read that threw me off completely. I thought I had it figured out and I was wrong!

The Library Book. I discussed all about this book in a previous post. It is absolutely lovely, and I love to mix in nonfiction with fiction reads.

The Nightingale. Set in France during WWII this is the story of two sisters during the German occupation of France. Oh my goodness. This was incredibly captivating. It is sad, heart wrenching, but a powerful story.

In February I read:

The Proposal. Set in LA, this is a fun romantic fiction that supports the power of friendship and the power of food (two of my favorite things).

Oishinbo: Sake. These manga are a fun insight into Japanese food and culture. I’m steadily working my way through all of them.

The Storytellers Secret. Set in India it follows the paths of a grieving woman and her Grandmother’s tale that she has never learned until now. It is so incredibly well written that I stayed up extra late several nights to complete it.

And the boys wanted to share their current favorite series!

A just finished ALL and I mean ALL of the Percy Jackson series, including the original series and The Heroes of Olympus. The stories are based on mythology (Greek, Norse, Roman, etc….he said it really covers all of them). Mythology was one of my very favorite subjects in school, so I’ve loved discussing the stories with him!

And J, well he has read over 500 books or chapters within the last six weeks. He did wonderfully with his school’s reading program and we are so proud of him! To encourage his reading, I bought him Henry Huggins, because the story is about a boy and his dog. I thought he would like it, but he didn’t just like it, he loved it. Of all the books he’s read, this is one of the first that he really discusses without any prompting at all.

Happy Reading!

 

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This and That

This is my Target order haul from the past week:

Since it’s been a pain-ish to get to Target right now, I’ve been adding things to my cart throughout the week and then I order it all at the beginning of the next week. I also may need to stop following so many blogs that I keep discovering new things to try.

J is reading Sarah, Plain, and Tall out loud with his reading group at school and at home to me:

This was one of my favorite books when I was his age, so I love that he’s reading it and that I get to hear it all over again!

My Mom had baby chicks hatch in her classroom this past week, and J really loved them so:

This kiddo has a heart for animals!

On Friday we braved the rain to pick up new baseball equipment for J, and for the boys to spend their Christmas and birthday money at Target:

These are the newest Elite Trainer Pokémon boxes. They were excited about them, I was excited there were two boxes!

This is the salmon sheet pan supper that is so, so easy:

Salmon, asparagus, lemon. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook at 400 degrees until done (about 12-15 minutes).

And finally, this podcast got me intrigued by A Color Story App, which I promptly downloaded and have had fun trying out!

My first in-app purchase was At Home and I love it! It creates amazing filters that look natural, but just a tad brighter, truer, better. I definitely recommend it! Have a great Monday!

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The Library Book

I just finished The Library Book, and it just continued to support my love of libraries. From late night studying at my university library with a stack of Communication journals surrounding me, to ten years of story time with the boys, to our on-going hold list that I swing by and pick up on my way to or from work, I love the library.

I remember our pediatrician telling us at our first newborn visit with A that if all else fails just read to him. And that’s what I did. When we ran out of tummy time, and swing time, and playing/looking at toys, we read and read. I would check-out a stack of books and just sit with both boys and read.

One of their favorite shows (and mine) when they were small was Between the Lions, that was based in the library. We would watch every week and check out the books from the show at the library.

Each of the boys had a favorite book that they requested over and over. A’s was Little Cloud and J’s was Along A Long Road. I have purchased each of those books at this point to keep as a memory of their favorite books.

One of my favorite volunteer opportunities at the boys’ school is helping in the library. For a few short hours once a month I get to help check-out books, find the current Fly Guy book for a student, or try to learn the numbering system of all the non-fiction books.

So, what I’m saying is, if you love libraries like I do, you must read The Library Book. It’s an insightfully written book that gives you a wider perspective of the role of libraries within our culture. It also skillfully weaves in the LA Central Library fire in 1986 and its ramifications on the library, librarians, and their books. I enjoyed every minute of reading it and was sad when it ended. So go check it out!

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‘Tis the season

While we are not putting up the Christmas tree just yet, I’ve been busy ordering some updates to our holiday decor. Last year I waited and almost didn’t get a few items I had on my list. I went back through my Christmas decor pictures from past years (because what is having a blog if not to keep a virtual scrapbook of things like this), and focused in on a few areas that I wanted to add some additional decorations or update items that have gotten worn looking. I also added several new holiday storybooks because one of our favorite parts of the holiday season is reading our collection of Christmas stories as many times as possible between the day after Thanksgiving and January 1st.

As per usual, Target doesn’t disappoint with their holiday decorations and I found quite a few items from their collections:

Including a tiered stand for our high counter, garland for the mirror over our mantle, and new plates for my plate rack:

A pom pom wreath, and cheery pillows:

A cozy throw, tablecloth, and wooden centerpiece:

And I always search for a few pieces from Anthropologie including little monogram ornaments to go inside the wreaths on the boys’ doors, a silly towel, and a stack of holiday coffee mugs:

And new Christmas plates, red plaid garland, and shams from Pottery Barn kids:

And our new stack of holiday books:

How have we not read The Best Christmas Pagent Ever? It’s been so long since I’ve read it, I’m going to read it first, and then pass it on to A and then to J.

Walk this World is a beautiful pop up book with Christmas celebrations around the world, the illustrations are lovely, and the boys love books that have facts woven in.

Construction Site on Christmas Night because we love Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and what’s better than construction vehicles setting up Christmas decorations?

And finally, The Nutcracker retold with illustrations from The New York City Ballet. I love The Nutcracker and the whimsy of the drawings.

And now I’ve just got to figure out where to store everything until after Thanksgiving!

 

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West World

When I was growing up my Dad’s parents were always reading and watching Western themed books and movies. I can remember the line of mass market paperbacks they had on the bookcase that now sits in A’s room. I remember watching The Searchers in Graduate School for a film course and giving the DVD to my Nannie after I’d watched it, only to learn she’d already seen it. Until I started down this reading road, I never understood the context of that movie, or perceived it the way I do now. It all started a few months ago when I picked up this book….

And I was completely intrigued by the story and that parts of it were based on true events. This lead me to the book here….

This is a challenging book to read, but such a powerful insight into the West in the mid to late 1800s. After that book, I began this one…

This takes a fiction look at the beginnings of paleontology during the mid to late 1800s. I would define this as a quick read, an interesting story, but it does get a bit muddled with American Idol type phrases (“after the break!”). Each of these stories happen effectively within the same time period, and it is two fiction perspectives mixed with a nonfiction history. Happy reading!

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Spring reading review

It’s time for our Spring reading round-up! For as long as I can remember, reading has been our family wind-down every evening. Now that J is reading as well, it’s fun to listen to him read his books out loud to us every night.

A’s absolute favorite book right now is The Wild Robot. He’s read it at least three times since he got it for Christmas. He also read The Wild Robot Escapes and said it was good, but not as good as the original. He is also steadily working through every series of the 39 clues books, right now he’s on the Unstoppable series.

 

J is loving all Elephant and Piggie books, and two of his recent library loves are Petra and a Baseball Poems book.

 

Petra always makes J giggle, who knew a rock could be so silly?

 

I recently finished Teach Students How to Learn (work related). This is an excellent book if you are a teacher or parent and want to equip your kids with study skills that will help them from now through college (and help prevent the burnout that leads to drop-out):

And I read the Agatha Christie book Toward Zero, a quick little mystery read with a surprise twist:

 

And I also read Destination Unknown, a departure, in my opinion, from many of Christie’s other books:

 

And…Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, which is more of a classic Christie read:

 

And my most likely trendiest book was The Lying Game, that left me feeling unsettled, so if that’s the point of the book, mission accomplished:

 

My highest recommendation is News of the World. This book takes place right after the civil war in Texas, and it’s the journey of an older man who has been tasked with reuniting a young girl with her family. It is fiction, but it is inspired by true events and people of the time. It is incredibly fascinating and you won’t be able to put it down!

Currently I’m about 3/4 through Grape, Olive, Pig the second book in Matt Goulding’s food series. These books are a virtual tour through the food of a particular country, and I love them! Although it may not be helpful that I keep adding more countries to my travel bucket list.

Happy Reading!!

 

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Winter Book Review

While James napped Sunday afternoon away, I was watching Fixer Upper and reading. I’ve read quite a few books since December, so I decided to share!

This is a great beach read (if the title doesn’t give it away). Good character development, although a little stereotypical in parts. The story flows well and I liked the development of feel and character of Nantucket as an entity on its own.

This was one of B’s books that I read after I finished one book and was waiting for another book to arrive. It’s the first James Bond book, and it presents the vision of Fleming’s Bond. He’s a flawed character, often a bad shot, and definitely not the perfected ladies’ man that he’s portrayed to be in most of the Bond films. For that reason alone, I recommend it!

Okay, this was a tough one. I’ve had this one on my list to read for almost two years and finally read it over the winter break. As the book is from two different view points, I had two different perceptions of the story. Vivian’s story was heart wrenching and captivating, and I read every word. Molly’s on the other hand came off as a bit contrived. I get annoyed with teenage angst, and while I understood the correlation, it just seemed a bit overdone in that part.

I’m going to preface this book by saying I thought it was different than what it was. I was expecting a marriage memoir applied to Jesus devotional. It was not. You can’t throw in five verses from the Bible and call it that. And no, she doesn’t call it that, so that was a mistake on my part. However, I laughed a lot, and it was a quick read. Although, I’m still kind of mad that her husband stood by watching her paint a shed in their backyard.

You know I couldn’t go a month without reading an Agatha Christie mystery. This one was really complex in the mystery set-up and I liked the storyline. Poirot takes a back role in this book, with two non detectives at the forefront. My only complaint would be the need to have a complete ending, with each character having a definite end role even if it seems unjustified. That’s my best way to say that without including spoilers.

This was my favorite. Told from the viewpoint of a young girl, she goes to live with her Aunt Tootie in Savannah, where she meets a bunch of fierce women. It reminded me of many of the scrappy women in my own life, and I read it in a week turnaround. On a hilarious note, I borrowed this book from my sister and apparently it was missing the last thirty pages. I got to the “end” and thought, “that’s it! This is terrible!” I did some research and realized it wasn’t the ending, then checked the book out at the library to finish it.

And finally, the follow-up to Bob Goff’s book, Love Does, is his wife’s book, Love Lives Here. I found this, like Bob’s book, to be very centering, if that makes sense. It’s about discovering how to refocus, reprioritize, and that is okay to make mistakes, and/or start over.

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Currently reading

Besides collaborating on the largest joint Minecraft world over Thanksgiving break (and dressing in matching colors by chance):

We read quite a bit over the holiday. I’m jointly reading (and have almost finished):

 

And A read an Auburn history book, a history of The Washington Wizards book, the first 39 Clues book, an I Survived book, Kellogg Brands We Know, and he’s currently reading:

And J and I have read our entire stack of Christmas books, plus two of his sight word books, and his current very favorite is:

Happy reading!

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