Tag Archives: homeschooling

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.

Blast Off!!

Two conferences down, four to go! And we are literally having a blast – fun times!! We are all feeling like we are now in full swing & Luke & I have learned a ton. This last time, Mom suddenly fell ill & had to stay home which really threw us all for a loop for a few hours, but now that it’s behind us, I’m thinking Mom’s created a monster. I LOVE presenting! We’re thinking next year we should submit all three of us to see if we could all get slots to speak. Luke speaks about technology for a living so it wouldn’t be hard for him to work up a couple talks on technology & reading/education at home. I could talk on the themes that I’ll be working up & getting on line this next year. We’ll see what next year brings, but the head honcho of the “big four” conventions said they’re adding Dallas to the schedule next year, making it the “big five”. It’ll be exciting to see how all that works out!

Let’s see…highlights of Greenville –
– checking out downtown. It’s pretty! I really didn’t know much about Greenville before visiting, but it is a very beautiful city. They also had everything from tulips & hyacinths up to cherry trees & phlox! Spring had sprung there so we get to enjoy an extra long spring this year. Back home, our crocuses are just now popping up. I just can’t get enough of the spring flowers.
– time with my little brother, Luke. It really is nice to get to spend time one-on-one as adults. He’s a lot more of a salesman than I thought he was, which is very helpful since I really don’t have a sales bone in my body.
– success with my first attempt at listening to & helping a little girl who struggles with her reading skills. She was 7 & not doing a few things. Usually Mom’s the one who does the diagnosing, & she’s been telling me for a year that I know a lot more than I think I do, etc. But to fly solo & realize I knew EXACTLY what to do in about three areas to help her Mom get her over the hump in her reading was very exciting! It really does pop out at you when you know what you’re looking at. After hearing her read one page, I was able to give her mom three valuable tools to help her get to the next step. What a rewarding feeling!
– disappointment: Mom not being there, but also not getting to meet up with my blogging buddies. Both were unable to make it. Hopefully next year!

Well, the company blog is next on the agenda around here, so as sparse as my posts are these days, I don’t think my personal blogging will be getting any better around here. But you can head over to burtonreading.com to hopefully find some excellent blog posts on reading, homeschooling, etc. very soon.

Deborah Drapper

Speaking of a passion for the lost, eyes on Heaven, etc. I met this young lady yesterday via the internet. She inspires me.

Thanks, Alex & Brett, for passing this on.

After you watch her six part story, I’d like to discuss some things with you. (Double click on the video to find the other five parts.)…

For one thing, don’t you find it interesting that the whole premise of the filmers was that this poor little Christian girl was growing up so deprived of “normal”: partying, drinking, sex, filling her mind with pop culture, etc.? What snippets I see of the other side, as I’m sure goes through Deborah’s mind as she encounters “the outside world”, it all just looks so pathetically sad & lonely! When you’ve grown up with all your emotional, spiritual, & physical needs met by a loving family & wonderful God, you see the emptiness of those other poor girls half dressed & drunk & just feel sad for them. They obviously don’t know real love, joy, peace, etc. & how could they? Those things come from the Holy Spirit. If you don’t have Him in your live, you’re left to wallow in filth trying to imitate those things & it ends up trashing your life. (The Liar comes to kill & steal & destroy.) Some commenters (on you tube) sounded like they would love to see Deborah in a few years when she heads out to college & gets drunk, shacks up, etc. First of all, nice attitude! They are wishing a beautiful girl to trash her life just because everyone they know does. Nice. But secondly, I would be willing to bet she won’t do those things. She’s a sinner, & we all make mistakes. But she’s pretty confident in who she is & what she believes; if you’ll notice, more so than any of the other people around her! Teens do not have to go through a rebellious stage! They don’t! My prayer for our children is that they too, would have this confident assurance of their Father’s love, not only accepting themselves, but seeing themselves as a wonderfully loved special creation of a loving God Who has a purpose for their lives. I pray they get to know themselves, their gifts, talents, weaknesses, early so that they can head that direction God has for their lives as soon as possible & find that joy & fulfillment in doing what God has created them to do without wasted years of stupid living to look back & be embarrassed about. I would be grieved to see them wallow in sin for years, wasting their youthful passion & zeal. It would grieve me about as much as anything would, honestly.

Two ironic things: Didn’t you think it funny they started out asking Deborah how she copes with things being “so noisy” at home, yet they thought she’d be better off experiencing the party world where the noise is so intense you can’t think? I don’t think the film makers caught the funny there, but I sure did. Also, isn’t it funny how that one lady coming out of the puppet show thought it was so terrible the family was so “in your face” about creation? Now, I would venture to bet that ironically, if the show had been in your face about saving the environment, she wouldn’t have been offended. She just didn’t want to be told she was created & there’s a God out there Who loves her but not her sin. She doesn’t want her or her child to be exposed to being told any rules (aka ten commandments) even if that keeps her out of danger!

I read through some of the comments on youtube & many of them alluded to Deborah being a “sad child”. I think they saw her sad because the film showed her so often in those sad places. Her heart breaks when she sees people throwing away their lives & floundering. I understand. She challenges me & inspires me afresh there. I used to have more of a heart like that, but over the years I’ve become calloused. It is easy for me to get hard-hearted toward people in my own culture who have been in such a time and place as America & still haven’t availed themselves of all there is out there at their fingertips! Flip through the TV channels, people! Or the radio dial, or the local library for some great books, or walk in any number of the churches around you, or surf the net for crying out loud. Between Focus on the Family, films like Fireproof & the Passion, etc. you’d think everyone would’ve stumbled across the Gospel by now, wouldn’t you? But that’s not the right attitude to have. I need more compassion for the lost. So many hurting people, that’s how Jesus saw them. And that’s how I feel when I have gotten to know their stories. I was watching Jail last night. First time I’ve watched TV in a long, long time & I now remember why. The whole show was about police locking down these drugged out drunks. Pathetic. But each of those poor souls is so obviously trapped in sin. They desperately need the Lord! They are ruining their lives & it is just really, really sad. It shouldn’t have to be that obvious, though, for me to be broken hearted – have Christ’s compassion for them.


God bless the Drapper family! It was refreshing to see a real Christian family & real teen girl who loves her Lord on TV. She also started a blog here. If you want to contact her for encouragement or discussion, I’m sure she would appreciate the encouraging words from brothers & sisters around the world.

Falling Too Fast

So much to say, so little time in which to do it! Lots going on here so I’m just going to “bullet point” this time to chronicle things for family posterity…
– Finished the Odyssey books & are half way through The Light and the Glory trio. We also started back around to the Betsy and Tacy books. It’s been four years & they are barely remembered.
– On a much bigger note, the two older children are now going to school with Daddy! I have to say it is so different having a girl vs. a boy in school (in our family anyway). I have learned more about that school’s goings on in the last few weeks than I had in the previous seven years of Keith working there & two years of Nate’s attendance combined. I am happy to say she tells me everything. It’s so much fun seeing school through her second grade eyes.:) Anders, Jack & I are finding there’s plenty to do while they are away & the kids are blessed with wonderful teachers. All is going very well & I plan to go in on Wednesday afternoons to be a room mom for Callie’s class within the next few weeks. I’m very much looking forward to that & so is she.
– Speaking of notes, we purchased a saxophone for Nate to join band so look for sax duets (Yes, I dusted off the old sax & even played a few licks. Still got it.) by Christmas IF…
– Nate’s upper jaw heals quickly! He cracked his top jaw bone last night playing backyard football with the church kids. PTL it was a bone that will heal in a few weeks & wasn’t a cracked tooth!!!! I’m not sure how one can crack the jawbone & not a tooth, but he was well covered with prayer last night, so that’s the only explanation I can give you. God is good!!
– Which leaves the next big thing around here…football. And get this, the boys are on the same team this year. Really! It’s flag football & both are learning (first year), so it really is a good thing. Nate is the oldest & will scare off the other team while Anders is the youngest & I’ll bet the most scrappy so will zip around the offense. It’s such a great bonding thing for them – they’re both excited about it. And for the cherry on top, Callie is cheering for their team. Her coach is an old friend & we couldn’t ask for a sweeter one. Plus, she feels like we do that it’s for fun & they don’t really need practice (keep it simple!) so for this fall, our dream has come true – we have all three involved in the same activity with one practice a week! They only have five games, too, so it’s not hogging all Saturdays from now to Thanksgiving. Have I mentioned how much I appreciate Upward?! THIS is why!
– Club is up and running with a team of super teachers. This month we are focusing on love so are memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 together. With Anders being a schoolboy this year, it is nice to have everybody working on the same passage & for a month at a time. This makes it easier to implement & put into our everyday living.
– Anders & Jack went in for shots last week & Anders was the bravest little toaster I ever saw! He just hopped right up there & took three shots like a little man. What a boy!
– Jack reached Nate’s birth weight at exactly seven weeks – 10 pounds, 13 ounces. He continues to be the family entertainment in the evenings.
– Keith is taking his class on Wednesday nights this semester & while we miss him in Club, it is nice to streamline our family schedule & only have a couple evenings filled a week. That’s been our goal & some said it couldn’t be done – so far, so good.

That about wraps it up for now. I leave you with the photo of the week. For more pix, see Flickr to the left.

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.

You Know What Assuming Does, Don’t You?

That’s a little phrase I heard so many times from an old supervisor named Dixie back in my warehouse days working through college. If you don’t know the answer, it’s “makes an as* out of you & me”.

The sports discussion going on at my SIL’s blog has left a lot of various things bouncing around my noggin. Judgmental attitudes, assumptions, misunderstood “prophets”. I commented minimally on her site – too much to write out really. But when my cuz got into the action, I thought it good to write out some more. Now they’ve pushed me into writing about it here. This will take a few posts.

The first thing that pops into my mind is how many people assume. If you home school, people assume you must be antisocial, judgmental, pious, your kids must be well educated, or not properly educated, backwards, etc. I know many home school families & believe me, they are very different. Some do a great job at educating their children while some are horrible at it! Some are religious & others are not. Some are extremely judgmental & others aren’t. Being a “homeschooling” parent with a public school husband & parents, as well as not officially home schooling, but rather choosing the charter school method really can make for interesting conversations. Home school families tend to badmouth or get scared of public schools while public school people tend to think homeschooling is weird, while many that know about the e-school option feel that it screws the public schools & home schoolers are suspicious of anything with the gov. involved. It really is crazy. We have chosen each year what we feel is the right thing for each child. None of the above is “the right choice” for everybody. I tend to think people with that mindset are misguided no matter which side of the fence they are coming from.

Another area people assume lately in my circle is family sizes. If you have two or three children, people assume you must not be in the “quiver full’ mindset. If you have more than four or five, people not of that mindset assume you must be crazy. We do happen to feel we should let God decide our family size & He has so far chosen three (with a fourth coming) in fourteen years of married bliss. 🙂 This, to my way of thinking, only highlights how much of a precious gift each child really is. You are not necessarily going to have twenty children if you leave it up to God. God gives each life in His time. I firmly believe that. But when people don’t know us well, they assume we must be done at three or were shocked/disappointed at having this 4th five years after our last one. NO, we are thrilled beyond words, thankful, excited, surprised yes, because we had left it up to God & it was beginning to look like He was telling us we were done. We pray He blesses us with more if He so wills. But we have heard many interesting remarks with this pregnancy due to assumptions.

Another one is this sports issue. If you don’t put your kids into ECA (extra curricular activities), there are assumptions made on both sides. Those anti-ECA assume you must feel the way they do & you are totally against any sports. Those on the other side assume you must be anti-ECA & quietly feel sorry for your kids, if not feel you are borderline abusive/negligent as a parent. We are in neither camp which makes it really awkward all around. When we wait to put our kids into ECA until what we feel is a reasonable age, the anti-ECA people think we’ve “caved to the culture”, while the other side thinks we are still on the negligent side for not staying for every practice/game. We feel the glares when we don’t stay! Both sides assume we are in this whole sports thing with the goal of having some kind of a wonder kid on the field. Can’t a parent simply use ECA as a way of enriching education? We don’t want our children growing up never having touched a bat or totally ignorant of how to play a handfull of basic games. We have no delusions or our children being suddenly grand at any particular sport, but why not give them a chance to get to know the game & perhaps enjoy one or two of them? (Although Keith does point out that Michael Jordan never played basketball until 7th grade & then was not good until high school. If you’re going to be good, it can wait. If you’re not good, that can wait too & it’s fun just knowing how to play the game.). To us, these are childhood experiences we want for our kids & cannot give them as a homeschooling family. We want our kids to have musical experiences, too. NO, I do not have these visions of them suddenly turning into Yo-Yo-Ma at age ten, but I do want them to know the joy of playing an instrument correctly, singing in a choir that sounds decent, etc. They may end up really taking to one of these things & they may not. Either way, we feel it is an important part of a rounded education to give kids a taste of these things. We feel this can be done without taking over the family schedule or church commitments if done right & that’s our goal here. So far, so good. In generations past, these things were built into the schools for the most part. Gym class taught the kids the basics of these games, music class was held regularly & we sang together pretty well. Keith had the same experience. Before schools, these experiences were at home & church. Churches today for the most part don’t give these opportunities like they did (I wish they would!) & in our home anyway, baseball can’t be played with our oldest especially. There’s not enough people for a proper band or sport experience for him. We want ours to enjoy these things, too. Just because we teach them at home doesn’t mean we are against any activities outside of church & family, although this is often assumed.

Well, enough for now. This is all totally off the cuff & unedited. I’ve spent too much time already on this. It’s hard to put so many thoughts down in one sitting. Next installment of this topic – either judgmental attitudes or misunderstood prophets. We’ll see how I feel when I get the time to write!