A Tip for Teaching Abeka Phonics

In this short video, I am passing along a tip that has helped me teach my children to read using the Abeka phonics program. It was too complicated to share in writing, so I decided to make a video of it. {Please ignore the hick accent, if possible.} If you cannot access the video below, please click HERE to view it on Youtube.

Another tip (that doesn’t require a video to explain) is for the short “a” sound. For this one, mime the action of taking a bite of an apple as you say the sound for the first few times. You can do this any time the sound is hard to hear for them.

Happy homeschooling!

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How to Compile a Great Children’s Library

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My latest “old friend” found at Goodwill.

I love books and I want my children to love them as much as I do. In order to pass along this zest for reading, I am constantly on the lookout for quality literature. Because books can have a hefty price tag, I like to look for books at Goodwill and other thrift stores. I’ve found dozens of great books this way! Some are not in great condition, but considering that some of them are now out of print, I’ll settle for “readable” over “like new” any day!

I have a short list of books that I loved as a child which are no longer in print, and that’s where I start every time I shop. I’m like a prospector looking for gold. Sometimes I strike it rich, sometimes not, but I still enjoy the hunt. While my top priority are the “gold” books, I do have other, newer friends for which I’m searching, too. These are books that I have discovered since leaving home. You may have lists like mine in your head, too. If so, then just get to a thrift store and start digging! If not, I’ll give you some tips.

As a general rule, children’s literature written before 1965 is going to be pretty good. These books may not be well written, but they will be appropriate for young ones. Most of them will have an obvious moral, which I view as a plus. If you see an older looking cover on the shelf, but don’t recognize the author or the title as being your “gold standard”, then check the copyright. You’re looking at only spending a couple of dollars at thrift store (maybe only fifty cents!) so if it’s not good, you can donate it back. No big loss. I once bought a nice geography book for our library, but once I saw it was riddled with evolution, I got rid of it. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often, but it can happen. Also, if you see a “Weekly Reader” logo on the back of a book, well, that’s a good sign! Some of my favorite books are those old “Weekly Reader” books that came in the mail. Below are some examples of the “Weekly Reader” emblem:

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Look for Newbery Award winners and Caldecott Medal winners. Newbery Medals are given to the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” each year. Caldecott Medals are awarded to the “artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children” each year. Of course, being an award winning book doesn’t guarantee you’ll love it yourself, but it’s a nice place to start. There are several other awards lists to check out, so do a web search and start reading!

Find a favorite author, and search for him or her. I have enjoyed reading aloud the historical picture books by David A. Adler. He has written many, and I have gained several from thrift stores. Another great author is Jean Fritz. I also like Arnold Lobel, Carol Ryrie Brink, Patricia St. John, Garth Williams (artist), Harry and Wende Devlin, Beverly Cleary, Tasha Tudor (artist), Eloise Wilkin (artist), Richard Scarry, and a host of others. Whenever I see a familiar name on the spine of an old, forgotten book, I can’t help but examine it. Most of the time, I will adopt it. If I get more than one copy of a favorite title or author, I can always share the love by passing it on to a friend.

Do a web search for book lists. There are award winning book lists, as mentioned above, and then there are just “tried and true” lists in various places. Sonlight Curriculum is a great source of book lists, even if you don’t use their curriculum for homeschooling. Jane Claire Lambert wrote a great literature based unit study called Five in a Row. The books are listed in several places online, so search them out. They are all great books, even without the Five in a Row activities, so give ’em a try. There are also several good books about books. Really! They are called Honey for the Child’s Heart, The Read Aloud Handbook and Books Children Will Love.

Don’t forget clearance shelves at bookstores! I do sometimes shop in a bookstore that sells new books. However, I’m always looking for deals there, too. Check the clearance tables for your favorite volumes. I found the hardback book below on sale for $4! I had been wanting it for our homeschool for a long time, but couldn’t afford the $17 (plus shipping) price tag. It was a happy book-buying day for me!

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Check out book swapping sites for old books. My favorites are  bookmooch.com and paperbackswap.com. You must be a member, which means you have to be willing to post ten books you’d like to part with, in exchange for receiving the books you choose for free. You pay the postage to mail your books, and then the books you’d like to own are shipped to you for free. I hope that makes sense. You can also buy credits (without posting books) for a low cost. Visit the websites for more (and clearer) information.

Disclaimer: Obviously, my reading tastes may vary from yours. Please read at your own risk. For example, I don’t like books with profanity, but I try to use my discernment in each situation. It is important that we don’t swallow a lie just because it looks like the truth. Likewise, the truth can come disguised sometimes, and we must work to find its real identity. I read with discernment, and I’m working to teach my children to do so as well.

I hope these few tips will get your library off to a good start, or help you continue to build it. Books allow us to live many lives, see new things and visit far away places. Books, as I once read, give us somewhere to go when we have to stay where we are.

How true.

Happy reading,

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My Childhood Friends

I have an older brother and sister, but we were spread out enough in age to have grown up as three “only children”. I often came home from school as a youngster, found a place near the bookshelf and read and admired the pictures in my favorite books till supper time. My mother loves books, and, I have already mentioned my two older siblings. By the time I arrived on the scene, we had quite a collection of excellent children’s books. Of course, she added to it after I was born, too. 
I would spend summer afternoons cuddled up beside her, listening to her read (and re-read) selected favorites. I could even talk my dad into reading some to me. When I was very young, mother would send me off for a “nap” with a huge stack of books. “You don’t have to go to sleep,” she would say, “just lie back and look at books.” Before I knew it, I would fall asleep next to a close friend.
I had real life friends, too! But there’s no other friend quite like a good story. 
It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that Mother won’t part with these dear companions, and yes, I begged. So, when I married and had my own children, I began collecting my familiar acquaintances from the four corners of the country. I still haven’t found them all, but I won’t give up!
In October, Terry and I stopped in at our Goodwill to look for shoes for him. It was just a quick trip, since we were on a date out to eat. Of course, I couldn’t help but peruse the used book section. I was about to leave when I saw several golden spines all grouped together – Little Golden Books! I started to refuse myself the opportunity, but couldn’t resist. I quickly thumbed through them, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Not one, but TWO copies of one of my favorite Little Golden Books, Daisy Dog’s Wake Up Book! I absolutely loved it as a child and recall Mother reading it over and over and over. I loved the illustrations, too! I could admire them for quite some time at a sitting. Right next to the Daisy books, was one copy of a now out-of-print book called Jenny’s Surprise Summer, which I first heard about from the Five in a Row literature-based homeschooling unit study. It’s a cute story that we’ve only read once or twice because of how few copies are out there.
I was so excited, that I snapped a photo of the books with my phone, right there at Goodwill! I think I paid $2 for these books! 

The same day I found Daisy Dog, I also found this book that my mom had when I was young!

It has some cute illustrations and a darling story line about a boy named Kim who needs to get rid of some kittens, but something goes wrong. I hate to give it all away, in case you can find it for yourself.

Here are some of the cute pictures from Daisy Dog’s Wake Up Book. I just love them, too! The book is one long poem, so it’s fun to read aloud.

This picture is my favorite one. I would look forever at all the different kinds of beans that Bear ate.

It’s just adorable! 
I found these wonderful books at that same Goodwill on another day!
I have so many favorite books. 
Some of them I have bought brand new, gradually, over the years.
Some of them I’ve found used at library sales, thrift stores, or they’ve been given to me by friends.
Some of them I bought used online.
And some of them, like this one…
…and this one…
…my mother let me keep! 
This tattered set of books was purchased at a church rummage sale years ago. It was our job to sort through and price some of the sale items. Bro. Pritchard, a widower in our church who is now in Heaven, brought by several things for us and this was one of them! I quickly asked Mother if we could keep them, so she bought them from the church before they even hit the “market”. I am reading them for the second time now to my own children. 
What a treasure they are!
I’ve collected quite a few friends in my almost-sixteen-years of marriage. Some are from my husband, who cares about books almost as much as I, and some are new-to-us.
I know I might be a little crazy to care so much about the printed word as much as I do. I know there is a real world out there, with real people and real problems. In fact, reading books has helped me realize that more than ever. Books have shown me the world through eyes that are not my own, like in the Newbery medal winning novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. It’s a book about African-Americans who were sorely mistreated in Depression-era Mississippi. And sometimes, books have provided me the escape from my real world difficulties. Just when I have had the urge to run away from home, I was instead able to “run away” in my imagination. I have met George Washington and traveled with him down the East River with an army of Redcoats surrounding us. I have been with Harry S Truman when he suddenly became President of the United States after the death of FDR; I was beside him when he decided to drop the A-bomb on two cities in Japan. I have felt the heat of Atlanta as she burned to the ground in 1864, and I was there as she rose from the ashes once again. Books have taken me everywhere, to every time. But, the single greatest thing about reading, and the reason I work so hard to ensure that my children are good readers, is that God chose to reveal Himself to man through the printed page, the holy Bible. The Lord must place a very high priority on words, too.
I am so thankful for a mother and dad who took the time out of their fast-paced lives to settle down with a good book, or twelve, to read to their daughter. They probably didn’t realize that they were introducing me to some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

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Summer Reading Ends

Since we moved here in April, we have been enjoying the Lawton Public Library. It offers a wide array of books and programs for children. Because we have been so busy settling in (buying a house, learning the town, getting driver’s licenses, having dentist appointments, finding a piano teacher and more), we didn’t have much time for summer reading. I hate that. I always try to get the kids involved in the summer activities at the library. But, I’m only one woman. I did what I could do. When Lauren was two years old, I read her 110 books over the summer. One hundred ten! That number makes the twenty that I read to Matthew this summer look like nothing! I am ashamed. The other kids did better, especially Lauren, whose books were measured by pages. She read over 3,000 pages.

All of the kids read books – some more, some fewer – and I read four (about to be five) long books aloud to them. They are the following: On the Banks of Plum Creek, Betsy-Tacy, The Tanglewoods’ Secret, By the Shores of Silver Lake and Thimble Summer (currently reading). We are liking the Little House books very much. It helps that we have been to the Ozark Folk Center in Arkansas and know first hand about many of the olden-time activities that Laura performed. We’ve also been to two of Laura’s home sites, and that, more than anything, has made it all come alive! Betsy-Tacy was a cute book that my little girls enjoyed. The Tanglewoods’ Secret is my new Patricia St. John favorite, and we have all of her books. You must read it even if you’re an adult. Read it to your elementary children or college-age children – just read it! It will move you. It helps teach a child about death for a believer and it is an excellent witness to everyone. We have just finished By the Shores of Silver Lake. After reading five Laura Ingalls Wilder books aloud, we are taking a break from them. I plan to pick up the next one, The Long Winter, in the winter. I’m just smart like that. 🙂 Thimble Summer is a Newbery Medal winner that I just had to read in the summer! (See?) So far, we’re enjoying it. Elizabeth Enright gives excellent descriptions that you can practically touch!

I’ve been doing my own reading whenever I can. It took me three months to finish the thousand page biography, Truman, by David McCullough, but I loved each moment. I truly felt as though I were living in the forties. When I finished, I hated to come back into the 21st century. I didn’t agree with all of Truman’s politics, but he was a man of character and grit. I liked him. I also enjoyed reading a bio of Laura Ingalls Wilder that I purchased at her home in Mansfield, Missouri, last May, a book for Lauren’s science called The Mystery of the Periodic Table  (a bit confusing unless you’re familiar with some chemistry already) and The Story of Oklahoma, which is a concise history of the Sooner state written for upper elementary/Jr. High kids (which I enjoyed, because that’s right at my level!). You can see more of my favorite books by visiting my Goodreads page. And see more choices on Our Favorite Books page.

Lauren had a fabulous time working as a volunteer at our library. She is definitely a people person and received high praise from her leader. “I wish all of our volunteers worked as hard as Lauren!”, one of her supervisors told me. I was so pleased to hear this. She is now expressing an interest in pursuing library science in college, but since she’s only starting 9th grade, that could very well change. 😉

Summer reading has ended.
And now autumn reading will begin!
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The Last Butterfly

This past summer, I decided to do my own summer reading program with the kids. For each book they read, or had read to them, I made a butterfly to put up around the ceiling of our school room. Okay, I didn’t “make” the actual butterflies, I bought some die cuts at a bookstore and wrote the title, author, and the name of the child who read, or listened to, the book on it and then taped it on the wall. Lauren and Mitchell read their own books and I read aloud to Leslie and Laci. We finally made it around the room about a month ago. (Sorry for not posting this sooner!)

Below are the photos from around the room!

Aaaaaannnnndd…(drumroll please) Behold! The last butterfly!!!

We have a grand total of 93 butterflies fluttering around our school room! We would have had even more, but I didn’t buy enough! We are now doing the Pizza Hut Book It program, another great incentive to get kids reading. Of course, reading is its own reward, but it doesn’t hurt to add more to it. We need to take the butterflies down now that autumn is here, but we enjoy the color they add to our room so much, we hate to do it!

I can’t believe summer is already over! It’s been a wonderful summer of reading many wonderful books.
Valerie

Summer Reading Makes My Heart Flutter!

Every summer, I try to do something to motivate my kids to read. I know, some folks are against using incentives for reading, but I’m not. I once even paid my kids $.25 for each book they read, back when they were just getting into reading. My daughter started to really love books then, and she made some money, too! In the past, I have made “caterpillars” to go around the room – each circle of the caterpillar’s body was a book read. I’ve enrolled them in summer reading programs at different libraries and even in a program sponsored by our local grocery store when we lived in Texas. Every system has worked! In each incentive program my kids were motivated to read and they did just that. 
This year, we are flying butterflies around our house! I’m calling it, “Summer Reading Makes My Heart Flutter!” We are putting up one butterfly for each book read by the kids, with the title, author, and child who read it, marked on it. I read aloud to my two li’l girls. 🙂 We have eight butterflies so far, and we’ve only been going a week! 🙂 We can’t wait to see the room with colorful butterflies going all the way around! (I hope I have enough!) 

Are you planning to do some summer reading? Tell me about it!