Category Archives: School Daze

Recommended Read Alouds

In honor of a new school year about to begin, I thought I’d post my thoughts on a read aloud list.  Our youngest is ready to start kindergarten so I’m thinking about what books I want to read to him & trying to remember/compile an organized list to make sure I don’t miss any of the great ones.  The older kids & I have had so much fun reading together, it’s hard to choose which ones to start with, so a list by grade will make it easier.

Ideally, it wouldn’t it be great to have a list of books that each grade reads to prevent overlaps in school?  It happened to me.  You, too?  I had The Chronicles of Narnia read to me two years in a row!!  That’s all my fifth & sixth grade teachers had time to read to me by the time they got through the whole series, so that’s all I got.  And that was at a fairly small private school where the teachers EASILY could have asked each other what they read so there’s no reason for that to have happened.  But it did.  So I know it happens a lot.

Then there are the poor kids who never get read to!  That happens, too.  It is so vitally important to read out loud to children all the way through their grade school years.  Teachers often don’t start early enough on the chapter book reading, thinking kindergarteners or first graders can only handle picture books.  Or they don’t continue to do it in the upper grades thinking the kids can now read on their own or the teachers think it’s a waste of precious school time.  Not true.  It is SO important to continue reading to children, struggling as well as excelling readers.  Here’s a quick list of a few great reasons to read aloud:

  • It stretches & improves vocabulary.
  • It increases children’s attention spans.
  • It acts as a “promo” for reading.  You may just get them hooked!
  • It gets kids out of their comfort genre when you read a variety of books to them.
  • It helps them learn to make pictures in their heads vs. being so dependent on screens for visuals (MUCH needed skill in this generation!).

So here is the list I’ve compiled.  If a school (or family) went through it year by year, a child would get a great, well-rounded dose of books that would put them on the road to a life-long love of reading.  The numbers given behind the title is the general number of pages (depending on the copy you get) so you get the idea of how long it is.


  • Little House in the Big Woods (256)
  • Beezus and Ramona (176)
  • Ramona the Pest (240)
  • Winnie the Pooh (176)
  • The House at Pooh Corner (180)
  • The Story of Dr. Doolittle (176)
  • My Father’s Dragon (68)
  • B is for Betsy (144)
  • Back to School With Betsy (160)
  • The Tale of Despereaux (272)
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (228)
  • Pippi Longstocking (160)
  • Betsy and Tacy (144)
  • Cobble Street Cousins series (@65) – 6 books in the series
  • Nate the Great series (@80) – 26 books in the series (one for Christmas)
  • Flat Stanley series (@112) – 5 books in the series
  • The Indian in the Cupboard (240) (great for reading in November)

First Grade:

  • Charlotte’s Web (192)
  • Henry Huggins (192)
  • Homer Price (160)
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins (139)
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (128)
  • Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (176)
  • When We Were Very Young (112)
  • Now We Are Six (112)
  • Little House on the Prairie (352)
  • Ramona the Brave (192)
  • Ramona & Her Father (208) (good for December reading)
  • Betsy, Tacy, & Tib (160)
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s Magic (192)
  • The Return of the Indian (208) (read in November)
  • Marvin Redpost series (@80) 8 books in the series
  • Encyclopedia Brown series (@100)  29 in series so far

Second Grade:

  • Farmer Boy (384)
  • Ramona & Her Mother (224)
  • Betsy & Tacy Go Over the Hill (192)
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s Farm (128)
  • Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (128)
  • Henry & Beezus (224)
  • Henry & Ribsy (208)
  • All of a Kind Family (192)
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (128) (obviously read in December)
  • The Secret of the Indian (192)
  • A Grain of Rice (80)
  • Flat Stanley Worldwide Adventure series (@96) 9 books in the series so far
  • Boxcar Children series (@150) 154 books in series so far

Third Grade:

  • Because of Winn Dixie (182)
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek (352)
  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (208)
  • Betsy & Tacy Go Downtown (240)
  • Henry & the Paper Route (224)
  • Henry & the Clubhouse (224)
  • Ribsy (240)
  • The Hundred Dresses (96)
  • Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (192)
  • The Mystery of the Cupboard (256)
  • The Light at Fern Rock (64) (for reading in December)
  • The Sign of the Beaver (144)
  • Sarah, Plain & Tall (64)
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble (64)
  • The Bears on Hemlock Mountain (64)
  • The Cabin Faced West (128)
  • Nancy Drew series (@190) 61 books in original series
  • Hardy Boys series (@180) 58 books in original series
  • Bobbsey Twins series (@180) 72 books in series

Fourth Grade:

  • Sadoko & the Thousand Paper Cranes (80)
  • Number the Stars (136)
  • The Secret Garden (296)
  • A Little Princess (209)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (256)
  • Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH (240)
  • Five Little Peppers & How They Grew (224)
  • The Key to the Indian (288)
  • How to Eat Fried Worms (128)
  • Bridge to Terabithia (208)
  • Dear Mr. Henshaw (160)

Fifth Grade:

  • The Door in the Wall (128)
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond (272)
  • The Bronze Bow (254)
  • Fair Weather (160)
  • The Teacher’s Funeral (224))
  • Around the World in 80 Days (152)
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic (176)
  • The Breadwinner (170)
  • The Borrowers (192)
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (176)
  • The Westing Game (192)

What do you think?  Are there books you had read to you that were stand outs?  What grade were you when they were read to you?  Feel free to comment & add to the list!  Also, let me know what you think about my placing of each book in their grade.  Are there any you would change?  Comments welcomed.

Lessons From Captain Underpants

My seven year old & I had one of those awesome teachable moments today. First of all, this child is all boy. And he hasn’t found his reading genre yet. Let me get those two pieces of information out right now. He’s a very good reader, but my older two had already found several series they loved by the time they were this age. Anders, my seven year old, likes action more than sitting & reading in general. When he does sit & read, he reads what I tell him to & that’s about it. Enter stage right, Dav Pilkey.

If you haven’t seen a Dav Pilkey book, I’d have to say count yourself lucky. To say he’s geared to the six to eight year old boy is an understatement. Check out his site to see what I mean. Anyway, our oldest boy happenstanced upon the Pilkey shelf one day at our library, much to my chagrin, & Daddy said he could check out a few of his books. Six plus years later, he still likes them. The legalist in me wants to ban them entirely, but I try not to say anything about it – it’s a boy thing between the boys & their dad who by the way is a very godly man so for me, it’s a trust issue God’s teaching ME here. Anders does every once in a while get them out & sits to read/laugh at them. He pulled out a stack of them just this morning.

I sat down beside him & read a few chapters & laughed with him. They are funny if you put yourself in a seven year old boy’s world. I have to admit, there is something great about a cute little seven year old boys giggle. Even if it’s at a certain Captain Underpants. Okay, so I thoroughly enjoyed & laughed heartily at the chapter where a robot drinks prune juice & the people he ate are “released”. The drawings got me. And I got carried away with the moment, I’ll admit it; I was intoxicated by Anders’ giggle. Anyway, something possessed me to show Anders the website to let him color some pages, activate a few flip-o-ramas on line, hear a song or two. Nate showed me that site years ago, but Anders has never seen it. We enjoyed a good laugh over the burp song (the real title is s bit more crude). He had Super Diaper Baby dance a few jigs. I assured him that if I ever caught wind of him singing the burp song, etc. at church, in front of Grandma, etc. he would never get another Pilkey book out again NOR see that site again. We talked briefly about discretion & a few more minutes went by.

I wanted to make sure he understood the difference between “bad” & funny but only in the right context & place. I mean, I dont’ want our children thinking we’re hiding stuff here. I don’t want them thinking there are two sets of rules or that we are faking it out & about. You have to admit, discretion is a difficult concept for a little guy. We talked about how there’s nothing bad about tooting or burping – God made our bodies to do that. And it IS funny! I’m sure Jesus laughed a time or two about those things as a little boy growing up. We talked about the songs & how the one song that did bother me was the one about Mr. Krupp, the principal. It didn’t talk highly of him; not horribly disrespectful, but enough to make me talk about it. I asked Anders if Jesus would be happy or sad about anything we listened to or read today. We talked about how Jesus IS here with us. Does He think this is funny or if not, what would He be sad about? We talked about the “funny feeling” you get in your heart when something’s just not right. I explained how right now, Dad & Mom are Anders’ protection & when we feel something’s not right for you, you’re not allowed to watch, read, hear it. Once something goes in the brain, it’s pretty much permenant. As he gets older, the goal is for him slowly but surely, a little at a time, take that over until when he’s in college, he needs to be able to hear God & know that “funny feeling” when something’s not right, turn it off, close the book, etc. all on his own without Dad & Mom’s protection. That takes practice. He mentioned Runescape, a game Nate plays on line that makes Anders feel funny. I explained that Runescape is one of those areas we are letting Nate practice on right now. What is wrong for Anders may or may not be wrong for Nate. It’s between God & Nate right now. THAT’s why it’s so important to be in God’s Word every day & talk to Jesus about everything. The Bible doesn’t say “You can listen to the burp song, but the principal song is bad.” We need to know what the Bible says about honoring our authority & to everything there is a season, etc. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to let us know when something’s not right using God’s Word. We need to listen & respond every time we feel that tug. THAT’s how the Holy Spirit guides us. Our job is to be “in tune” to Him.

It’s very easy to just ban something or tell your child something’s bad. And many things are in the world today. But there are some opportunities for us as parents to loosen the reigns a bit & let them find out what the Holy Spirit’s conviction feels like. Knowing most of Pilkey stuff is just really gross, I let Anders hear a few songs & dance a dance or two. It didn’t take long before the funny wasn’t quite so funny & you could tell he didn’t feel real good about it. We talked about how Seeds songs are different from say, these Pilkey songs, because God’s Word is living & unique & straight from God. Those words never make you feel weird or gross & it’s never wrong to sing them in any circumstance. Lots to chew on. He thought about it & took it all in. So, when it’s all said & done, I thank Pilkey for our discussion today. Thanks for giving us a springboard to talk about discretion, discernment, and conviction. Great lessons there for a seven year old or a forty year old!

A side-note conversation I wanted to remember was Anders saying he wanted to share Jesus with others, but everyone he’s ever around already knows Jesus. SO, we also talked about how that is why it’s so important for us to be on our best behavior when we’re out & about running errands, etc. We represent Jesus to those around us who may not know Jesus or us, but they see us pray before we eat, etc. And if we are then nasty to little brother, disobedient to Mom, or just disrespectful in general to others in the store, they see that! Likewise, we witness to them when we show patience with brother, love to Mom by instant obedience, have a joyful heart, are gentle, self-controlled, etc. Those fruit of the Holy Spirit are what we want those around us to see in us & know that Jesus makes a difference in our lives. THAT’s how we share Jesus with those around us.

Yep, good conversations today. : ]

Old Old School

We only watch PBS around here. They’ve changed programing quite a bit over the last ten years. Now they have several channels & one plays kids shows from early in the morning to supper hour, but when Nate was in preschool, they played shows for schools to use during the school hours – nine to three. Sometimes, we’d tune in, which is how my then three year old got excited about watching Julius Sumner Miller’s Physics demos. He loved them! They are old, but still great. Some things never go out of style. 🙂 There are now many of Julius’ shows on youtube. Check them out. Here’s a classic…

My Funny Middle Schooler

I love my oldest boy’s sense of humor; always have. But I am especially enjoying him as he gets older & all the more sophisticated in his presentation. I just had to write down a few for memory’s sake…

“Here’s my imitation of music class, ‘Okay, Class. Today, we’re watching Elf.’ (Nate turns around to make this sound imitating a teacher hiding a pop can) – kerchunk – s-s-s-s-s-s.” (That’s the sound of a pop can opening, in case you don’t recognize my spelling there.) “Oh-h-h-h-h! He makes me so-o-o-o thirsty!” Does Nate know how to pull his momma’s chain or what!? I SO want to hop up on my soapbox here on various fronts with that little skit (& he knows it, I think that’s why he tells me, just to see if I can listen without going off about how he at LEAST could show a musical for crying out loud)!! But I bite my tongue & he skips right along to, “My music teacher makes weird shapes with his hands. He says he can’t help it.” Me: “Is this the same band teacher with the pop addiction? The one who can’t make it through a class without opening & chugging a can? Might that have something to do with the weird shapes his hand involuntarily makes, you think?”

“Here’s Mrs. C during our country reports. POOF! zzzt-zzzt-zzzt-zzzt-zzzt. Zzzt-zzzt-zzzt-zzzt-zzzt… ‘Wait a minute class, I need to change cameras.’ She forgot her camera, so used a couple throw-aways with really bright flashes. It was annoying.” It hadn’t really dawned on me until then that he doesn’t know anything but digital cameras! He has no memory of the outrageously bright lights Dad’s movie camera used to have, or the sounds of film forwarding in the case let alone the dreaded manual forwarding wheel (didn’t we think those throw-aways were pretty slick a mere 15 years ago?), or of having to wait to see what your pictures look like! Wow, cameras sure have come a long way. I do get a huge kick out of the descriptions of teachers from a student’s perspective again. : ] We teachers are pretty quirky folk, aren’t we?

“Dun-dun-dun!!” – That dramatic little song (baritone, or is it a trombone?, menacingly descending by two & a half steps between notes) you hear in shows where it first hits a character’s brain that something really bad is going to happen. You know the one – where they zoom in on the face real tight & show the look of shock in the eyes. Well, Nate has started doing that little tune at the most hilarious moments: during the climax of a sappy Little House episode while little brother & sister are sitting nearby on the brink of tears, when told it’s time to do dishes, that type of thing. Keeps me chuckling every time! Like I said, his timing is getting pretty good.

I’ll add here it did me a world of good to go in to watch his presentation the other day. It was good for me to see other 6th graders. I may be too quick to worry about Nate sometimes as far as running off to school with unkempt hair & a beloved tshirt worn three days in a row. Keith’s been telling me not to worry so much (remember, he works with this crew & sees them every day) & I now see he (Nate I mean, not Keith) fits right in there with sixth grade, at least where my boy is. Sweet kids, but worried about their hair, clothing, etc. they are not. I had the bar set a little too high in my mind. Sixth grade. What an interesting time in life!

Bad hair day

Buddhism vs. Christianity

O-o-o-o, this is so good. Callie was studying China at the end of the year & of course, we talked about the Buddha. When we came to these lessons with Nate a few years back, my first thought was that I really didn’t want to be talking to my little guy about false gods. But Keith helped me to see how it could be used to talk more about how our True God, Jehovah, is so very different from other gods, & pray for those in China & other countries who don’t know our God but instead follow after the Buddha even now. That is what we’ve been doing.

This article is a great one for others trying to do the same thing. Jon Bloom, the author from Desiring God Ministries, does a great job of boiling down the essence of Buddhism & how it’s different than following Jesus. Here’s a little teaser to get you over to read the whole article…

What struck (Gautama, aka the Buddha) was the impermanence of the world—nothing lasted. In spite of this, people were attached to impermanent things. They desired to hold on to life, health, possessions, and each other. But life, health, possessions and people pass away. This, he reasoned, was the cause of human suffering. Therefore, he concluded that if he could kill desire his suffering would cease and he would be happy.

But the Buddha did desire something: lasting happiness. Ironically, it was this great desire that fueled his philosophy of killing desire.

There is a vacuous absence of God in the Buddha’s pursuit of desire-less joy…

How different are Jesus’ answers from the Buddha’s. When a rich young man, not so different from the rich young Gautama, sought out Jesus’ direction for eternal happiness, Jesus replied,

You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. (Mark 10:21).

Note that Jesus did instruct the man to become detached from his possessions, but he did not mean a Buddhist detachment. The Buddha taught that nothing lasts, so be attached to nothing. Jesus taught that One Thing lasts, so at all cost, be attached to that!

Calligraphy & The Weekend

Callie’s now into writing in Chinese. She loved her calligraphy lessons…

We had a big weekend: sibling class at the hospital, Grandma’s 90th birthday bash, Callie’s baptism, Grandma in from MN, cousins gallore. For a few pix, see Flickr to the left.

Preschool Care Packages

A bloggy friend of mine was talking about “care package” ideas for her mother to send the kids, especially the littles, so they would have educational things to do when the olders were working. We have so enjoyed these packages through the years. It’s been a great way for Grandma (several states away) to be involved, and for our littles to have quality educational materials to play with through the years. Here’s a list of those things that have stood the test of time & been most enjoyed…

counting bears or bugs (the ones where you can make patterns with, sort, etc.), – you’d be surprised at how much you can teach with these!

nice musical instruments (tambourine, rhythm sticks, shaker eggs or homemade ones with various seed or beans or corn, jingle bell anything, slide whistles, kazoo, harmonica, etc.),

simple costumes, or accessories to costumes,

gardening equipment (gloves, little tools, watering can, etc.),

tepee or castle to read in (This company used to have a cheap tepee too, keep an eye out for its return),

the Identiflyer,

nice puzzles,

Faerie Tale Theatre ( a great collection of stories, but I got this collection a few years ago for 35$. I can’t find it that cheap now! Keep an eye out on ebay I guess.),

flannel board & or chalk board, felt stuff to put on felt board (homemade is easy, cheap & fun – we’ve made shapes, people with clothes, etc. seasonal fun like a tree with little multicolored leaves to put on, pumpkins, snowman parts, flowers, etc. to teach seasons – felt comes 10-25 cents a sheet – just takes time to make),

lacing beads or cards,

cheap puppets & stage,

magnetic letters (lower case please – harder to find & more expensive maybe, but best for learning – they are going to use lower case a whole lot more than capitals in life!)

And of course books. I like to buy the ones that are more interactive because they’re fun & the library generally doesn’t get those kinds of books (The Jolly Postman type, lift the flap, pop-up, or scratch & sniff, touch & feel, etc.) or noisy books like Buzz, Buzz, Busy Bees where the batteries are dead in the library versions!

I’ll probably add to this list later as my brain gets going. Also, a theme for the week sure helps a LOT for me to get excited about preschool learning as well as Grandma having a direction to go in buying & sending packages. We’ve had a lot of fun with this through the years. Another day I’ll try to post the themes for the year. After doing that for eight years, we pretty much came up with a set schedule for themes that worked well & ended up being predictable every year. For those interested, stay tuned for more info.


Yesterday was a fun day. Nate volunteered to teach history to Callie for the first time. 🙂 That was a hoot to listen in on!

She is starting a unit on China for the next couple weeks. We had to pull out the chopsticks & fortune cookies, & of course had stir fry & rice for dinner, so used the celadon chopstick holders from Korea & Callie dressed in her finest silk.

Next week, we get to pull out the calligraphy set. She is so psyched! I’ll post her attempts next week.

Science Day

Callie, Nate, & I were working on science – plants for C & DNA/Heredity for N. Anders was playing outside. Next thing you know…

A – “Cat emergency!! I found a mouse & tried to get it. It can run faster than me!”

Upon closer inspection, this was no mouse, but rather a baby mole.

Soon after, while we were out looking for leaves to study various leaf patterns/veins, etc. to make leaf rubbings with (not an easy task this time of year), we came across this laying in the middle of the yard with three & a half eggs in it…

It’s been there a while (cold) so I’m sure no bird will hatch, but oh the hopes & dreams of three little would be bird parents!

Callie took her egg up to her room immediately & made a cozy nest out of her pencil box on the windowsill. When I went to go take pix, she said, “Mama! Be careful! Don’t shine a light in it’s eyes too much. That’s my baby bird! Oh, I hope it’s a girl bird. She’ll love this pink box!” and on & on she went.

Nate, on the other hand, informed me “One of the eggs exploded already. It had runny white stuff in it. Hey, let’s look at part of the shell under the microscope & test it’s DNA!” grabbing the scope & working away on it.

We’ve identified them as red winged black bird eggs. Makes sense. We have plenty of those around here.

Nate & Anders promptly set up a “mole emporium” for the baby mole while Callie dreams of all the fun she’s going to have with her baby bird. I’ve warned them of what will probably happen to all of the above. But they’re so caught up in the excitement of spring!

Before I could finish this post, the mole gave up the ghost & the kids buried it. See the little marker Nate made for it in the lower left corner? And Anders has a nursery rhyme CD blaring up in the room for the baby bird’s enjoyment. Callie has found a worm & put it in a container to keep beside the egg to feed when the bird hatches.


Callie lost two teeth yesterday – the ones on either side of the two front teeth she recently lost. Yikes! Four teeth out all in a row. Luckily the two front ones are starting to pop in, but it sure looks… remarkable.

To see what else she’s been up to lately, see Flickr to the left. In Science, she just finished up studying the body systems (nervous, digestive, respiratory, etc.) & is starting the plant unit so we started our germination baggies today – one in the fridge, one in the drawer, and one in the window sill – to see if cold or dark make a difference. Amazingly, she doesn’t remember us doing this last year. She loved it then, but I guess that was such a long time ago to her. She will get to be amazed all over again (as I am every spring) at the wonder of God’s beautiful creation.