Saturday, June 8, 2019

Summer Reading Challenge 2019

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It's our third year of holding a Summer Reading Challenge... which isn't really as monumental as it sounds.  

The two-second explanation is "Kids read books.  Kids earn sugary cereal." 

My kiddos have 30 minutes of daily mandatory silent reading to do in the summer months, but they're rewarded for books they finish (as opposed to the Sept - May school months when it's 20 minutes and there are no rewards other than the stories themselves...)  The idea of the challenge is to keep up the silent reading momentum throughout the summer and to encourage additional reading outside of the required time.  So far it's been successful.  The kids have enjoyed it, have been motivated to read perhaps more than usual, and everyone always enjoys the reward - choosing a "personal" box of cereal that does not have to be shared with siblings.  It's usually a box of what's essentially a dessert but is thinly disguised as a cereal because it's pictured near milk.  Something like chocolate peanut butter puffs or fruity rice crispies.  The benefit to eating mostly plain oatmeal throughout the rest of the year is that it makes cheap boxes of cereal a highly coveted prize that is easy on the budget when the summer book count starts adding up ;)  It also requires very little extra effort on my part :)  So we have boxes of crazed sugar pops floating about the breakfast table for a few months.  It's a small price to pay for reading enthusiasm. 

I have been in on all the conversations that reprimand moms and teachers and librarians and decent people for rewarding reading.  I get it - - Reading should be its own reward.  Great literature IS the prize.  To incentivize reading is to cheapen the accomplishment.  I might have used these arguments myself at one time (it sounds like melancholic me, doesn't it?)  But it turns out I actually love the Summer Reading Challenge.  It's just plain fun!  And I appreciate having the opportunity to give that to my kids during the summer months... with the bonus of having it linked to... reading!  

Like other summers, I've chosen the books for the kids.  They can pick from among those titles or can suggest/request other titles.  This summer, pretty much each book = a box of cereal, though last summer I used a point system which allowed me to included shorter/easier books that were worth reading, but weren't worth a whole box of cereal :)  

I have not personally read all of the books listed here, but I try to be pretty discerning  (ahem... picky) with what I give the kids to read.  As always, my kids' reading levels will differ from your kiddos', and my criteria for "worthwhile books" will differ from yours, but I've put a lot of thought and research into our lists, so I feel like they're good ones :)  If you're in the market for good reads, I hope you find something here :)  If you've read the previous years' lists, you'll recognize some repeats, either because they weren't read, or because they've been passed down to the next reader!  It's really neat when one of the younger kids picks up a book, and one of the older ones sees it and gives it an enthusiastic thumbs up!  

Oh.  And we read a lot of historical fiction,  Like, a lot.  :)   

For Aaron, 13, going into 8th grade

Aaron has said he might consider re-reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and some of the Chronicles of Narnia books this summer.  Fine by me.  If he does these, I doubt he'll get to any of the others I've chosen, but we'll see :)  (The particular editions I just linked to there I like because they are larger editions.  I'm so sick of thick "pocket size" editions of books that are hard to hold and hard to read.  So these bigger sizes are perfect.  Except the Narnia books are in the wrong order.  Argue with me.  I dare you.)  

The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff - I honestly have no idea why we had this (a hand-me-down, no doubt!) but Aaron found it on our shelves and asked to read it because we've just finished an ancient history year and also because he enjoyed the other books he read by Sutcliff  (Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus are on my list because Aaron enjoyed them so much.)  He's already finished The Eagle, and we're tracking down the movie now.   

Detectives in Togas, Henry Winterfeld - because even though Aaron read The Mystery of the Roman Ransom by the same author four years ago, he couldn't help but listen in as I read it to Ruth and Dominic last month :)  And we had this one on our shelf too.  Sort of random.

Gettysburg, MacKinlay Kantor

Treegate's Raiders, Leonard Wibberley - basically I will let my kids read anything age appropriate from Bethlehem books without previewing it.  

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham 

Escape from Warsaw, Ian Serraillier 

The Borrowed House, Hilda von Stockum - I read this myself a few months ago; one of her books that I somehow missed as a child.  I thought it was excellent and highly recommend it as a work of historical fiction to work into a unit on World War II.  (5th grade and up, maybe?)  

Race for the Prairie, Aeileen Fisher 

Red Planet, Robert Heinlein - I don't know much about this book at all (except that the 1967 edition we have does not have the idiotic cover of the Amazon edition linked to....)  My mom recommended Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo to Aaron a couple years ago, which he enjoyed, and followed up with this one, and I trust my mom, so... 

For Dominic, 11, going into 7th grade:

I've discussed this before, but since Dominic is dyslexic, I put a lot of concentrated effort into choosing his book stack.  I love the special challenge I have of finding books that he is able to read that also hold his attention.  His comprehension obviously surpasses his reading level.  But his reading is always improving (ask me how persevering this kid is and I'll gush about him for hours!)  This summer, Dominic is *reading* some of this selections and is using a voice-text reader for some of his other selections.  I'm hoping that he'll become very familiar with using both his new Bookshare and Learning Ally accounts so that he's comfortable with them come fall when many of this seventh grade text books will be on there.  

So, on voice-text readers he has these titles lined up:

The Edge of Extinction: the Ark Plan, Laura Martin - I had this book, and it's sequel, Code Name Flood, out from the library a few months ago.  The week everyone was sick and immobile, Aaron lay on the couch and read both of these in less than two days.  So everyone else realized they must be good.  Ruth is reading it now, Dominic's got his sights on it for summer, and then it's mine.  We ended up buying our own copy, hehe ;) 

Icebreaker, Lian Tanner - I'm not entirely sure what this books is about, but Aaron read it and said there was nothing inappropriate in it, and that it was just an intense sci-fi-fantasy-thriller.  So if you're willing to take a 13 year-old's word for it, your own kid might enjoy it too.  But again, I haven't read it....

The Ides of April, Mary Ray - a murder mystery in ancient times.  This is another one Dom wants to read at Aaron's recommendation.  That year of ancient history and the accompanying literature really left it's mark...  

As for book books, here's what I chosen for Dominic:

Lost on a Mountain in Maine, Donn Fendler - a terrifying and amazing true life survival story of a 12 year old boy!  This is another favorite that made the rounds here --  Aaron read it, then passed it on to my dad, then Russ read it, then I read it, Dominic just finished it, and Ruth is sure she'll have her hands on it next.  Needless to say, we recommend it!

Snow Treasure, Marie McSwigan - who can resist a good WWII adventure involving kids.  Not us, apparently!

Cabin in the Snow, Deborah Hopkinson  (a bit below Dom's reading level, but I think he'll like the story)

The Shadow of His Wings, Max Temescu - highly recommend this graphic novel about the life of Fr. Gereon Goldman, a man who kept his priesthood secret in Nazi Germany, but was then drafted into the SS!  A truly remarkable story.  Half the book is the graphic novel, and the second half is photographs and a narrative of Goldman's life after the war.  

Mr. Lincoln's Drummer, G Clifton Wisler

The Whipping Boy, Sid Fleischman 

A Lion to Guard Us, Clyde Robert Bulla

Toliver's Secret, Esther Wood Brady

For Ruth, 9, going in to 4/5th grade (poor girl has one of those homeschool grade identity crisis issues...)
Ruth's stack is so fun to put together because she's quite the bookworm and she loves a variety.

Matilda, Roald Dahl - Oh!  Such fun!

Henry and the Clubhouse, Beverly Clearly - Ruth's a big time Henry, Beezus, Ramona fan but this is one she hasn't read yet, so onto the pile it goes :) 

The Year of Miss Agnes, Kirkpatrick Hill - I've actually started reading this one myself.  What a delightful book! And I'm even learning some stuff about life in Alaska, imagine that!  It's the best kind of historical fiction <3 

The Little Riders, Margaretha Shemin - again, because WWII, kids, adventure.

Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids, K Swegart, OSF - seemed like the thing to get after her first Holy Communion this spring <3 

Emily's Runaway Imagination,  Beverly Cleary

Indian Captive: the Story of Mary Jemison, Lois Lenski

More Stories from Grandma's Attic, Arleta Rishardson - Ruth read the first book, Stories from Grandma's Attic, last year, and enjoyed it enough that I picked up this one in a "free" book bin :) 

Frindle, Andrew Clements - another family favorite!

McBroom's Wonderful One Acre Farm, Sid Fleischman - a bit short to count for a whole box of cereal, but a funny read :)  

For Clare, 7, going into 2nd grade, and James, 5:

Clare's making her way through all the early-reader classics that have been favorites in our home and basically every other home in universe.  Can there be too much Arnold Lobel?  I don't think so.  Our well-worn, well-loved copy of Owl at Home finally fell to pieces when Clare was half way through (I bought it at a yard sale 10 years ago!)  The big kids are excited for her to get into their favorites: Mouse Soup and Mouse TalesAnd of course, Frog and Toad are on deck as well.  

Clare is also reading some of the later books in the Flyleaf Publishing Emergent Reader series, as well as some of the first books in their Decoable Literature Books to Remember series.  Of all of my homeschooling-related purchases, these are among those I'm so happy I made early on.  The have been worth every penny.  You can read my reviews here and here.  

James is also using the Emergent Readers series as well as the level 1 books from All About Reading.  In general, I don't start formally teaching my kids until they're closer to 6, but James showed an earlier interest and ability in math and reading than my other kids, so I'm following his lead.  Incidentally, he earned the first box of cereal this summer :)  

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Let me know if you have any questions about my book choices or about the challenge.  And please let me know what your kids are reading this summer!  I'm always looking for new ideas!  You know me, I love a good book list!

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Monday, March 4, 2019

Favorite Sweater Granny Stripe Blanket

March is National Crochet Month, believe it or not.  It's also National Celery Month.  I'm pretty sure you can just make up whatever celebration or awareness event you want and call it a National event.  I mean, do you think it's a coincidence that someone very dear to me is having his first colonoscopy soon and it just so happens to be National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month???  

I've been so enamored of knitting lately, that it had been a while since I'd taken on a large crochet project.  But I started and finished a large blanket recently (back in February, when it was National Bird Feeding Month and Great American Pies Month... not sure if that last one is about dessert or Don McLean...)  I shared in my Instagram stories that the inspiration for the blanket was from a girl's Old Navy sweater I bought about five years ago.  The sweater colors and color scheme are so cheerful, and I love stripes!!!, I just knew that I had to adapt the sweater into a blanket for our home.  Also, since Clare wears a size 7 and is still squeezing into this size 4/5 sweater, we may have to retire the favorite sweater soon (someone suggested a pillow cover!)  It will be nice to have the blanket in its place :) 

Quite a few people asked about the specifics for the project, and you know I'm always happy to chat about yarn and craftiness!  So here are the details.  Please let me know if you have any questions, and if you make your own, or a spin off, I'd love to see your finished product - tag me @ordinarylovely on Instagram :)  And link back to here if you write about it!

* For the basic pattern and granny stripe technique, I used crochet superstar Lucy's tutorial from her blog, Attic 24.  You can get it here.  Out of respect for her work, I will not discuss specific pattern construction here.  

* I used a 4mm crochet hook.  My absolute favorites are Clover Amour hooks <3   (I used a 5mm for the starting chain)

* I used all worsted weight yarns.  The light brown yarn is Big Twist Sincerely Yarn, from Joann, in Oatmeal Heather.  I believe I used 6 skeins.

* The colored yarns are all I Love This Yarn, from Hobby Lobby.  When I'm making something with basic acrylic yarn, I Love This Yarn is my go-to stuff because the color selection is practically unparalleled. (Ok, maybe it's rivaled by Stylecraft's or Paintbox's color selection, but I can't buy either of those brands locally, but I can GO to Hobby Lobby and choose exactly what I want from their large, LARGE selection.  Oh, and, Dear Paintbox, Stylecraft, and Hobby Lobby, I accept free yarn in exchange for honest reviews ;) ) Hobby Lobby's I Love This Yarn is also very soft and makes a comfortable acrylic blanket, not a scratchy one (you know I'm talking about you, Red Heart SuperSaver yarn...).  It also washes very well.  One thing about Hobby Lobby that I don't love -- and I hate that I even have to admit there is one thing -- they only accept one coupon at a time.  So, that really stinks when you need a lot of yarn at one time.  HOWEVER, this yarn is on sale right now, so run, don't walk, to your neighborhood HL (or hop on over to their website) and pick up your colors now.  You'll get a good discount on every skein.  (Sorry, I don't know how long the sale is on for.  But if you go, let me know and I'll give you my list of what I want ;) ) 

* Here are the specific I Love This Yarn colors I used to match the sweater as closely as possible (which was practically exactly!  Thanks, Hobby Lobby!)  I only needed one of each skein.

350 - Hot Rose
210 - Antique White
113 - Mango
111 - Hot Orchid
40 - Red 
357 - Keylime
364 - Glacier
110 - Turquoise 
80 - Royal 

* I started with the Oatmeal Heather and alternated it every row with a color.  I did three rows of color in each "stripe", except white, which I kept to two rows just because I didn't want it to stand out much.  So, I started with an Oatmeal Heather granny cluster row, then a row of Hot Rose, then Oatmeal, Hot Rose, Oatmeal, Hot Rose.  Then on to the next color section, so, Oatmeal row, then White, Oatmeal, White.  
So, knowing that every other row would be an oatmeal heather row, and all colors (except white) would repeat for three rows per "stripe" (is this confusing?????) here's the color order I used:


The border is one round of granny clusters, one round of half double crochets, and then a round of reverse single crochet to add a sturdy, textured edge.  

The final dimensions are approximately 60'" x 75".  

This blanket is so colorful and cheerful!  It just makes me smile!  (Plus, granny stripe is so mindless, it's great for working on while watching Netflix, or listening to a book on Audible as I did!  It worked up so quickly, I've already started another one!)  I hope you've found this info helpful and I hope you  get to make one!


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