Category Archives: Thoughtful Thursday

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

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

Book Suggestions for Boys and Girls (Link)

The Read Aloud Revival has put together a list of book suggestions for boys and a list for girls. It covers ages from four through teen.

Here is the list for the boys book suggestions. I have to say that my boys enjoyed many of the books on this list and I wholeheartedly agree. I see many books on the list that my boys enjoyed. Of course, Tiffany and I enjoyed some of them as well. :)

Here is the newly created list of book suggestions for girls. And once again, I see many old friends but I also see that I have a whole new realm of books to get lost in. :) I can see that my summer reading just might get pretty full, pretty quickly.

Here in Oklahoma the school systems let out before the middle of May and the libraries begin their summer reading programs shortly thereafter. So I thought I’d share these links with you to give you and your children some reading ideas for the summer. There are even pdfs you can print for both lists.

I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading lately. You can see what I have been reading on most Fridays of late. ;)

Until next time,

Michele ºÜº

Inexpensive Sensory Bin

I talked with Lauren (my daughter-in-love) about the $10 sensory bin you can put together from Dollar Tree (that I saw on Busy Toddler). She said that since they were getting ready to go on vacation, they didn’t have the extra money to spend on it right now.

So, being the totally awesome Grandma that I am (haha), I decided to get the things as a gift to them. Oh, and I did spend a little bit more. So let me show you what I got.

Sensory Bin ~ Lifeofjoy.meI couldn’t fit the cookie sheet and everything else in the bin, so I taped it on top to help hold everything together. ;) The bin itself is a cat liter tray. :)

I scored on the shredded paper, even though it isn’t the crinkled ones, because it is was Easter time and I got like twice as much for the same price. ;) Plus it has 3 different colors. :)

Opened up sensory bin ~ Lifeofjoy.meSo, now you can see I have the two pack of ice cube trays for sorting things. Love good deals. I put the pinto beans and rice each in a gallon size zipper bag for storage ease but in this larger bag so that Lauren can add another bag at some point for even more scooping fun.

Sensory bin 3 ~ Lifeofjoy.meOnce I remove the paper, rice, and beans, you can now see what else is in the bin. Tiffany reminded me that a muffin/cupcake tin is recommended for sorting, so that is one of the extras I picked up. Then there are the dice, which I put in a snack baggie to help Lauren keep track of them.

The bag of rocks is one of the cool suggestions from Susie of Busy Toddler. I wish there were about double that amount but it’s enough to start. Liam loves little cars and has a few of those and a set of the farm animals and dinosaurs too. Thus I didn’t get those. Instead I saw these cute construction trucks that I thought would be fun for him to play with in the rice. :)

toy tump truck and scoop ~ Lifeofjoy.meAnother extra purchase was the yellow dump truck-ish vehicle. It has a nice size section that can be filled and dumped out. :)

tongs, truck, and stuff ~ Lifeofjoy.meI got the recommended 4-pack tongs too. Then the other two extra items I got was the 3-piece funnel set, which is why the pan won’t sit on top of the bin evenly but I can see many play opportunities for these funnels. And the other is the set of measuring cups and spoons combo. This was another cool find because I got both sets for just $1. They can be used for teaching fractions later but for scooping different amounts in the beginning. They come off the ring for easy use but then can be put back on that ring to keep things tidy when finished. (I looked around a bit before settling on the measuring cups/spoons combo because they also sold them separately. I decided having both sets was more valuable than having them in pretty colors. ;) )

The really cool thing is that once the initial bin and beginning items are purchased, you can pick up an extra thing or two whenever to add or change up very inexpensively. :)

I can’t wait until he can have this and play with it. I’ll share some of the pictures Lauren is bound to send me of him playing with this fun sensory bin.

Once the sensory bin items are purchased here are some links on Susie’s site to see what to do next.

There are tons more ideas on her site and around the internet in general. But one thing is for certain, start out with your sensory bin on a big sheet, blanket, table cloth, or shower curtain (which is available from Dollar Tree too ;) ) to help control the mess when first starting out with sensory bins.

For my grandson, I’d recommend the large rocks for the first base to use. Maybe use his cars with it and the trucks. Of course there’s the tongs and the ice cube tray or muffin tin too. So much fun ahead!

If you make a dollar store bin, let me know in the comments below. :)

Michele ºÜº

Wonderful Link for Activities for Littles

Toddler playing with mega blocks ~ Lifeofjoy.meOh my! The link I’m sharing with you today has soooo many activity ideas for you that I’m certain you can find some ideas to do with your little one, no matter how small. :)

The Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide has several sections of links for activities for littles from babies to toddlers to pre-school to even school age children. This link will take you to the Toddlers Activities page but to find the others all you have to do is hover over Kids Activities on the menu bar and you’ll see the other options. On the toddler activities page you will see links to 150+ activities. Of course, there are some sensory bin ideas there too. :)

Well, my last piece of advice before you head over to check out the wealth of ideas is to encourage you to pick an idea or two that you can do this week and DO IT. Don’t become one that spends all her time researching and planning but actually follow through and DO. Be present for you little one and provide some wonderful learning opportunities for him/her.

Okay . . . go. ;) Toddler Activities

Michele ºÜº