Book Series for Tween Girls – Contemporary

I have learned that not all girls are avid readers, which is something this avid reader girl just simply can NOT relate to. But, alas, my oldest daughter is not a reader. In fact, just recently she told me that she absolutely hates to read. My mouth literally fell open, which she found hilarious.

However, my younger daughter I can relate to in this area. She loves to read! She is particularly fond of series books. That started when we read the Keeker books together when she was first learning to read. She really likes series books.

I can relate. One of my fondest reading memories is reading all the Baby-Sitters Club books and catching up with the publication schedule. It was like getting caught up on my to-do list as an adult…totally gratifying.

Today, I am bringing you the first of three posts focusing on book series for tween girls. This post will focus on contemporary titles. The next one will focus on classic book series for tween girls, these are most likely the ones that us parents grew up reading. The third post will be biographical series for tween girls to encourage them to follow God’s unique plan for their life.

These are books that either of my tween girls would be able to read. If it is available, I’ve included the age and grade range that Amazon has listed for each series because I think that might be helpful given the large list here and for gauging reading level appropriateness. I’ve also included the first two or three books for each series.

Book Series for Tween Girls - Contemporary fiction

As far as content goes, I have not read each and every series. Some my girls have read and I have not, others I have read, and still others are new to both my girls and myself. I’ve chosen to include them on this list because I know that simply because a series doesn’t work for us, doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. Also, this list is a reference list for me, too.

This list is meant to be merely a starting point. Each family will have their own rules and guidelines for choosing books. I can’t account for everyone’s so I’ve been a bit liberal in what I’ve included. Meaning, there are books with fairies and goblins even though I know many families choose to avoid those (we don’t necessarily avoid them). As always, you will need to judge for yourself what is appropriate for your family.

Originally, I was going to include commentary for each of these, but the list got really long and this post was over 650 words with just the titles and the introduction. I will spare you my commentary for today.

Are you ready for the LONG list of options now? Good, let’s get at it then.

Book Series for Tween Girls

Mermaid Tales (6-9y, 1st-4th)

Judy Moody (6-9y, 1st-4th)

Amelia Bedelia (6-10y, 1st-5th)

 

The Fairy Bell Sisters (6-10y, 1st-5th)

Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo (7-9y, 2nd-4th)

Recipe for Adventure (7-10y, 2nd-5th)

Thea Stilton (7-10y, 2nd-5th)

 

The Rescue Princesses (7-10y, 2nd-5th)

Secret Kingdom (7-10y, 2nd-5th)

Dog Diaries (7-10y, 2nd-5th)

Puppy Place (7-10y, 2nd-5th)

 

Grandma’s Attic (8-12y, 3rd+)

The Mysteries of Middlefield (8-12y, 3rd+)

Ponies of Chincoteague (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

Dear Dumb Diaries (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

Grimmtastic Girls (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

Whatever After (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

Desperate Diva Diaries (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

Cupcake Diaries (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

Secrets of the Manor (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

The Penderwicks (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

TumTum and Nutmeg (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

Horse Diaries (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

Dear America (8-12y, 3rd-7th)

Soul Surfer Series (8-12y)

Swipe (8-12y)

Sons of Angels (8-12y)

The Cooper Kids Adventure Series (8-12y, 5th+)

The Girls of Lighthouse Lane (8-12y, 5th+)

Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events (8-12y, 5th+)

The Adventures of Lily Lapp (9-12y)

Royal Diaries (9-12y)

The Cupcake Club (9-12y, 4th-7th)

The Saturday Cooking Club (9-13y, 4th-9th)

So that’s the list of contemporary book series for tween girls. Be sure to check out the list of classic book series for tween girls and biographical series for tween girls to round out your selections!

Bird Unit Study for Preschool

I can hardly believe that I’m actually looking into preschool homeschooling again. Our youngest child is three and he is our most active child yet. I am looking forward to lots of fun with this guy.

I’m one of those homeschool moms that likes to make a big plan and then pick and choose what I do as the days go. I like to have options. And sometimes I completely ignore my plans and do my own thing. Even though my plan is also my own thing. I’m complicated like that.

Right now, I am planning on using a theme or unit study approach with Oliver. And I will be sharing these here on the blog. They will consist of books, crafts, activities, coloring pages, simple worksheets, and anything else that happens to fit with the theme.

Please Note: I am not putting these together and expecting us to complete every single activity, every single time. So please don’t think I’m expecting anyone else to do so either. And with that, let’s dive on into our bird unit study for preschool!

(For more bird unit study resources, check the bottom of this post…I like birds.)

Bird Unit Study for Preschool

Bird Unit Study for Preschool

For our homeschool, every unit study starts with a book list. Some lists are longer than other, but it is the foundation. For preschool, I use both fiction and non-fiction picture books. I include some higher level reading books, we use these as read alouds or just to include the older siblings. These are marked so you know.

Books for a Bird Unit Study for Preschool

I’ve broken these up a bit to make the list a bit more organized.

Books About Birds – Living Book Style

These books are picture books that feature birds but in an engaging story about various aspects of bird life versus a list of facts or textbook style text.

  • Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Pak – This book has a lovely rhythm to it. The illustrations have a realistic nature-like look to them. There is a little interview with the nesting bird at the end of the story that has some fun facts about nesting birds.
  • Birds by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek – Bright and colorful, this book covers a variety of different looks birds can have.
  • Don’t be Afraid Little Pip by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman – Pip is disappointed that she can’t fly and tries to learn how from a few birds who can fly. Ultimately she learns to appreciate that she is a penguin and penguins aren’t meant to fly, they are meant to swim!
  • Two Blue Jays by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Megan Halsey – A classroom follows a pair of blue jays from the nest building stage to when their baby birds leave the nest and are able to fly without even one lesson. The illustrations in this book appear to be paper cutouts, they are rather neat looking.
  • Little Bird Takes a Bath by Marisabina Russo – Follow along with the little bird as he goes about his day trying to get a proper bath in the city.
  • An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long – Not all the eggs in this book are bird eggs, but a lot are and the book is too gorgeous to leave out.
  • A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long – Like the egg book, not all bird nests, but still a lovely book to include.

Picture Books With Birds

These picture books feature birds but are more storytelling fun in nature.

  • Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry by Vern Kousky – I love that this book introduces poetry to preschoolers in a fun way. There are excerpts from “real” poets like T.S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson and then Otto creates some of his own.
  • The Little Bird Who Lost His Song by Jedda Robaard – A little bird goes on a short journey to find his song in this board book. There are a couple flaps in this book which make it more interactive for little ones.
  • Home Tweet Home by Courtney Dicmas – This is a fun, colorful book about two bird siblings who try to find the perfect home for their large family, only to realize they already have it.
  • Duck’s Vacation by Gilad Soffer – This is a silly, bird version of the classic There’s a Monster at the End of This Book.
  • Duck & Goose Go to the Beach by Tad Hills – Duck and Goose are good friends and always a fun read. There are multiple books featuring them. This one has them traveling to the beach. I can oftentimes relate to Goose in this book.
  • Peck, Peck, Peck by Lucy Cousins – A young woodpeckers learns how to peck, and proceeds to peck a hole in just about everything. A slightly silly, fun read.
  • I’m Not Reading by Jonathon Allen – Baby Owl is trying to read a book to his stuffed Owly when a horde of baby chicks invades. It’s a cute horde.

These two picture books tell a story, but they have a sad element in them that you may want to pre-read so you can decide if your child will be ok with them.

  • Bluebird by Bob Staake – This is a wordless book about a lonely boy who befriends a sweet blue bird. The story has a tragic element when the bluebird is struck and killed by a bully with a stick. The book ends with several birds flying the sad boy and his bluebird up in the sky, where the bluebird flies and fades off into the clouds. The geometric illustrations are unique and the reason this book is still on this list.
  • Hungry Hen by Richard Waring, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church – This book is similar to a fairy tale. The fox watches the hungry hen grow, always waiting just one more day because she will be bigger the next day. The fox grows weaker each day until one day he pounces…and the hen eats him. Some kids will find this role reversal funny, some very much not. It reminds me of Aesop’s fables, so I included it on the list.

Bird Picture Books for Older Kids

These books will make a good read aloud or as a way to include an older sibling in on the study:

  • Seabird by Holling Clancy Holling – This is a classic living book that chronicles the journey of a carved ivory gull through every “age of American adventure.”
  • Backyard Birds of Summer by Carol Lerner – The detailed, colored pencil illustrations of this book are lovely. The book covers feeder birds and birds using houses and includes a chapter on attracting birds to your own yard. There is also a section for more information and further reading.
  • Backyard Birds of Winter by Carol Lerner – I did not actually have this one on hand, but it is recommended on the back of the birds of summer book by the same author. I am assuming it is similar and wanted to include it so you would know it is available (I didn’t).

Crafts & Activities for a Bird Unit Study for Preschool

I searched for crafts and activities that would be suitable for 3-4-year-olds, but most of these can be done by just about any age child.

If you would like a unit study for older children to go along with this one for the preschoolers, check out the Bird Unit Study over at Every Star is Different! Several of her activities can be used with preschoolers, too. I actually downloaded her science printable pack to use with my kids. I’ll laminate them and we will be able to use them for a long time!

So that is the bird unit study for preschool. In putting this together, I realized a few things. First, I love birds and think they are a lot of fun. Second, I have already written a couple of posts on bird unit studies and even created a couple printables. Third, there will likely be another bird booklist in the future because I found even more adorable bird books to check out at our library. You’re welcome.

Other bird unit study resources on the blog:

Tips for Attending a Homeschool Convention

Tips for Attending a Homeschool Convention - Hint: Planning ahead is key!

Tis the season for homeschool convention registrations. There are lots of options: which homeschool convention, which sessions, which curriculum? It can be overwhelming, but let’s take a minute to calm those nerves. I’d like to share some tips for attending a homeschool convention with you today.

If you are wondering if you even need to attend one, check out the post I wrote called Should I Budget for a Homeschool Convention? I’ll give you a hint, I say yes.

Tips for Attending a Homeschool Convention

After my first homeschool convention, I wrote a post on how to prepare for a homeschool convention that highlighted three (albeit obvious) tips that I missed in my preparations. Don’t miss that.

Consider attending your state organization’s convention. First things first, I want you to seriously consider supporting your state organization’s homeschool convention, if they still have one. This is one of the most important things you can do to help protect your right to homeschool in your state.

Register early. The earlier you register for convention, the better the price will be. For example, right now you can register for the 2016 Teach Them Diligently conferences for only $45. The price at the door is $80. This is a huge savings when you consider how many workbooks, extra-curricular activities, or notebooks you can buy for that.

Think about logistics early. Is the convention close enough that you can drive in each day? Will you be able to attend every day that the conference is open? If you have to travel a decent distance, do you have family or friends in the area you can stay with?

You want to think about these things early so you can plan your budget and save the money you need. You want to have enough money for both your travel expenses and any curriculum purchases you might want to make, too.

Take snacks and water. Check the venue where you are attending to see about rules about what you can and can not carry in with you. You will likely want to have a snack and some water between sessions and curriculum hall browsing. If you take your kids, they will definitely want them.

Make a list and check it lots of times. Some lists to consider:

  • curriculum you want to check out for future years
  • curriculum, books, and other supplies that you would like to add to your homeschool
  • speakers you would like to hear

Seriously consider not taking the kids. I have done both, taken my children and left them behind. They both have their pros and cons. If this is your first convention, you might appreciate not having to navigate new territory while wrangling excited kids.

Mine love going to homeschool conventions and we usually attend as a family now, but the first time if would have been nice to have not had the distraction. Particularly since I made so many mistakes.

Take a helper. If you are bringing your kids, consider taking along another adult like a grandparent or an older teen to help you. They can help by taking the kids to the restroom or outside to run off some extra energy.

Bring something to carry your purchases. Carrying lots of plastic bags cuts off your circulation fairly quickly when the bags are full of books. Consider your larger stroller, a wheeled bag or crate, or even a backpack. Your hands will thank you.

I know some of these may seem obvious, but I find that when I get excited about something (like a homeschool convention!) that all bets are off when it comes to my memory. Planning ahead helps keep that in check. So I hope you find these tips for attending a homeschool convention to be helpful.

Let me know in the comments if you are attending a homeschool convention this year.

Our Goals for Homeschool Preschool This Year

Failing to plan is planning to fail, right? I am a goals person. I love setting them, I love working on them, and I love chucking them when things change and the goals no longer fit.

Meaning? I’m not married to my goals. They just keep me focused. And trust me, I can use all the help with focusing that I can get.

So today, I’m talking about our goals for homeschool preschool this year. Oliver is three and is a high-energy, active boy. Translation? A lovable boy who is very much into anything that interests him ALL.THE.TIME. I’m hoping to help him focus his energy a bit more on productive activities. 😉

Our homeschool preschool goals for our 3 year old. We keep it simple.

Our Goals for Homeschool Preschool

Oliver is a solid 3.5 years old as we start this homeschool year and is showing a LOT of interest in learning about just about anything. He is inquisitive and loves people.

I have the feeling he is going to prove to be a kinesthetic, social learner…the two learning styles that challenge me the most. This is actually why I am starting to work with him in a more focused manner now. I started with kindergarten age with our older children.

Writing Readiness

Basically, I want to work on his fine motor skills. Both of my boys have always had good fine motor skills, I just want to fine tune Oliver’s a bit before diving into working with pencils. I am using the following resources to guide this area:

Developing a Love of Reading

I’m of the “if you can read, you can learn anything” mentality. I want to create a love of reading in my children. This is actually a goal for all of our kids this homeschool year. I’ve let reading fall in our priorities list and I want to remedy that now.

I will work on this goal by being intentional about reading to my kids. Yes, the dreaded read aloud. I am still conquering that one. Love to read, not so much out loud.

Fostering Independence

Oliver is very independent as it is. I am trying to not see this as quite so bittersweet (mah baby doesn’t need meee!) and embracing it. I want to help Oliver develop some good habits that I wasn’t quite so diligent about with the older three when they were little. Things like helping with laundry and putting away toys immediately after use.

I also want to encourage his growing independent play time. He is the youngest (by almost six years) of four so he has always had someone to hang out with. This is a great thing for his social skills (the kid doesn’t know a stranger), but isn’t such a great thing when everyone else has something going on that he can’t help with like their own schoolwork.

That’s pretty much it. I am not one for a lot of structure when it comes to the early years of homeschooling. We are pretty relaxed to allow a lot of time for things like play, exploring their gifts and talents, and building family relationships.

These three goals for homeschool preschool are a good fit for our family. Do you have any homeschool goals for this year?

Printable Homeschool Planner

Do you have a homeschool planner that you love? I’m kind of a planner junkie. This goes for just about any type of planner. I love them all. One day in June, I got this great, absolutely crazy idea to make a homeschool planner for myself because I couldn’t quite find that “perfect” planner for this year.

Here is what I was looking for in a planner:

  • I wanted it to be pretty. Yes. I wanted it to be pretty. I really like the prettiness of The Well Planned Day, but it was not quite right content wise for this year (going a bit more minimalistic).
  • I wanted to be able to customize it to fit our family. This is why I ended up making one.

Free Printable Homeschool Planner - over 12 pages with 2 cover options

I started with some of the basic pages and went from there. I am now offering a version of this for free to you, my lovely reader-friends.

In this free printable homeschool planner, you will find the following:

  • two different covers – one chalkboard because it is pretty, one on a white background because printer ink
  • two year-at-a-glance calendars – 2015 and 2016
  • curriculum planner page – blank so you can choose which subjects to include
  • blank monthly calendar – fill in the dates each month
  • two-page weekly planner – plan each subject out each week, six columns and seven rows
  • daily docket – includes space to write out a to-do list, the day’s meal plan, track health and wellness goals, list errands, and a spot for words of encouragement or inspiration
  • two options for a student half-sheet daily docket – each half-sheet has three sections: schoolwork, chores, and important times, includes a black and white, less-girly option for those students who may not appreciate a pretty, purple font
  • weekly docket – to-do list, errand list, and weekly, three-meal, meal plan

The printable homeschool planner is free and includes over 12 pages. But that is not all, I have MORE pages in the works for this. I am estimating this to be available this fall. Sign up for email updates so you don’t miss those (top of the sidebar)!

Download your free printable homeschool planner now!

Little House on the Prairie is Back!

Growing up, one of my favorite things to read was the Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was so fun imagining what it would be like to live on a prairie, in a log cabin, or even in a house in the ground!

Little House on the Prairie is Back! | Vicki-Arnold.com

I don’t remember when I first saw the Little House on the Prairie television show, but I loved it, too. I loved to not like (we don’t hate, right?) Nellie Oleson and just watch Laura and Mary live out the scenes that I had played in my head over and over again as a child.

Fast forward a few (many) years, and I taught a Little House class for our homeschool co-op. It was a huge class. We read through Little House on the Prairie, which is book number two in the Little House series. As we read, we did a few activities and discussed what prairie life really was like. I learned a lot in the class, I hope the kids did, too!

Why do I tell you this? So you will understand why when I came across the opportunity to review the newly relaunching tv series on DVD, I jumped on it! I was sent a DVD copy of the first season and a documentary about Laura.

Mail days like these are one of my favorite parts about blogging!

A photo posted by Vicki Arnold (@vicki_arnold) on

Little House on the Prairie is Back!

My kids have seen several episodes of the series from when we had a satellite dish a few years ago and we all came down sick when there was a Little House on the Prairie marathon on one of the channels. But we have never watched them in chronological order and I thought that would be fun to do with them.

The series has gotten a digital facelift, remastered is actually what they call it. The covers for these are gorgeous, such vivid colors. See?

The series is just a great as I remember it. It’s not overly dramatic or cheesy like some family friendly television can be. The picture of the remastered DVD looks great on our big screen. We will likely be adding seasons two and three to our movie library as we go through the series.

Little House on the Prairies is such a wholesome show, it’s one that the whole family can watch. There are hard times and death is a theme that is dealt with, so if you have particularly sensitive littles, you may want to preview each episode to know what scenes (or possible episodes) to skip watching with them.

The first season includes the pilot movie that chronicles highlights of their journey from the Big Woods to the Prairie. I think the actors/writers did a good job of showing how it wasn’t just a fun, easy going trip, but keeping it balanced so that it wasn’t depressing either. Simple little things like voice tones that I can relate to as a parent, facing hard times, but wanting to be strong for your children.

The episode Harvest of Friends was particularly heart-warming to me. I loved watching how the community came together to help a family in need that had given so much to so many previously. It was a great episode for showing the concept of reaping and sowing.

Little House on the Prairie Is Social!

This is kind of funny and would likely be a foreign concept to Laura and her family, but Little House on the Prairie now has a great website that recently launched. And it is just lovely. Perhaps my favorite find on the website to date was article on Pioneer Kitchen Gardens, but there is a LOT of information on the website that you will want to explore.

To celebrate, they are hosting an awesome giveaway so be sure to check that out, too. I’d love to read that Pioneer Girl book!

You can also find Little House on the Prairie on social media:

Be sure to check out all the new Little House on the Prairie fun and the digitally remastered DVD’s today!

Little House on the Prairie is Back! | Vicki-Arnold.com

DIY Snowflake Ornament for Snowflakes Fall

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

You know how I’m always telling you that I’m not an activity mom? Well, lately God has been challenging some of my thinking and this area is one that is being challenged. Lately I have been more intentional to do more things with my kids because ultimately I want to build memories with my kids.

And guess what?

My kids are activities kids. Yeah. They love it.

So we have been doing more activities. This week we have made two ornaments with a third one on the schedule for next week. Today I have a book inspired ornament that is part of a fun project organized by the fabulous Melissa at Mama Miss.

She has organized 10 days of kid-made, book-inspired ornaments with quite a few bloggers, bringing the total to over 70 ornaments! Be sure to check them all out in her post.

DIY Snowflake Ornament for Snowflakes Fall

The book we chose is called Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan and was illustrated by Steven Kellogg. I didn’t realize it when I picked it up at the library, but it was written to provide a message of hope after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The book does just that, reminding us of both the joy and the uniqueness of snowflakes. We paired this book with a book of photos of individual snowflakes for additional inspiration for our ornaments and the book The Story of Snow for some science learning.

We decided to make our own snowflakes for our ornaments. We had a blast decorating and, yes, I made one, too. I didn’t just take pictures.

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

For our DIY snowflake ornaments, we used these supplies:

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

Here is the simple process we used:

  • Take a chunk of the clay and smooth it into a disc. You don’t want them too thin or your etching will go through and it won’t be too sturdy.
  • Pick a spot to be the top and poke a hole with your toothpick. Swirl your toothpick around to make a whole big enough to string your craft cord or ribbon through.
  • Use your toothpick to etch your snowflake design in the clay. Don’t go all the way through the clay!
  • Decorate your snowflakes with glitter, gems, sequins, or other crafting supplies.
  • Let air dry until completely dry before stringing and hanging.

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

See? Crafting with kids doesn’t have to be complicated? It is sometimes messy, but hey, that’s life.

DIY Snowflake Ornaments for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

I love how unique the kids’ snowflakes turned out. The one on the bottom left was made by the two year old who was more interested in making things with the clay that weren’t snowflakes. Like “nustaches”. 😉

 

Be sure to check out the other ornaments that are going up today:

10 Days of Kid-Made Ornaments hosted by Mama Miss!

Pen Pal Writing Tips and Resources For Kids

Pen Pal Writing Tips and Resources for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

Pen pals are a fun way for kids to practice writing skills. My kids have had a couple over the years and it is something they always enjoyed. It’s something I enjoyed as a kid, too. I remember one in particular that I traded a few letters with that lived in Spain.

How to Find a Pen Pal

You can find a pen pal a few different ways:

What to Write About

Depending on your comfort level, the sky is the limit. As a parent, I would caution children to not divulge TOO much information, particulars of regular habits like shopping at such and such every Tuesday or a special event before it happens. Writing about events afterwards allows you a chance to give more details without risking your safety.

Ask questions and then answer them yourself. “What do you like to do for fun? I like to read and ride my bike.”

Tell about something special that happened recently. Maybe you attended a wedding or someone you know had a baby that you got to visit.

Talk about the general area in which you live. Maybe there is a famous landmark near you that you have visited.

Ways to Make Pen Pal Writing Even More Fun

Write in Code

Create a key for your secret code and mail it separately. Then write each other in your very own secret spy code! You will need to assign a code mark for each letter of the alphabet, like A=5, B=9, C=22 or something.

Take Turns Writing a Story

Write the opening paragraph to a story and send it to your pen pal. Have them write the next paragraph and send it back to you. Keep adding to it until you feel it is finished.

Mail Something Unusual

You don’t have to send a letter in an envelope every time. Here are a few things you can mail through the postal service:

Get Creative With Your Envelopes

Try decorating your envelopes for some added fun. Try using washi tape, creative letteringuse your envelope as your canvas for some artwork, or don’t even bother with an envelope.

A Couple More Resources

I came across a couple other resources while writing this post that I thought I would pass along, too.