Category Archives: Thoughtful Thursday

Because child rearing takes so much thought, especially when home educating.

Reading and YA Distinction

Do you have a pre-teen or teen? Do you struggle with books for them to read? Do they think they must get books from the YA (young adult) section of the library? Do you know that YA is NOT a reading level?

I read books from all over the library. Yep, children’s department too; see these posts I did recently about some juvenile fiction I’ve read in the last month or so. I’ve got one more checked out that I want to read yet. But I digress. ;)

I’ve read some YA books and I have to say that I would be very careful about which books my kids read in that area. They are generally filled with angst and teens experimenting with all sorts of things. There are soooo many good books in the juvenile section that are worthwhile reading.

Here is a really good article and even a podcast (but I haven’t listened to that) about the YA designation and that category. It is not a short read but does have some book suggestions as you scroll to the bottom. I’m looking forward to reading some of these myself. :)

I hope this helps you steer your child through their reading adventures.

Michele ºÜº

Book Review: Lenny’s Book of Everything

This is another of those books I found at the library a couple months ago that was about siblings that actually got along. The only other thing I knew about this book going into it was that they younger brother had rare form of gigantism. Consequently I assumed it would end up being a sad book but was interested in the sibling relationship.

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Okay, I’m just going to be honest . . . this is a hard book. It did not capture me–I had to push to keep reading it. There is a lot of loss in this book.

I guess I should start by telling you a bit more of what the story is about. First up, Lenny is short for Lenore and is a girl who is three years old when her brother is born. The book starts out very somberly! with the mother having a feeling something was wrong with her newborn. This is given credibility because it is like the feeling she had the day Davey was born, which is shared in the beginning.

Lenny’s father was in and out of their lives the first several years. So this is also a story of a “single” mom with two kids and how she handles it but told through the eyes of the children.

My Thoughts/Talking Points

  • The mother lied about her husband, saying he was dead. However Lenny says she lies from the first word of the letter, so this is definitely something to be aware of and talk about with your children. Do you agree with it being a lie?
  • The book delves in to Lenny’s feelings about her brother’s condition.
  • Lenny and Davey talk about and plan to run away.
  • Lenny goes somewhere she should not go and it disrupts her relationship with her brother (well, with everyone).

Bottom Line:

  • This is a hard one for me to bottom line because in the end it was a decent read but I have no desire to ever read it again. It is a stand alone, which is good.
  • I liked that the siblings like each other and treat each other well most of the time.
  • It shows how doing something behind peoples’ backs changes things.
  • It shows how sometimes we want something so much that it seem as if it is true.
  • The people we surround ourselves with influence what we do.
  • Accepting help is not necessarily charity
A few things to consider:
  • abandonment (father left the family)
  • death, although it is not shown
  • mother “dating”
  • sneaking behind adults’ backs
  • lies?
  • “stealing” money
  • running away
  • being left behind can cause a drift in a relationship

My recommendation is to definitely use this one as a read aloud, so that you can stop and discuss things as they happen. Talk about why Lenny thinks Mom lied in the letter and if it is really a lie. Talk about if Lenny should have met GAE. Talk about what meeting GAE did to her relationship with Davey and the adults in her life.

There is also the “dark heart feeling,” which is mentioned from the very beginning of the book. I would describe it as a sense of foreboding. Other phrases that are kind of similar

This book is a bit heavy. It does show siblings in a good light. Ones that enjoy sharing things with each other but how sometimes they can be embarrassing and how to deal with those feelings.

OH! I almost forgot to mention: if your child is into beetles or birds, they will probably really enjoy this because Lenny finds she is intrigued with beetles of all kinds and Davey is enamored with a Golden Eagle and later Falcons. Definitely a fun part of the book

I also enjoyed how they looked forward to the parts of the encyclopedia showing up each week and how they would pour over them. There is also the mention of a few television shows in the 60’s and 70’s as well as the mention of the moon landing. :) There are probably more things I should mention, like I think Mrs. Gaspar is Catholic, vandalism–which is immediately dealt with, and friendships.

As you can see, I had mixed feelings about this book. I hope I have shared enough that you can decide if it is a book for you and your children or not.

Until next time,

Michele ºÜº


Music and Child Development

I recently came across an article that talked about music helping the development of a child’s brain. They say it helps with language development, reading skills, and speech perception. It’s a short article . . .

Here’s one that’s a little longer but has a bit more information. ;)

And finally here’s an article I wrote two years ago with an inexpensive instrument suggestion. :)

Hope this helps,

Michele ºÜº

Book Review: The Strangers

When we went to the library back in May (living 25 minutes from the library causes us to only go once a month), I was perusing the children’s books. Yes, a fifty-five year old adult was perusing the juvenile books.

You see, I love Narnia. I enjoyed The Hobbit. I liked The Mysterious Benedict Society. I liked Heidi, Polyanna, and The Little Princess and many more. So I decided to start browsing the children’s department to see what I could find.

I saw several new books displayed on top of the stacks that intrigued me. All three of them featured siblings that, seemingly, got along together. I was already at my book limit for the day so I took pictures of them so I could find them again next time. I was surprised to see that all three of them were available when we went back for our June visit.

I’ve already read the first one and really enjoyed it. So, I thought I’d share a little about it with you.

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This book starts out when three children: 11yo Chess, 9yo Emma, and 7yo Finn, come home from school and are not greeted with the happy mother they are used to seeing. In spite of their father being dead for seven years now, they are generally a very happy, if somewhat reclusive family.

Today is different though. On the news is the story of a kidnapping of three children: Rocky age 11, Emma age 9, and Finn age 7 from somewhere in Arizona. There are remarkable similarities and their mother is acting most strangely.

She must leave on an unexpected business trip and is leaving them with near strangers until she returns. Ms. Morales is very protective and acts a bit oddly, in the children’s estimation. Her daughter Natalie has an apparent better relationship with her smart phone than with her mother, which the Greystone children think strange.

I love the relationship the Greystone children have with each other. This is a good story to encourage good sibling relationships. I remember being a few chapters into the story and wondering if I was mistaken about what I thought was supposed to happen. About the time I had convinced myself that it was just about some very similar children being kidnapped (and trying to work through how that could be: cloning, twins, and so on) the alternate reality popped in. :D Don’t worry; I’m not giving any spoilers as it is stated plainly on the cover summary.

I love that this story did not make adults look stupid and that the children were the only ones smart enough to fix the problem. I liked how some adults worked with the children and the realistic reasoning behind Ms. Morales’ lack of involvement in the story.

I was sad to realize that this is the first book in a series and that the next book is not available yet. :D I’ve read so many series lately, I was looking forward to a good old one books story. :D But that didn’t happen. I will look forward to the release of the second book.

As I read the book I was so engrossed in it that I was surprised that it is juvenile fiction; it was that engaging for me. Emma loves math, so there was that whole element there that I enjoyed too.

Bottom Line:

  • I recommend this book. :)
  • I like the relationship between the siblings.
  • I like how they work together.
  • I like how the relationship with Natalie develops.
  • I like how Natalie’s behavior (concerning phone and mother) is addressed or at least acknowledged.

So many times siblings fight or have bad relationships in books and I appreciate that this is not the case here. It is also refreshing to see how they protect Finn and include him.

A few more things to consider:

There are some tense situations in this book but I feel they were handled well. However, I thought I would mention them in case you or your child doesn’t handle some of these situations well or they are triggers in your household.

  • Kidnapping
  • Mysterious similarities with other people (same names and birthdays)
  • Dead father
  • Abandonment
  • Bad Government (in alternate reality)
  • Sneaking around
  • Chase scene
  • Trial and Death Sentence Possiblility

Because of these tense situations, depending on your child, I would recommend reading it together, so that you can talk about some of these things.

No matter if you read along or not, definitely have your child tell you about the story (narrate), so that you can talk about some of these situations and discuss them. Are they portrayed in a realistic manner? How does your child feel about them?

I would have had no qualms with my children reading this book and I would have even encouraged it. I enjoyed it so much that Tiffany read it shortly after I did and also enjoyed it. Although she did not like the ending. I’m expecting it to be straightened out in the next book. ;)

Well, I hope this helps you. Let me know if you or your kids read it and what you thought of it.

Until next time,

Michele ºÜº

Summer Ideas for the Kids

I read this article about some ideas to keep your sanity this summer. I don’t know why I never thought to create an outside bin for my kids but it is a great one! You can fill it with water guns, sidewalk chalk, kites, balls, or whatever else your children enjoy playing with outside.

Another idea was to gather those messy crafts into a bin and let them make those messes outside. :D

She even has ideas for snacks and how to organize them.

Well, that’s enough from me, except to say, if you hurry, you can enter the giveaway too. :) Click here to head over and read the article.

Until next time, keep cool, ;)

Michele ºÜº

Beat the Summer Whining about being Bored

I like check lists. They help me feel like I’m actually accomplishing stuff. :D I also liked to make check lists for my kids when they were young, so that they knew what was expected of them and I didn’t have to repeat myself so many times. ;)

I loved this mom’s Summer Rules. You can print it off and put it in a page protector or laminate it like she did. (I love that Mardel’s has inexpensive laminator you can use and pay by the foot and it is about 2.5′-3′ wide.) Then the children can just use a dry erase or vis-a-vis marker on it each day. She even tells you how to edit it for your own use. Pretty cool! :)

I didn’t usually plan any activities for my kids for the summer. I was using that time to recharge myself. ;) But I found some pages with some great collection of ideas. This first one has 28 Dollar Store Activities. I think the hula hoop canopy is my favorite but the mess of colored bubbles looks cool too, as does the pool noodle lightsabers. I think a glow stick on the end of the pool noodle would bring it up a notch. ;) Oh and there is also a cute doll tree swing. Adorable!

And finally, this one has 20 Easy Summer Crafts. My favorite ones are the bubbles that bounce, confetti launcher, light up fireflies, and jellyfish in a bottle. For girls there is also the lip gloss. :)


I found these and sooo many more by searching on pinterest: summer kids. Just don’t over do it. It can get so overwhelming with too many ideas that it paralyzes you and you don’t do any of them. ;)

I hope these ideas help you and your kids enjoy the summer.

Michele ºÜº

Summer Math Skills

Reading isn’t the only thing that needs to be kept up through the summer, although you might think it is by the posts I make about it. But math skills need to be kept sharp as well. This does not need to be a drudgery. Not at all. It can be quite fun and help encourage family togetherness, if you choose to do this together. ;)

A simple deck of cards is all you need to have to work on those math skills. You could probably even use Uno cards. :) Cards can be purchased, sometimes, two decks for $1 at Dollar Tree and generally a dollar a deck there otherwise. Generally, you can get a deck or two for under $5.

For the youngest set, they can merely sort the standard deck either into colors or shapes or numbers and letters. Slightly older children can add sequencing to their activities with the cards.

Those that can add, there are a lot of options. Many of those options can be adjusted for those that can multiply.

Here are some links with some wonderful ideas to keep math skills sharp throughout the summer without having to resort to worksheets. ;)

I encourage you to work on those math skills this summer, the fun way.

Michele ºÜº

More Book Lists/Suggestions

The Read Aloud Revival released their June picture book recommendations recently. There are a lot of pond, frog, and duck stories, fun for summer.

I gave you the link to Read Aloud Revival’s suggested books lists for girls and boys a few weeks ago. So this week I thought I’d share another of my go-to lists for suggesting books to my kinds when they were young. Since I wasn’t well-read in my adolescence, I relied on lists like this to help me guide my children to good reads. I was always very cautious with what the kids read. I didn’t want them reading things that encouraged things I did not want them to emulate or at least, learn from.

It is important to have conversations with your children about what they are reading. Let them tell you about the books; it’s called narration and happens naturally when you are excited about what you are reading.  Narration is a beneficial skill for cognitive function, logic, and reasoning.

This is one list I used: 1000 Good Books it has book suggestions broken down into grade levels to give you an idea of the comprehension level for the books listed.

Another list I used was the literature and free reading suggestions for the different grades of Ambleside Online.

Then when writing up this post, I found these lists as well:

Well, that’s all for today. I hope some of these lists help you and your kids find some good books to read and talk about this summer.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Learning about Weather

It’s storm season here in Oklahoma. This week has had several storms and tornadoes springing up. Living in tornado alley, my kids have grown up with this threat and have learned what we do when one arises.

In our second year here there were monumental tornadoes that occurred. Since we both lived in a mobile home and only five minutes from my parents, we all went over to wait out the storm together. We quickly found that OK is on top of any tornadic weather. The kids all played together (or slept) as we watched this weather coverage. Of course, we adults prayed as we watched too.

I believe that it is important to teach children about storms and what we need to do to protect ourselves but balance it out, so as not to frighten them.

There is a book entitled Storm in the Night that we used when the boys were little with Five In A Row (FIAR) that talks about storms. Looking back, it is possible that this book and our study with it may have contributed to my children liking rain and storms. Although, this was not a favorite book, it is a good one.

Here are some links to blog posts others have shared about Storm in the Night:

Then if you are interested in some study with tornadoes, click on over to and click on Title Index. Scroll down and you will find MANY MANY learning ideas for many ages. :) (I hesitate to share the link here because they may be notified and I don’t want them to try and get rid of the archived page link above. ;) ) The study called Tornado looks interesting as does the Weather Lapbook and Printables from the Lapbooks tab.

For more tornado specific ideas, check these out:

I hope these ideas help you in your study of weather.

Until next time,

Michele ºÜº

Summer Goals

Summer is nearly upon us according to the calendar but according to the weather and school calendars, summer is here in many places. :) Summer brings schedule changes to many homes. I’ve never understood why churches have their vacation Bible school weeks so soon after school is out as that is the last thing I wanted to do as a kid when school let out.

I always enjoyed the lazy days of summer. Don’t get me wrong, we had a couple of chores we had to do first but then it was outside to play and ride my bike. I also enjoyed reading books during the summer that I didn’t seem to have time for during the school year.

As a homeschool mom, living in Oklahoma where the summers get HOT!!!, we kept cool indoors playing video games, if I’m honest. However, before they could do that, they always had to do something educational. I had them play with the GeoSafari, for which I provided educational cards.

I also required them all to participate in the library summer reading program. Of course the boys would put it off until the last week but I’d make them do it regardless. ;)

All this to say, I think it is important to have some plans for the summer. I urge you to begin thinking and praying about what you and your children should do this summer. (I’ll post some fun ideas next week.) Of course the first week off of regular educational studies is good to be a bit freer and flexible but inevitably there will come a time, in the not too distant future, that your child will be bored or you will feel that they are lazing around too much and in need of a bit more structure. That is when it is good to have a plan.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • a weekly activity, like hiking, swimming, or play date
  • required time outside
  • hobbies (maybe even finding a new one)
  • reading
  • summer movies (many theaters have a free one each week)
  • something touristy in your area

I hope this helps you and your kids have a productive summer. I’ll share some links in the next weeks to help with some these ideas.

Until next time,

Michele ºÜº