Archive for the ‘Fun Learning Stuff’ Category

Our Week in Books: September 6-12

September 13, 2015 @ 2:21 am | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Homeschooling

Books We Read This Week - September 13

So very hot. We were languid this week and didn’t seem to read as much as usual, but maybe that’s just me. We had a lot of medical appointment stuff happening with Wonderboy and it’s possible I just didn’t do a good job keeping track of what people were reading. A few things, though, absolutely shone.

A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall  Land Shark by Beth Ferry and Ben Mantle Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins & Sophie Blackall.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal.

Land Shark by Beth Ferry & Ben Mantle.

A Fine Dessert is one of those picture books everyone is talking about this year, for good reason. Four families, four centuries: mothers and daughters in Lyme, England, 1710; on a Charleston, South Carolina plantation, 1810; in Boston, Massachusetts, 1910; and a father and son in—we were all so excited to see the narrative arrive in our own backyard—San Diego, California, 2010. Each pair gathers the necessary ingredients for a most delicious-sounding dessert: blackberry fool. This is a deft and fascinating look at progress and culture: what changes over time, and what stays the same. Rich history, rich dessert: a delicious combination. Naturally, there’s a recipe for the dish in the back of the book—along with informative notes from author and illustrator. Is there a blackberry fool in our future? Absolutely.

Huck really enjoyed Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. You walk through the year with a grandmother and child, tending the garden and watching the activity of a whole village of little creatures below the soil. Sounds like familiar territory, but this is a new presentation, gorgeously illustrated, and my kids loved watching the below-ground bustle of roly polies, earthworms, and other nibbling creatures.

Land Shark: everyone read it but me! I’ll have to report back later on that one. Seemed to be a hit, though.

The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie by James Kochalka  My Very First Mother Goose  

The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie by James Kochalka.

My Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie and Rosemary Wells.

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade by Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones.

Huck devoured Glorkian Warrior—a young graphic novel I’m told is most entertaining. Now, the Mother Goose was a tiny bit of a cheat. :) This is a much beloved book in my house—a gift from my sister when Jane was born, and considerably tattered from hundreds of readings. Huck knows it more or less by heart. Which is where the cheat comes in: I have a policy of requiring a kid to memorize a poem before he (it is nearly always my youngest who asks) may download a new iPad app. The neighbor kid turned Huck on to some free motorcycle game, but Huck couldn’t add it to our device until he recited a poem for me. He trotted off to the poetry shelf and came back—oh, it must have been seconds—later, triumphantly announcing he’d learned one by heart. Sure, he had. IN THE CRADLE, PRACTICALLY. He rattled off Jack and Jill and hustled away to download his game before I could muster an argument about loopholes. Next time I’ll have to be more specific about which end of the poetry shelf he may draw material from, the scamp.

The Supergirl graphic novel was a Rilla read.

Continued from last week:


Vanessa and Her Sister A Novel by Priya Parmar  Charlotte's Web by E.B. White Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild audiobookGinger Pye by Eleanor Estes

I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the last two chapters of Charlotte’s Web. Just the sight of the next chapter title—”Last Day”—got me all choked up. And, you know, this is very likely the last time I will read it aloud to my own children.

Vanessa and Her Sister is so good, you guys! I’m reading pretty slowly, just because I’ve been so busy and I zonk out quickly most nights. But that’s all right because I’m happy to be savoring it slowly. Gorgeous writing. And I took Kortney’s advice and requested Hermione Lee’s Virginia Woolf biography from the library. It arrived and is about three inches thick. It doesn’t seem to be available on Kindle, more’s the pity. All fat books should be available on Kindle.

Beanie reread a bunch of Harry Potter books this week, and I don’t know what everyone else was into. Rilla checked out a stack of library books about the moon. She’s been spouting interesting tidbits at me all week.

I have two more crammed-full weeks ahead of me, and then I hope to get back to posting in between these Sunday book recaps. But for now, I’m just happy I’ve managed to pull this together four weeks in a row!


  Bonny Glen book roundup Books We Read This Week - Here in the Bonny Glen Bonny Glen Week in Books Sept 6 2015

Our Week in Books: August 30-September 5

September 6, 2015 @ 5:28 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Graphic Novels, Homeschooling, Read-Alouds

Bonny Glen Week in Books Sept 6 2015

Time for another weekly roundup! Here are the books we read alone and together this week.

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke  Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke  Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. Read by: Huck, Rilla, and Beanie, all at different times this week.

These graphic novels have wide appeal, as you can see by the range of ages enjoying them at my house—kids ages six through fourteen, this week! One morning this week, I left Huck home with Jane while I took the other kids on an outing. Now, normally Huck would jump at the chance for a whole morning of undivided attention from his big sister, but on this day I returned home to find him sitting on the couch, engrossed in the third Zita book. “The entire time you were gone,” said Jane, answering my inquisitive glance. “He read the whole series, one after the other.” When a six-year-old boy gives up the chance to trounce his grown sister in Mario Kart, you know you’ve got a winning series.

On to picture books. I never manage to track them ALL, because the boys read them in bed at night. You should see the stack on their floor right now. Actually, no you shouldn’t, it’s a mess.

Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes  The Big Green Pocketbook by Candice Ransom and Felicia Bond  Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss

Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes. Read to: Huck.
The Big Green Pocketbook by Candice Ransom, illustrated by Felicia Bond. Read to: Huck.
Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss. Read to: Huck.

I wonder how many times I’ve read The Big Green Pocketbook out loud. It never gets old. And I still always choke up at the end!

Super-Cute Chibis to Draw and Paint- Giant-sized Fun from a Micro-sized World by Joanna Zhou Bake Sale by Sara Varon

Super-Cute Chibis to Draw and Paint: Giant-sized Fun from a Micro-sized World by Joanna Zhou. Enjoyed by: Rilla, Beanie, and me.

Beanie and Rilla have been using this book for inspiration and instruction for at least a couple of years now. Seems like it is ALWAYS out on a desk or table beside a pad of paper. Has to be their favorite how-to-draw resource. I’ve been trying to add more pictures to my bullet journal and I decided (inspired by SailorMimzy, Ms. Cendolife, and Chotskibelle on Instagram) to try to design chibi figures for our whole family. Naturally I turned to my resident experts for advice. I’m still a rookie compared to my girls, but I’m getting there.

Bake Sale by Sara Varon. Read by: Rilla.

Another beloved graphic novel. Sara Varon illustrated my friend Cecil Castellucci’s wonderful Odd Duck, a great favorite around here. Bake Sale is a quirky story about friendship. Yes, that’s an eggplant and a cupcake making…cupcakes. Rilla almost missed our Saturday night art date because she didn’t want to put this one down. (I’m seeing an absorbing-graphic-novel trend this week.)

A Child's History of the World Curious George's First Day of School by Margret & H.A. Rey

A Child’s History of the World by Virgil M. Hillyer. Read to: Huck and Rilla.

I guess I didn’t mention this one last week or the week before, but I should have! This is Rilla’s history spine. We read a couple of chapters a week, with Huck listening in—one of our narration texts. This week was the Trojan War.

Curious George’s First Day of School by Margret & H.A. Rey. Read by: Wonderboy.

Sudden Curious George attachment happening here. I expect there will be many more in our roundups, as soon as I get a chance to make a library run.

Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace. Read by: Beanie.

Oh, I just love this book so much. I asked Beanie to reread it as context for our early 20th-century studies. Betsy’s tour of Europe involves a romance in Venice, a long stay in Germany, and a hurried departure for home from England when the Great War begins. The final chapters involve one of my favorite moments in all of literature. I mean that without any hyperbole at all. It’s even better than the end of Pride and Prejudice.

Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Read by: Wonderboy (in progress).

This book makes the list twice this week! Rilla and I are still listening to the audiobook (below) during our Saturday-night art dates. I pulled out the hard copy to check how much we had left, and Wonderboy wanted to read it. He’s slowly making his way through. Fun fact about the edition pictured here: I’m pretty sure this was the first book I ever wrote cover copy for.

UPDATE: I am informed that Jane, age 20, saw this book lying on a table and reread it this week as well. :)

Storm Thief by Chris Wooding Vanessa and Her Sister A Novel by Priya Parmar

Storm Thief by Chris Wooding. Read by: me (in progress).

Rose asked me to read this—one of her favorite books. I’m only a chapter in so far, but it’s gripping. I’ll report back later.

Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel by Priya Parmar. Read by: me (in progress).

My bedtime Kindle reading is this fictionalized tale of Virginia Woolf and her sister, as told by Vanessa. So far: fascinating and fraught. After I finished To the Lighthouse I was hungry for background on Woolf, and I found this in my queue of digital review copies. Perfect timing. More to come on this one too, I’m sure.

Books Continued from Last Week:

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White   Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild audiobook

An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis


Beanie’s lit class (which I teach) finished a two-week discussion of An Old-Fashioned Girl. Alcott is so funny—this is such a heavy-handed, moralistic book, quite preachy in places, with absolutely zero subtlety in its contrast of simple, wholesome, “old-fashioned” ways of bringing up children (especially girls) and the unhealthy “modern” practices she observed in the middle- and upper-middle class East Coast society of her day. And yet…despite the many anvils she drops all over the place, I am drawn in, I get wrapped up in the characters’ ups and downs. My group of 14-year-old girls found much to discuss in the contrasting upbringings of Fanny and Polly, and in the vision Alcott paints of a “future woman”—”strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-bodied, strong-souled,” she says—envisioning us, the girls and women of generations to come.

Next up for this group: Sarah Orne Jewett.

We’re nearing the end of Charlotte’s Web—too soon, too soon! When we left off, the crickets were singing about the end of summer, and everyone’s preparing for the county fair. “Summer is over and gone,” sang the crickets. Good-bye, summer, good-bye, goodbye!”



books to read with my 9yo  TEXT HERE (2) Books We Read This Week - Here in the Bonny Glen

Our Week in Books: August 23-30

August 30, 2015 @ 1:48 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, On My Bookshelves, Picture Book Spotlight, Poetry, Thicklebit

Books We Read This Week - Here in the Bonny Glen


Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller & Anne WilsdorfSophie’s Squash by  Pat Zietlow Miller & Anne Wilsdorf. Read to: my boys.

If you only pick up one new picture book for fall, let this be it. Here’s what I wrote in a Picture Book Spotlight post last year:

We first read this absolute gem of a picture book last year during the CYBILs. Fell so utterly in love with it—the lot of us—that a library copy wouldn’t do; we had to have our own. Huck and Rilla were overjoyed when I pulled it out this morning. Sophie’s instant bond with a butternut squash is utterly believable, and not just because Huck formed a similar attachment once upon a time, long before we encountered this book! “Bernice” becomes Sophie’s best friend and closest confidant, all through a bright and beautiful autumn. But as winter approaches, Bernice begins to get a bit squishy about the edges. Sophie’s parents make gentle attempts to convince Sophie it’s time to let her friend go, but since their suggestions involve treating the squash like, you know, a squash, Sophie’s having none of it. Her own solution is sweet and heartwarming, and it makes my kids sigh that contented sigh that means everything has come out exactly right.


How to Read a Story by Kate MessnerHow to Read a Story by Kate Messner, illustrated by Mark Siegel. Read to: my boys.

Well, I was sure I had posted a video of Huck reading this book last March. He was enchanted by the story from the first—a little step-by-step guide to enjoying a book with your best reading buddy, charmingly illustrated—and one day I caught him reading it out loud to himself, putting in all the voices. ::melt:


(In case the video won’t play for you, here’s a Youtube link.)


Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris RaschkaCharlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka. Read to: my boys.

One of our longtime family favorites. The rhythm and whimsy of the text has captivated each of our small fry in turn. And the art is bold and funny and altogether wonderful.


Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. DavisDon’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis. Read to: the teens.

Another of the texts Beanie, Rose, and I are using for our 20th-century history studies. We continue to enjoy reading history texts aloud together, which allows us all to stay on the same page (literally) and—even more important—fosters discussion and fruitful rabbit trailing. We try to reserve two 45-minute blocks a week for this, supplementing with other books (including graphic novels, historical fiction, and biographies) and videos.



Walt Whitman, selections from “Song of Myself
Gwendolyn Brooks, “kitchenette building


Books Continued from Last Week:

(Rillabooks in the top row)
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild audiobook

Best of H.P. Lovecraft An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

I’m nearing the end of To the Lighthouse and am feeling pretty well shattered. And I sort of want to start it all over from the beginning.



books to read with my 9yo  TEXT HERE (2)

Our Week in Books: August 16-22

August 23, 2015 @ 3:19 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Graphic Novels, On My Bookshelves, Picture Book Spotlight

Books people read at my house this week | Here in the Bonny Glen


The Curious Garden by Peter BrownThe Curious Garden by Peter Brown. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. Review copy received from publisher.
Read to: Huck.

Gorgeous art in this sweetly captivating tale of a boy who, wandering the sterile streets of a bleak city, finds a little outpost of thriving weeds and wildflowers on an abandoned elevated rail track. This Is Your Garden by Maggie SmithHe begins quietly tending the green and growing things, and his found garden begins to spread, gradually transforming the city—and its people.

We’ve loved every Peter Brown book that has walked through our doors, and this was no exception. It’s the art that makes it magical, the wave of vibrant green creeping across the city. Makes a lovely companion to an older picture book that has long been a favorite here: This Is Your Garden by Maggie Smith (now out of print, alas, but available used).


Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing HahnTook: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn. Clarion Books, to be published Sept. 15, 2105. Advanced review copy received from publisher via Netgalley. Read by: me.

Middle-grade horror story about a (formerly) wealthy Connecticut family who moves into an old West Virginia house near a haunted cabin in the woods. Every fifty years an evil, ancient ghost—known locally as Auntie—kidnaps and ensorcels a young girl. The main character is Daniel, a 13-year-0ld boy who doesn’t believe the wild tales he hears from kids at school—until his little sister goes missing. A suitably creepy tale which will appeal to readers of Vivian Vande Velde’s Stolen.


Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. HarperTrophy. My copy: purchased with my employee discount at the children’s bookstore I worked at during grad school—with a dream in my heart of one day having children to read it to. Read to: Huck and Rilla (chapters 1-4).

After we finished Winnie-the-Pooh, my youngests picked this for their next read-aloud. Great joy is mine because they are the perfect ages (six and nine), just absolutely perfect.

*In related news, I need to add another row to my Rillabooks post. Conversations ensuing its publication resulted in the addition of four more books to her already overstuffed shelf:

Charlotte’s Web (which it turns out she didn’t remember hearing before—she was probably pretty little last time it came around);

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (because OBVIOUSLY, and what was I thinking, leaving it off?);

The Mysterious Benedict Society (which I had thought to save for another year or two, but I am informed I was mistaken); and

The Two Princesses of Bamarre (whose appearance in a photo of books that almost-but-didn’t-quite make the original list sparked a flurry of happy reminiscences among Jane, her 21-year-old cousin, and Alice’s oldest daughter, aged 22, causing me to reconsider its omission).

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg  The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart  The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine


Ginger Pye by Eleanor EstesGinger Pye by Eleanor Estes. Harcourt Young Classics. My copy purchased when Jane was about eight years old. Read to: Rilla. 

This was Rilla’s first read-aloud pick from the Rillabook shelf. She was quite keen to have me read it just to her (no brothers involved). She giggled mightily over the meet-cute of Mr. and Mrs. Pye (with Jane popping in to shriek over the startling fact—which went over her head at age eight—that Mrs. Pye was just seventeen when she married. We began this book the day after Rose’s seventeenth birthday, which put it into stark perspective). Methinks Rilla and I will have fun with this. I’m not sure I’ve read it aloud since that first time (gulp) twelve years ago.


D'Aulaires' Book of Greek MythsD’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. Read to: Huck and Rilla. Rose’s copy, purchased some years ago to replace her first copy, which was read to tatters. Read to: Huck and Rilla.

Monday and Friday are our Greek Myths days. This week’s selections were about Hera and Io, and Hephaestus and Aphrodite.

The Lion Storyteller Bedtime BookThe Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book by Bob Hartman. Lion Children’s Books. Our copy, purchased for Beanie at age four. Read to: Huck and Rilla.

Tuesday and Thursday are folk and fairy tale days.* This week, they picked “Tortoise Brings Food: A Story from Africa.” A grumble with this otherwise charming book: that nonspecific from Africa. The other stories are “from Greece,” England, Finland, Puerto Rica, Australia, Wales, Japan, and so on. How about “from Kenya” or Ethiopia or Nigeria? Native American stories get a similarly vague treatment: “from North America.” I’d like a word with this book’s editor. But the stories themselves are amiably written and a good size for reading aloud.

*Any day is a great day for a fairy tale or Greek myth. I just assign them days in my head to ensure that I make the time. The kids don’t know about it.


among the dollsAmong the Dolls by William Sleator. Knopf Books for Young Readers. An old copy I brought home from work. Read by: Rilla.

Me: So how do you like it so far?
Rilla, emphatically: I DON’T.

Me: Too scary?

Rilla: It’s terrible! She’s trapped in the dollhouse and they’re being mean to her AND HER MOTHER WALKED RIGHT BY WITHOUT EVEN HEARING HER.

Me: Are you going to keep reading?

Rilla: ::doesn’t hear me, is already immersed again::


The Batman Adventures Rogues' GalleryBatman Adventures: Rogues Gallery by the devastatingly handsome Scott Peterson (oh, fine, and Dan Slott and Ty Templeton too). Read by: Wonderboy.

This is a digest-sized compilation of several Batman Adventures stories. The Batman Adventures and Gotham Adventures comics of the 90s were aimed at kids, unlike most Batman comics. It’s nice to see them a book-sized edition that can survive on a library shelf.

Huck enjoyed this collection too, and it only took him five times through to notice that his daddy was listed as an author.


The Story of the World Vol 4 Modern WorldThe Story of the World, Volume 4: The Modern Ages by Susan Wise Bauer. “The Boxer Rebellion” chapter. Read aloud to: Rose and Beanie.

The Usborne History of the Twentieth CenturyWhile aimed at slightly younger readers, I find the Bauer series to be useful in setting the stage for more advanced studies. We’re doing the 20th century this year, my teens and I.

The Usborne History of the Twentieth Century. Read/explored with: Rose and Beanie. Again, for context. Mostly we just pored over the overview page at the start of the century. We’d read about Teddy Roosevelt last week in Landmark History of the American People, and this week we found a few videos about him.


Boxers by Gene Luen YangBoxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. First Second Books. Copies received from publisher. Read by: me. On deck for Rose this week. Bean has already read them.

Saints by Gene Luen YangGene is a friend of ours whom we see far too seldom (mainly at SDCC). He is spectacularly talented, but no one on the internet needs me to tell them that. I’d been meaning to read Boxers & Saints, his graphic novel duo about the Boxer Rebellion—told from two different points of view, thus the two books—since the day they were announced. Reaching this time period in my teen’s history studies meant now was the perfect time. Deeply absorbing, unsettling, moving, and educational. I always appreciate Gene’s thoughtful exploration of people’s motivations, and the fearless way he unpacks his characters flaws along with their strengths. Beautiful, beautiful books. Highly recommended.


Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild audiobookDancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Audiobook. Listened to by: Rilla and me.

The current pick for our Saturday night sketchbook date. After all the Roald Dahl we enjoyed all summer, this Streatfeild gem got off to a bit of a slow start for Rilla, but she’s well and truly hooked now. Hilary is about to perform her Dulcie-Pulsie dance in the talent competition. Pulses racing. Delicious.


Best of H.P. LovecraftThe Best of H.P. Lovecraft. Scott’s copy. Read by: Rose.

Her first encounter with his work. I haven’t heard her reaction yet—looking forward to it.

An Old-Fashioned Girl An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcottby Louisa May Alcott. My old copy. Read by: Beanie. (And I need to revisit it this week.)

A friend of hers is reading it for her homeschool program, so we and some other chums have joined in. We’ll be discussing it soon. I’d better revisit it right quick!


To the Lighthouse by Virginia WoolfTo the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Kindle copy. Read by: me.

Woolf is one of my gaps, which is odd when I think of it—she’s so right for me. I’m sure we did A Room of One’s Own in women’s lit, but somehow she never appeared on a syllabus after that. I’ve been determined to rectify this glaring omission and this summer I have finally found the time. And OH MY. She’s just…she…I want to quote everything. Her prose—I mean, I knew that about her. But only from the outside. Now I’m inside and I can barely speak. I’ve highlighted so many passages, it’s a bit ridiculous. I’ll pull some quotes into a commonplace book when I can.


Sandman by Neil GaimanT.A. Barron's Merlin novelsScott is rereading Sandman, and I couldn’t begin to tell you what my older girls are reading these days—I can only keep up with so much. Rose got a bunch of T.A. Barron’s Merlin novels for her birthday, I know that. (Since I wrapped them.) 😉 Beanie pops up with interesting tidbits gleaned from National Geographic (her favorite magazine). Jane was toiling through some Kant in preparation for a philosophy class she’ll take at school this year. I’ve also seen some Maggie Stiefvater in her library pile.


Do you know, I thought this would be a quick and easy post? I’d just dash off a list of things read around the house this past week. Turns out I am delusional. But it was fun!


books to read with my 9yo

High Tide for Huck and Rilla

August 8, 2015 @ 11:09 am | Filed under: Books, Family, Fun Learning Stuff, Homeschooling


The other day I mentioned that I was putting together some shelves of books to use for Huck and Rilla this year. Huck is 6 1/2 and Rilla is 9, and according to the boxes I will have to check on the form I file in October, they are in the 1st and 4th grades respectively.

(Of course you know we have more of an Understood Betsy approach to grades around here.)

‘What’s the matter?’ asked the teacher, seeing her bewildered face.

‘Why–why,’ said Elizabeth Ann, ‘I don’t know what I am at all. If I’m second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?’

The teacher laughed. ‘You aren’t any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You’re just yourself, aren’t you? What difference does it make what grade you’re in? And what’s the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don’t know your multiplication table?’

‘Well, for goodness’ sakes!’ ejaculated Elizabeth Ann, feeling very much as though somebody had stood her suddenly on her head.

I don’t think Rilla has any idea what grade she would be in if she went to school…my kids don’t usually pay attention to grade level until they reach an age—usually around 12 or 13—when they want an answer to the question that comes from just about every new adult they encounter.

But back to my booklists. I compiled these selections according to my patented, highly scientific method of Walking Around the House Grabbing Things Off Shelves™. These are books we already own, favorite tomes I have read with the older kids in the past but which my younger set haven’t yet heard or read—due in large part to the abundant inflow of new treasures that have come our way for review. (Oh you guys, I have so many good new books to share.)

I imagine there will be a lot of crossover: Huck will listen in on Rillabook readalouds and vice versa. Both collections also include a good many read-alone possibilities. If you’ve been reading Bonny Glen for a while, then you know that read-alouds are the core of my homeschooling method, especially in the younger years. (But continuing on, you know, into high school. We still read aloud together lots of history, science, and poetry.)

I know a lot of you are as addicted to booklists as I am, so my project this weekend is to type up these collections to share here on the blog. I hope to post them on Sunday or Monday. When they’re ready, I’ll update this post with links.

So what else does high tide look like in my house for ages 6 and 9?

In no particular order:

• Lots and lots of art, especially watercolor painting and Sculpey fun.

I keep watercolors handy on a shelf by the kitchen table for easy access. These days, the kids are also doing a lot with acrylic paints—I caught a sale at Michael’s when those little Folk Art bottles were three for a dollar. I grabbed a set of small plastic palettes (six for $2) and filled a jar with our older, more battered brushes. (We reserve the nicer brushes for watercolors.)

I’ve written about this before*, but for watercolor paper I use large sheets I bought in bulk a good many years ago, folded and torn into smaller sizes. And then cheap recycled paper for drawing. Plus everyone has a sketchbook to do whatever they want with.

About 15 years ago (!) I bought half a dozen scratch-and-dent whiteboard seconds from a discount site. We use these as painting boards. Not only do they protect the kitchen table from spatters, but they are large enough that I can stack them on toy blocks to save space while paintings dry.


* In that 2009 post, I mentioned that for littles I use good paper and cheap paints. That was back when Rilla was three years old. ::sniff:: Nowadays we tend to experiment with artist-quality tube watercolors quite often, because that is what I myself am learning to paint with, and both Rilla and I are pretty addicted to color-mixing and the way certain pigments granulate on the paper. We still keep basic Crayola or Prang kids’ paint sets around, though, like the ones in the photo, because they’re quick and fun and easy and portable. They’re what the kids use for casual, everyday painting.

Kortney has been posting some wonderful resources for doing art projects with kids. And I have a list of my best suggestions in this post.

• Poetry every day

I pulled some of my favorite anthologies for this year’s Huck and Rilla shelves. They’re also in the room for a good bit of the poetry reading and discussion I do with the older kids. I work in lots of opportunities for low-pressure memorization (if you read the same poem out loud a few days or weeks in a row, before you know it, everyone has it down)—including my recent brainstorm to require Huck to learn a new poem by heart before he gets a new iPad app. :)

• Handwriting practice* with fun materials like dip pens, markerboards, or slates-and-chalk. 

dip pen

I asterisked practice because I need to qualify that term. I subscribe to the John Holt school of thought about the misleading way we often use the word practice. He argued that when you are doing what we call “practicing” piano, you are really playing piano and we ought to think of it like that. You are making music. When I am “practicing” drawing, I am actually drawing. Huck is learning to write. When he sits down with a marker or crayon and makes some letters, he is writing—not some separate intermediate activity that leads up to writing. I think that word “practice” can set up a feeling that what I’m doing right now isn’t real, it doesn’t count. But it all “counts.” If you’re doing it, it’s real. Another way of putting it is that writing letters to friends is a form of handwriting “practice.”

For Rilla, a third year of group piano class 

And yes, despite the above paragraph, you will from time to time hear me ask her if she has practiced yet today. :)

• Nature study and narration. 

My old Charlotte Mason standbys. Re narration: casually for Huck, more deliberately and regularly for Rilla. All oral, still. We add written narration at age ten.

Nature study isn’t something we have to work at. Both Rilla and I enjoy adding new plants and bugs to our sketchbooks. You’ll see a fair number of nature-themed nonfiction on both booklists.

• A little bit of foreign language.

Beanie is ramping up her German studies this year. My younger set pick up whatever the older ones are working on, sponge-style.

• Math.

Via games, money, dice, and daily life for Huck; Math-U-See for Rilla. Works for us.

• Folk songs and other musical fun. 

Including daddy’s guitar-playing. The recorders seem to have made a comeback around here, too, and Rose came home from her Colorado trip with a pair of ocarinas.

• Baking, sewing, Snap Circuits, and other hands-on pursuits. 

Sometimes this is simply a part of daily life; in other cases we may undertake a special project, such as making clothes for a cloth doll with the Dress Up Bunch Club.

Beanie is venturing into candymaking this year and has already enlisted Huck, Rilla, and Wonderboy as helper-slash-tasters. Rose does quite a bit of baking—being one of those delightful people who love to bake but don’t much care to eat baked goods—and often includes younger sibs in the measuring, mixing, and bowl-licking stages.

• Games of all sorts.

Board games, word games, Wii games, iPad apps, you name it. Together or alone. And lots and lots of Minecraft.

• As much outdoor play as possible!

All the small fry on the block seem to congregate at my house in the afternoons: they know when my kids get their Wii time. 😉 Afterward, they troop outside to bike and scooter and make secret hideouts and chat with passing dogs and help Miss-Joanie-down-the-block rake leaves. (She’s a treasure. She keeps a stash of child-size yard tools in her garage! She saves all those little stickers and calendars and bookmarks that come in junk mail! She has cups labeled for all the kids on our street and sometimes mixes up fruit drinks to fill them with instead of water. Everyone should be so lucky as to grow up down the block from Miss Joanie.)

• What about history and science? 

See above re: readalouds and narration. Lots of good stuff on our booklists. :)

And if I don’t stop gabbing and start compiling, these booklists are never going to get written. More later, my dears. Feel free to fire away with questions below, if you have any!

Dip Pens

June 9, 2015 @ 8:12 pm | Filed under: Art, Fun Learning Stuff, Handwriting, Huck

dip pen

About once a week I bring my fountain pens to the kitchen tape for refilling. My reason for making this rather quick, benign chore a public affair is to take advantage of the great parenting truism: If you do it, they will copy. Huck isn’t the kind of kid who would be too keen on formal handwriting practice (does that kind of kid even exist?), but if I get busy with some nifty writing utensil, he’s at my side in a flash, begging for a turn.

Fountain pens are awesome enough, but dip pens? There’s nothing better. A bottle of ink, a nib with just the right amount of skritch…there’s a happy kid. I didn’t suggest the alphabet practice; he filled up the page as he chose.

That’s my beloved metal brush pen he’s holding, the $1.49 treasure acquired during my surprise trip to the art supply store on Mother’s Day. (The plastic Speedball pen holder was another buck fifty. We live large.)

(That’s an Amazon link to show you what it looks like, but as you can see, you’re much better off buying local for this one. That’s some markup, eh?)

I tumbled to the metal brush pen (aka my new best friend) in Jonathan Twingley’s rather amazing class at Sketchbook Skool. It was swoon at first site. You get a broad line from the flat nib, or you can turn it on its side for a fine line. It’s on the messy side—likes to spatter ink if you change direction midstroke—but for me that’s part of the appeal. I use it when I’m in the mood for rough, bold lines and a bit of ink spray. Jonathan Twingley likes to fill pages and pages with large drawings and then cut out selected images and collage them together into a new piece of art—really quite magical to behold him at work.

And this post offers a quite detailed look at what a steel brush nib can do.

We also have a pair of glass dip pens that my parents gave me years ago with more typical pointed nibs. You can see Huck’s page of orange squiggles on the table. I know somewhere in my archives I’ve talked about the magical powers of colored chalk and a little slate, or a whiteboard and dry erase markers, for transforming otherwise dull writing into fun. Dip pens are the same principle times a hundred.

A Little Smackerel of Nothing

May 5, 2015 @ 8:42 pm | Filed under: Family, Fun Learning Stuff

“I like that too,” said Christopher Robin, “but what I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say ‘Oh, nothing,’ and then you go and do it.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.

“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.


We order wonderful little homemade soaps from Julie at The Parsonage, whom I met via Lesley Austin’s Wisteria and Sunshine community. Julie’s soaps smell heavenly and last a long time (much longer than the bottles of liquid soap we used to tear through). One of my favorite things about them is that they come wrapped in strips of fabric—so simple and pretty. Rilla saves these cloth strips and this morning she started to sew them into a little blanket. I was reading our chapter of House at Pooh Corner (we’re almost finished, sob!) and got such a smile out of the scene at my feet—these two each so intent on their separate pursuits. I couldn’t resist laying down the book and snapping the moment with my phone. Rose allowed Huck access to her Snap Circuits set a couple of weeks ago and he has played with almost nothing else since. He has worked through all the projects in the book and is beginning to invent his own whirring, buzzing, siren-blaring arrangements (and to drop extremely broad hints about needing more parts).

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was Still looking at the world with his chin in his hands, called out “Pooh!”

“Yes?” said Pooh.

“When I’m–when– Pooh!”

“Yes, Christopher Robin?”

“I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”

“Never again?”

“Well, not so much. They don’t let you.”

I think I’m not going to read them the final chapter of Pooh Corner just yet. We started with this volume because I couldn’t find our copy of Winnie the Pooh, which comes first. But now I want to go back and read them that one (it’s bound to turn up). I flipped ahead to the end of Pooh Corner today and got teary at the goodbye scene…I’m not ready for these two, my last small fry, to contemplate leaving behind the Hundred Acre Wood. At least I know that no matter how Old they get, and how Busy with Important Things, they’ve been raised to appreciate the value of Nothing.

Education junkie

February 24, 2015 @ 9:25 pm | Filed under: Fun Learning Stuff


I’m always amused when the Coursera “recommended for you” email arrives and I get to see who their algorithm thinks I am this time. Coursera-Melissa has wonderfully eclectic tastes, doesn’t she?

I must say that Australian literature class looks mighty enticing. I’m sure the Planet Earth course came up because of the several climate change classes I’ve taken. Proooobably not going to squeeze any Econ into my schedule, though. 😉 And as for learning C#, I’ll leave that to my daughter the computer science major.

If you’re looking for a lit class, I can highly recommend “Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction” with UVa prof Bruce Holsinger. I took that one last year and found it top-notch. Holsinger is an engaging lecturer and he brought in a lot of interesting writers for Q&A interviews.

I’m afraid to click around on the site too much right now, since I have a crazy amount of stuff on my plate this spring and I’m not likely to have much extra reading time. Still…I find the course lectures are most excellent listening material while I’m cleaning or (lately) sketching. Couldn’t hurt just to sign up for the Aussie lit class, could it? A little something to listen to while I’m scrubbing the bathroom floor?

Couch Fun

January 13, 2015 @ 9:32 pm | Filed under: Fun Learning Stuff

rillaloves Six short years ago

A homeschooling friend who’s expecting a baby asked for ideas for fun learning activities to do from the couch. Others chimed in with suggestions; here was my contribution:

I second Erica’s Signing Time recommendation!

Jim Weiss CDs (holler if you want to borrow some of ours)

The Horrible Histories video for English monarchs—we watched it every day for a few weeks until we had them all by heart.

Look for Koosje Koene drawing videos on Youtube. (If the computer is accessible.) Short simple how-to videos that we have found quite inspiring.

Clapping games like Say Say oh Playmate, my kids love when I dredge these up from memory.

This silly parts-of-speech game we used to play in the car. :)

Plus other wordplay games like the one where you pretend you’re packing for a trip and the first person packs an A thing (apple), second person adds a B thing (brush) + says the A word, and so on—see how far through the alphabet you can get. (I am blanking on the name.)

If you have cable you might have a karaoke channel, surprisingly entertaining.

Good time to work on a foreign language

Impromptu spelling bee

Round robin storytelling—one person starts and you take turns going around the room. I can see your girls having a great time with this!

For times table practice sometimes I make them run up and down the hall while I call out problems. For beginners you can give the problem and they give you the answer when they get back, it gives them time to think.

Count all the squares/rectangles/triangles etc in the room. This can get tricky! Doors and windows can have many subdivided rectangles, etc. (I remember once looking at a large window at our church in Virginia. Jane asked how many rectangles I could see. I counted something like 16. She then pointed out to me a total of 37 different rectangles!)

Book scavenger hunt: assign a subject, like a lion. Everyone goes off to look for a book with a lion in it.

Oh how this makes me miss our baby days! Huck turned SIX today, how can that be possible???