The View from the Classroom Window

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon : book review

This is one of my favorite books that I have read this year. There is just the right balance between fantasy, magic and adventure. The main character is a little girl named Minli, who goes to find the Old Man in the Moon, to see if he can change her family's fortune. She meets many magical creatures along the way.  The story also includes a lot about Chinese culture and old folk tales.  I love the colorful artwork that goes with almost every chapter. The author really entices you to read more and finish the book. If you are looking for an exciting book to read, I encourage you to read this one.

By Asia, age 11

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Life of Fred

I cannot believe I forgot to mention these books in my list of fun and potentially inspiring math story books:  The Life of Fred: "Math As Serious As It Needs to Be."  The first title in the series is "Apples."  We borrowed it from a friend once and thought it was really engaging and definitely stimulating.  Some people use these books for their math curriculum, but I think they are best as "fun math" for days when I want to introduce a new concept, or get the kids interacting with ideas more independently, or just to have a break from "regular" math and do something different and fun. 

Alas, the library does not appear to have any of them, and I believe we can no longer use Ocean Grove funds to purchase these books. : (  But ask your ES if there are any at the resource center.

Or, if any of you Vintage homeschool parents have any Life of Fred books and don't mind sharing, please let us know in the comments below!

I found a site that allows you to download a preview of many of the Life of Fred books.  Here's the download link to the "Apples" book (let's see if that works--not sure if I can link to a pdf).

Here is the link to all of the previews.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fun Summer Math Reading

So after starting that last post about our book project for the 2015 Author's Fair, I did some research, and found that our local library seems to have quite a good selection of funny and creative easy-reader and picture books to inspire our young authors. Here are some I found:

Conned Again, Watson! Cautionary Tales of Logic, Math, and Probability

Minnie's Diner

The Great Divide

Divide and Ride

Grandfather Tang's Story

The Warlord's Puzzle

Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar

Math Curse

Inch by Inch

The Wishing Club: A Story About Fractions

Lemonade for Sale

The Doorbell Rang

17 Kings and 42 Elephants

One Grain of Rice

Arthur's Funny Money

Measuring Penny

The library also has a lot of these well-rated "Sir Cumference" books--I'll definitely be checking some out!

I've read this one before--and it is a fun read: Spaghetti and Meatballs for All

Some of the books available at the library may not tell math stories, per se, but sound like really good additions (ha!) to a summer reading math unit:

Mathematicians Are People Too

G is for Googol

Millions to Measure

The Boy Who Loved Math

The library also has many of the Encyclopedia Brown books, which do not specifically deal with math but still require logical thinking for solving their mysteries--plenty of good inspiration there for the kids' own math mystery writing.

Then I have a few books here at home that anyone may borrow:

100 Pounds of Popcorn

The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat

Math Talk

Once Upon a Company

If you have any math tales of your own to recommend, please share the titles in the comments!

Announcing the 2015 Author's Fair Book Project!

Well, there parents!  I know, I know.  This is the last official day of school for a lot of us. You are not at ALL interested in thinking about next year already, certainly not thinking almost one year ahead to the next Author's Fair, when we just recently had the last one!  Most of you have not even participated in the Author's Fair for the past two years, so why would I think you would be interested in thinking about it now?

Bear with me for a moment.

First of all, for those who did jump on into the fun and make a "Book of Months"--good for you!  I loved seeing them on display at the Author's Fair.  And a special shout-out to Emmy for her FIRST Author's Fair book!  You did such a great job!  Anyone who liked that project, but just could not pull it off this year--well, you can do it anytime you like, or not. The info will always be here on this site, if you want it. : )

Second of all, because not many families seem as interested in participating in the Author's Fair anymore, I was debating this Spring whether or not to just stop coming up with projects.  I understand completely that some of our kids might be getting too old to enjoy the group projects--totally fine!  If any of the parents of younger kids want to participate in a group project (which we could or could not work on together at Old School Mondays), just let me know and I will plan something if there is enough interest.

But otherwise, I think we will just do projects on our own--not books we make all together, but projects we can do our own way in our own time frame at home with our kids.  I was not sure I would purposefully create projects for Vintage Homeschool families anymore--since it seems like perhaps most of you are not that interested--but then just this week, my kids have stumbled upon a FABULOUS and fun idea for next year.  It's so flexible and has so much potential for engaging young author's in so many ways, so I just have to make it official.

So, ta-da!  Here is the official Vintage Homeschool book project for 2014:

Story Problems

I know, I know: that sounds like the opposite of fabulous and fun, if you dreaded story problems as much as I did in math class throughout my elementary years.  But WAIT--let me explain.

My eldest girl has gotten excited about writing a mystery that needs to be solved with math.

My second eldest is writing a very funny narrative that we started together, having to do with the cost of stamps and raising costs of stamps over long periods of time and the peaceful death of her parents.  (See--don't YOU want to read it?!)

My youngest girl is not yet into the idea, but we will start by using a basic story problem we find in a book and adding to it and adding to it until we get a good story out of it.   Then we can either be done, or she can decide to write another one completely from her imagination.

The titles of the stories will undoubtedly be exciting-sounding ones, like "Escape from The Castle of Doom: A Story Problem," or  "To the Moon and Back Again: A Story Problem," or "The Mystery of the Missing Millimeter: A Story Problem." 

(Don't those sound fun to read?  How much more fun would they be to write?!)

This project will be another one that you do at home with your kids--or they do independently.  It is perfect for any level or writer or mathematician.  It can use any math concepts your children are already familiar with.  And the story can be as long or as short as they want it to be!

There is only one requirement for the stories: they must show lots of math (completed math, not just throwing out math questions without answers).  Your kids may choose to keep it simple and straightforward in the math sections and how they further the story (ala Encyclopedia Brown) or they may get crazy and add as much math as they can squeeze into the narrative (ala "Math Curse").  The math can even function as characters in the story (ala "The Phantom Tollbooth")! 

You could use this project as a fun way to get your kids engaged with math over the summer, as they explore different math concepts and work out what elements they want in their stories.  Brainstorming could end up leading to the viewing of lots of fun youtube math videos (I recommend Vi Hart! Even if she is usually over my head--the kids get glimmers of ideas, and that's often enough to set them excited about a math concept and what they could do with it creatively.) 

And hey--you could use math stories from the library as inspiration  for a Summer Reading Project!   (Do it through somebody like Barnes & Nobel and you can even get free books for your kids' summer reading efforts!)  I'll start a math books list in a separate post, which anyone can contribute to. : )

For my kids, this is going to be a Summer Writing Project--with the goal being to have the book done by the end of summer.

A summer project that involves reading, writing, and creatively engaging with math?

Now you know why I had to tell you about it this week. : )

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's the Last Day of School Party!


I don't know about you, but I was pretty much done with school back about, oh, the last week of March. 

The good thing is that my "clocking out" produced some of the best schooling we've had all year.  So now I'm rejuvenated and after a couple weeks of summer break, we will be all gung-go to jump back into summer school. : )  No, really--one of my favorite things about homeschooling is that we do school in the summer so that we feel so great and still have momentum coming into the next new school year.  And then we can feel good taking breaks whenever we want or need them, not just arbitrarily when the calendar says we should take them.

I hope you are all ending the year as I am, content and already looking forward to more.  But still, I'm so glad this is the last official week of school. We love Ocean Grove, but a couple of months with lots of learning, but no learning records or samples to produce?  Ahhhh, now that's a vacation. ; )

So let's celebrate!

The Old School "Out of School" Party!
Where: Blue Ball Park
When: This Friday, May 23, 11-2
What to bring:  Bring picnic lunches for your family and something to share with the group.  Also, bring your picnic blankets, and bubble-blowing stuff (bubble solution, wands, etc)!  Yes, we are going to have a BUBBLE BASH at the end!  Complete with a bubble blowing contest! And prizes!

Have your kids come prepared to share one favorite school thing they did this past year (does not have to be a physical show & tell--a memory shared is fine), and to tell one thing they are excited about learning or doing this summer.

Here's how I'm breaking down the time together:

11:00 - 12:00    people arrive, eat, chat, kids play

12:00   we gather on our blankets for an outdoor circle time

12:30 ish  we break out some celebratory treats

1:00ish  we break out the bubbles and start making messes, and give the kids bubble gum and get them practicing their bubbles

When the time seems right, we line them up, measure the blows, and award prizes!

Then we can all hang out/chat until whenever!

I would love it if a few kitchen-crafty moms would volunteer to bring some goodies!  We need some gluten free ones, and some other.  Anyone?  (Most of you know I am writing this while recuperating from some gross sickness, so I am NOT volunteering.  A cooler with popsicles works fine too! ; )

And would anyone volunteer to buy some really good bubble-gum? I'm talking Bubble Yum or Hubba Bubba or any of the kinds used by bubble blowing experts.  (Hey, I'm a Glee gum girl myself, but we need the bad stuff for this--in the name of science and Old School memories! ; )

If you can bring any of these things, please say so in the comments below!  Thanks so much!

I hope all of you can come, so we can celebrate together.  Questions or comments? Please ask below so everyone may benefit from the dialogue.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Old School Monday, Next Week!

Hello everyone!

It's our April Old School Monday, and we have a very fun theme for our gathering:

It's the Old School Monday Show & Tell Day!

 When: Monday, April 28, noon-2:30 p.m.
 Where: the usual downstairs classrooms there at Vintage Faith Church

Your children are each invited to bring one remotely educational thing to share with the rest of us.  It could be a musical piece they want to play, or something they have made, or a new skill they have acquired.  (Would prefer we not show off new toys or favorite objects, if we can--unless they have historical value!) Moms, this can also be a great time to encourage your kids to wrap up a project or assignment--for some of our kids getting to share to the group might be good incentive!

And Moms, you too are invited to bring something to share!  Last month Ali brought some great historical books to show--this time, in keeping with "book week," let's each bring one book that we really like. It can be educational, or just a good piece of writing!

We will definitely have story time too!  If any of you would like to read a story aloud to the group, just let me know!  Otherwise, I will cry my way through something good, I am sure. ; )

Questions or comments?  Please leave them in the comments section to this post, so that all may benefit.

Book Week Pt 2

Just for fun, I thought I would share with you all the second, and even more fun, part of our Book Week: reading, reading, reading!

We do not own many pieces of furniture (understandable in a house our size!) but we have two big cherry bookcases we bought when we first got married.  One faces the front door, and holds more "school-y" books.  (I'll have to show you in another post.) This one faces the living room, and holds mostly fiction, with some non-fiction picture books mixed in. 

Eldest girl asked a month ago if we could spend Spring Break reading through the bottom two shelves of this bookshelf--the favorite picture books she doesn't really get much chance to read anymore, but which still give so much pleasure.  I thought that was a great goal! 

These are the two shelves we are reading through this week--most of our picture book collection.

This is starting at the right of the top shelf, which has picture books geared to a slightly older child (or the taller books that don't fit on the bottom shelf). Normally I enjoy keeping the shelves somewhat organized first by genre, then by author, with size variables accounted for--I know, I know--but with the crazy reading going on this week, they are currently a happy, disheveled mess.

Favorite titles from this first pic:


The Biggest Bear

The Scrambled States of America

Small Beauties

A Child's Calendar

This version of Snow White

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble


Yes, I am such a book nerd that I am going to show you ALL the books. Some of them are special friends, which is why I'm introducing you by name.

The Tale of Three Trees

The Fourteen Bears Summer and Winter

The Long and Dangerous Journey


A Time to Keep

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch

Of course if you no longer have kids in this stage of life, you will be glazing over at this point. But if you love books, or memories of when your kids were young, or if you just want to snoop at my bookshelves just like you would if you came over sometime, here you go!

The Velveteen Rabbit (I'm not sure my edition is the best out there--so many versions of this story have gorgeous illustrations!--so I didn't link it)

This version of Little Red Riding Hood. I'm a fan of this author's work, and have quite a few on the shelf  by her.

This edition of Beauty and the Beast (alas, out of print and highly collectible--sounds like the affordable paperback is a shortened version)

The Maggie B

A Fairy Went a Marketing

Hiding over against the bookshelf wall to the right are the fragile antique books my mother has passed down to us from her own childhood. I keep them tucked away behind Stuart Little just so little hands don't grab them automatically. Out of sight, out of mind. ; )

The Kitchen Knight

The Water Hole

Now we get to the bottom shelf, with the books geared more for the earlier readers, and the books shorted in height.

George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends

This version of Mother Goose


The Giant Jam Sandwich

The Adventures of Mole & Troll

The Little House

Cookies: Bite-Sized Lessons

Norman the Doorman

Mama, Do You Love Me?

The Marble Cake Cat

As you can probably guess, a lot of these books are from my childhood.  : )

The Frog and Toad Treasury

Let's Look at the Jungle

The Fire Cat

The Best Loved Doll

Bears in the Night

The last books on the shelf to the right are not in the picture because they are large and have to lay on their sides--mainly Smiley's collection of Richard Scarry books. Those are favorites of mine just because they occupy him for good lengths of time while I'm helping his sisters with school. : )

Child of Faerie, Child of Earth

The Hat

Eloise Wilkins Treasury

Some of these books made me smile just reading the titles.  : )  I am only specifically mentioning my favorite favorite of those on the shelves.  But all the books on the shelves have to meet at least two out of my four criteria for what is worth the precious in-house real estate:

* The story has to be well-written.
* There should be something the child learns from the story, or it should broaden the child's mind, or ignite imagination in some specific way.  In other words, it has a greater meaning beyond the story itself.
* The illustrations should be exemplary.
* Or the book should be especially nostalgic for me, or someone special gave it to us.
* Bonus points if it makes me smile or cry every time I read it.

I have a loathing for pointless stories and silliness for silliness's sake.  I abhor twaddle.  It makes me so sad when an excellent story is printed with lame, uninspired artwork.  Yes, I'm a book snob.  But that does not mean I'm too picky--there are some books I love that have very silly elements (The Giant Jam Sandwich is a prime example)  but there is something about them that is clever and whimsical too. And condition does not bother me either, as long as pages are not falling out (and I can't just tape them back in) or the book is molding--what's inside the book is way more important than the outside. Often, the best books are no longer in print, so I am perfectly willing to put up with ragged old books if need be! 

There are a lot more excellent books on our shelves I'm not specifically mentioning because they are considered childhood classics (like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and Where the Wild Things Are, and Madeline's Rescue.)  I just wanted to share with you some of the titles that you might not be familiar with. 

I also have a LOT more books in bins under the house. Most of them are more educational in nature, so have been separated and stored according to subject.  But there are also just a lot of good books that were not *quite* worth the in-house shelf space, but which I can't quite part with.  And a bin of broken books that require serious mending, but which I am sorry to part with (or can't replace). And a box of books to take to add to our little homeschool library we are starting for all of you. And a box of books to eventually give away. Ahem.

Have I mentioned that I love good books?

Happy Reading everyone!

(And if you have a favorite favorite picture book you want to recommend, please share it in the comments!)

Or, even more fun, share pics of YOUR bookshelves!

(If anyone likes this post, I will work my way through the rest of the books too. : )