Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Circle C Stepping Stones {Homeschool Review Crew}

A few summers ago, Lauren and I were introduced to Andi and the Circle C Ranch books written by Susan K. Marlow. Although Lauren enjoyed me reading Tales from the Circle C Ranch to her, we had not added more Andi books to our library. It seemed like the beginning readers in the Circle C Beginnings series were too easy for her and the chapter books in the Circle C Adventures were still a bit too difficult.

Recently, Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow have released a new line of books chronicling Andi's adventures -- Circle C Stepping Stones. This series is designed to be a bridge between the Beginnings and Adventures books about Andi. We read both Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top.

Based on my initial look at the books (and a quick check of the readability scores), I gave Lauren the first book in the series for her to read independently during our quiet reading time. I think this is the first time that she's started reading a book and then expressed interest in continuing to read it. Our "quiet" reading time is often interrupted by her questions about "how much longer?" or "do I have to read more?". When she had Andi Saddles Up, she just read.

At the end of the book, Lauren could tell me at least some of the main parts of the story. I decided to read the book myself so that we could discuss it a little more fully. I then figured out why Lauren was so captured by the book. The end of each chapter leaves off in a suspenseful spot so that she was anxious to see what happens next. I often choose books like that when I read-aloud to her, but I haven't purposefully sought out chapter books with cliffhanger chapters to assign for her independent reading.

Andi Saddles Up is a story about a nine-year-old girl (Andi) who lives on a cattle ranch in the late 1870s. While exploring the ranch on her horse Taffy, Andi meets a new friend named Sadie. Unfortunately, Sadie's pa and Andi's family are quarreling over the boundary lines between the two properties. I got caught up in the story when I read it, wondering how the dispute would turn out and worrying about what would happen when Andi ignores her brother's rules about trick-riding on Taffy. Although written at a level appropriate for Lauren, it was a story that I truly enjoyed reading.

Andi Under the Big Top tells the story of the time when a traveling circus comes to town. In the same fashion as the previous book, the story offers more than simply a description of life in 1877. Andi befriends a young runaway boy who is stuck working in the circus without hopes of returning home.

Lauren read and enjoyed the first book. Her favorite part was that Andi and Sadie still tried to be friends while Chad and Sadie's pa were arguing. She's looking forward to reading the second book, but has been too sick for the past few weeks to start it. (Since Lauren is not yet a strong reader, reading still seems like schoolwork and not something pleasurable to do when she's not feeling well.)

I am impressed with these books because they are wholesome stories with enough excitement that it kept Lauren wanting to read "one more chapter." The books have Christian themes running throughout, but it is not overdone in a way that seems fake. (A complaint I often have about Christian fiction books.)

Free activity pages are available to download for each of the books. I opted to let Lauren simply read the first book for enjoyment, but I think the study guide will enhance her enjoyment of the second book. The study guide has a handful of questions about each chapter -- mostly asking the reader to recall facts.  Slowing down to pay attention to those facts and answer the questions will likely help Lauren catch more of the details of the book. The study guide also has vocabulary activities, informational passages and comprehension questions about related topics, mazes, word puzzles, math activities, and more. The books are excellent on their own, but they become a rich, well-rounded learning experience when combined with the activity pages.

Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top are both paperback books with slightly over 100 pages each. They retail for $7.99 each. The publisher gives a suggested age range of 7-10 years old. I'd recommend them for readers that are capable of reading text written at a third or fourth grade level, especially for readers that need books with short chapters and lots of excitement.

I look forward to adding more Circle C Stepping Stones books to our collection. I'm also happy to know that as Lauren's reading skills improve, she can continue to read wholesome stories about Andi in the Circle C Adventures books.

Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Colorado ~ By the Way {Homeschool Review Crew}

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}

Our family loves exploring new areas, either when we move to a new state or when we're traveling to see family scattered across the US. The By the Way Book Series with books written by Joy Budensiek combines a look at all the natural wonders of an area with Biblical teaching about God's hand in creation. Lauren and I both learned a lot from reading Colorado ~ By the Way.

The Colorado ~ By the Way book is a gorgeous hardcover picture book with approximately 48 pages. It is absolutely packed with information about Colorado, and almost every page includes either a verse of scripture or an informal reference to the way we can see God's miraculous creation around us.

When I sat down to read the book to Lauren, I expected that we'd read it through from cover to cover. I quickly realized that this book wasn't just a "quick read" with a few facts and a handful of scriptures. The book opens with a group of five children sitting around a campfire on a ranch in Colorado. Alex and Lexi (the main characters in the series) have to come to visit Jose and his family for a week. After dinner, the kids hear a cougar scream in the distance. Jose's mom, Miss Rose, explains that there's no reason to be afraid of a mountain lion. She mentions the same fact that we've seen in a few places we've explored, "Rangers say you have more of a chance of being struck by lightning than meeting up with a mountain lion." The next page in the book gives a list of other facts about mountain lions (which are also called cougars). Miss Rose tucks the kids in with a promise from scripture that God will watch over them and keep them safe while they sleep.

Lauren's interest picked up a bit when we read about the kids traveling to visit Four Corners and Mesa Verde. She remembers our own trip to see both of those famous sites several years ago. After reading about both of those locations and learning facts about juniper trees, junco birds, and marmots,  Lauren was approaching information overload. I set the book aside after only 9 pages, and we picked up again the next day. It took us nearly a week to get through the book at the pace Lauren could absorb the information.

I am thrilled to add Colorado ~ By the Way to our book collection. I am most excited about sharing it with my sister and her two kids when they come to visit this summer. They'll be able to learn about some of the things right near our house (Pike's Peak, Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy) and about some of the Colorado sights that they won't have time to visit on this trip. I actually kind of wish I could've shared it with my good friend Meg from Adventures with Jude when they came to visit last summer.

So far, there are six books in the By the Way Book Series -- Colorado, Washington, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida's Treasure Coast, and Smoky Mountains. Books about Ireland and New York City are scheduled to be released in April. Each of the books costs $14.99.

The next book on my wish list is Smoky Mountains ~ Here We Come!. Although my family hasn't been able to join them in several years, my parents and my sister's family often meet in the Smoky Mountains in the fall to spend a weekend near Gatlinburg. Lauren doesn't really remember the times we've spent there, but Addison and Brennan probably remember hiking in Cade's Cove.

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Monday, February 13, 2017

February Homeschool Happenings

As I look back over the past few weeks, I'm not exactly sure what happened to my blogging. It took me a long while (longer than I anticipated) to get back into the groove of homeschooling, housework, etc, after the holiday break.

At the beginning of February, Lauren got sick with what seemed to be a GI bug. She spent a few nights in the hospital so that she could get rehydrated, and she's been resting on the couch ever since. I've been able to catch up on some cleaning, read some books, and even do some crocheting.

What I've been reading:

I finished reading Loves God, Likes Girls by Sally Gary and Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine. I'm in the middle of Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach. I also read The Secret Keepers, a children's book by Trenton Lee Stewart. Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society and sequels have long been favorites in our house, and The Secret Keepers is almost as good.

For read-alouds, Lauren and I are still making our way through Anne of Green Gables. We're only a chapter or two away from the end, but she hasn't felt up to listening for quite some time. This book turned out to be a bit too advanced for her to understand, but she hasn't wanted to quit in the middle. We'll pick something with less big words and flowery descriptions for our next read-aloud.

What we've been playing:

Pandemic continues to be a huge hit at our house. Even while Lauren has been sick, she's sometimes begged me to set up the game board on the floor near the couch so that we can play without her having to actually get up. She also talked me into buying the iPad version so that she can play while we're at appointments. One morning we ended up playing a game during her blood draw and it kept her distracted the whole time.

What we've been studying:

It's less than three weeks away from the regional Science Olympiad tournament so we're studying lots of science. Unfortunately, Lauren hasn't felt like studying much and I'm starting to feel like she's slipping behind. Brennan's still perfecting his robot arm and hovercraft for the competition. His team stands an excellent chance of going to the state competition in April so it looks like he'll be studying for quite a while longer.

What I've been cleaning:

I'm following with Michele's 34 Weeks of Clean series on Family, Faith and Fridays. So far, the majority of the assignments have been in the kitchen. My kitchen has never looked better. In some of my free time (while Lauren rests and watches YouTube videos), I've also organized the huge stack medical paperwork from last year, decluttered some unloved clothing in my closet, and just generally tidied up the rest of the house.

Other excitement:

Brennan found a private school baseball team that he can play with this spring, and he's eagerly gone to a few pre-season practices already.

Lauren was selected to be an Ambassador for the Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation, and we had a fun morning at the Children's Museum in Denver for a kick-off celebration with interviews, a photo shoot, and more. They've already shared her story on the website, and she'll have the opportunity to participate in several publicity activities this year. Here's one of my favorite pictures from that day:

This long overdue update is going to be shared with the weekly Homeschool Highlights linky at Homeschool Coffee Break. Come join the fun!

Homeschool Coffee Break

©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may nt be reproduced.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Birthday memories

Today we are thanking God for eleven years of ladybug miracles.
Happy Birthday Lauren!

©2009-2017 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Saturday, January 7, 2017

New Year Happenings . . .

It's hard to believe that it's only been a week since New Year's Eve. We spent the first part of our week still enjoying our holiday break. Addison's boyfriend Jon was here visiting, and they graciously let Tim and Brennan tag along with them on a ski outing Tuesday. Towards the end of the week, Lauren and I tried to get back into our regular routines of schoolwork and appointments. To finish off the week, we made a rather last minute decision to have Lauren's birthday sleepover party this weekend.

What we've been playing:

The two most popular games at our house this week have been Betrayal at House on the Hill and Pandemic. Lauren and I added games to our daily school schedule, and Skip Bo was a hit several days.

What we watched recently:

We watched Matilda recently, and Lauren and I rented The BFG to watch while everyone else was skiing. It was a fun follow-up to our read-aloud series of Roald Dahl books last fall.

What I've been reading:

This week I finished Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. The second book was for an online book club hosted by Ladybug Daydreams and At Home: where life happens. I hope to join the fun and answer their discussion questions next week.

Lauren and I are still working through Anne of Green Gables. Though we finished several days of school this week, we didn't get quite as much time for read-alouds as I would've hoped.

What we've been studying:

Lauren and I started working on a Germs lapbook so that she can get some basic concepts down before we study specific pathogens for her Microbes Science Olympiad event. We also spent time nearly every day reviewing the minerals that she's been working on for the past several months.

What I'm doing to keep my hands busy:

The green shawl I started a few weeks ago about is on temporary hold because I broke one of the needles when it got caught in the door of the car. I have a purple mobius scarf I started last weekend, and I'm also working on more lego blocks.

A few more pictures to share:

I'm linking this post to the weekly Homeschool Highlights linky at Homeschool Coffee Break. Come join the fun!

Homeschool Coffee Break

©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may nt be reproduced.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of December Update

Seems like I've been spending more time doing and less time blogging lately. It's been a fun few weeks since my last update.

December Field Trips:

Electic Safari at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: The best part was getting so close to the giraffes. Someone shared a leaf of lettuce so that Lauren could feed one. There's nothing like looking up and seeing a huge giraffe tongue just inches from your face.

Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station: This ranks as the all-time coolest field trip ever. Tim got to bring all of us into the mountain to see the NORAD watch floor as part of their family celebration for Christmas. Opportunities to go into the mountain are very rare, and it was cool to see all the things that we've just heard about. (No pictures for obvious security reasons.)

Books in progress:

Anne of Green Gables (read-aloud with Lauren)
Boundaries by Henry Cloud (for a class at church)
Loves God, Likes Girls by Sally Gary
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine

I also just got a notice that it's my turn to check out a digital copy of The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee (author of The Mysterious Benedict Society series). I need to hurry and finish some of the others so that I can read it.


Tim and Lauren recently finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and then watched the corresponding movie. We all watched Matilda last night and this afternoon. The beginning closely matched the book, but they started changing details in the last half of the movie.

Tim and I had a date night last week to see Rogue One in the theaters. Very well done! All our kids have New Year's plans for tonight, so we're planning to stay home and watch movies -- a Finding Nemo and Finding Dory double header.


Favorite game under the Christmas Tree: Pandemic
Favorite game from Santa (for Addison): Betrayal at House on the Hill
Favorite game resurrected: Spades (thankfully Brennan played as Tim's partner yesterday-- I'm not good enough at keeping up with the details to play as his partner)
Favorites chosen for game day with Lauren last week: Monopoly Jr., Sequence, Expanders, Skip Bo, and Life

Other exciting news:

Brennan got his driver's license yesterday, and he's already enjoying the freedom of getting to meet up with friends without arranging for a parent to drive him. (He still has to make arrangements to use a car, but that's usually easier.)

I finished up my year with 550 miles of running. I didn't quite make my goal, but I'm proud of what I did accomplish.

A few pictures from the past few weeks:

I'm linking this post to the weekly Homeschool Highlights linky at Homeschool Coffee Break. Come join the fun!

Homeschool Coffee Break

©2009-2016 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may nt be reproduced.


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