Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Song of the Stars Christmas Book

The first book starting off our Christmas book reading is Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I purposely picked this book to be our first book of the season, which we will read on Dec. 1st.

Summary: All of creation is filled with anticipation of the coming newborn king. The woodland creatures stirred, the mightly lion roared, the great white whales sang, "It's time!" A beautifully written and illustrated Christmas book that young children and adults will enjoy.

This is one of my new favorite Christmas books. Sally Lloyd-Jones was able to weave a new perspective of the Christmas story from creation's point-of-view. The story paired with the beautiful crackled-art paintings by Alison Jay is sure to become a family favorite.

"On a lonely peak a lion raised his strong head and roared it out to the empty wilderness... "The Mighty King! The Prince of Peace!"

This is why I chose this book to be our first Christmas book reading--- it weaves in some of the different names of Jesus. I had already decided that we were going to do a mini-study on the Names of Jesus during this Christmas season, so this book seemed the perfect way to start off our Names of Jesus advent chain.

Click to Download the Names of Jesus Advent Chain

Now the most important part of a Christmas Book tradition is reading them. Sounds simple right? Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to do other activities to go along with the book and when they don't get done, I'm disappointed. So this year I'm giving myself grace to not do activities but to concentrate on creating some good reading memories with my children.

Some of the books though, as soon as I read them an idea pops into my head. That was the case with this book. So here's an extra activity that you could do that goes along with this book.

Crackled Star Ornament

2 different shades of yellow acrylic paint
Crackle paint medium (found in the same aisle as the acrylic paint)
cardstock or wooden stars
Star template if printing on cardstock
pipe cleaner or ribbon

The illustrations in the book have a beautiful crackle finish on them. I knew I had the supplies on hand to recreate that effect at home. I thought my children would find it interesting how the paint "cracks" and the color shows through. Be aware, this project should be done in stages to allow for drying -- aka this is not a fast project! It is easy though. :)

First I printed out the star template onto cardstock. Then I painted with a darker yellow using a sponge brush. Let this dry completely. After it is dry, paint a coat of crackle medium over the stars using a foam brush. Let this dry completely. If doing this with young kids maybe do one step in the morning, one step in the afternoon, and then one step in the evening.

One the crackle medium is completely dry, you can paint on the top coat. I chose a lighter yellow. Paint that over the star. This is the fun part. While it is drying, you can see the paint starting to "crack" apart. The base coat then shows through! Once this is dry go ahead and cut out the stars. (You can also do this whole process with those wooden stars found at craft stores.)

I turned one of the stars into an ornament for our tree.

And another into a story stick for when we read the story again.

*I just found out about this Song of the Stars Event at Zonderkids:
December 8th, 6:00-7:00pm (ET)
Featuring LIVE Q&A with Sally, special musical guests, giveaways, and more!
Visit to RSVP today!

5 Days of Christmas Books: Day 1 - My Favorite Childhood Book
5 Days of Christmas Books: Day 2 - The Christmas Book Book

Please stop by and visiting my other 5 Days of Christmas friends!

A Slob Comes Clean - Getting Your Home Company Ready
Feels Like Home - Christmas Traditions
Somewhat Crunchy - Christmas with Dairy Allergies
Spell Outloud - Children's Books
Mama's Learning Corner - Children's Crafts
Many Little Blessings - Edible Gifts
Sunflower Schoolhouse - Decorations
An Oregon Cottage - Christmas Cookies
Catholic Icing - Wishing Jesus Happy Birthday
The Traveling Praters - Traveling
The Homeschool Classroom - Gifts Kids Can Make
Mama's Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Book Book

Yesterday I mentioned how I worked on a new Christmas book system for my family to use this year. I liked the surprise element of wrapping books, but I don't like to wrap. I also have a hard time doing a specific activity for 25 days straight. Some days we like to read through 3 books, and other days none at all. I also wanted to incorporate iPad book reading and listening into our Christmas book tradition. That's hard to wrap under a tree. So I came up with a Christmas Book book (I couldn't think of another name to call it at 1:00 am.)

I'm hoping that this little book will become a fun Christmas book tradition. Would you like to see how I made it and plan to use it?

4x6 photo album (one of those cheap, plastic ones at the Dollar Store work)
decorative paper
stickers or stamps

Pick coordinating scrapbook paper and trim to 4x6. I went ahead and made enough for 25 days, but with this system you can do more or less.

Number and decorate the pages and then slip into the photo album. I decided to do a green and red pattern.

The next step was probably the hardest. If you noticed in my supply picture above, my little photo album was purple flowers. That's not very Christmas-y. This particular photo album also did not have a way to slip in a new piece of paper for the cover. Since it is plastic, finding an adhesive that wouldn't peel off made covering it with paper a hassel. So what I did was carefully use an Exacto-knife to open up the top-inside cover of the album. I used a metal ruler to guide the cut along the inside seam. I would have taken a picture but I couldn't figure out how to hold the knife and shoot the camera at the same time. :) Once I did that, I was able to pull out the purple cardboard cover. I glued scrapbook paper onto that and then inserted it back into the album. I did the same for the back of the album too.

Then using my favorite photo-editing program, I created another 4x6 insert with all the Christmas book titles. I know what you're thinking--wrapping the books would have been easier. I see your point, but I'm hoping that this will last a couple of years!

Once I was done with the book inserts, I slipped them randomly behind the numbers.

So How Does This Work?
You can structure it two different ways. To act like a Christmas-countdown calendar, or to act like a Christmas book collection counter. I chose the latter for this year.

During the month of December, for our read-aloud time, one child will pick a tag from behind the number. They'll see the book cover image and go pick that book out of the book basket to read. If we want to read more than one, then the next child will pull the tag out from page number 2 etc. After we are done reading, we will put the books we read on display in the front room. Then we will write the date we read the book on the back of the book tag. If we happened to add an activity to go along with the book, we'll write that info. too. Then we will place the tag in front of the number in the Christmas book so we know where we left off.

I created a tag for some stories I want my kids to listen to from Tales to Go Christmas Edition and other story radio sources. I know that I will probably be adding an iPad book or two as well. I am hoping that this will let my kids have some element of surprise and will be a good way to record some memories of the books we read (or listened to) together by jotting down little tid-bits on the back of the book cards. I'm looking forward to trying this out in a couple of days!

If you are interested in doing a version of this Christmas Book Book, you can download blank 4x6 book inserts. You can either write the name of the book or add the photos yourself to match your book collection.

Please stop by and visiting my other 5 Days of Christmas friends!

A Slob Comes Clean - Getting Your Home  Company Ready
Feels Like Home - Christmas Traditions
Somewhat Crunchy - Christmas with Dairy  Allergies
Spell Outloud - Children's Books
Mama's  Learning Corner - Children's Crafts
Many Little  Blessings - Edible Gifts
Sunflower  Schoolhouse - Decorations
An Oregon Cottage - Christmas Cookies
Catholic Icing - Wishing Jesus Happy  Birthday
The  Traveling Praters - Traveling
The Homeschool Classroom - Gifts Kids Can  Make
Mama's  Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts

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Monday, November 28, 2011

All About Reading Level 1

All About Reading Level 1 is now available! As I mentioned here, I have been looking through this curriculum and I am impressed. This is the level after Pre-1 (which we are currently using with my preschoolers), so is suitable for students ready to start decoding and reading. Just like the spelling series, everything is laid out for you. I love that! I also like that it incorporates 5 key components of reading:

  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonics and Decoding
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension

Starting Nov. 29 - Dec. 6th, you can get 10% off your order plus all level 1 orders will get a fun little treat too!

Disclosure: This is an affiliate link. Thank you for supporting this site.


5 Days of Christmas Books #1

I remember my favorite Christmas book when I was a child. My brother and I would fight take turns scratching the smelly sticker on the page. Anyone remember which book I'm talking about?

The Sweet Smell of Christmas is a cute book that brings back many memories for me as a child. Though it doesn't focus on the real reason for Christmas (aka Santa is in there), many of things the little bears did were things our family did to get ready for Christmas. Plus we thought the scratch-and-sniff stickers were cool!

A couple years ago I adopted the tradition of purchasing at least one new-to-us Christmas book to be read in December. This year we're up to 15 books. Many people who have this tradition in their homes wrap each book up and place under the tree (or special box) so that the children pick one book out a day. It is used like a book count-down calendar.

I'll admit it-- I hate wrapping presents so wrapping each book just wasn't going to happen. I store all our Christmas books in a wrapped box. This is last year's picture, but the box survived the packing and still looks the same. My kids and I enjoy looking at the books all through the month. I like the "surprise" element of individually wrapped books though, so I thought about how I could add the surprise while still knowing what books we would be doing. Makes sense right? Plus I wanted a way to document the book-making memories we were creating and find a way to include books we read or listened to on the iPad. So I came up with a new system that we are going to try out this year.

Which I'll show you in detail tomorrow... :)

But while you are here, I'd love to know what were some of your favorite Christmas books as a child?

Please stop by and visit my other 5 Days of Christmas friends!

A Slob Comes Clean - Getting Your Home Company Ready
Feels Like Home - Christmas Traditions
Somewhat Crunchy - Christmas with Dairy Allergies
Spell Outloud - Children's Books
Mama's Learning Corner - Children's Crafts
Many Little Blessings - Edible Gifts
Sunflower Schoolhouse - Decorations
An Oregon Cottage - Christmas Cookies
Catholic Icing - Wishing Jesus Happy Birthday
The Traveling Praters - Traveling
The Homeschool Classroom - Gifts Kids Can Make
Mama's Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Beautiful Girlhood Bible Study

My oldest daughter is now 13yrs. old. I know it is said time and time again that kids grow up fast. They do. I'm trying to set aside some intentional time for us to talk and do things together. I was looking for a Bible study to use with her, and while I was at the Relevant Conference, I met Shelley Noonan who just happened to have several Bible study companion guides for moms to do with their daughters. I chose Beautiful Girlhood revised by Karen Andreola and The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood by Shelley Noonan and Kimberly Zach.

What is it?

Beautiful Girlhood was originally written by Mabel Hale in the 1940's and revised by Karen Andreola in 1993. This book guides girls through the path of girlhood to womanhood by sharing Christian virtues and ideals of womanhood.

The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood by Shelley Noonan and Kimberly Zach is the Bible study component that goes along with the book. This study is best for girls ages 9 -13.

What We Thought:

Since my middle daughter fit in the age range of this series, I decided to do this study with both my 9yr. old and my 13yr. old. My desire was to be able to open up communication about becoming women  of virtue and the challenges they either are facing or will be facing as they grow up. I was excited to start the study but a little apprehensive of the early 1900's language. Would we be able to relate?

We've worked through several chapters with me reading aloud. I have to admit that I am impressed with the timeless advice this book gives. What makes me enjoy this book even more is the Companion Guide. I would be lost without it. Shelley gives discussion questions for each chapter, Bible activities and applications, and journal topics. My daughters and I have had some very good discussions because of this companion book, and for that I am truly grateful. On the Btwixt and Btween blog, Shelley has started an online study of the book, but you can peek in on the blog posts she has written for each chapter of the book (well they aren't all written yet because they haven't finished the study.) I like to read her post on the chapter we are going to read so that I know what to be thinking about as we do our study for that week.

* Sunday 11/27 only: You can use the following code for 25% off at Pumpkin Seed Press:


I am looking forward to finishing this series with my girls and will post an update when we do!

Disclosure: I received a free set of books for review purposes only. Opinions are mine.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Maintaining and Upcoming

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I sent my family off to my sister-in-law's house and stayed home since I was sick. I've been feeling kind of blah for awhile now--I guess I have been dealing with walking pneumonia. Right now 2 of my kids have the same thing and it's no fun! All this to say that I'm already feeling behind for December and December hasn't even started! I thought I'd share a couple of things I know will be happening on my blog in the next couple of weeks plus other tidbits.

Coming Up In December:

  • Starting Monday I will be joining a group of bloggers sharing 5 Days of Christmas...(various topics.) I will be sharing Five Days of Christmas Children's Books-- and if I'm able, I will continue posting book-related posts all through the month of December.

  • I have already assembled and glanced through the new All About Reading Level 1 program! Oh, my I'm so excited to implement this curriculum! I'll have a review/giveaway Friday Dec. 9th - so mark your calendars!

  • I also have downloaded Grapevine's Birth of Jesus Bible Study. I am planning on using this as part of our Bible study in the month of December. I'll have a review on that Christmas study too. Advent11 will give you 20% off on any item not already on sale from now until December 31.

My Posts This Month Not Found on My Blog:


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Human Body: The Backbone (simple model)

Right now we are on break, but I thought I’d try to come up with a few review activities for when our co-op starts back up in February. One thing we kind of glossed over due to time was talking about our backbone. I came up with a very simple model of the backbone for my K-2nd grade group. My goal is for them to realize that:

1. Our spinal column has a spinal cord.
2. The spinal cord is an important part of the nervous system and needs to be protected.
3. The bones that make up our back are called vertebrate. There are different sections of vertebrate—neck, chest, and bottom.
4. The vertebrae (24 of them) stack on top of each other with discs in between. This allows us to move in many different ways and directions and still protects the spinal cord.



1 pool noodle
1 laundry line or rope
24 pony tail holders/thick rubber bands
Exacto knife


First cut the pool noodle into 24 pieces with an Exacto-knife. Next cut a piece of rope a little longer than the 24 pieces of “noodle”.


Have your students string the pieces together on the rope.  Talk about what each piece represents in the spinal column. The rope will represent the spinal cord, the pool noodle will be the vertebrae, and the pony tail holders are the discs.


Use this to show the kids how flexible our backbone can be. I have a full-size pool noodle that I will be bringing in as well. Even though it moves many directions, it is not as flexible as the vertebrae and disc model.

Check out what we have done in our anatomy unit so far:


Linking up to:

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

iPad Apps Update and iPad Bag (giveaway)

I have enjoyed figuring out how to incorporate the iPad into our school day. I still mainly use it with my two younger girls, ages 3 and almost 5. My favorite activity is to set up the iPad as a listening center. Sometimes I turn on Pandora and have them listen to some music while drawing or doing crafts. We might talk about what they are hearing, “What instrument was that high sound? Does this sound sad or happy?”


Their favorite though, it to “read” their books on the iPad. So far we have enjoyed many books from Oceanhouse Media. They have several different collections of “OM Books” which are books that have interactive elements incorporated. Here’s what is loaded on my iPad at the moment:


Except for Bob Books, these are all books created by Oceanhouse Media. I love that they turned books we are already familiar with into interactive books. I shared how we used There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, and gave my opinion on Berenstain Bear’s Bedtime Battle and Leo.

I’m sure there are other good children’s book apps out there, but I haven’t researched them.  I’ve been impressed with the Om books so I haven’t ventured far from what already works for us. :) They have a great collection of familiar authors and book titles that I already love.

Talking about love, I *heart* my ipad bag! I know, I know I’ve shared this before, but this is one purchase I am thrilled I made. It makes carting around my iPad so easy! I used it at The Relevant conference, I bring it to co-op, and carry it to church (yes, I take notes on my iPad at church!) It is sturdy and stylish. I bet you would love one too…

Borsa Bella is letting me giveaway 1 iPad travel bag to one of you! And even better---you get to pick your own fabric design!

Even if you don’t own an iPad you can use this bag! Interested in getting one right away? Check out Borsa Bella Bags on Etsy or at The Borsa Bella website.

*I am running this giveaway a little differently than previous giveaways. There is a form below where you will check off the tasks you have completed for the entry. So if you need to comment for an entry, you will comment then go check that option off on the form. I’m hoping this method will make organizing all the entries easier. If you are reading this post in a reader, you will need to come to the site to see the form.

*See My Complete Giveaway Rules

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

1st Birthday

It seems like just yesterday I was waiting to meet my Lil Pumpkin! I was already 10 days overdue when my doctor call me in to her office on a Saturday (yes, she called me!) and had me come in for monitoring. She determined that I was ready and that I should head over to the hospital right away. Several hours later Lil Pumpkin was born!

 Lil Pumpkin with her little big sister.

Our 5th little girl added to our family. I wondered what her personality would be like and if I could handle all the details of a newborn plus everything else.

birthdaygirl2Lil Pumpkin hanging out with my super sweet niece.

One of Lil Pumpkin’s first outings was to our local co-op. A pre-teen girl came up to me and said with such sincerity, “I am so glad you had Lil Pumpkin!” Being a family that has more than 2 kids—that is not a comment I hear often. That comment blessed me so much! Now a year later I can’t imagine Lil Pumpkin not being a part of the family! She brings us so much joy!

birthdaygirl4 Lil Pumpkin enjoying her birthday cake.

Yes, this first year has gone by fast! I knew it would, but it still surprised me. My little baby is not so little anymore!  Happy (belated) first birthday!

 Birthday Party Printables


Monday, November 14, 2011

The Names of Jesus Advent Chain

I know, I know I just posted about Thanksgiving sneaking up on me and here I am writing about Christmas! Yes, I am currently working on Christmas posts. I wanted to share this one early just in case you are planning some of your December activities already.


I have wanted to go over the Names of Jesus with my kids as a study for awhile. This year I thought it would be appropriate to do during the Christmas season. I found an online Names of Jesus study at Easy Fun School and based this Advent chain off of the scope and sequence found there. The chains only contain the name and the Bible reference. Check out Easy Fun School’s site for in-depth activity ideas for each name.


Since purple is usually a color associated with royalty, I decided to make our paper chain purple and silver. I printed out the template on shimmer cardstock by Core’dinations. I was worried that the ink would rub off right away, but it didn’t. I did need to let it dry for a few minutes before cutting. If the ink gives you problems, you can set the ink with Kryon Preserve It! by lightly spraying the paper before cutting.


I made the hanger for the chain out of a white, sparkly pipe cleaner, ribbon, and snowflake garland. We will hang this up on December 1st and remove a chain each day until Christmas.

Click to download the Names of Jesus Advent Chain.

You may also want to check out the additional Christmas printables I have available. More coming soon.

I plan on flip-flopping Advent chains each year. In the past we have used this advent chain created by my friend Cassie (yes, she is real!—lol). I love how Advent Chains have become a December tradition in my household.

What are some of your family Christmas Traditions?

What's in the Bible?

P.S. I will also be using The Names of Jesus ornaments from Bible Story Printables to go along with our study. I’ll be blogging about that later. :) I also will be posting a Children’s Christmas book series at the end of this month! Make sure you subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a thing!

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanksgiving Printables and Resources

Am I the only one who just looked at the calendar and saw how close Thanksgiving is already? Sometimes I am thankful for blog deadlines, because it ensures that I do get some of my great ideas (lol) completed!


We already have our Thanksgiving Banner done, which was featured at The Homeschool Village (you’ll find the instructions and downloadable template there.)


My 9yr. old daughter and I read The Imagination Station Problems in Plymouth together.  My daughter has enjoyed all the books in this series (I wrote reviews  for Book 1 and 2, and Books 3 and 4. In book 6, we were transported back to Plymouth and met Miles Standish, William Bradford, Squanto and others. It was a nice book that led to several discussions about Thanksgiving.

I printed off some more Thanksgiving mini-cards for my little girls to color (I originally posted these last year.) You can use these as-is or make them decorative mini-flags by folding the card over a craft stick and glueing closed.

I also printed off several of these Thanksgiving Thankful Mats. I’m going to have my kids write what they are thankful for, color the color-by-number turkey, and then cover with contact paper for an easy holiday placemat.

If I have time I also hope to check out the following Thanksgiving resources from these talented bloggers:

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