Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Book Rec- Anna Hisbiscus Series

I am an admitted book worm, constantly on the lookout for new ones, both for the kids and myself. There's no better love you can inspire in children than the desire to read, but again, I am thousand-percent biased. A book can take you anywhere and let you be anyone you want to be- how does it get any better than that??

This is one in a series of posts spotlighting books we picked up and absolutely loved! Most of these can be appreciated by just about any age, and I say this because I love them just as much as the kids do. I hope you do, too!

Title & Author: 
Have Fun Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke (Part of a series)

What It's About:
A little girl from "Africa. Amazing Africa." goes to Canada to visit her Granny 
for the Holidays and this book catalogs her adventures as she learns to enjoy herself despite her sadness from missing her other family she left behind in Africa, and her apprehension about the new things she sees there- or rather, what she thinks she'll see.

My Thoughts:
Hands-down I love it! Oh yeah, and the kids did too. There were some references to Christmas in this one, which I used in part to broaden my girls' horizons (just because we don't celebrate it, doesn't mean they can't learn about what it is), but some things just had to be reworded for their consumption.

Still, it was so very refreshing to finally find a good, relateable book about someone from Africa, one that anyone can enjoy. Believe me when I say that it's such a rarity to find positive, enjoyable books that give African-American children something they can look up to and really relate to on a deeper level. We found a book series that lets us see some inspiring, non-stereotypical, not hanging-out-as-the-sidekick and definitely not placed in-the-background-as-an-afterthought characters that are actually lovable. Imagine that. 

We've happened upon a book/series about Africans that anyone of any race or background can and would want to enjoy. Not that they are not others out there, they just all haven't found me yet. But, I'm happy and relieved to say the Anna Hisbiscus series has us off to a great start.

Illustrator Lauren Tobia can be found here

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Bit of Honesty

The following post was inspired by another blog post called The Good,The Bad and The Ugly. If you have the time, please drop by and read it.

UPDATE: I happened upon another great post I think you should check out The Uncomplicated Homeschooler

Recently, when we were out and about, someone commented proudly on how much I do with my kids and how great it all is, according to my blog. I should have been affirmed by this, but was instead bothered- I guess I just felt so exposed. I had no reason or desire to dress it up for them so I thanked them and smiled but it got me thinkin'. So, when I read that post it was in line with what I was mulling over.

I think people have this perfect idea of what it is that those of us who homeschool or blog about homeschooling do all day but I assure you, it's anything but perfect. 

I remember being given that impression by other homeschoolers when I first came into the fold. It took some prying and lots of time to get the honest admissions that I grudgingly managed to eek out of them. They have no idea to this day how these tiny admissions gave me such a sense of relief and made me feel so human, not less-than. 

Especially for the weeks or days we don't get everything done because the printer ran out of ink and payday is still a few days away. Or because some construction project is going on in the new house and I have to closely supervise the work or give input. Or when we've worked so hard a few days in a row that we finally "skip" school to give ourselves a break, get some sunshine and  fresh air, and go hang out with our friends.

Homeschooling is a great option for many of us who choose to do it, and how does it get any better than a tailor-made education for our kids? But, we have to keep it real- our schools are not perfect because nothing on this earth is. If you think about it, that's what makes homeschooling such a beautiful thing, though. We are unknowingly teaching our kids to be flexible and resilient- not rigid, to realize when it's best just to go with the flow, and how to prioritize but understand that sometimes those priorities have to get shifted around so that life stays balanced. We are teaching them not live up to others' expectations of what they should be and to know their limits, or "know when to fold 'em". There's such a great strength in that.

I also think we all feel the need to defend it because we're constantly under attack. In doing so, we've hurt ourselves and others who haven't yet accepted or learned that in everything, especially homeschooling, life happens. We owe it to ourselves and new homeschoolers to admit that YES, we have to face days that lesson plans will have to be re-worked sometimes or totally scrapped in favor of some good, quality on-the-fly learning. That YES, there are times we don't get anything done or don't sit and do this for hours on end every day because we know there's more to life and learning than books. 

We are by definition non-traditional. So give yourself room to breathe and work toward loving what you're doing, not burning yourself out because of it. If there's one thing life has taught me, it's that when you're certain of something and you know it's right, it needs no defense. There's no reason to feel inadequate or insecure when the nay-sayers (who greatly outnumber us) start nay-saying. 

My challenge to you and to myself: work on getting to a point where you can stand behind your homeschool with pride- this includes the good days AND the bad and remember that even on their best days, nobody can do it like you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday Book Rec- Dr. Soup, Can We Please Have Some More?!?!

I am an admitted book worm, constantly on the lookout for new ones, both for the kids and myself. There's no better love you can inspire in children than the desire to read, but again, I am thousand-percent biased. A book can take you anywhere and let you be anyone you want to be- how does it get any better than that?

This is one in a series of posts spotlighting books we picked up and absolutely loved! Most of these can be appreciated by just about any age, and I say this because I love them just as much as the kids do. I hope you do, too!

Title & Author: 
Another Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

What It's About:
A scientist and his family go on the run back through time after his wife, their mother, falls victim to the villain whose main purpose is to get his hands on their coveted time machine. The prequel is called A Whole Nother Story, by the way. They hope to undo the curse on their family by returning the White Gold Chalice in their possession to it's rightful owner somewhere around 1668 AD, then somehow travel forward through time in time to save their mother before something happens to her- AGAIN. Needless to say, their life an adventure!

My Thoughts:

The most recent chapter book we finished is called 'Another Whole Nother Story' by Dr. Cuthbert Soup and it is a gem. When we finished it, it left all of us wanting MORE, so much that immediately after, with the  kids tucked in bed, I scoured the internet to find any info at all on when the next book would be released, because there has to be a next book...right? Right??? 

I was disappointed to find nothing on it but I'll standby to hear more at a later date. Although we all got into it right away, I almost put this book down because it seemed too advanced for my girls. But it was really good, so after awhile, I just got used to stopping every few paragraphs to teach them something new or explain what the author meant when he mentioned certain things.

Also, after awhile, they needed a little less explanation as they began to figure things out. I did have to edit and change a few words as I was reading so that they sounded nicer to six- & three-year-old ears, and I had to edit out some of the lovey-dovey stuff because we're not quite there yet. We are reading through this book a second time because the girls asked me to start all over again once we were done. Not that I mind...

Dr. Soup's website can be found at and look out for him on Twitter @ @DrCuthbertSoup.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nickelodeon Worldwide Day of Play

We attended the Nickelodeon Worldwide Day of Play in DC on the very muddy Ellipse by the White House the weekend before last. We knew better than to drive and opted to take Metro instead, which I think the girls generally enjoy more than whatever it is we're going to see or do!

Day of Play Entrance under a cloudy sky
While the event had so much to be desired in the way of planning, communicating those plans to attendees and organization/set up, I can see where Nick was going with it. But, being as allergic to mud as I am, the idea of tempting fate by actually PLAYING in or near the stuff in my prudently-chosen white linen pants (wink and a thumbs up!) was wholly unappealing.

We DID get to make about a couple thousand new friends and meet the Fresh Beat Band (score!), which was the highlight of our day and my entire mission if I'm being honest. Is there a support group for Mom-Groupies of kids' shows?

The Fresh Beat Band

If becoming one with the mud wasn't a huge issue for you, ahem, there were lots of things to encourage kids and parents to get out and play. They had soccer, basketball, tennis, free play with inflatable balls, hula-hooping, a rock-climbing wall, a mini obstacle course and lots more.

Outdoor play is so important to a healthy mind and body, and the earlier you teach your kids the benefits of regular exercise, the better off they'll be for it. It's a great idea to work physical activity into your lesson plans, and I've found it's best inserted mid-morning after we've done school, but before lunch time. Homeschooling isn't only done with books and papers. If you've never thought about it before, consider making this a normal part of your routine- biking, strolling, or skating around your neighborhood or favorite park definitely counts.

On the days you can't go out, try this: The next time you're doing jumping jacks, squats, push-ups or crunches, invite your kids to join you if they don't go ahead and jump in on their own (chances are they will) and throw in some learnin' while you're at it.

Keep track of your repetitions by doing some or all of these:

1) Count aloud together or alternating (fun!) by twos, fives, tens, etc
2) Spell out words or names relevant to what they are learning
3) Work memorizing math facts into the counting
4) Be creative!

It's a fact that the more senses you can employ while learning (smell, sight, hearing, taste, touch) the easier it'll be for the info to 'stick'. Teaching your child good habits now will go a long way and even better, the time you'll spend together exercising is most definitely time well spent.