Homepreschool and Beyond

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Archive for the ‘Picture Books’ Category

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God: A Reality Check, and a Suggested Book List

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 28, 2014

This next section of my three part series is going to be the toughest to stomach, but it is the most important. If you only read one part of this series, I hope you will read this part. Much of this I was already planning to post. In fact, the Lord has been convicting me to post it somewhere for a long time. It’s hard to do, because a lot of it is personal.

First of all, I want you to know that I understand that the information in this series, “Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God,” can be overwhelming. My blog can be overwhelming, and my book too, unless you approach it with the right attitude. You need to know that all the things I’ve listed in the previous posts of this series (and in my book) are ideas…lofty goals to work towards. So take the ideas I’ve shared as ideas, only. You get to choose which ideas will work in your home, with your children, and when. But don’t try to do them all (at least, not all at once!) You don’t have to do them all. You probably can’t do them all. And (here’s the important part): Even if you could do all these things, there is no guarantee that your children will grow up to have the close, personal relationship with God that you hope they will. The hard truth is, every child has free will, and can choose to live for the Lord—or choose not to. Many loving, Christian parents, who thought they did all the “right things”, including myself, have learned this the hard way, and had their hearts broken. I say this not to discourage you, but to give you a hard dose of reality. I feel I can share these things because they’ve happened to ME.

My first child has rejected the faith and is living in a way that is not pleasing to God. My daughter is living for the Lord (praise God!), but now differs from us doctrinally on a few points. And, if you met my youngest boys, you would know without a doubt that either my husband and I are imperfect parents (true), or my that my boys haven’t fully submitted themselves to God (yet!) They are not easy kids, and they never have been. They both have “flashes” that show me what Godly men they might grow up to become, but their behavior in-between those flashes, especially the way they get along treat each other, isn’t always pleasant. But we struggle along, anyway, doing the best we can, praying for them, teaching them, and never, ever, giving up.

I still believe that homeschooling is the most Biblical way to educate children, and I still believe that it is the educational choice that is the most likely to produce the results we are hoping for (children who grow up to be Christians.) But those beliefs are tempered with the reality of the fact that there are “no guarantees.” It is our responsibility to do the best we can, but we must leave the results to God. If we have taught our children about the Lord from the time they are young, we can then claim the promises in God’s Word (the principles of sowing and reaping, the scriptures He gives us regarding our children, and so on.) HERE is a site lists many of the promises that parents can claim for their children, and HERE is another great site—scroll down for an awesome list of Bible promises regarding our children.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years—things that the Lord has laid on my heart to share:

About our kids:
-Remember that God has given your children a free will. As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” We can share the Lord with our children their whole lives without result. Some children choose not to submit themselves to God. Others say they have, but their behavior shows that they are not regenerated (not new creations/not living for the Lord as they should.) Others still may out and out reject the truth we try so hard to instill into them. Pray that your children would have soft hearts towards the voice of the Lord, and would come to salvation at an early age. Pray that they would be able to discern truth from lies. Ask the Lord to open their spiritual understanding.

-Remember that your children are watching you. Set a good example for them. Rebellious children will look for any weaknesses or inconsistencies in your life, and use them to justify their own sin. They will see you as a hypocrite, and call you on it. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut it. Try to live what you teach, so that this doesn’t happen. Ask the Lord to change you, grow you, a help you become more like Jesus.

-Remember that we can’t be our children’s Holy Spirit. It’s not our job. You can’t convict your children of sin, or of their need of God, and so on, anyway. Only the Holy Spirit can do that!! We can communicate our beliefs, thoughts, and personal conviction to them, but it is ultimately up to the Holy Spirit to deal with them. Pray that your children would be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and that they would be doers of the Word, not hearers only.

About us (parents):

-Be careful not to make your children or your family an idol. Whatever you esteem, value, or think about the most becomes an idol. Don’t get so caught up in the lives of your children that you neglect your own spiritual life.

-Beware of parental pride: If you find yourself looking around at other parents whose kids are struggling or whose children have turned away from the Lord, and you are assuming that yours won’t, because “you’ve done everything right…everything you are supposed to….even homeschooled them”…then be careful. Pride is a sin. Pride is not pleasing to God. God says that He opposed the proud. You can be assured that if you are prideful about your children, at some time or another you WILL be slapped down…probably by own your children’s own behavior.

-Be careful about your attitude towards other parents who are having struggles with their kids. Don’t assume that they are doing everything wrong, or that they must be “messed-up” or “bad parents.” In short, don’t judge them. Don’t shoot the wounded. For all you know, they have poured their hearts and souls into their children, only to see them do the exact opposite of all they had been taught. Instead of feeling superior or judging them, pray for them. Pray for their children to return to the Lord. Love on them, and encourage them.

That’s it for the “reality check” for now. Think about these things, and examine yourself: Do any of these cautions apply to you? Do you have any attitudes to change? I will share some more specific things that are on my heart at a later date (Important Things to Teach Your Older Children–kind of a “spiritual lessons from the Mother of a Prodigal” type of post.) I’ll also share some important links at the end of this post. But for now, let’s go back to the “how” we can help our children learn about the Lord.

Remember that if we do all that we can do to teach our children about the Lord, we can rely on the promises of God regarding our children!!

Below is a list of the Bible story books and picture books that we have enjoyed. I’ve listed them by approximate age of usage.

Bible Storybooks

We started reading Bible story books to our children when they were very young. We try to be careful to choose Bible story books that don’t “add” to the Bible—guessing what Jesus must have thought or felt, for example. The usual progression of books in our house has been something like this:

1-2 years: Read-Aloud Bible Stories, Volumes 1-4, by Ella K. Lindvall

2-3 years: The above, plus The Beginner’s Bible, by Karyn Henley

3-4 years: The above, plus My Bible Friends, by Etta H. Degering (5 volumes)

Happy Day Books (available most Bible bookstores)

4-5 years: The Golden Children’s Bible
Arch Bible Books (available at most Bible bookstores)
Egermier’s Bible Story Book, by Elsie E. Egermier (this one is another favorite.)

5+ years: The above, plus The Child’s Story Bible, by Catherine F. Vos (This book is beautifully written. I like that it explains the orgins of Satan. It also covers more of the new testament than most Bible story books do.)

6+ years: The Bible, itself. You can find a listing of all the major Bible stories to read straight from the Bible, Old Testament HERE and New Testament HERE.

Of course, every family has its own favorites, and every child is ready to move up to the “more advanced book” in his or her own time. If your children have a Bible storybook that they really love, it’s OK to stick with it longer! The important thing is to get your children to know and love the stories and concepts in the Word. Read from a Bible storybook daily, and discuss the stories. Explain, in the simplest terms you can, what the stories teach us. Be sure to teach your children that these “story books”, unlike their other “story books,” really happened; they are TRUE.
To help our children understand some of the more difficult Biblical concepts, we also use specialized storybooks that strive to explain them as simply as possible (Devotional books):

My very favorite devotional for little ones (three and four year olds) is Stepping Stones to Bigger Faith for Little People: A Collection of Family Devotions, by Joyce Herzog. Just right for preschoolers, this is a sweet book that explains difficult concepts such as forgiveness, the blood of the lamb, living without fear, growing in holiness, and lots more, in a way that young children can understand.

Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers, by Joey Allen (titles include “The Scripture”, “The Mission”, “The Trinity” and “The Gospel”.

Little Lessons for Little Learners
, by Patricia Richardson Mattozzi (titles include “Angels”, “Heaven”, and “Prayer”.

Leading Little Ones To God, a devotional that explains the main Biblical themes, by Marian M. Schooland 4-5+

The Story of The Lord’s Prayer, The Story of Ten Commandments, by Patricia A. Pingry

Three in One, a Picture of God, by Joanne Marxhausen

Tell Me a Story: Treasures for Eternity, and others by Max Lucado 5+

Comfort for a Child’s Heart: The 23rd Psalm and Bible Promises, By David and Helen Haidle (This is a favorite of ours, one that we will read several different times throughout childhood. It is beautifully illustrated, beautifully written, and shares important truths.)

Here are some of our favorites for older children:

Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress, by Oliver Hunkin (8 years and up.)

Kingdom Tales, by David and Karen Mains (grades 3-8.)

The Young Peacemaker: Teaching Students to Respond to Conflict in God’s Way, by Corlette Sande (fourth grade and up.)

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends, by Sarah, Harold, and Stephen Mally (Sixth grade and up.)

Battlefield of the Mind for Kids, by Joyce Meyers (a favorite of ours; fourth or fifth grade and up; a very important book!)
Discover 4 Yourself Inductive Bible Studies for Kids, by Kay Arthur ( I would say third or fourth grade through seventh or eighth.)

Finally: Conversations and Daily Life

Biblical concepts should be a natural part of daily conversations. If we are aware of the presence of the Lord in our daily lives, we should share this awareness with our children. Simple comments like those below are key to bringing our children into an awareness of the power of God, how to please God, how important prayer is, and so on. Talk to your children about spiritual matters on a daily basis!

“Aren’t you glad God made kittens for us to love?”

“It makes Jesus happy when you share.”

“There’s a fire truck! While we pull over and let it pass, let’s pray for the
Fire Fighters, and for whoever might have been hurt in the fire or accident they are headed to.”

“What does the Bible say about lying? Is lying pleasing to God?”

“Grandma called, and she isn’t feeling good today. Let’s stop what we are doing and pray for her right now.”

“Before we leave on our trip, let’s pray and ask God to help us have a safe trip and a fun time.” (This is a tradition at our house; we never leave on a trip without praying first.)

I hope this series of posts has been helpful and encouraging to you. As I said, I will be sharing more of my thoughts shortly. In the meantime, may the Lord bless you and yours!!

PLEASE take the time to read the articles below. They are so important!!

Exposing the Seven Major Blindspots of Homeschoolers, by Reb Bradley

Christian Child Training Versus Free-Will by Barbara Frank.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post were taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.


Posted in Book Lists, Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Family Life, Holiness, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Homeschooling, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Spiritual Matters, Teaching Bible | Leave a Comment »

Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 1, 2012

Reading to our babies is one of the best things we can do to encourage their language development…and in the future, to help them love to read.  The best time to start reading to babies is before their birth.  Reading the same book to them everyday helps them become familiar with your voice and experience the rhythms of language.  Once your baby is born, continue reading to him everyday, even if it seems he isn’t paying attention.

If you have missed this opportunity, don’t be discouraged.  It’s never too late to start reading to your child!  If you have a squirmy, resistant toddler, read on for suggestions.

Read to your child everyday, even if he doesn’t seem interested.  Try to make reading fun—for toddlers, you can experiment with books to touch (like Pat the Bunny) and sturdy board books that don’t have many words.  Most toddlers are interested in animals, so look for books about animal sounds.  A perfect choice is Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider, which has textured pages to touch, and a simple text including animal sounds.

If your child continues to refuse to sit on your lap and listen to a book, try the following:

-Read to your child while he plays near you.  Hold the book towards your child, so that if he looks at you, he can see the pictures.  Don’t force your child to sit on your lap to listen to a book-we want books to be associated with positive experiences.

-Keep sturdy board books or cloth books in your toddler’s toy box, and stand books up near your baby when your lay him down for “tummy time”.  They might get chewed on a little, but that’s ok.  The idea is to help you child associate books with enjoyment.  (Supervise chewers carefully!)

-Try reading to your child when he is tired and wants to cuddle-like right when he wakes up or right before bed.

-Try reading to your  baby when she is  in their “quiet-alert” stage.  For older babies, this might mean right after a meal.  For nursing babies who fall asleep after nursing, try reading to them after bath time, or right after a diaper change.  Experiment—try reading several times during the day to find what works for you and your baby.  Once you find a time that works, try to make it a habit.

-Choose the right book!  Books for babies and toddlers should have bright, realistic illustrations (or photographs), simple, short sentences, and include rhyme and/or repetition.  Books you can “sing” to baby are especially good choices.

-Some toddlers seem to need a sense of “control” in order to sit still for a book.  In this instance, I usually let them have it (in moderation.)  I let them turn pages, for example, ask them to point to things in the pictures, and so on. But I never let little ones grab, tear, or throw books. Toddlers must be taught to treat books carefully.

-Very squirmy toddlers might need a specially  modified read aloud time for awhile: Don’t linger too long on the pages; shorten or skip text if you have to, or even  just “talk” to them about the pictures in short sentences.

Other Tips:

-Don’t read in “baby talk”.  Use real words and complete sentences. It is OK to use a sing-song, higher pitched voice, if it seems natural to you to do so.

-Encourage toddlers to chime in with repeated phrases or sounds when they can.

-Don’t worry about variety: It’s OK to read  a few favorite books over and over for now. Babies and toddlers love repetition, and learn through it.

Here are some of our favorite books to read to babies and toddlers (in no particular order):

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, Bill Martin

Goodnight Moon; The Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown

The Three Little Kittens, Paul Galdone

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (board book), by Eileen Christelow

Ten In the Bed, by Penny Dale (out of print–from Discovery Toys–a ‘singable” book.)

Very Busy Spider, The, Eric Carle

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella Lindvall (Great first Bible stories with short sentences.)

Farm Animals, Baby’s Animal Friends, (chunky board books) by Phoebe Dunn (there are others in this series, by different author. These where my baby’s favorites.)

The Foot Book, Dr. Seuss (short sentences, lots of repetition.)

Wheels on the Bus, (a pudgy board book), by Jerry Smath (another singable book)

The Pudgy book of Mother Goose, by Richard Walz

Little Golden books, such as:

The Animals of Famer Brown, Richard Scarry

Old MacDonald Had a Farm, (there are several  versons of this-they are all good, and fun to sing.)

My First Book of Sounds, by Melanie Bellah and  Kathy Wilburn

The Jolly Barnyard, by Annie North Bedford and Tibor Gergely

© 2010, 2012  Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

Posted in Babies, Book Lists, Family Life, Picture Books, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 29, 2011

~This was first published in our local support group’s newsletter back in 2007. I hope you enjoy it.

Have you ever had one of those vivid, crazy dreams that you’ll never forget?  I had the craziest dream ever last week.  It was so strange that the first time I told my husband about it, he thought I must have made it up!

I dreamt I was a contestant on a game show that was a cross between “Deal or no Deal” and “Jeopardy”.  I traded a new car for a 50/50 chance to win a house.  But not just any house– this was Charleston Heston’s own house!  It was a huge two-story mansion with hardwood floors, tons of marble and granite, a dream kitchen, a floor to ceiling fireplace in the living room, and a huge master bedroom with a fireplace and a balcony that overlooked the backyard.  This house sat on acreage, and came complete with a waterfall that emptied into a pristine pool, a cranberry bog, and a quarter size train circling the property.

But what crazy dream is complete without a dream come true?  I won the house!  My whole family got to meet Mr. Heston as he was busy packing up his house so we could move in.  He liked us so well that he gave us some memorabilia from the “Ten Commandments”.  The only bummer:  We had to move toNew Jersey.  I remember I was terrified of what their homeschool laws might be!  (I later found out that they are better than ours).

All of us have dreams.  Sometimes we remember our dreams, and sometimes we only have a vague idea of what our dreams really were.  Many times we try to apply some kind of meaning or message to our dreams, especially when they are as detailed and realistic as mine was. Many times a message does seem clear.

I’ve thought about dreams a lot lately- not just my own crazy dream, but also the whole idea of dreams in general. And as I was thinking about my dream, the Lord seemed to lay on my heart some thoughts about dreams that could apply to all of our lives today.

When our children are young and we begin our homeschool journey, we have so many dreams.  Dreams about what homeschooling will be like; dreams about what kind of mothers we will be.  Dreams about the memories we want to give our children, and dreams about what our children will be like when they grow up. Many times our dreams are unrealistic—pie in the sky daydreams that could never be.

At first, everyone tells us to relax about our dreams, and rightly so; after all, we have twelve whole years to bring our dreams to fruition—and twelve years seem like an eternity at first. But as the years slip by, we quickly fall into a routine– each year bringing its own share of joys, sorrows and challenges. Many dreams are forgotten or set aside, as we struggle daily to “get it all done”. But this year is different for me. This year I have a senior.

Having a senior has changed my perspective on everything. The senior year is a time of endings and beginnings-looking back and looking ahead. And looking back has given me some insights about what I want for our youngest two, now ages 6 and 3.

First of all, I’ve decided that I’m going to write down my dreams for my children-the realistic ones, anyway. I’m going to write down short and long range goals, and re-read them frequently to make sure I’m sticking with the plan.

After I write down those goals, I’m going to make sure to “make the main thing the main thing”.  If our main goal is really homeschooling with eternity in mind, then we will be sure to put character training and spiritual matters first.  I won’t let my own insecurities about grade levels or “getting it done” keep me from seeking the Lord first! I’m going to trust that He will add “all those other things” that I tend to stress about–and in His own time.  I’m going to trust Him to give me the wisdom, patience and confidence to back off when I need to, as well as to know when to dig in my heels. I’m praying for that ever-elusive “balance” in all things.

Lastly, I’ve decided that I’m going to worry less and enjoy more.  I want to make sure to do all the fun stuff I plan to do, and yet so often don’t accomplish. This holiday season especially, we are going to take the time to be relaxed, read daily Advent devotions, bake multiple batches of cookies, get messy with glitter, cut and paste those Christmas trees and stars, read those books (over and over, probably), play those games and generally just enjoy each other and the season.

I’ve discovered just how quickly the years fly by. Looking back, I can’t say I have any regrets about which math curriculum we chose, or how many phonics pages we finished daily.  I do have regrets though, about pushing too hard on the academics during the early years—often at the expense of those fun things that act not only as learning experiences, but also as relationship builders. It’s the music, art, reading and singing together that make our holidays special-and not just our holidays, but our “every-days” as well.  And yet these are the things we often consider to be “extra” or “unnecessary”, especially when compared to getting our academics done.  That’s sad.

Let’s take the time to do those “extras”.  Let’s make them happen for our children this year. Those “extras” make the memories we will most cherish in the future.  Those “extras” are the stuff that dreams are made of.  And only we can make those dreams come true for our children-not only at Christmas time, but every day.

  Special Books to Share With Your Children This Christmas (in no particular order):

Arch” Christmas books (available at Bible bookstores)

The Legend of the Candy Cane (Walburg)

An Orange for Frankie (Polacco)

The Polar Express (Allsburg)

Apple Tree Christmas (Noble)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Haidle)

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect (Schneider)

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree (Barry)

A Letter to Santa Claus (Weninger/Moller)

The Light of Christmas (Evans)

Deck the Stable (Eastwick)

An Early American Christmas (dePaola)

The Tale of the Three Trees (Hunt)

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (Church)

© 2007, 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Book Lists, Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Life, Holidays, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Picture Books | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Making Storytime Special

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2011

 (Classic repost, updated.)     

       Many years ago I had an experience I’ll never forget.  While visiting a friend’s house–a mother of preschoolers–I observed the following: Her little one brought her a book, and trundled onto her lap so that she could be read to. My friend pulled her up onto her lap, and started reading to her…but this was no ordinary story. It was the fastest story I’ve ever heard! There was no expression, nor any discussion of the book or its pictures. She read it as quickly as she could, just to get it over with. 

       I hope this wasn’t the usual way stories went at her house. I understand that she did have company, and she wanted to placate her child so that we could continue our visit. But the whole thing made me sad. It’s something I’ve never forgotten.

       Reading aloud should be a special time of bonding between parent and child. It should never be viewed only as an obligation—something to be rushed through at break-neck speed. Story time should be enjoyed…relished. 

       There are so many ways to make story time special. They are all simple, and so much fun!  Here are a few ideas:

 -Take your time and enjoy the story. Read a little more slowly than you think you need to. Enunciate your words clearly; your children copy your speech.

-Read with expression, and get into character: whisper, shout, growl, squeal, and make animal sounds as appropriate. Make male voices sound low, and female voices higher. Make each character as unique as you can–my boys love it when I add a southern accent for Hank the Cowdog.

-Encourage your children to chime in when there is a familiar or repetitive phrases.

-Pause at the end of phrases, to see if your child can fill in any missing words.   

-Try reading in new places:  How about a picnic read aloud time?  You can have a picnic indoors or out.  Maybe your little girls would enjoy a “tea time” reading. Read in different rooms, in your bed, in front of the fireplace, during bathtime, and so on. We love to read while snuggling on the couch, under a fluffy blanket.

-Try including pets or “loveys” (favorite blankets or stuffed animals) in your reading time.

-Extend your read-aloud time by acting out nursery rhymes and favorite stories, and watch your children’s play for signs that your read-aloud time is sinking-in: You’ll know you’ve found a gem of a book when your children include the book in their pretend-play spontaneously.

-Talk about the story:  Speculate: What might happen next? What could the character have done differently? Notice the details in the pictures, as they relate to the story. Ask your child to describe the characters:  What kind of dog is Harry? (A black dog with white spots.)  What is the one thing he doesn’t like?  (He doesn’t like taking a bath. These details are from one of our favorite books,  Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion.)

-Notice details in each book’s art: How are the pictures made? Are they drawn, painted, colored, or collaged (what is the medium used?) Notice the artist’s use of color and light as well.

-Have your child tell the story, or part of it, back to you (narration.) 

-Give your child a “print-rich” environment.  Keep books at your child’s eye-level, to encourage them to investigate books themselves—or pick out books that they would like to hear. We used plastic rain gutters to make bookshelves right by our boy’s beds and provided them with reading lamps to encourage them to read in bed.

-Choose books that are about topics that are of special interest to your children. Consider turning books/storytime into a daily or weekly unit study or “theme” by reading about one main topic at a time, and by adding fun activities/art projects/dramatic play, etc that enhances the reading experience.

-Communicate to your children that books are important to you.  Let your children see you reading books. Share books that you loved as a child with your children.

-Buy books as presents; give books as rewards (books are only rewards if they are GOOD books. Check out my archives for “book lists” and my post on  “Choosing and Finding Classic Picture Books”.)

-(For older children): Read a book, and then watch a movie based on the book.  How are they different? Which is better? Why?   

-Something we do: Quote special sentences/passages from favorite books (and movies) when appropriate. Ask your children if they remember which books the sayings are from, which character said it, how he said it, and so on.

      Don’t just read to your children—make reading special!

© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

Posted in Book Lists, Challenge to Parents, circle time, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Fun, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Picture Books, preschool at home, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Method Review: Before Five in a Row

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 17, 2011

        Before Five in a Row: A treasury of creative ideas to inspire learning readiness is a great resource for families who would like a little more “specific” help homepreschooling their very young children (those not ready for themes or unit studies).

        Before Five in a Row  is not a curriculum or an intensive “readiness” (i.e. formal academic) program; it does not concentrate on teaching A, B, C’s or 1, 2, 3’s (and rightly so; after all, Before Five in a Row is intended for children ages 2-4–I think it’s best for age 2-3.) Instead, Before Five in a Row uses the best in children’s literature to get preschoolers talking, thinking, playing and learning via relating to their favorite picture books. And once preschoolers get talking, thinking and playing, their learning really does take off. To quote from the introduction of Before Five in a Row, “This series of little ‘lessons’ was created especially to bring enjoyment to children ages two through four. The point is not so much to instruct or teach as it is have a happy introduction to books, provide an interesting, light introduction to many different topics, and to build intimacy between the  reader and the child. The topical subject headings are only to suggest in what areas these activities might lay a foundation for academic subject to be encountered by your child on later grades.”

        Before Five in a Row  offers ideas and activities that lay foundations in the areas of Bible, art, language arts, cognitive skills (noticing/talking about colors, patterns, shapes, sequencing, problem solving, etc); drama, literature, poetry and art; noticing order and detail;  science, games, math, etc all in a developmentally appropriate/fun way. Before Five in a Row uses classic picture books such as Caps for Sale, Blueberries for Sal, Angus Lost, and Corduroy as the basis for its “lessons” (24 books in all.) Many of the “lessons” are simply observing things about the book or its characters through conversation. This can be done during the time of the reading, or later—whenever “life” relates to the lessons of the book, or whenever the book is re-read (these books are so good that your preschoolers will want to hear them over and over!)

How Before Five in a Row Differs from Five in a Row

    First of all, Five in a Row is a “curriculum” (unit study/literature approach) for ages 4-8.  Five in a Row gets its name from the fact that you read each picture book every day for five days; thus the title, “Five in a Row.” After the daily reading, you proceed to do one or more of the activities suggested in the curriculum—you pick and choose the activities depending on the age, attention span, and abilities of your children. But Before Five in a Row doesn’t work that way. It does not encourage you to read the same book each day for five days in a row. The suggested activities are not intended to be used all in one week, either. Instead, they are meant to be used as a natural part of life during the reading and subsequent readings of the books.

Even More About Before Five in a Row  

        The first half of the book includes the books and activities, while the second half of the book includes a “treasury of creative ideas for learning readiness.” It includes activities in the areas of reading readiness, music, coordination, activities for the bathroom and kitchen, the arts, and more.

 My Thoughts

        Before Five in a Row is a good introduction to the literature approach for parents of very young children. The second half of the book is a good reference of basic activities. This book would be especially helpful for parents of 2-3 year olds who need a little help figuring out how to pull learning activities/conversations out of picture books.

        If you would like more activity/play/unit study ideas for preschoolers, check out my tabs, archives, and especially Homepreschool and Beyond.   

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Book Reviews, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool Preschool, Methods, Picture Books, preschool at home, preschool curriculum | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Most Important Books, Listed by Age (Part One of My Required Reading List)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 5, 2011

Introduction to the list

Why another list?

     I realize that there are tons of book lists out there—and in general, I love them. I love them so much that I included a chapter-long recommended book list in my book—one that lists books just for children ages preschool through age 8.  So why do we need another list?  Because this is different kind of list.  As much as I love the lists, and as much as I love the idea of owning a million books, I’ve recently had to accept that a million books just won’t fit into my house—no matter how hard I try (and believe me, I’ve tried!)

What’s wrong with the other lists?

     Over the years, I’ve discovered many wonderful book lists.  But many of the lists I’ve found are too long and too overwhelming.  Besides, who can afford all those books, anyway?  And who can possibly make the time to read them all?  Most families—ours included–are forced to pare down our bookshelves and our book lists to those that are most important—those that we really don’t want our children to miss (O.K., O.K., I have to admit, I still have tons of books…we’ll still read lots of books that aren’t on my list…but I do want to be sure that my children read/hear the most important ones.  I have a senior again this year, and I’m realizing that there are too many she’s missed—and I don’t want that to happen with my younger two!)

     I have also found some common problems with many of the book lists I have found:

1) Many of the lists are developmentally inappropriate—either in regards to reading level or content.

2) Many of the lists nowadays include books that I don’t want my children to read, for various personal reasons (especially the lists from the public schools and public libraries.)  I just don’t trust their suggestions.  I try to choose books that show the difference between good and evil clearly; books that show parents in a good light; books that include a good over-all moral or redemptive theme (the sinner learns a lesson/good prevails/the characters grow), and so on.  I admit that at the high school level I struggle to weigh the pro’s and con’s of many of the “classics,” and the value versus the potential harm of many books (such as Lord of the Rings.)  How do you draw the line between “fun” and “fantasy” and “occult”?  <SIGH>

3) Many of the modern lists leave out the traditional classics, replacing them with the types of books I listed above.

4) Most of the book lists I have found are limited to certain age-levels.

        So I decided that I needed to make my own list—a special kind of list.  A list of the most important books.  Not a million books—just 25 books or less per age-range.  This is my basic list—my ideal list of “required” reading for my kids.  (If I could only have 25 books per age range, these are the ones that I would pick.)  I know I’m leaving out lots of good ones–I hope you’ll share your favorites with me by adding a comment.

Why do you include a listening level AND a reading level on your lists?  And why do the reading lists overlap in age?

     Children’s abilities, maturity, and interests vary greatly within the normal range, and so it is natural that the reading levels would overlap. 

      Once your children are willing to listen to longer books, they will enjoy listening to you read aloud books that are one or two age levels above their actual age or reading level. That’s why I include a separate “listening” level.        

     Once your children are reading independently, remember that their confidence and fluency will grow leaps and bounds if you allow them to read lots of “easy books” at first—yes, even books below their actual age/reading level.

     Remember that children enjoy repetition; they will want you to read aloud many of their favorite books over and over, even when you think they have “outgrown” them. 

     Finally, remember that these “reading levels” are not an exact science.  These are just my opinions of approximate age level.  I judge the reading levels by the difficulty of the words included AND according to my judgement of the content (story-line/theme) the book.  For another opinion on the reading level of specific books, check out Scholastic’s Book Wizard Site. 

      So, here we go.  Here is my list of the “can’t be missed”, most important books for children, from infancy through high school, PART ONE (and remember, there is a much longer and more complete list of books in my book, including holiday/seasonal books, just for preschool through age 8-10 or so.)

Babies and Toddlers

     What kind of books do babies need?  Babies and toddlers need simple text and pictures, bright colors OR black and white.  They like pictures of real things—especially other babies or animals, and they need books that include repetition. 

     Even if it seems as if your baby isn’t listening at first, keep reading to him anyway.  Reading to your baby is vital to baby’s cognitive, speech, and language development.  Idea for wiggly babies: Try skipping the text for a time and just talking to your baby about the pictures—or self-“edit” the text to keep it extremely short.   Babies aged 18 month-olds and up (or so) can begin to learn to identify and point out items in the pictures.) 

Note: I put a star after the books I’ve seen as “board books”.

 1.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?*

2.  Goodnight, Goodnight, by Eve Rice

3.  Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown* (I think I have this one memorized!)

5.  It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G. Shaw

6.  Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt*

7.  Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field*

8.  Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella Lindvall

9.  Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown*

10.  The Foot Book, by Dr. Seuss (a first book of opposites, in rhyme, as only Dr. Seuss can do)*

11.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle*

12.  The Big Red Barn, by Margaret Wise Brown*

13.  The Discovery Toys Book of Nursery Rhymes, by Julie Lacome (out of print but worth the search; classic first rhymes and songs to sing, such as “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep”; not too long for little ones)

14.  Very Busy Spider, by Eric Carle*

Little Golden Books: 

15.  The Animals of Farmer Jones, by Richard Scarry

16.  Bow Wow, Meow!  A First Book of Sounds by Melanie Bellah and Trina Schart

17.  The Jolly Barnyard, by Annie North Bedford

18.  The Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone

Chunky Books:  These are tiny board books that stand up in a circle.  Babies love the real pictures or animals and babies, and they are just the right size for tiny hands!  All my babies loved these.

19.  Baby’s Animal Friends (a Chunky Board Book), by Phoebe Dunn*

20.  Baby’s Busy Year, (a Chunky Board Book), by Phoebe Dunn*

 21.  Farm Animals (a Chunky Board Book), by Phoebe Dunn*

 Books to Sing:

22.  Old MacDonald Had a Farm (a Little Golden Book), by Kathi Ember

23.  10 in the Bed, by Penny Dale (a must have!)

2-3 Year Olds (the books listed above, plus):

(Note: Many children will be ready to move up to some of the books in the next section at age 2.5)

1.  Angus Lost, by Marjorie Flack

2.  Angus and the Cat, by Marjorie Flack

3.  Angus and the Ducks by Marjorie Flack

4.  A Pocket for Corduroy, by Dan Freeman

5.  Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina

6.  Corduroy, by Dan Freeman

7.  Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, (best of a series of “Monkey” books), by Eileen Christelow

8.  Gingerbread Man, The, retold by Jim Aytesworth,  illustrated by Barbara McClintock

9.  How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, by Jane Yolen

10.  Is Your Mama a Llama? By Deborah Guarino

11.  Jesus Loves Me (a Cuddle and Sing Book), by Debby Anderson

12.  Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag

13.   Mother Goose, by Gyo Fujikawa (or your favorite version)

14.  Mother, Mother, I want Another! By Maria Polushkin

15.  The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories, by Karen Henley

16.  The Big Hungary Bear, by Audrey Wood

17.  The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper

18.  The Napping House, by Audrey Wood

18.  The Very Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle 

Little Golden Books:

20.  Home For a Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown

21.  Little Red Caboose, by Marian Potter & Tibor Gergely

22.  The Golden Egg Book, by Margaret Wise Brown

23.  The Pokey Little Puppy, by Sebring Lowry

24.  Scuffy the Tugboat, by Gertrude Crampton

25.  The Three Bears, by F. Rojankovsky

Listening Level: Preschoolers (ages 3-5)

The Books Above, plus:

 (So, so very hard to choose!  I tried to choose classics and books that inspire the love of reading/fun. I cheated a little on this list and included multiple titles by one author in one entry. For a more complete list, see my book, Homepreschool and Beyond.) 

1.  A Child’s Garden of Verses, written by Robert Lewis Stevenson, illustrated by Tasha Tudor (or your own favorite version)

2.  A House is a House for Me, by Mary Ann Hoberman

3.  Bedtime for Frances, Bread and Jam for Frances, (part of a series of Francis books), by Russell Hoban    

4.  Biggest Bear, by Lynd Ward

5.  Christian Mother Goose, volumes I and II, by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker

6.  Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter, by Beatrix Potter

7.  Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, The, by A.A. Milnes

8.  Complete Tales of Curious George, by Hans A Rey

9.  Donkey-donkey  and Petunia by Roger Duvoisin (out of print)

10.  Harry and the Lady Next Door, Harry by the Sea, Harry the Dirty Dog, No Roses For Harry, and others by Gene Zion

11.  James Herriot’s Treasury For Children, by James Herriot

12.  Katy and the Big Snow, Little House, The; Mike  Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and others by Virginia Lee Burton

13.  Katy No-Pocket, story by Emmy Payne, illustrated by H. A. Rey

14.  Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge,  by Hildegarde

15.  Make Way for Ducklings, Lentil, Blueberries for Sal, and others by Robert McCloskey

16.  Over and Over, by Charlotte Zontolow (a couple pages of Halloween content; a book about the progression of the seasons and the holidays)

17.  Selfish Giant, The, written by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

18.  Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson

19.  Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Stieg (contains “magic” in a fairytale way)

20.  The Story about Ping, by Kurt Wiese

21.  Tikki Tikki Tembo, by Arlene Mosel

22.  Wee Gillis, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson

23.  Wonderful Shrinking Shirt, The, Leone Castell Anderson (out of print, but oh, so worth the search!)

24.  Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney

Another Book to Sing:

25.  Do Your Ears Hang Low? And Other Silly Songs, by Pamela Cote

26.  (O.K., so I cheated! Rather than take one out, I have to add:  Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch.

 Beginning Readers

Listening Level:  Preschool through Second Grade

Independent Reading Level: First through Fourth

 1.  A Fly Went By, by Mike McClintock

2.  Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman

3.  Fox In Socks, by Dr. Seuss

4.  Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss

5.  Go, Dog, Go, by P.D. Eastman

6.  Hop on Pop, by Dr. Seuss

7.  I Can Read Series: Amelia Bedlia, Owl at Home, Frog and Toad (series), Clipper Ship, Little Bear (series), Mouse Tales and many others.  These are nice because they are graded for you. 

8.  “I Can’t” Said the Ant, by Polly Cameron

9.  In a People House, by Theo LeSieg

10.  I Want to Be Somebody New, by Robert Lopshire

11.  Nate the Great (series), by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

12.  One Fish, two fish, red fish blue fish, by Dr. Seuss

13.  Put Me in the Zoo, by Robert Lopshire

14.  Sam and the Firefly, by P.D. Eastman

15.  Step Into Reading Books:  I Like Bugs, Eat My Dust: Henry Ford’s First Race, George Washington and the General’s Dog, and many others, also graded for you…and like the “I Can Read” series, you can find books suited to your children’s interests. 

     Part two–coming soon!



© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Babies, Book Lists, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Book Lists Just for Boy/Girl Interest (part two: girls)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 8, 2010

Picture Books

Cordoroy, and A Pocket for Cordoroy, by Dan Freeman (a little girl and her teddy bear.)

Frances series, by Hoban (Bedtime for Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances, and more)

Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton

Madeline series, by Ludwig Bemelmans

A New Coat for Anna, by Harriet Ziefert

A Pair of Red Clogs, by Masako Matsuno

Loud Emily, by Alexis O’Neill

Mailing May, Michael O. Tunnell and Ted Rand 

Miss Rumpious, by Barbara Cooney

Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

Mirette on the High Wire, by Emily McCully

Fritz and the Beautiful Horses, by Jan Brett

The Finest Horse in Town, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

A Chair for my Mother, by Vera Williams

Uncommon Traveler:  Mary Kingsley in Africa by Don Brown

Stellaluna, Jannel Cannon

Longer Picture Books–

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, by Peter and Connie Roop

One Morning in Maine, by Robert McCloskey

Henner’s Lydia and others by Marguerite D’Angeli

First Readers–

Amelia Bedelia (part of a series of Amelia books), by Peggy Parrish

Little Bear books, by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak

The Josifina Story Quilt, by Eleanor Coerr

First Chapter Books/First Longer Read Alouds–

Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin and S. D. Schindler (my boys especially loved this one, too!)

The White Stallion, by Elizabeth Shub

Sarah Witcher’s Story, by Elizabeth Yates

Bears on Hemlock Mountain, The Courage of Sarah Noble, by Alice Dalgliesh

Album of Horses, Born to Trot, Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy, Misty’s Foal, and many others by Marguerite Henry

Pippi Longstocking (one of many about Pippi), by Astrid Lindgren

Phoebe the Spy, by Judith Griffin

The Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary (first few in the series)

Great Family Read Alouds/Books for Older Girls to Read Independently–

 Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Album of Horses, Born to Trot, Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy, Misty’s Foal, and many others by Marguerite Henry

In Grandma’s Attic  by Arleta Richardson 

Toliver’s Secret, by Esther Wood Brady (part of Sonlight year 3; a young girls must become a “spy” during the revolutionary war—dress as a boy, and carry a message to General Washington.)

Ginger Pye and Pinkie Pye, by Eleanor Estes

Janette Oke’s Animal Friends, (series) by Janette Oke

Violet Comes to Stay and others by Jan Karron

Helen Keller by Margaret Davidson OR the Story of Helen Keller by Lorena Hickcock

Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer by Jane More How

Naya Nuki:  The Shoshoni  Girl Who Ran by Kenneth Thomasma

The Moffets  by Eleanor Estes

All of a Kind Family  (part of a series) by Sydney Taylor 

 Tweens and teens—shouldn’t miss:

Anne of Avonlea books by Montgomery (and movies, after you’ve read the books!) 

Little Women  and others by Louisa May Alcott

Anything by Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility

Jane Eyre   by Charlotte Bronte

Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author. 

Posted in Book Lists, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Picture Books, Picture Books for Little Girls | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Book Lists Just for Boy/Girl Interest

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 6, 2010

     One of my readers asked me the following: “…Would you be able to direct me to some picture books, living books, classics, etc. that highlight male/boy characters to add to my son’s reading? I have found so many lovely books that feature girls as the main character but really want to find some that feature boys. My son loves Lentil (we kept it checked out of the library for 6 weeks and are going to ask for it again!) along with Mike Mulligan, Peter Rabbit, and other books about animals like The Story about Ping. But any suggestions you can share on books that have resonated well with your sons would be great. Thanks a bunch!”

        I have to admit that I’ve never sat down to make a book list just for boys (even though I have 3 of my own),  but I thought I’d see what I could think up.  Since I was going to make a list for boys, I figured I might as well  make a list for girls, too. 

        I tried to find books that might be especially appealing to boys or girls…books that included their special interests.  For boys that meant cars, planes, cowboys, animals (especially dogs and dinosaurs), and adventure stories–and for girls, I looked for books about relationships, animals (especially cats and horses), and family life.  I also looked for books that had strong male/female characters (especially those that give children heroes to look up to.) 

        This was harder than I thought!  After all, my children–both male and female–enjoy both kinds of  books if they are well written.  Almost all the books on the picture book list, for example, would be enjoyed by boys OR girls.  It was often hard to decide which list the books should go on.  I really had to go through my shelves to get even a basic list (and yes, this is only a basic list!)  I tried looking around online for other lists, but found little (only radical “feminist” lists for girls, LOL!) and Heart of Dakota’s list, which is partially divided by boy or girl interest (it looks really good.)        You should know that there are many, many more classic books listed in my book, Homepreschool and Beyond.   A note for those of you who already own it:  There are books on the boy/girl lists that are NOT in the book, so you might want to bookmark them or print them up. 

        Finally, be sure to remember that elementary aged children can listen to books (being read to them) that are 1-3 grade levels above their own reading levels (or more.)

        Anyway, here’s part one of the list—for boys.  I’ll post the list for girls in a day or two.  I’d love it if you would add your favorites as well by adding comments.  I love comments! 

        Enjoy!    ~Susan

Book List Just for Boys

Picture Books–

Beady Bear by Dan Freeman (a boy and his teddy bear)

Harry the Dirty Dog, Harry by the Sea, and others by Gene Zion

 Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virgina Lee Burton

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, How do Dinosaurs Clean their Room, and others by Jane Yolen

Biggest Bear, by Lynd Ward

Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge, The, by Hildegarde Swift

Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, by Helen Oxenbury

True Story of the Three Pigs, by A. Wolf, by Jon Scienszka

The Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Curt Wiese

Lentil, by Robert McCloskey

Ticki Ticki Tembo, by Arlene Mosel 

Verdi,  by Jannell Cannon

Boy Who Held Back the Sea, The, by Lenny Hort, Thomas Locker, and Mary Mapes Dodge 4-5+

The Raft, by Jim LaMarche

The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper

Little Toot, by Hardie Gramatky

Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Boy Who Loved to Draw: Benjamin West, The, by Barbara Brenner and Olivier Dunrea J 4-5

Note:  The author, Gail Gibbons has written a series of non-fiction books that cover topics of interest to boys, including firefighters (Fire! Fire!), policemen, science, sports (Baseball, Football, Soccer),  and many other topics of interests to boys  including Sunken Treasure, The Boat Book, Trains, Knights in Shining Armor, How a House is Built, Lighthouses, New Road!, and many more. If there is a topic your son is interested in, be sure to see if there is a Gail Gibbons’ book to go with it!

 Longer Picture Books

Billy and Blaze series, by C.W. Anderson (a boy and his horse)

Calico the Wonder Horse, OR the Saga of Stewy Stinker, by Virginia Lee Burton

Merle the High Flying Squirrel (and others) by Bill Peet (note: One or two of his books are inappropriate, but most are wonderful.)

Yonnie Wondernose, by Marguerite De Angeli

Glorious Flight:  Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909, The, by Alice and Martin Provensen 4-5+

Island Boy, by Barbara Cooney

Lentil, by Robert McCloskey

Obadiah the Bold, by Brinton Turkle

Hollings C. Hollings books:  Of special interest of boys are Paddle to the Sea, Minn of the Mississippi, Tree In the Trail, The Book of Cowboys, The Book of Indians

McBroom’s Wonderful One Acre Farm (part of a series) by Sid Fleishman  (we avoid the titles with ghosts.)

Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress,  by Oliver Hunkin

Questions and Answers about Mighty Machines, by Adam Hibbert, Chris Oxlade, and James Pickering

First Readers—

The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto (Step Into Reading book), by Natalie Standiford and Donald Cook

Frog and Toad, part of a series by Arnold Lobel  

Nate The Great, (part of a series of mystery books) by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Marc Simont

First Flight:  The Story of Tom Tate and The Wright Brothers, (I Can Read series), by George Shea and Don Bolognese

George Washington and the General’s Dog (Step Into Reading) by Frank Murphy

First Chapter Books/First Longer Read Alouds-

Poppy and Ereth’s Birthday, by Avi (There is another book in this series called Poppy and Rye that I skip because one of the characters is rather rebellious and talks in slang.)  Although the main character in these books is a girl mouse, it is an exciting adventure story for boys.  It also includes strong male characters—and I mean characters—such as Ereth the porcupine, who often speaks his “curses” in alliteration, such as “Green grasshopper guts!” or “Bouncing bear burps!” Despite being old and grouchy—and complaining a lot—Ereth does what is right.)  Note: These books may not be for everyone.  I do have to self-edit some of Ereth’s exclamations, but my boys love this series, and Ereth’s colorful exclamations crack them up.

A House Inside Out  (all about the lives of those “others” who often live in our houses with us, such as spiders, mice, pill bugs, etc—fun fiction.)

 Stuart Little, Mouse on a Motorcycle, and others by E.B. White

Henry  Huggins, Ribsy, and Henry and Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary (a boy and his dog)

Encyclopedia Brown (series) by Donald Sobol

Homer Price and Centerburg Tales, by Robert McCloskey

Hollings C. Hollings books, especially Sign of the Beaver, Tree in the Trail, Minn of the Mississippi, The Book of Indians, and The Book of Cowboys

Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham

Matchlock Gun, by Walter D. Edmonds

Louis Braille, by Margaret Davidson

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl 

Great Family Read Alouds/Books for Older Boys to Read Independently–

Hank the Cowdog, (series) by  John R. Erickson and Gerald L. Holmes. This is our current family read aloud series.  All of us participate and take turns reading to the boys—me, my husband, and my 18 year old daughter.  We all love this series…it’s a hoot.)

Smokey the Cowhorse, and Will James’ Book of Cowboy Stories, by Will James

Treasure Island , by Robert Louis Stevenson

Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss

21 Balloons, by William Pene Dubois

Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley

By the Great Horn Spoon, by Sid Fleishman

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne

Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, by  Robert C. O’Brien (contains magic.)

Summer of the Monkeys, by Rawls

Teens and tweens shouldn’t miss–

Little Britches series by Moody

Call of the Wild and White Fang, by Jack London

Treasure Island  by Robert Louis Stevenson

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (the unabridged version challenging and great to assign as independent reading.)

Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Book Lists, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Picture Books, Picture Books for Little Boys, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Generations Radio Interview

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 22, 2010

      Ever wonder what I sound like?  I’m sure it won’t be what you imagine.  But if you’d like to know, you can listen to me on Generations Radio

    I was blessed to be interviewed this week by Kevin Swanson, a Pastor, author, leader in the homeschool community, and a homeschooling dad. 

    We talk about my book, the advantages of homepreschool versus institutional preschool, building relationships, the importance of conversation, music, and lots more.  You can listen HERE.

     Live the 4R’s!


Posted in Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, Mothering, Music, Parenting, Picture Books, Play, preschool at home, Radio Interviews, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Susan Lemons, Teaching Reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Disturbing Article From the NY Times–“Picture Books No Longer a Staple For Children”?!

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 8, 2010

     Apparently, picture books are on the decline.  According to this article from the NY Times, picture books are no longer the “staples” of early childhood that they used to be. 

     Say it isn’t so! 

     The article cites several reasons.  One is the cost of picture books (I agree with this–new hardbacks are ridiculously expensive), the economy, and…guess what?  Another form of “curriculum push-down.”  Yep.  Here we go again.  Apparently, many parents feel so pressured to help their children  become early readers that they are pushing them OUT of picture books prematurely–many times as early as age 4. 

     Pushing them OUT of picture books, and choosing to read only chapter books to them, instead.  

     This is NOT the way to grow fluent, confident readers.

     Don’t get me wrong–I’m not bashing chapter books.  You know that I LOVE chapter books.  But preschoolers need picture books.  kindergarteners need picture books.  First graders need picture books, too.   Emergent readers REALLY need picture books.  The shorter sentences, the beautiful pictures and the familiar stories help young readers practice their reading in an enjoyable way.  Picture books build their confidence.  One of the best things you can provide for an emerging reader is lots of practice with their favorite picture books.  For goodness sake, my boys are 9 and 7, and while we read lots of chapter books, they still love picture books!  The best picture books are enjoyable for people of all ages.

    We tend to think of picture books as being immature or simplistic.  While this is true for some picture books (the twaddly ones), many picture books are actually amazingly complex.  The pictures are works of art.  The text often uses amazingly complex vocabularies.  The key is finding the right picture books.  (Be sure to see my posts on Choosing and Finding Classic Picture Books, and my abbreviated List of Classic Picture Books.  If you want the whole long 25+ page list, you’ll need to purchase my book!) 

     By all means, when your children are ready, read them longer picture books. Next, work your way up to real chapter books (usually around age 5-6.)   But don’t be too quick to give up on picture books!      

     Remember that pushing our children to “grow up” to soon–either emotionally or academically–usually backfires on us.  Our goals should be to help our children learn and mature without pushing them, but without holding them back, either. 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Book Lists, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, Methods, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Teaching Reading | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Fall Unit/Theme for Homepreschoolers: Books, Songs, Finger Plays and More

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 2, 2010

     I realize that this unit is probably a little late for many of you; others, like me, would save this unit unil late October/early November.  Where we live, the leaves don’t really start turning until then.  In fact, although it’s cooling off now, it was over 100 degrees last week.  Please NOTE:  As with any homepreschool unit, please that these ideas are only suggestions.  Make the unit work for you by deleting or adding as you please.  Use the books and activities you already have at home, and make use of the library!  

      Keep it light and fun, and remember that reading aloud is the most important part of any preschool unit.

Concepts to Learn:

-There are 4 seasons in a year.  The seasons are winter, spring, summer, and fall.

-Another name for “fall” is “autumn”.

-In the fall, the weather starts to turn colder.

-Fall is harvest time:  Grapes, corn, nuts, apples, pumpkins, cotton, walnuts, almonds, watermelons, etc (individualize this for where you live) are harvested during fall.

-During the fall, the leaves on trees change colors and then fall to the ground.

-During the fall, animals are busy getting ready for winter.  Some animals eat lots and lots, storing fat in their bodies to prepare for hibernation.  Other animals collect and store food for winter.  Some animals migrate (or travel) to warmer places during the fall. 

-In olden days, families where busy preparing for winter–just like the animals!  During fall farmers harvested their crops and stored up food that they could eat during the fall.  They had to do this to have enough food to eat during the long, cold, winter (read the book, Blueberries for Sal.) 

Vocabulary:  Seasons, fall, autumn, migrate, hibernate, seeds, and harvest. 

Suggested Books to Read:

Animals in Winter, by Henreitta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder (how animals prepare for winter)

Apple Pie Tree, the, by Zoe Hall

Autumn Leaves, by Ken Robbins

Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

Chipmunk Song, by Joanne Ryder

Fall Leaves Fall, by Zoe Hall

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, by Lois Ehlert

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, by  Marjorie Priceman  (just for fun–goes with the apple theme.) 

Why Do Leaves Change Color?  By Betsy Maestro

How Do You Know It’s Fall, by Allan Fowler, A Rookie Read About Science Book (includes a quick, inoffensive mention of Halloween)

What Happens in Autumn, A National Geographic Young Explorer Book, by Suzanne Venino

When Autumn Comes, by Robert Maass

How Do Apples Grow?  By Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro   

Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh and Kathy Jakobsen Hallquist

Corn is Maize by Aliki (or, you can save this one to read during your Thanksgiving unit.)

Finally:  Tell the story, “The Little Red House with No Doors and No Windows”, and illustrate with an apple.  Find the story HERE.  It’s fun to plan to do apple printing afterwards–make apple prints showing the star inside (see directions below under “activities.”)  

I haven’t read these books, but they look appealing to me:

Busy Animals: Learning About Animals in Autumn, by Bullard/Takvorian

Apples, Apples, Everywhere!  Learning About Apple Harvests, by Koontz/Takvorian

Raccons and Ripe Corn, by Jim Arnosky

Every Autumn Comes the Bear, by Jim Arnosky

Finger Plays

Alphabet Soup’s Apple songs and finger plays

More apple poems

Alphabet Soup’s Fall songs and finger plays

My Favorite Finger Plays and Poems:*

 10 Red Apples

10 red apples grow on a tree (hold up fingers)

5 for you and 5 for me (hold one hand forward, then the other.) 

Let us shake the tree just so (shake body)

And 10 red apples will fall below (hands flutter and fall)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (count each finger.)


Popcorn Clapping Chant (clap where the letters are in bold print)

Popcorn, popcorn, shakin’ in the pan.

Popcorn, popcorn, Bam! Bam! Bam!


5 Red Apples 

5 red apples in a basket by the door,

Little _____took one, and then there were 4.

4 red apples were still enough for me. 

 _____took one, and then there were 3.

3 red apples, and what did I do? 

I baked one in an apple pie, and then there were 2.

2 little apples before this story’s done,

______will make some applesauce, and that leaves 1.

1 little apple, I’ll put it in a sack,

I’ll give it to my grandma, to have for a snack.   (fill in with names of people in your family.  This is fun to do with real apples, or felt apples and numbers.)

Four Little Leaves

(cut out 4 differently shaped leaves from pellon or 4 felt leaves in the colors below.  Place leaves on your felt board before you start the poem.  Have your children pick the correct leaf off the felt board as you read the poem.) 

There were 4 little leaves, on an autumn day.

The green leaf said, “it’s time to play.”

The yellow leaf said, “I will tumble to the ground.”

The brown leaf said, “I will not make a sound.”

The orange leaf said, “I can hear the north wind blow,”

Then the 4 little singing leaves drifted down below.

*I learned these as a preschool teacher years ago. The author is unknown.  If you know the original source, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.

Nature Walk and Related Activities: 

-Go on a nature walk and look for signs of fall:  Beautifully colored leaves, seeds and seed pods, squirrels gathering nuts, squirrel holes/caches/nests, migrating birds, and so on.

-While on your nature walk, collect leaves for these ideas:

  • Press leaves between wax paper
  • -Preserve leaves in glycerin and later, use them to decorate for Thanksgiving (warning:  lots of supervision required—poisons involved.  Kids can pound stems and drop leaves into glycerin.) 
  • Make leaf rubbings
  • Older preschoolers will enjoy learning the names of some common trees in your area.  They can also learn to identify their leaves. 
  • Children will be fascinated to look at leaves using a magnifying glass or a simple hand-held magnifier/microscope
  • Older children will enjoy a scavenger hunt, matching leaves to trees and then identifying them by name (use a field guide for this.)  Draw or photograph your finds.

Other Activities: 

-Visit an apple farm and pick your own apples.  Use them to make apple pie and/or applesauce (see below for recipe.)

-Preschool Education.com includes a long list of fall art projects 

-Crepe paper fall tree:  Have your child draw or paint a bare tree trunk (or you make one for them.)  Pre-cut tissue paper squares (1×1”) in fall colors.   Have your child collage leaves onto the tree.  Experiment with crumpling the paper, laying it flat, rolling it, or wrapping it around a pencil eraser to make a flowery effect.  Alternate idea for the tree trunk:  trace around your child’s arm and fingers, then paint or color.

-Paint with fruits and vegetables harvested in fall:  Cut one apple in half down the middle in one direction, and another apple in two large halves across the middle; shuck corn and cut in half.  Set cut pieces out overnight (this dries them out a little to make a clearer print.)  Dip the fruit/vegetables in thick tempera paint or acrylic paint and then stamp or roll them to make designs (this is fun to do along with the story, “A Little Red House With No Doors and No Windows” (see above.)

-Make a collage with things harvested in fall:  Popcorn, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.  Some children enjoy drawing a simple flower or sun shape to fill in.

-Crack walnuts and eat.

-If you can, take a field trip to an agricultural area and watch the harvest.

-Take a trip to the grocery story and talk about things harvested in fall.

-Learn how grapes are made into raisins.  Make your own raisins by drying grapes on a dehydrating machine.

Snacks/Cooking Experience: 

-Anything harvested or processed in fall (grapes, raisins, apples, corn, etc.)

Make homemade applesauce (you cut the apples into medium sized pieces, and then have your children chop them into smaller pieces with a table knife.  Kids can also help measure and add sugar/spices and mash cooled applesauce.) 

Have fun!


 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.  

Posted in Art, Book Lists, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Music, Picture Books, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Preschool/Kindergarten Unit: Community Helpers Theme

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 14, 2010

 A unit or theme about “Community Helpers” is a wonderful way to broaden your children’s horizons and help them learn about the world beyond home–their community.  It is easy to find books for this unit, and there are a number of creative activities to go with it—everything from dramatic play to field trips.

We usually spend 1-3 days per “helper” in this unit.  Remember to keep it simple; you don’t have to do every activity.  Reading aloud and talking about what you’ve read is the most important element.

Special notes about this unit:  Be sure to balance the safety lessons with your child’s age and maturity.  We don’t want to frighten our children.

 Concepts to learn:

 -Community helpers are special people who help and protect us:  Policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, carpenters, postal carrier, grocer, baker, librarians, etc etc.

 -Community helpers often risk their lives to save the lives of others.

-Learn what the following helpers do: Policemen, firemen, doctor, nurse, carpenter, plumber, electrician, pilot, postal carrier, grocer, baker, librarian, etc (as appropriate for your child’s age and maturity.)

-Help your child learn the name of your city/state/country  

-Teach your child your address and telephone number (this will probably take longer than the unit—be patient.  This is simple memorization, and it’s important for safety’s sake.  See my book for more details on how to do it.)  

-How/when to call 911 and when not to  

-Safety rules (especially relating to pools, poisons, medicines, matches/stoves/fire, etc)

-Develop a home evacuation plan and practice it

-Practice what to do in case of fire/fire alarm (check doors to see if they are hot before opening; stay low to the ground; stop, drop, and roll) 

Vocabulary to learn:

Emergency; stop, drop, and roll; K-9; siren; poison; smoke detector, and the names of helpers and what they do:  Policemen, sheriff, firemen, doctor, dentist, nurse, carpenter, plumber, mason, postal carrier, grocer, baker, librarian, barber, pilot, employee, etc.

Generally suggested books to read/music, finger-plays, and activities:

If you can only purchase one book for this unit, I would recommend Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day; it pretty much covers all the bases.

Another fun general resource is the Sesame Street song and book, “Who are the people in your neighborhood”.  The video’s fun, too—and once you know the tune, you can “sing” the book (I always emphasize that “Mommy is your teacher!”)


Books to read: 

What Do People Do All Day  (Richard Scarry)

Policeman Small  (Lois Lensky)

Emergency! (Gail Gibbons)

 Music and finger plays:

-Sing this “safety song,” from the TV show Barney, I believe: (Note:  If you know the original source, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due!)

Sing to the tune, “When the Saints Go Marching In:”

Oh, when I walk, across the street, oh, when I walk ac-ross the street, I always stop, look, and listen, when I walk ac-ross the street.  Oh, when I walk, a-cross the street, oh when I walk a-cross the street, I always wait for the green light, when I walk a-cross the street.

Here’s another “source unknown” finger play (if you know the original source, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due:)

Red says STOP (hold up hand in “stop” gesture)

And green says GO (make motions as if you were a traffic cop motioning people to go)

Yellow says WAIT you’d better go slow! (with index finger extended, wave hand across body from right to left and then back)

When I reach a crossing place (cross arms at wrists)

To the left and the right I turn my face (turn face)

I walk, not run, across the streets (“walk” with fingers)

And use my head to guide my feet (point to head and feet.)


-Block city:  Make a city for cars out of blocks.  Use chalk or masking tape to mark intersections.  Pretend you are a policeman, making sure people obey traffic laws.

-Make a bigger version of the above on your driveway outside and drive tricycles around it….Mom or Dad can be the “police” and dole out tickets for reckless drivers.  Mom or Dad could also direct traffic or pretend to be a stop light (“Red light, everybody STOP!” etc.   If you are ambitious, it’s  fun to add cardboard box “houses”/”businesses”, etc; the children can paint the boxes and lay out their “town”.  Some families rig up pretend stop signs/stop lights out of cardboard as well.

-Learn about stop signs and stop lights, crosswalks and crossing streets

-Play the game, Red Light, Green Light

-Watch for opportunities for your children to “meet” a policeman, especially a K-9 officer/unit.  Some of these units put on demonstrations at community events, often allowing children to see the officers and dogs at work, sit in police cars, etc.


-Draw our three large circles for your children onto separate pieces of white paper (don’t cut them out yet.)  Let your children paint the circles:  One should be green, one should be yellow, and one should be blue; let dry.  The next day, have your child cut out his circles (to the best of his ability) and then glue them onto a black rectangle to make a stoplight (from top to bottom, the colors should be green, yellow, then red.)

-Paint with blue and then add a sprinkling of gold glitter (the colors of police uniforms.)


Books to read: 

What Do People Do All Day  (Richard Scarry)

Fire! Fire! (Gail Gibbons)

Curious George at the Fire Station (Margret Rey and Alan J. Shalleck)

The Fire Engine Book (a Little Golden Book, by Gergely)

Richard Scarry’s Busiest Fire Fighters Ever (A Little Golden Book, by Scarry)

I’m Going to Be a Firefighter, by Edith Kunhardt

Pickles the Firehouse Cat (Esther Holden Averill)

 Songs and Finger plays

Sing the song, “Hurry, Hurry, Drive That Fire Truck” from the Barney show


-Pretend you are a firefighter:  Gather props such as an old garden hose, coat, snow boots, or any props you have on hand such as a plastic firefighter’s hat, badge, tricycle, etc (drive tricycles to fires with sirens blaring, then pretend to put out fires.)

-Learn about fire safety (see concepts to learn, above)

-Learn rules about lighters and matches/playing with fire

-Arrange a field trip to the fire station


-Paint with “warm colors” (yellow, orange, red)

-Make a crayon-melt picture (fire makes heat; heat makes things melt.  Note:  We laid paper directly in the pan and colored right onto the paper instead of making prints; we also laid towels around the edges of the pan to prevent burns.  When you lift the pictures out of the pan, watch out for drips!  See directions HERE.) 

 Mail Carriers

Books to read: 

What Do People Do All Day  (Richard Scarry)

Seven Little Postman (a Little Golden Book, by Margret Wise Brown)

The Post Office Book: Mail and How it Moves (Gail Gibbons)

The Jolly Postman (Aglberg; the postman delivers mail to fairy-tale characters; does contain a “witch” but otherwise a delightful book.  We also love the Jolly Christmas Postman.)


-Buy a wooden/cardboard mail box from an art supply store (Michael’s stores carries them.)  Paint, decorate, and then use your mail box to “mail” letters.  Be sure to teach your child what the flag on the mailbox means.

-Have your child draw pictures and dictate letters for you to mail to your relatives.  Show your child where the stamp goes, and the address.  Ask your family to write back, so your child can have the thrill of receiving her own mail. 

-Gather props to play “mail carrier”:  Large canvass/grocery bag, envelopes, paper, stickers, etc.  “Write” letters, “mail” and “deliver” them. (Don’t let preschoolers play with plastic bags.)

 About Doctors, Nurses, Dentists, etc

Books to read: 

What Do People Do All Day  (Richard Scarry)

Going to the Doctor, Going to the Dentist, Going to the Hospital (Mr. Rogers)

Jenny’s in the Hospital (a “Look Look” book by Seymore Reit)

Suggested songs and finger plays:

Sing “Miss Suzy” (sung to the same tune as, “There Was a Little Turtle, his name was Tiny Tim…” OR chant the words adding a hand-clap pattern such as clap your own hands, clap your partner’s hands, or pat your lap then clap.)

-Do the finger play, “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”  

-Buy a “doctor kit” type toy, and combine it with props from home to play doctor/nurse, etc:  Toilet paper (bandages), “band-aids”, etc (see HERE for more ideas.)  

-If you can, see if you can purchase a real, working stethoscope and let your child listen to her heart.  Alternately, see if your doctor will let you take a “field trip” to his office and use his stethoscope and to talk about what doctors do.

-Talk about health rules that doctors/nurses teach us and why they are important (get plenty of sleep, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, wash your hands, keep clean, brush your teeth, etc.)

About Carpenters, Masons, Electricians, Plumbers, etc:

What Do People Do All Day (Richard Scarry)

The Tool Book, How a House is Built, Up Goes the Sky Scraper, (Gail Gibbons)

Songs and finger plays about carpenters, masons, etc:

Johnny Works with One Hammer (one hammer-“hammer” with one hand; for two hammers, “hammer” with two; three and four hammers, add feet, one at a time; for 5 hammers, add bobbing your head.)


-Hammer nails (supervise carefully!)

-Use pipe cleaners as “wires” and make a sculpture (use styrofoam as a base.)

-Use frosting as cement and sugar cubes as bricks to build a house, just like a mason (don’t let them eat too much!) OR make a gingerbread house

-Talk about parts of a house (walls, ceiling, floor, window, door, etc)

-Drive by construction sites and observe the activity.  Don’t enter the site without permission due to safety issues. 

     There are almost unlimited possibilities with this unit…play “restaurant”, baker (make some homemade bread!), pilot, store (complete with play money and empty cereal boxes to buy) and so much more!  Look for other ideas on these websites below (note:  I cannot vouch for all the content/appropriateness of all the suggestions on these sites, so use your own discretion):




     Have fun, and live the 4R’s! 


© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Book Lists, Crafts, Elementary School, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, Music, Picture Books, preschool curriculum, Reading Aloud, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Building Your Home Library: Online Resources

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 23, 2010

      Have you discovered online libraries? They are an inexpensive way to “build” your home library.   One of the neatest things about these resources is that many of the very popular, “living” books—those that are being reprinted by companies like Yesterday’s Classics—can be found online for FREE.  How can they be offered for free?  Well, these books are in “public domain”—printed before 1923.  So if you need an older book and don’t have the money to purchase a hard copy, be sure to search online first.  I usually get the best results by searching for the book title this way:  read “Tom Sawyer” online.    

      I do prefer “real” books—books I can hold in my hands.  However, you can’t beat the price or ease of online books–and there are no storage problems, either!  

      Some families choose to print out their books, but I find it more economical to simply bookmark them in a special ‘favorites” file and then use them as needed. 

     Be sure to learn about the features of each site.  Many sites let you “bookmark” your place in each book, read by chapter, and some even let you print by chapter/page/etc (great for copywork!) After checking out the book online, sometimes I do choose to purchase a reprint of the book. 

      Disclaimer:  Don’t forget that like any “library”, once you start searching you’re likely to find very good books and very bad books.  I’ve been shocked to see that many of the old texts are very secular–even “new age” in nature (such as many of the books you’ll find for “nature study.”)  There are also some very moral-even Godly texts to find.  Be sure to preview your choices carefully.  Many include references to mythology, magic, Halloween, etc.  Obviously I haven’t had the time to look through all these resources in detail, so use discretion.

      Here are some of my favorite online libraries:

Textbooks and Curriculum Online

An Old Fashioned Education:  I think this is the best site for finding homeschool curriculum, literature, and textbooks online.  Best of all, you can search by subject…and what subjects!  Besides the usual school subjects, you can search under Bible and religion, character and etiquette, fiction for boys, fiction for girls, and lots more. 

19th Century Textbooks:  Here you can find the New England Primer, Spencerian Handwriting, Osgood’s American Primer (reading lessons–you can also find the third and fifth grade readers in this series),  McGruffy Readers and more on this site.  I especially like the looks of this book.  

Don Potter:  Lots of old texts, including phonics and math, as well as Noah Webster’s 1824 Spelling Book

Baldwin Project’s “Main Lesson”  

Ambleside Online:   Classically inspired Charlotte Mason-year by year book plans (outlines of what to study); not really a library, but a free curriculum plan.

Guest Hollow:  Complete history plan,  science plans using real books and lots more; again, not really a “library”, but free curriculum plan.


The Baldwin Online Children’s Literature Project  and Baldwin’s list of 549 Best Online Classic Children’s Books Online

Children’s Books Online: Lots of graded readers.

Library of Congress   

Classics for Young People


Google Books:  Search by author or subject, such as “nature study” or “arithmetic”; some of the nature study texts are amazingly “new age”/secular, so be especially careful to pre-read.

Project Gutenberg 

Bartleby.com:  Literature, reference, and verse.

Specific Online Titles:

     These worthwhile titles have been rediscovered thanks to companies like Yesterday’s Classics OR because they are promoted by various homeschooling methods or curriculums—especially the more “literature based” programs.

Nature Study:  A Pupil’s Textbook 

 Nature books by Fabre

Read Thorton Burgess books online:  Some families love these, others dislike them because of their frequent references to “Mother Nature”, and so on. 

Parables from Nature

Handbook of Nature Study:  An awesome classic by Emma Comstock.  Don’t forget this wonderful blog, Handbook of Nature Studies, which brings the book to life.  This could be all you need for science until late elementary/Jr. high.

Books by H.E. Marshall:  These history books are promoted by classical homeschoolers and some titles are included in  Ambleside Online and Guest Hollow’s history plan, among others:

This Country of Ours 

Our Island Story (too “classical” in nature/too heavy for me, but some families love it)

A more complete list of Marshall’s books is HERE. 

Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by Baldwin

Laura Lee Hope Books (Bobbsey Twins)

Ten Boys who Lived Long Ago to Now

Eggleston’s Stories of American Life and Adventure 

Eggleston’s Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans and A First Book in American History: Used in Heart of Dakota, etc; scroll through to find other titles by Edward Eggleston, for various ages.

History/Bible/Biography Books by Josephine Pollard: Various titles, including A Child’s History of the Battles of America and the The Life of George Washington, written in 1893!  No revisionist history here! Some are written to accomodate younger readers. 

Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible

Among the Forest People and others by Clara Dillingham Pierson

The Beginner’s American History by D.H. Montgomery:  This one looks great! Very narritive in style.


Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (searchable):  I think this is the best dictionary in the world.  The book is HUGE and very expensive, so if you can’t afford the real thing, use this site.  This dictionary is especially useful when studying older literature (many of the original words are now out of common use or have different meanings).  We also love to use it because it is Biblical.  The definitions of character traits and words like “education” are priceless.  Check it out!

Bartelby’s: Huge reference library

One look:  Search 629 different online dictionaries

Elements of Style: Grammar/writing handbook, 1918 edition.

Have fun!  ~Susan

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Book Lists, Curriculum, Elementary School, Freebies, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Nature Study, Picture Books, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Building Your Home Library

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 14, 2010


     This is (a part of) our home library.  I believe that every home should have books in it.  I always feel sad when I visit a house with no bookshelves in it….the house feels empty somehow…it just doesn’t feel like a home to me.   


     We have books in every room of the house (yes, even the bathrooms have books sitting near the potty…perfect for extended “sitting”, LOL.)     

     I like to say that I “decorate” with books.  In fact, I’m so crazy for books that finding room for bookshelves was one of our primary considerations when we purchased our house.  In Educating the Wholehearted Child, Sally Clarkson says that her family falls just short of “book envy and book covetousness.”  I feel the same way!   


   Choosing Good Books   

      I have very high standards when it comes to the books that go into our library.  I try to pre-read or at least preview books before they go into our library—especially if I am unfamiliar with the author.  I have a shelf in my room nearly full of books just waiting for me to read and approve (or disapprove—often you can tell just a few pages.)  Some of my standards are unexplainable—who can account for taste?  But some of my standards I can explain—and so I’ll try to do so below.   

     The overall rule for acceptable content in literature comes from the Word of God.  Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  And Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.”   I therefore avoid books with witches, demons, mythology, and other “paranormal” content, as well as books that directly or indirectly contradict our beliefs or “teach” lies (wrong ways of thinking, evolution, wrong attitudes, etc.)  And I ask myself:   

-Does the book present an accurate picture of the character of God?   

-Does the book encourage good morals?  Is sin punished and good behavior rewarded?  Does good triumph over evil?   

-Does the book “teach” a good lesson?   

– Are parents and other authority figures presented in a good light, or made to look “dumb”, cruel, abusive, etc?  Are children written as “misunderstood” by adults?   

-Does the book encourage rebellion?   

-Is the book “twaddle”?    

(A small part of my Landmark collection--you can recognize them by their distinctive spines.)

 -Does it exist simply to sell a product or promote a television show?  Is it based off a movie?  If so, it is probably “twaddle” and not worth the time.   

-Is it something adults enjoy, too?  Something you don’t mind reading over and over?   

-Is the book a “classic” or a “living book”?    

-Does the book leave you “hanging” (feeling as if the story isn’t really finished?  I hate that!)   

-I like books that “swallow me up.”  You know what I mean—books written so well that your imagination takes over, and instead of seeing the print, you only “see” the story.  I also like books that make me think.   


-I like books whose characters seem real and have depth (you have to care about what happens to them.)   

Where to Find Your Books    

   If you don’t have lots of money to spend on growing your home library (who does?), you’re going to have to be persistent and patient.  Over the years, we’ve built up our library by scouring yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores, and library book sales.  You can do the same!  (It’s the thrill of the hunt, baby!  If you ever go to a yard sale or book sale and find a Landmark book or a Happy Hollister’s book when you know other collectors came before you somehow missed it, you’ll know what I mean.)  Other sources you might investigate include Yahoo loops that allow “sale days” (where members can post books for sale via the internet), chat groups devoted to buying and selling books, and the old standbys EBay and Amazon, which also sell used books–some for as little as a penny (plus shipping.)  You might consider budgeting for books as part of your homeschool curriculum, which can then be added to you home library.   

Happy Hollisters Books

 Organizing Your Books   

     Why spend all that time and money acquiring a home library if it isn’t organized?  Without organization, you won’t know what you have, and you won’t be able to find what you have when you need it.  I’ve divided my books into categories.  I used to label some of my less “special” (i.e. non-collectable books) using colored tape, stickers, or file labels covered with clear strapping tape (this can damage books, so don’t EVER do this on hard to find/vintage books.) 

This obviously makes the books easier to find and re-shelve.  But now that my children are growing older, I simply shelve books together by subject, and instruct the children to always put them back where they came from.  If they don’t know, they are instructed ask me to put them away.   

     I do shelve some of our books by author—but only the special authors I that I collect (Gene Stratton Porter, Genevieve Foster, Marguerite D’Angeli, Marguerite Henry, C.W. Anderson, etc.)    

     Here are my categories:  One whole bookshelf is devoted to Picture Books, and one is full of Easy Readers (when my children were young, these were divided into sub-categories.)  I also keep chapter books for younger children together (First Chapter Books), and  divide the rest into Middle Literature and Preteen-Adult Literature—some grouped by author.  Additionally, there is a whole shelf devoted to Famous Animal Stories (especially dogs and horses); a full shelf of Missionary Stories; a couple of shelves of Religious books and Reference, a full shelf of Poetry, a full shelf of Eyewitness books, and a shelf for Art, Artists and Architecture.   Holiday books are kept in tubs and placed across the top of the longest wall of shelves (divided by holiday.)  I also keep my Seasonal books up there (summertime, wintertime, etc.)    

      History/Geography is divided into these major categories (these topics have at least one shelf each):   

General World History; Ancient History; Middle Ages/Renaissance (Kings, Queens, castles, etc);  Geography/Places to Know/Cultures; Early American History (Columbus until Civil War); Civil War/Slavery/Reconstruction; Later American History (approximately from the late 1800’s until the present, excluding the major wars); Wars and Warfare (World Wars, later wars, war craft, weapons, etc); Biographies (some biographies are shelved with their time period—i.e. Lincoln is shelved with the Civil War).  California History shares part of a shelf with the topic, Ships, Sailors and the Sea (pirates, etc).   

     Science is divided up into these major categories (most are only a part of a shelf):  Field guides/General Nature Study; Creation Science/Dinosaurs/Archeology (one shelf); Science Experiments/Microscopes/Disaster Science and Spies share a shelf; Human Body/Medicine (& history of—one full shelf); Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians (one shelf), Insects, Trees and Plants (one shelf); Oceans/Ocean Life (one shelf); Habitats (one shelf); Disaster Science/Weird Science/Spy Technology (one shelf); Science Sets/Reference (one shelf); Space/Astronomy/Weather share a shelf, as do Rocks, Caves, and Volcanoes (earth science); How Things Are Made/How Things Work; Energy, Gravity, Physics, and Technology (engines, machines, inventions—including airplanes, etc).   


Book Lists and Books About Books   

       There are many ways to “find” good books.  A good place to start is in homeschool catalogs.  I you see a certain book praised in several different catalogs, it is probably a fairly safe bet. However, even within homeschool catalogs I have found books that I would never want my children to read and some that I felt were a waste of time (twaddle…as I said, I’m very picky.  Additionally, some books fall into another special category—books we don’t read because we find their content objectionable, but for the sake of cultural relevance, we’ll discuss the premise of the book and/or read a summary of it.)    

     Here are my favorite ways to find good quality literature books:   

-Stick to the classics.  It’s disturbing to me that so many of the great classics don’t even appear on book lists nowadays (especially government school book lists.)  It’s better to have a few of the very best books than shelves and shelves of “twaddle”.   

-It’s not always true, but in general, books written before the 1950’s will be less likely to contain offensive material and MORE likely to include references to God or good morals.   

-Learn about the great authors.  Once again, there are exceptions, but in general, when you find an author you like, it’s a good idea to seek out the other books s/he has written.   

-Seek out a mentor/friend who has the same standards as you do, and ask for recommendations.   

My "First Book of" collection

-Use books about books:  A some of the best are:  Honey for a Child’s Heart,  Turning Back the Pages of Time, Books Children Love,  and Who Then Should We Read?   

    There are many others, but these are my favorites.    

     If you have a preschooler, you will find that these books list very few picture books.  That’s why I included an almost chapter-long list of books especially for preschool-third grade (25 pages of mostly picture books!)    

     There are also some good booklists online.  Here are some of the more popular ones (remember, I can’t vouch for each and every book on these lists–they are just a “jumping off” point for you.  You must still investigate your books before purchasing.  Some of these lists DO contain books relating to mythology and magic..use your own judgement.  These lists can introduce you to authors and titles that you may not be familiar with, but tread carefully.) 

Five In a Row Book Lists (very highly recomended; no objectionable content that I am aware of.)  

1000 Good Books List  

Eager Reader Website   

My favorite catalogs for literature (not mentioned above):  

Purple House Press (reprints of classic picture books!) 

The Book Peddler   

Lifetime Books and Gifts   

Winter Promise  

My Father’s World    

     Final tips:  When you’re just starting your library, take your wish list, a list of the books you already have (especially the books from any series you’re collecting) AND a book about books with you whenever you hunt for books (better yet, just keep it in your purse/car.)  This will help you decide if a book is appropriate, remember what you’re looking for, AND help you avoid buying doubles.  

        Happy hunting!   


Books I Collect:  Landmark books, “First” books, Gene Stratton Porter books, Marguerite Henry books (this website does not contain a complete list of her books.  Cinnabar the One O’Clock Fox is missing, among others, I’m sure), Happy Hollister Books, Marguerite de Angeli books,  and many, many others!!     

Portions of this post were paraphrased from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.  © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.   Remember, copyrighted materials may not be used or re-posted without permission. 

Posted in Book Lists, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Picture Books, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

List of Classic Preschool Picture Books

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2010

          Books! Books contain the throb of human life; the magic entrances, fascinates, sets alight imagination, opens doors of interest and curiosity, informs, and triggers questioning.  Restless bodies become still and concentrated-thinking is encouraged.  Reading out loud together fosters warm ties in human relationships.  The experience is shared, and then interesting and meaningful conversation ensues.  Developing the ability and desire to pursue reading is education.  

 -Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, in the introduction to Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature, by Elizabeth Wilson


          Following are some excerpts from the chapter “Book Lists: Preschool Through Grade School”, in my book, Homepreschool and Beyond.  Bear in mind that this is only a small excerpt; pages 81-101 in my book are devoted my book list, which is categorized by topic. 

          These are all books I used with my own children.  I try to avoid titles that include witches, ghosts, references to Halloween, evolution, etc.  If a title I include in my list has any questionable content, I try to warn you so that you can decide if the title is redeemable with some editing, or if you should skip it altogether (only a very small percentage of the books I list would fall into that category.)

  Favorite Authors and Illustrators  

 A Hole is to Dig and others by Ruth Kruass

Angus Lost, Angus and the Cat, Angus and the Ducks, Ask Mr. Bear, The Story About Ping, and others by Marjorie Flack

Animals of Farmer Jones, The, Pig Will and Pig Won’t, and others written and/or illustrated by Richard Scarry

Bedtime for Frances, Bread and Jam for Frances, (part of a series of Francis books), by Russell Hoban  4+ (note:  Frances struggles to stay in bed at night, but finally learns self-control after threatened with a spanking–so real to life–hilarious.)

Biggest House in the World, Fish is Fish, Swimmy, and many others by Leo Lionni

Beady Bear, Corduroy, A Pocket for Corduroy, Dandelion and others by Dan Freeman  2+

Curious George (part of a series of “Curious George” books), by Hans A Rey

Donkey-Donkey, and others by Roger Duvoisin  (I just found out this wonderful book is back in print!  Snap it up while you can!  Donkey Donkey doesn’t like his long ears, so the other animals in the barnyard encourage him to “wear” his ears the same way they do:  Dog says to wear them down; Sheep suggests wearing them the side; Pig says wear them over his eyes, etc.  As you can imagine, his ears get him into a lot of trouble until he realizes that he is a donkey, and should wear his ears as donkeys do.  A great lesson in accepting ourselves for what we are/self-esteem (but not preachy.)

Goodnight Moon, Home for A Bunny, Little Fur Family, The Big Red Barn, The Runaway Bunny and others by Margaret Wise Brown  2+

Harry and the Lady Next Door, Harry by the Sea, Harry the Dirty Dog, No Roses For Harry, and others by Gene Zion   I think these are probably my all time favorites.  Don’t miss them!

Katy and the Big Snow, Little House, The; Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and others by Virgina Lee Burton   ~Others that are too good to be missed!

Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, and others by Robert McCloskey

Tale of Peter Rabbit, The and others by Beatrix Potter

Very Hungary Caterpillar, The; Ten Little Rubber Ducks, Grouchy Ladybug, The; Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, and MANY others by Eric Carle

 Harder to Find/Out of Print  (OOP) Books That Are Worth Looking For:

Christian Mother Goose, volumes I and II, by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker

Dog Who Had Kittens, The, by Polly M. Robertus

Part Time Dog, by Jane Thayer

Ten In the Bed, by Penny Dale  (OOP-a Discovery Toy’s book)

Who Wants Arthur? by Amanda Graham  (OOP-a Discovery Toy’s book)

Wonderful Shrinking Shirt, The, Leone Castell Anderson*  (OOP)

This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission.

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Book Lists, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Choosing and Finding Classic Picture Books

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 4, 2010


                Choose your books and your friends carefully, because they both exercise tremendous influence over you.  When you and your child finish reading a book, has it added to your knowledge and virtue?  Are you somehow left a better person?  Have you been edified and grown in spirit?  If yes, then the book is worth reading.  If it is mere fluff and brain candy, read sparingly, if at all.  Reading should help develop character and empower knowledge.-Mark and Christine Field, Homeschooling 101:  The Essential Handbook



          Once you’ve made a plan for the units you’d like your preschoolers to learn you’re ready to choose the books you want to read to them.  But how?

          We’ve all heard the “experts” touting the importance of reading to our children during the early years, and of course, we agree with them.  The problem with this push is that parents are often told, “It doesn’t matter WHAT you read to preschoolers… as long as you READ to them.”  Parents of older children are told, “ANY book is acceptable reading material for your children, as long as it gets them to read independently.”  I couldn’t disagree more.

It DOES matter what we read to our preschool children!

Once our children learn to read, it DOES matter what they read.

It matters what we read to our children, no matter what their ages.

          During the preschool years, we are developing our children’s attitudes and appetites towards books.  We want them to hunger after the best–so only the best, most uplifting and educational books will do. Just as children need a steady diet of healthy food that is good for their bodies, ALL children need a steady “diet” of quality books to feed their minds.  The problem is, many of us grew up on “junk food” ourselves, and don’t know what makes quality literature—especially for preschoolers. Others of us have forgotten the classics we cut our teeth on.

What Is a “Living Book”?

          “Living book” is a term coined by the famous turn-of-the-century British educator Charlotte Mason.  A “living book” is a book that is written by a single author, versus text books which often have many “authors.”  Living books are written in a narrative (story-like) style by authors who know and loved their subject well.

          The “Classic” books we all are familiar with are living books.  These are the books that are rich in imagery and emotion…books that children can’t put down…books worthy of our time and attention.

What is a “classic” picture book?

  • A book that has stood the test of time– beloved by generations (although there are occasional “instant classics”).
  • A classic book is appealing to all ages; parents enjoy reading them, too
  • Classic books are well written and descriptive.
  • The characters and settings in these books are memorable and meaningful to us.


A book which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.  The good ones last.  A book which is not worth reading at age 50 is not worth reading at age 10.

-C.S. Lewis, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”       


Additionally, a Classic Picture Book Should:

  • Appeal to/be appropriate for young children– in subject matter, content and style.
  • Include many interesting if not beautiful illustrations.  Illustrations help children visualize the story in greater detail, sparking imagination and conversation.
  • Teach lessons about the world, about people, about emotions.
  • Set an example of positive character traits; give our children heroes.
  • Inspire the imagination–not only during the reading of the book, but after    as well. (You know you have found a good book when children incorporate it into their play.)
  • Good books give young children “something to think about” (Charlotte Mason). They often inspire play, art, discussion or further research (“Can we read another book about ducks, Mommy?”)
  • Many contain appealing elements such as humor, word play, repetition, or rhyme.

           (Note: To find out what a classic picture book is not, you’ll have to pick up a copy of my book! Charlotte Mason calls such worthless books “twaddle”.)

How to Find Quality Books

          Even having the standards listed above, many parents tell me that they still don’t know which books they should be reading to their preschoolers.  They don’t know how to choose quality books, OR how to find them.

          There are many literature lists and books about choosing literature, but unfortunately, most don’t include very many picture books; some skip them altogether. The best books about finding and using classic preschool books that I have found are Peak With Books, by Marjorie R. Nelsen and Jan Nelson-Parish, and Before Five In a Row / Five In A Row, volume 1, by Jane Claire Lambert.  Each of these books contains booklists with recommended picture books; you can find Five In a Row’s complete booklists HERE and HERE.  (Note:  My book includes a chapter long book list, divided up by topic.)

          Many of the Five in a Row titles that used to be hard to find are now being reprinted by Purple House Press along with other old, classic picture books.

          Another good way to discover great literature for children of all ages is through browsing curriculum catalogs.  Catalogs such as Beautiful Feet, Sonlight, Winter Promise, and Book Peddler contain excellent book lists.  (Note: Since each family’s standards are different, choose carefully.  For instance, I like Sonlight’s book choices for grades pre-K-3, but afterwards, the catalog includes some books I dislike or consider inappropriate.  It is a good idea, if you have any doubts, to read or at least skim books before giving them to your impressionable children.)

          Where to find them used:  We’ve had great luck at our local library sales and at Thrift stores (we’re lucky enough to have a Goodwill Store here that only carries books!)  Other places to look:  Homeschool curriculum sales, online curriculum/literature loops, yard sales…..and for harder to find books, check out Amazon and EBay.

          Remember to guide your child’s appetite towards the best. Junk food is all right to eat once in a while, but it should not become our usual diet.  Instead, guide your children towards the best in literature. Use books to teach moral lessons, and to teach about the world. Enjoy books with your children, taking time to look carefully at the pictures, answering questions and discussing each book.  If you do this, you will be well on your way to a happy and healthy homeschooling lifestyle.

This post is excerpted from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Book Lists, Curriculum, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Uncategorized, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Favorite Easter Books

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 22, 2010


Benjamin’s Box, by Melody Carlson–this book goes along with resurrection eggs.  Benjamin collects “keepsakes” to help him remember what happened to Jesus.

Legend of the Easter Egg, by Lori Walburg (a longer picture book, 4-5+)   I’ve noticed that there seems to be a new Easter book in the “Legend” series, but I haven’t seen it.

The Best Thing About Easter, Christine Harder Tangvald (the eggs, bunnies and etc are fun, but the best thing about Easter is Jesus!

The Story of Easter, by Pingry, Patricia A. Wells, and Lorraine

The Very First Easter, by Paul L., Maier (beautiful illustrations; a longer picture book, probably for mature 4-5 year olds and up.


 Bunny Books:

Home For a Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown (a big Little Golden book)  a sweet classic.


Mousekin’s Easter Basket, by Edna Miller:  I haven’t seen this one, but I’m going to order it…all the Mousekin books I’ve seen are fabulous.


The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Dubose Heyword and Marjorie Flack


The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown.  A little bunny finds an egg; what could be inside?  Another all time classic. 


Arch books (various titles; see your local Bible book store.)


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