First Chapter Books to Read Aloud

(These reviews contain affiliate links)

When my oldest was about 3, I couldn’t wait to start reading chapter books with her. I was a librarian by training, a homeschooler at heart, and a reader since… always. I had dreams of us reading a chapter a night from our book and was eager to get started. But, it felt very hard to find books that were suitable for someone so young. So many “early chapter books” dealt with school or friendship troubles or other things that were far outside of her experiences. Through some digging, research, and talking with other librarians, we found some great books that have gone on to be family favorites. And, as an extra bonus, having them in our home library means that they’re ready for her when she’s reading chapter books on her own!

Here’s what we found; I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

cover art for Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same

 

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin

A series of four very, very beginning chapter books (my library keeps them with the early readers). Ling and Ting are twins, but they are not exactly the same. In bite-sized stories, they have sweet daily-life adventures: playing, cooking, and observing the seasons. This series was perfect for my realistic fiction-loving, literal-minded eldest.

 

 

 

 

cover art of Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Mercy Watson (series) by Kate DiCamillo

This funny six-book series about a pet pig and her owners is so much fun to read aloud! Mr. and Mrs. Watson are convinced that Mercy is a porcine wonder. In one book, she inadvertently alerts the fire department to an emergency at the Watsons’ and saves the day. However, she does it by smushing her nose against a neighbor’s window looking for sugar cookies. The startled neighbor calls the fire department, which arrives in time to save the Watsons. This series features a lot of funny secondary characters that have inspired their own spin-off series for slightly older readers, Tales from Deckawoo Drive. And, I can’t talk about this series without mentioning the fantastic art by Chris VanDusen. The characters’ exaggerated features and expressions dial up the humor and make it as much fun to “read” the pictures as the words.

 

 

Cover art for Dinosaurs Before Dark

Magic Tree House (series) by Mary Pope Osborne

This series is hardly a secret, but I was surprised how much my three- and four-year-olds have loved it! The audiobooks are our family go-to for car trips. Jack and Annie discover a tree house in the woods near their home that can take them through time and space. Early in the series, they visit the dinosaurs, ninjas, and the moon. I think the series really shines in the later installments, which are a bit longer, when they visit specific historic events and figures – the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, Louis Armstrong, and many (many) others.

 

 

 

cover art of Two Times the Fun

 

Two Times the Fun

Twins Jimmy and Janet have four old-fashioned adventures in this lesser-known Beverly Cleary book. These simple stories are heart-warming and wholesome, inspired by Cleary’s own twins.

 

 

 

 

Cover art for My Father's Dragon

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

This is one that showed up on nearly every list of “chapter books for preschoolers” I found, yet I never read it until my second daughter was ready for longer books. A boy sets off on an adventure to a mysterious, remote island. He must outsmart a series of animals before he reaches the mistreated baby dragon he is trying to rescue. It is fun adventure for kids who like a tiny bit of excitement. Originally published in 1948, it has an old-fashioned feel, from a time when there might have been undiscovered islands with unknown treasures.

 

 

 

cover art of Maybelle in the Soup

Maybelle in the Soup

Maybelle is a cockroach who lives under the refrigerator in a posh apartment. She and her friend Henry, a flea, get in over their heads as they seek a more exciting life (and diet) than crumbs dropped on the floor. Funny illustrations bring Maybelle with her big, floppy hairbow to life. In other installments, she spends a night in a hotel – with room service! – and visits an equally appetizing school cafeteria.

 

 

 

 

cover art of Mrs. Noodlekugel

 

Mrs. Noodlekugel

This quirky, slightly surreal series is laugh-out-loud funny and has added a few phrases to our family’s inside-joke vocabulary. Mrs. Noodlekugel is a funny old lady who lives with four blind cats in a Narnia-ish cottage hidden inside a big city. Nick and Maxine are put in her care and spend their time learning the ways of her unique visitors, including Drooly the Bear and a talking cat named Oldface. It’s reminiscent of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and I only wish there were more books in the series.

 

 

cover art of Diva and Flea

The Story of Diva and Flea

The longest of this batch, but arguably my family’s favorite. Diva is a little white dog who lives in an apartment building in Paris. Flea is a cat who doesn’t live anywhere in particular, but knows the city inside and out. They meet and each help push the other out of their comfort zone. Gorgeous illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi and first-rate writing by Mo Willems, this makes a delightful readaloud.

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: I was not asked to review these books. I purchased some for my home library and borrowed some from my public library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

October 6, 2017

Cover image of The Unhurried Homeschooler

 

The Unhurried Homeschooler by Durenda Wilson

(This post contains affiliate links.)

If you’re just getting started homeschooling or need a little boost, consider The Unhurried Homeschooler by Durenda Wilson. In just 78 pages, this veteran mom distills why we’re really homeschooling and how to do it with less stress.

As a mom of eight, Durenda has figured out what works for her. Her family takes a slow-and-steady approach that is completely unfussy… and it has worked for each of their children. She emphasizes that homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. If you find that many of the methods out there are overwhelming, she’s here to help… before you burn out or damage your relationship with your kids.

In short, lovely chapters, she teaches how to trust your instincts, how to keep going through difficult times, and how to relax into a pace that will serve your family well. She celebrates the freedom that homeschooling gives: something different for every family, according to their family culture and interests.

The Wilsons homeschool in part for religious reasons and the book reflects that, but it is not overwhelming. For Christian readers, she encourages you to trust God to take what you can bring and turn it into an abundance. For non-Christian readers, there is more than enough encouragement to keep going, through good times and hard times.

The Kindle version of The Unhurried Homeschooler is only $2.99 and only a few dollars more for the paperback. Not a bad price for some peace of mind.

 

 

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: Purchased for my own library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

 

 

 

 

 

Marble Paper – Craft Time Activity

We did a new craft this week: making marble paper. My middle one was looking over my shoulder while I scrolled through a craft group I am yesterday. Someone posted a video on making marble scarves. If you’ve never seen the process, you must check out this video on the art. So cool! Her eyes lit up and begged to run to the store for the supplies. (This post contains affiliate links)

 

Because I like crafting so much as well, I had to oblige. I didn’t have any silk, but I did have some sketch paper, acrylic paint, and a pan! We ran out to the store quickly and grabbed some liquid starch and alum. We were pretty impressed with the results. The first papers we did turned out better than subsequent ones. The starch got muddled pretty quickly, I think we put way too much paint in the pan. I also think we should have diluted the paint a lot more so that it didn’t sink to the bottom. As we did more paper, the globs of paint under the surface mixed with the paint on top.

Another thing we learned is that if you’ve dragged the design vertically, pick up the paper in the same direction so that the excess runs down with your design. Also, when you rinse off the starch, some of the muddled paint will disappear leaving your design behind. One more thing, don’t keep the water focused on one part of your paper. The water will wash the paint off, so gentle water while continuously moving the paper is best.

Here is what you need to make marble paper:

Liquid Starch (in the laundry section)

Alum (found with the spices)

Acrylic paints 

Pan or drawer about 9X13

Paper with texture…don’t use copy paper

Popsicle sticks, wide toothed comb, nail, hair pic, etc.

  1. The starch and alum need to be mixed together in your pan with a ration of 2 cups starch to 1 tsp alum. You may need to double it to make it at least 1″ deep in your pan.
  2. Dilute your acrylic paints in cups. You don’t want them as thin as water, but straight out of the bottle will cause the colors to sink.
  3. Drip your paints onto the starch pan however you like. Big drips, small drips. marble paper DFW Homeschool Resource
  4. Take one of your tools like the popscilcle stick and drag it through the paint making it swirl together. Don’t mix too much because you don’t want the colors to blend together. marble paper DFW Homeschool Resource
  5. Carefully lay your paper on the surface of the starch.
  6. Carefully pick up the paper from two corners.
  7. Rinse in gentle water from the tap.
  8. Lay down to dry. It’ll take about 2 hours for it to dry.
  9. Admire your work! marble paper DFW Homeschool Resource

This craft is even great for little ones. They can help drip the paint and swirl it. You’ll need to help by laying the paper down and picking it up.

(This post contains affiliate links. I was not asked to review these products or promote them in anyway. These are the items that we used to make our marble paper. This is at no cost to you and helps us keep the lights on around here!)

State Fair Books – State Fair of Texas Books

State Fair Books

It’s time again for the great State Fair of Texas! A friend of mine recently posted a book by a friend of hers on the State Fair. It got me thinking about trying to finds books on the fair. Turns out there’s quite a few about it! Here’s a list of the ones I found: (This post contains affiliate links)

  1. Maddy Lou and Mack

This book was just published at the beginning of the month! It’s the start of a cute series about Maddy Lou and Mack traveling around the great state of Texas!

2. Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair

This tasty tale tells what happens to Jake when the cotton candy machine malfunctions.

3. The Spaniel Family Goes to the State Fair

This is the store of Joe, a cocker spaniel, who really wants to meet Big Tex!

4.Billy and Goat at the State Fair

Billy and his friend goat have different ways of exploring their state fair.

5. Bluebonnet at the State Fair of Texas

Just another one of Bluebonnet’s adventures around Texas!

6. Good night Dallas/Fort Worth

Not specifically about the fair, but this book features many landmarks in the DFW Metroplex.

 

All three books are cute ways of talking about our great state and the part of the state we all live in.

Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum

Chisholm Trail Museum DFW Homeschool ResourceAbout 45 min south of the heart of Dallas is the Chisholm Trail Museum. We have driven by here before but never had the time to stop. Recently, we decided it was time to check out! The museum is located in Cleburne off of Hwy 67. The cost is free, however also on site is the Big Bear Native American Museum which is very inexpensive to visit.

Our Visit:

We enjoyed our time here. The setting is very peaceful. We went on a weekend so there were some volunteers sitting around that we could talk to. It is possible to have a free tour as well  on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with advanced notice. We didn’t know about the tours, but I imagine they’d be helpful in the future.

Chisholm Trail Museum DFW Homeschool Resource

The site of the museum used to be  in a city called Wardville which was the Johnson County seat. However, it was found to be not within 5 miles of the county center, so it was abandoned. Some years later, the city line changes made it near the center, but by then it was too late.

Chisholm Trail Museum DFW Homeschool ResourceThere is a replicated school house. This is probably one of the biggest one room school houses I have ever visited. It was easy to sit at a desk and imagine attending school on the shores of Lake Cleburne. The museum does offer homeschoolers (and class field trips) a chance to experience life in a one room school house in 1868. It costs only $10 per student for grades 4 and up. Contact the museum via the information on their website for more details.

 

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

(This review contains affiliate links.)

In this gorgeous picture book, Francesca Sanna brings to life the fear, heartbreak, and hope of a refugee’s journey. The unnamed protagonist describes the arrival of war and his/her family’s escape. Through breathtaking, magical illustrations, Sanna ratchets the tension. A guard at the border looms larger than life, unfamiliar landscapes fill the page, and the mother’s hair creates a cocoon to protect her family. The family represents so many families facing this impossible voyage.

Oversize guards in The Journey

The refugee crisis is a difficult subject for everyone, especially young children. This sensitive, beautiful book offers an opportunity to share it in an appropriate way. You don’t have to take my word for it – the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and the New York Public library all named The Journey one of their best books of the year.

 

Recommended for ages 4-9.

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: My public library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

 

My Review of Melissa and Doug Pattern Blocks

Melissa and Doug Pattern BlocksI’m always looking for way my children can learn and play at the same time. I also really like wooden toys over plastic toys. These Melissa and Doug Pattern Blocks incorporate both elements! This post does contain an affiliate link, but I was not asked to write this review. I decided to share about this product because we enjoy this learning toy a lot!

We’ve been fans of Melissa and Doug toys for a few years now. We have various sets – play food, stamps, play clay tools, etc and now their pattern blocks! This set was a gift to my middle child, but my youngest has actually enjoyed it the most! She isn’t into making her own pictures yet, but enjoys matching the shapes to the included pattern boards.

This toyMelissa and Doug Pattern Blocks allows us to talk about the different shapes beyond square, triangle, and circle. It has more “advanced” shapes like trapezoid and hexagon in the set. The neat thing is that the colors of the shapes have matched up with some of the math curriculum shapes I’ve seen.

If you want something slightly more advanced, there are Pinterest posts with print outs that just have the outlines of the shapes and not the colors! Click here to my Pinterest board where I have pinned some of these printables. I print them on cardstock so that they’re a bit more sturdy for reuse. If you want to get really fancy or have a few children, laminate them! We have this personal laminator and use it ALL THE TIME.

(Affiliate links give us a little bit of money for advertising the product on our website. It helps keeps the website up and running! It’s also at no cost to you the consumer.

Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters

Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters

Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters by Rebecca Johnson

(This review contains affiliate links.)

 

Red next to black, friend to Jack,

Red next to yellow will kill a fellow.

A few weeks ago, my six year old and I were talking about coral snakes, which led to a discussion of mimicry, which led us to the library. As you do. We borrowed Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters, and it has dominated our bedtime reading ever since.

After a quick explanation about different kinds of animal fakery, it introduces nine trickster animals and their secrets. There is a spider that creates a giant puppet version of itself, a moth that chirps to confuse bats’ echolocation, a bird that sneaks her eggs into another species’ nests, and so on.

For each animal, there is a little story about how it uses trickery to get its way, then a two-page explanation of the science behind the trick. These science sections each introduce the scientists who figured out how these animals succeed. A lot of the experiments are fascinating — how do you change the way an animal smells? How do you record the sounds ants make deep in their tunnels? It is a nice way to get a glimpse of the many kinds of scientists and ways to study animals.

Recommended for non-fiction lovers from 5-10.

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: My public library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

Museum Day Live Saturday, September 23

Museum Day Live Dallas Fort Worth TexasDid you know that Museum Day Live is coming up? Mark your calendars now to gain free entry into 16 museums in the DFW area alone! To get a ticket, visit the mapped list link at the bottom of this post. Then, visit the museum you want to go to. There will be a link to get a free ticket there.

You MUST have a ticket for your free entry. The ticket is good for one free entry, plus one free guest pass! It is not good on special exhibits, IMAX, parking or any other special event). You can only download one ticket per email address and you cannot change museums once you’ve secured your ticket.

Click HERE for a mapped list of participating museums.