Newbery Medal Winner Books – Printable Checklist

Newbery Medal Winner Books - a Printable Checklist at

Over on The Library Adventure, two of our writers have put together their list of favorite Newbery Medal Winner books. As I was editing them, I made notes to check out certain books. Then I realized that my kids are coming into the right age/stage/ability to read these. So I decided to put together a checklist of all the Newbery Medal Winner books to print off for each of my kids.

A little background before I continue…

About the Newbery Medal

The Newbery Medal is awarded by the American Library Association each year to the book deemed “most distinguished” among children’s books. It is named after 18th century bookseller, John Newbery. The purpose of the medal is to encourage original creative works for children.

It was the first children’s book award in the world. The American Library Association also typically names Newbery Medal Honor Books, which are considered to be noteworthy also. Previously called “runner-ups,” the name was changed in 1971.

The Newbery Medal has been awarded annually since 1922.

My Favorite Newbery Medal Winners

As I put the list together, I was surprised by how many I remembered reading. I don’t know why, seeing as I had some great English teachers through the years, but I digress. I decided to give give you my top 5 favorites, in case you want an idea of where to begin.

  • Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink – I read this aloud to my kids. We enjoyed it almost as much as The Little House on the Prairie series.
  • The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois – I think I was in 7th grade when I read this for language arts. I remember it being one of my favorite reads that year.
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E.L. Konigsburg – Hands-down, my favorite book on the list. I devoured this one in 6th grade. Living in a museum (or library) was a part of my dreams regularly at the time.
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – This book touched my young heart. I re-read it several times before leaving 5th grade.
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry – Probably the first dystopian novel I read. I am still fond of that genre to this day. I am also reeling from the fact that this wasn’t a stand-alone book, there are three other books that I now need to read.

My runners-up would include Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan.

The Books on Our Immediate To Read List

You know I’m a fan of to read lists. Here are the three on my list to read to my kids as read alouds in the near future:

I’m also going to see if I can get my hands on some of the older books and see about adding those in.

About the Printable

This printable is nice and simple. I have organized it into two columns per page, for a total of three pages. The books are listed from the earliest (1922) to the most recent (2014). There is a check box next to each title so you can check it off as you read it.

Download your copy today!

Our 2014-2015 Homeschool Curriculum

Our 2014-2015 Homeschool Curriculum Choices - 6th, 5th, 3rd grades and a toddler

This school year we have 6th, 5th, and 3rd graders and a 2 1/2 year old. We have a bit more structure to our school year this year. Before I dive into our curriculum choices, I think it would be beneficial to give you a little insight into the way we homeschool. Sort of a short, crash course in our educational beliefs.

When the kids are younger, we believe in the letting them be kids. We do not use curriculum for every subject. I use a curriculum to teach them to read, we use workbooks for math, and they practice handwriting with workbooks, but that is easily done with free printable worksheets now. Those are the planned subjects up to 3rd grade. We cover history, science, art, and everything else in a more delight directed manner.

What is delight directed? It’s a fancy shmancy way of saying we follow the kids’ interests. We check out lots of books from the library, watch documentaries, and generally explore topics as they come our way. They explore, I answer questions, and introduce them to ways to find answers as I have to search out how to answer their questions.

In 4th and 5th grade, I introduce them to using a planner, and we added some specific group study subjects (history and science). They are responsible for their Bible, math, and handwriting (these are assigned curriculums).

This year our group study subjects are worldview and history. They are individually studying science and I have added some critical thinking skills curriculum. They are also doing a more formal language arts program. Since we are not doing science together, it means they are doing it on their own this year.

Another thing I should note is that we are not overly concerned with our kids performing “on level.” I have seen them be far “behind” in things and after a few months, they will suddenly click and fly through concepts. Our main focus is to create good learning habits and foster a love of learning. To us, that is more important than them learning XYZ by Nth grade.

Basically, through 3rd grade, their formal workload is pretty light as we explore things of interest. We add some structure to 4th grade, upping the ante at 6th grade, with the goal of independent learning for high school and beyond. That’s the plan anyways.

So here are our 2014-2015 homeschool curriculum choices!

Our Group Work Curriculum

I use the Well Planned Day Family Homeschool Planner to keep our homeschool organized. I reviewed it previously.

6th Grade Curriculum Choices

Our sixth grader is using the Well Planned Day student planner this year. I will be sharing more about it in a full review later.

5th Grade Curriculum Choices

Our fifth grader is using the Ultimate Daily Planner for Students this year. I wrote a detailed review that you can check out, but the reason I chose this one for him is the larger lines for writing down assignments. He is not ready for college-ruled lines just yet.

3rd Grade Curriculum Choices

Our third grader is currently mad at me for not getting her her own planner, too.

Toddler Educational Plans

This guy’s work isn’t easy, all the books from the library he wants, lots of building with blocks, and exploring outside with his siblings. It’s tough work, this playing business.

I do have a list of items that I would love to be able to fit in to our year, but these are the ones we are using throughout the year as of now. I have some items to review for you so sign up for email updates so you don’t miss those!

Other Curriculum Options

I LOVE seeing what everyone else is doing in their homeschool. Call me nosy, I’ll answer. ;) The other Indiana Association of Home Educator bloggers have all decided to share our curriculum choices with you. You can find them linked below.

Back 2 School - 2014 Curriculum Choices Blog Hop from IAHE bloggers
Be sure to visit the other IAHE Bloggers:


Are you homeschooling in Indiana?  We’d love to connect with you! Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest

Should I Budget for a Homeschool Convention?

Should I Budget for a Homeschool Convention? - one perspective from

Homeschool families around the country are gearing up for the new school year. Some have already started (like our family). Others are taking advantage of the freedom of homeschooling and not starting until after Labor Day. Still others school year round with smaller breaks throughout the year versus a long summer break.

You may be excited to use those new books on your shelf or overwhelmed at the costs you are looking at. Today I would like to encourage you to consider one more piece to your homeschool budget. Homeschool conventions.

Convention season is still months away so it may seem my timing is odd. I assure you, it’s not. Right now you are hopefully excited at the prospects of a brand new year. That’s great, it really is. Unfortunately, excitement tends to wear off after a while. This is where your homeschool convention comes in to play. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at why you should budget for a homeschool convention.

Why Should I Budget for a Homeschool Convention?

1. State homeschool conventions fund your state homeschool associations. Your state homeschool associations are your voice in the political world. Your state homeschool association monitors the legislation moving through your state government for anything that may impact homeschoolers. This is a HUGE job.

The wonderful lady who did this for our state organization (Indiana) personally went through 2,000 bills in 1 legislative session. And she wasn’t paid a dime because convention attendance has drastically dropped in the last few years and the organization can no longer afford paid staff.

Your family’s convention registration helps cover costs to keep homeschooling a safe, viable option in your state. Your presence at the convention gives your legislators a visual for the community the state organization represents. In Indiana, our legislators are invited to attend the convention so they can see this first hand. State organization conventions are important.

2. Encouragement, you need it. Homeschool convention speakers are wonderful people. I am happy to know a few. They share their experience and offer bother encouraging words and practical help. Sessions can range from specific subject help, homeschooling stages help (high school!), encouragement for parenting, and tips for homemaking or working from home while homeschooling.

3. The exhibition hall. If you have never been to a homeschool convention, you have really have no idea of how awesome this is. It can be very overwhelming (which could be another reason to choose a smaller convention…), but it is such a blessing to be able to physically look through a curriculum you are considering spending your hard-earned money on.

Check the vendor list of any convention you are considering to see if the companies you are looking for will be there, if they aren’t you can always contact the convention organizers and let them know that you would love to see them there. Most convention organizers are very open to hearing feedback from attendees and potential attendees.

Here’s the big secret that I didn’t know until I attended my first convention, there is so much more than just official curriculum in the exhibit hall! When we attended IAHE‘s convention this spring, our favorite vendor booths were the one full of science stuff (boxed experiments, state specific photo guidebooks, and much, much more), the traveling used book stores with loads of books at great prices, and the one that had so many microscopes in a variety of strengths and prices.

Ok, that and the Apologia booth. I’m a big fan of Apologia’s, but they are traditional curriculum so I left them out of that little list.

You can also find booths selling blank books, sketch books, and  paper. I’ve even seen booths selling kitchen items like wheat grinders, you know, because you aren’t an official homeschooler until you’ve ground your own wheat and made bread. ;) (For the record, I’ve never done that either. Shocking, I know.)

Seriously, Homeschool Conventions Rock

In all seriousness, consider attending a homeschool convention this coming spring. If you only have enough budget for one, choose your state convention if at all possible. If you can afford it, do more.

After your state convention, I recommend Teach Them Diligently. It is a unique conference. The mission of Teach Them Diligently is to equip families to disciple their children for Christ. This means that a lot of their sessions and vendors fall outside of homeschool specifics.

Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling is a focus. It’s just that they focus on growing Christ-centered families first and homeschooling is a natural branch of that. Many of the sessions I saw on the docket last spring would have been relevant to parents with kids in other educational settings, too.

In summary, I strongly encourage you to support your state organization and their convention to help protect your family’s rights in regards to education. If you can afford to, I then encourage you to attend a Teach Them Diligently conference for more encouragement.

How to Write Acrostic Poetry With Kids

How to Write Acrostic Poetry with Kids with free printables, includuing a printable card from

April is National Poetry Month and we’ve celebrated by reading poetry books so far. I decided to take it a step further and try writing some poetry. We are starting with acrostic poems and I’ll tell you more about that in a minute, but first I want to talk about this project.

I’ve partnered with Carla of Preschool Powol Packets as she has coordinated a group of bloggers to bring you a month-long celebration of poetry. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series!

What is Acrostic Poetry?

An acrostic poem uses the letters of a topical word to start the lines for the poem. An example:

Many are the hours
Ornery are the children
Measureless are the blessings

Yes, that beauty is all mine. Once upon a time I fancied myself a poet, don’t you know it?

There can be more to acrostics, but for the sake of our post, simple works. You can read more on Wikipedia about acrostics (yes, I know I just linked to Wikipedia…the shame…).

Write a Simple Acrostic Poem to Get Started

A simple way to do this with kids is to have them write their name vertically down a piece of paper, then use each letter to find words that describe them. They do not have to rhyme. Here’s an example:

Simple Acrostic Poetry with Kids

Another Vicki Arnold original. I’m on a creative roll today. Snort. (I like to keep my writing authentically me…I snort when I laugh.)

Acrostic Poetry Printable Pack

Now it is time for you to have fun with your kids. I’ve included a printable pack for you to print out and have fun creating some spring time inspired acrostics. You can round out your time by reading some silly poetry with the kids to inspire them that poetry doesn’t have to be a droll process.

Download your set today!

Poetry Contest for Kids

Celebrate National Poetry Month with your kids and have them write some of their own poetry. Over on Preschool Powol Packets, there is a form to fill out to submit your child’s poetry. Some information from the page:

Poems will be judged on creativity, originality, style, and language.  Judging may be subjective and all decisions are final.  This year’s contest will be judged by the lovely Becky at This Reading Mama.  All entries will be anonymized and winning entries will be published on host blogs with the child’s first name only.  Prizes will be awarded to the first place winner in each age category.  All entrants will also receive a downloadable/printable participation bookmark! PLEASE NOTE: PRIZES CAN ONLY BE SHIPPED TO ADDRESSES IN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES.

Sponsors of the Contest

Discover With Dr. Cool:



Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a sweet poetry book, too!

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Other Poetry Celebration Co-Hosts

Preschool Powol Packets ~ Homeschool Encouragement ~ Brave Writer’s Life in Brief ~ Word Traveling ~ The Measured Mom ~ Wildflower Ramblings ~ Line Upon Line Learning ~ Teach Beside Me ~ Living to Learn ~ the Vicki Arnold Blog ~ School Time Snippets ~ Creekside Learning ~ Are We There Yet ~ Look at What You Are Seeing ~ Look! We’re Learning! ~ Our Homeschool Studio

See The Light Art Projects: Pointillism Fruit {a review}

Please note that I received this product free of charge to review. All opinions are my own.

See The Light Art Projects: Pointillism Fruit {a review}
About See The Light Art Projects

See The Light is a Christian art curriculum created by Dave and Pat Holt. The curriculum features artists with specialties in a wide variety of techniques; including chalk, crafts, creative lettering, and art history. See The Light products include Art Class, Art Projects, and Bible Stories. You can also purchase gift sets and materials through the company.

The Art Projects feature master artist Pat Knepley. They are for ages 10+ and include 4 lessons on each DVD. The lessons vary from 20 to 30 minutes in length. Each DVD focuses on a single artist and medium. Art history is weaved throughout the lessons and each lesson has a Bible verse connected to the material.

The Art Projects series includes:

  • Paper Jungle focuses on Henri Rousseau and paper.
  • Tiffany Window focuses on Louis Comfort Tiffany and markers.
  • Sunflowers focuses on Vincent Van Gogh and oil pastels.
  • Plus six other artists to draw, paint, and create with.

You can purchase the projects individually for $14.99 each or you can buy the whole set for $99.99. You can also set up a subscription where you receive one project each month for 9 months for the discounted price of $12.50 per month.

Create pointillism pumpkin for a fun fall project!

About Pointillism Fruit

I was asked to choose the Art Project DVD of my choice to review. I chose Pointillism Fruit which focuses on Georges Seurat and uses acrylic paint. Georges Seurat was a revolutionary who created a whole new style based off of my favorite style, impressionism and cutting edge science (chromatography). The style he created was called pointillism. It’s quite fascinating.

The four lessons for Pointillism Fruit are:

  • Color Theory and Initial Drawing
  • Laying Down Base Color
  • Optical Color Mixing
  • Finished Still Life.

You will create a still life of fruit. The required materials are something to paint on (Bristol board or poster board); acrylic paints in pure hues; real or fake fruit; clean cotton swabs; waxy coated paper plates; paper towels; pencil; and eraser.

A review of See The Light Art Project: Pointillism Fruit

Review of Pointillism Fruit

My students are ages 7, 9, and 11. Even though the ages suggested are 10 and up, I decided to give it a try with all of them. I participated as well. The lessons are very easy to follow, are not too long that they lose interest, and the history is actually fun to learn.

The lessons are broken down into manageable steps, though we did run into issues since we watched each lesson and then did our projects. The best way to do this would be to watch the video as you are doing your project so you could pause and go back to information that you missed or want to clarify.

I enjoyed learning about Seurat’s disciplined life and his fascination with how the eye perceives color.

I thought the Bible verses that were chosen fit very nicely with the lessons and Pat did a great job of connecting them with the lesson in her commentary. I also found Pat Knepley to be engaging. My girls liked her clothes, which is kind of a moot point, but hey, I like to do thorough reviews.

We chose to use only one piece of fruit per person. I decided to do this because I thought that three larger-than-life pieces of fruit would be too much for my students’ attention span. They proved me right. I like the fact that we can actually go back and do this again in a year or two and simply add more fruit.

Pricing for the DVD’s seems high to me, unless you consider that you are basically getting 4 weeks of art lessons for $15 (less if you choose other purchase options). Add in the fact that you can have more than one student and it seems pretty reasonable. The local art shop here in town (awesome, by the way) has weekly drawing classes for $10 per class, per student.

Overall, we really enjoyed this project and look forward to trying out some of the others.

Check out our projects, not too shabby, eh?

A review of See The Light Art Project: Pointillism Fruit

My review is only 1 of 50 and not everyone chose Pointillism Fruit, so be sure to check out the See The Light reviews linked up at Mosaic Reviews.

See The Light's Art Project: Pointillism Fruit taught my daughter how to create this!

See The Light’s Art Project: Pointillism Fruit taught my daughter how to create this!

Books of the Bible Memory Cards: Old Testament {free printable}

Books of the Bible memory cards - Old Testament

Last month I shared a New Testament books of the Bible printable for helping kids memorize the books of the Bible. And as I promised, today I have the Old Testament cards. I still have another companion printable for these coming next month (sign up to get blog posts in your email to make sure you don’t miss that).

The “answer key” for this set of cards is actually on two because the Old Testament has all those long named books like Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes.

You are free to use these for your own personal use and tell anyone and everyone about them, I just ask that you give them the link to this post and not the direct link to the PDF.

Download your free books of the Bible memory cards for the Old Testament.

Important! I missed Numbers on the first page. I have now updated the PDF to include it on the last page. The answer key is correct, I just missed including it in the cards. My apologies!

Olly – a Homeschool Giveaway

Olly - a homeschool organization tool giveaway

Olly for Homeschool Organization

Today’s post is a quick one. Trisha from Intoxicated on Life (you may have noticed she’s one of my bloggy bff’s…) recently asked for help promoting a giveaway for Olly, a homeschool organization tool.

Seeing as I love homeschooling, organization, and giveaways; it seemed an obvious choice. I love bringing you all giveaways. So, here it is:

Organize Your Homeschool Win Olly for your Apple Computer & iPad (2 winners - $59.98 value).jpg

Olly Giveaway!

It’s time to get all that homeschool paperwork under control! Let Olly help organize your school days and keep track of your records. With Olly you can create courses, detailed lesson plans, print out to-do sheets for your kids, record grades, maintain manuscripts, keep reading lists, and more. You can use some of the features or all of them. Be sure to check out this post that gives you the low-down on Olly.

We are so excited to give not one, but TWO of you a chance to win Olly for your Apple computer as well as for your iPad. This is a package worth $59.98! wOOhOO! Are you ready to get rid of your paper planner and record-keeping? Then enter this giveaway below. And if you don’t win, don’t worry. Really, for homeschool planning and record-keeping software that you can use year after year after year this is a bargain. Olly for your Apple computer is just $39.99 and for your iPad is just $19.99.

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Sensory Bins – Resources for Beginners

Sensory bin resources for beginners. An ebook, a few Pinterest boards, and some advice to get you started...not overwhelmed.

Sensory Bin Curiosity & Worries

I have been curious about sensory bins/learning for a while. There seems to be a lot of buzz around sensory bins, apparently they are pretty awesome. To me, all I saw was the mess potential and none of my kids were the right ages for it. Or so I thought, but we’ll get to that.

Our current youngest is just about the busiest little guy I have ever met. I’ve had toddlers before (three, to be exact), but this kid takes the cake. Literally, if you don’t watch him.

Please do not pin photos with my children's faces in them. A graphic that you are welcomed to pin is at the top of this post. Thank you!

He’s a sweet little booger, but he gets into everything. All the time. My older three toddlers would actually sit and do things. Not this guy. He prefers climbing, exploring everyone’s stuff, and being outside (preferably with Daddy). And he is the cutest little copycat there ever was…

Please do not pin photos with my children's faces in them. A graphic that you are welcomed to pin is at the top of this post. Thank you!

One day it dawned on me. THIS! This is why people are so crazy about giving toddlers things to explore intentionally. This is why sensory bins, water tables, and tot school came about!

Because if I don’t give him something he CAN do, I’m just following him around all day saying, “No, no.”

Before we start with the resources, I must tell you that a few of these are affiliate links, see my policies for more info.

Introduction to Sensory Bins

One of my blogging friends, Sharla, wrote an ebook called Sensory Bins. When I saw it, my interest was piqued, but still…the mess potential. And then, along came a suggestion from my friend Becky and BAM! Sensory bins were doable!

So I bought the ebook. And read it. And loved it.

There was something mystical and complicated about sensory bins to me before I read the ebook. Sharla did a fine job of explaining what a sensory bin is, why you should bother with them, and how to put them together. For my fellow list lovers out there, she even includes some lists for you. Be still my heart.

Add a bag of lentils from my freezer, a recently vacated plastic tote, some various kitchen gadgets, Becky’s tip, and Sharla’s encouragement, and you get…

Please do not pin photos with my children's faces in them. A graphic that you are welcomed to pin is at the top of this post. Thank you!

Our first sensory bin experience! He actually sat still for over 30 minutes!! Major exclamation points!! I was also wrong about not having kids that would enjoy sensory bins, my older three also enjoy playing with this.

Sensory Bin Ideas

We tried rice, but that didn’t excite him nearly as much because, apparently, our little guy doesn’t appreciate things sticking to his hands. The rice did this more than the lentils. In hindsight, I should have let the rice reach room temp in the open air. I keep it in the freezer, too. I think the condensation as it warmed made it stickier faster than the lentils.

I am really looking forward to trying out more sensory bin ideas as our little guy grows. I’ve started a Pinterest board where I am collecting ideas, but I thought I would share a few links to some that are on our more immediate “must do” list:

Sensory Bin Resources

If you are interested in learning more about sensory bins for yourself, here are some resources I recommend:

Sensory Bins Ebook

Sharla’s ebook will help take the mystery out of sensory bins and encourage you to do what you can. She also has a large selection of sensory bins on her blog. Start with her round up post of their 25 favorite sensory bins.

Sensory Material Storage

If you intend to do this regularly, you will want to keep your materials organized so that you don’t have a cluttered mess floating all over your house and you will be able to easily find what you are looking for. Be sure to check out sensory material storage from Play Create Explore

Sensory Play Pinterest Boards

And don’t forget my new board, Homeschool :: Sensory Bins.

Ideas for Sensory Bin Materials

Look around the house for things you may already have to make your first bin. Here are a few ideas of things to look for:

  • rice
  • pebbles
  • beans
  • cotton balls
  • little animal figurines (Toobs are great for this)
  • trucks and cars
  • scoops, spoons, and measuring cups
  • tweezers
  • funnels

Our first bin was lentils with some measuring cups/spoons, funnel, and a couple random animal toys. I was more interested in seeing if this could actually work than creating a specific theme.

You also want to keep an eye out in clearance aisles. I found a pack of colorful plastic insects for 20 cents at Kroger on clearance.

If you order items from Amazon, be sure to sign up for their Prime program. You get a free 30 day trial that gives you free 2 day shipping (great for holiday shopping, just sayin’).

My Conclusion & Invitation

Overall, sensory bins are NOT that complicated. I intend to use them more in our homeschool, particularly to occupy the little guy while we do group work.

Do you use sensory bins in your home? Do you have a favorite? Please tell me how you use them in your home(school) and leave a link to your favorite bin in the comments so we can see it!

I’m sharing this post a few places and you may be interested in checking them out, too: