Crochet Cocomelon Blanket

When we were planning Bumblebee’s Cocomelon birthday party, one of the options for large banners really caught my eye. We chose a different banner for the party, but I couldn’t get the other one out of my head. I knew it would be pretty easy to create a crocheted blanket inspired by that banner, so I set out to do just that.

I started by making a rainbow chevron blanket. The chevron, or zigzag, blanket is a pattern nearly as old as crochet itself (the way I understand it), and almost every designer has their own take on it. The one I’ve always had the most success with is the version by Jayda in Stitches on YouTube. I followed her pattern exactly, except that I changed the colors and added 2 repeats to what she does on her tutorial. I wanted a decent size, so I chose to do 16 rows of each color. Because it’s a double-crochet blanket, that gave me about 8 inches per color, and my blanket ended up being about 40×48 – perfect for a toddler! My favorite border for a chevron blanket is a simple, one-row single crochet border. I love the design of the chevrons so much that I don’t want my border to detract from the blanket itself, so every time I make one of these blankets that’s the border I use. For this blanket, I chose white.

When it came time to make the Cocomelon logo, I referred to Google images for the inspiration. Rather than giving a specific pattern, I’m going to describe my method instead; if you want to make this, I hope it’s easy enough to follow. If not, feel free to leave questions in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.

I went back to Jayda to get started, making a solid granny square (10 rows around) for the main portion of my watermelon logo. When I finished making that, it was time for the green stripes. I finished the square off by making an eleventh round, but this time using single crochet stitches. I also did 3 single crochets in each corner instead of the standard sharp corner to get the rounded look I wanted. Then I lined the square with a row of white single crochets. I made 2 single crochets into each of the corner stitches from the row before.

When my square was done, it was time to figure out the watermelon stripes. I started with dark green. My square was 44 stitches on each side, so to get that “round” shape to the melon, I did 7 sc, 7 hdc, 16 dc, 7 hdc, 7 sc. I repeated this pattern for 3 rows of dark green and then 3 more rows of light green.

The top ended up having 46 stitches once I incorporated the corner stitches, so I divided that up into the 9 sections of the logo. The two on either end were technically continuations of the dark green side, so I did 4 stitches for each of those. That left me with exactly 6 stitches available for each of the other stripes. I used the method of joining as you go for these stripes (as seen in this video – again, thanks to Jayda in Stitches). I didn’t count my rows, but each one is about 3 inches tall. The edge stripes start decreasing about halfway up – decrease on the outside edge (3), crochet 3 rows, decrease on outside edge (2), crochet 1 row, decrease (1), crochet 1 row. The rows in the middle of the melon are only decreased at the top, either on the last row or second-to-last row of each stripe (again, I wasn’t super careful here, hence the variation). The main thing is to end each stripe with 4 stitches at the top instead of 6. This pulls it in a bit at the top and bottom to round it out a little.

After finishing all of that, I realized that I needed a bit more of the light green at the top and bottom on each side, so I took a moment to add those in – 1 sc, enough dcs to “feel” right, and another sc.

For the pink nubby thing at the top of the cocomelon, I started my yarn a few stitches in and single crocheted across the top, stopping the same number of stitches from the other side. I did a single crochet decrease on both sides in every row, and worked until I had just 4 stitches left.

To make the antennae, I attached my dark purple yarn and chained up (16 for one of them and 11 for the other). Then I slip-stitched back down and fastened off.

The blue circles at the top of the antennae were made separately. If you’ve every made a crochet hat, you’ll know how to do this. Work 8 DC into a magic circle. For the second round, work 2DC into each stitch. Round 3: *2DC, 1DC* all the way around. One of the circles was 2 rounds and the other one is 3 rounds. Set these aside.

For Cocomelon’s eyes, here’s the pattern (make 2 of these using black yarn):

Chain 5.

R1: 2 SC in first stitch. SC in next 2. 5 SC in last chain. SC in next 2 (bottom of chain). 3 SC in last chain. Total of 14 stitches.

R2: 2 SC in first stitch. SC in next 4. 2 SC in each of the next 3. SC in next 4. 2 SC in each of the next 2. Total of 20 stitches.

Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing.

Sew the eyes onto the face, referring to a picture for placement. For the nose and mouth, use surface slip stitches to add them using black yarn. Use the same method but with white yarn for making the “shine” in the upper right corner.

Now you get to put the whole thing together! Starting anywhere you like, single crochet around the entire Cocomelon in white. When you get to the top of the antennae, place your blue circles there and continue single crocheting around them, joining them to the antennae. Put the bigger circle at the top of the longer antenna. I recommend increasing your circles during this phase (*2SC in first st, 1 SC in next 2* around for the bigger one; follow round 3 above except using SC stitches for the smaller one). I didn’t do this, and my circles were a bit tricky to flatten out when I sewed them onto the blanket. When you’ve finished your final border, sew your (giant!) applique onto the blanket in whatever position you’d like. There are about a million ends on this project, but the good news is that you don’t have to weave in any of them! Just make sure they’re tucked underneath your applique as you sew and you’ll be good to go.

My Cocomelon didn’t turn out perfectly. It’s a bit wobbly and more square than rectangular, but it’s close enough to get the job done. And most importantly, Bumblebee loves it!

If you make this, please tag me on Instagram (@ladybugdaydreams) so I can see!

Blessings,

Resources for a Literature Based Homeschool

The past few weeks, I’ve focused quite a bit on what a literature-based homeschool looks like, at least in our family. Today, I’m just going to do a short roundup of some of the best resources for this type of schooling experience that I’ve come across. This is by no means comprehensive, but I hope it will give you a jumping off point and encourage you to dig around the internet for even more resources as you homeschool your own children.

Ambleside Online

This is a free homeschool curriculum that uses the Charlotte Mason technique of homeschooling. We used them as our core curriculum one year when my teens were in elementary school, and it was a great year. We learned a lot that year, and were introduced to tons of great books. It is a lot of reading, but the books are wonderful so it’s not tedious.

Homeschool Share

This is a place I’ve discussed very recently because we’ve been using their animal lap books for Dragonfly’s kindergarten classes. We also recently started a Hanukkah lap book with both Grasshopper and Dragonfly, and I’ll share more about that in a couple of weeks. But Homeschool Share also has tons of lap books and unit studies that are based on children’s novels, and those are some of my very favorite ways to teach my kids!

As We Walk Along the Road

I first came in contact with Leah when we were both members of the Homeschool Review Crew years ago. I still am a member there, but she’s moved on as her kids have aged and now she is focused more on providing fantastic literature-based studies for other homeschool parents. She has over 50 literature-based unit studies available as a free ebook (just sign up for her mailing list) as well as loads of paid ones, too. You should definitely check her out; you won’t be sorry!

Moving Beyond the Page

I had the absolute pleasure of reviewing a couple of their courses a few years ago, and let me tell you: if budget wasn’t a consideration, we would be using them exclusively. I loved their curricula. It was such a great way of learning in a hands-on, living-book way. Even if you can’t afford their full year curriculum, I think everyone should try out at least one of the classes at some point.

Sonlight

I don’t actually have any experience with this one personally, but I know of a lot of families who do, and I’ve never heard a single bad word about it. Sonlight was founded in 1989 by a missionary couple who were pioneers in the literature-based community. Their method is to start with history and find real, interesting books to do the teaching. No textbooks found here! They offer a full curriculum based on the grade/age of your children.

Lit Wits

This is another one that I don’t have a ton of personal experience with, but I’m on their mailing list and their studies look amazing. And what’s even better is that they’ve recently started migrating all of their studies over to a new site and made them completely free! They charge for some of their printables, but the base studies are now completely free. You can use the paid printables to supplement, or create your own papers to go along with the studies.

Progeny Press

You might have read my most recent review from Progeny Press; if you did, you’ll know all about them. I really like their study guides, which are great for a wide range of children’s ages. I’m not going to go too much into them here, though. Read any of my reviews for more information.

2021 | 2020 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014

Design Your Own

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that a literature-based homeschool doesn’t have to be complicated. You need a few non-literature subjects to hang the framework on (math, for instance), but from there it’s really “anything goes.” I tend to choose a book or series to read with my kids and then add things to that. I remember a few years ago when I read Henry and the Paper Route to them and we built an entire unit study around newspapers. We made a lapbook, created our own paper using shreds from newspapers, and even took a field trip to the local newspaper office. It was fantastic! You can build spelling lists from the novel, and make grammar lessons that use phrases from the book as examples. The sky really is the limit.

I hope this post will encourage you to try one or more of these resources, or maybe even try your hand at creating your own literature experience for you children. In either case, I encourage you to explore a literature based schooling experience with your children.

Blessings,

Math Rider (review)

Disclaimer: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Knowing math facts can be difficult for young kids, but it’s absolutely vital in the early/mid elementary grades that they master them. It’s easy to think about “math facts” as just the “times tables,” but addition, subtraction, and division are just as important. Without those foundational facts memorized, all math is harder for kids. Flash cards are a great (non digital) way to reinforce those facts, but what if you had a computer game that was as engaging as it is beneficial? Now you do with MathRider.

Math Rider is a one-time fee downloadable computer game that teaches kids math facts in all four areas: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It’s an easy download, and the game is simple enough that you’ll only need to teach them how to play once and they’ll be able to handle it on their own after that. We have been using the game with Grasshopper to increase his speed with addition facts.

When you click on the icon to open the game, you’ll need to choose which child is working and sign in with their password each time. The password requirements are quite simple; we have chosen something that is easy for Grasshopper to remember on his own, so I don’t even need to help him with that.

The game itself is centered around quests. There’s a story that includes simple animation and text that is read aloud to your child. Once they’ve heard the story, they move on to the map, where they can then choose “play” and get into the math portion of the game. Depending on what math facts your child is assigned, that’s what the game will offer them to answer.

There are 30 facts per round, and your child simply has to read the problem and type the correct answer before his horse gets to the problem. (To be honest, it looks more like the problem is coming toward the horse though; the horse is always on the left and the problem moves toward the middle of the screen.) When they’ve answered all 30 math facts, they’re given a score based on their speed and accuracy. Then the game takes them back to the map, where the path they just “rode” is highlighted in pink. When they get to the end of the path, they’re given a new quest, and that continues until they’ve achieved 100% mastery of the math facts. I’m not entirely sure what happens after that, because Grasshopper hasn’t quite gotten to that 100% mark yet.

MathRider has been really fun for my son to play. He gets so excited to see his path turn pink, and he’s engaged by the story. His recall of those addition facts is getting quicker, resulting in higher scores each day. He always asks to do “horse math” first thing in the morning. Grasshopper really responds well to learning games, so I’m happy to let him play things like this that really cement things in his mind and help him to keep learning. We will absolutely keep having him use this game as long as he’s engaged and his math fact recall continues to improve!

Make sure to read more reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew website this week.

Blessings,

Book Club: The Host

One of my favorite books is The Host by Stephenie Meyer. The first time I read it, many years ago, it took me a long time. The first 70 pages or so just didn’t make any sense at all. The character names were weird (Fords Deep Waters, for example), and I really struggled with it. Add to the strange character names the fact that the main character is actually two characters (I’ll explain that in a minute, when I get to the plot summary), and I just couldn’t follow it at all.

But then I got past that 70th page, and things started to fall into place for me. From that point on, I devoured the book. And now it’s one of my favorites. I recently reread it after having not in a few years, so I’m going to discuss it today for Book Club.

Plot

The world has been taken over by “souls,” creatures from space that can’t live on their own. They travel to various planets, inserting themselves into the bodies of the creatures who already live on those planets – the hosts. Now, they’ve come to Earth. Most of the humans have been taken over by these souls, and very few have “survived.” Their bodies are alive, yes, but their minds are completely gone. Only the memories of the soul remain. But there are a few who fight back. Melanie Stryder is one such fighter.

The soul assigned to Melanie is called Wanderer. She’s tasked with not only becoming Melanie, but with digging into her memories and finding out where the pocket of resistors (Melanie’s family) are hiding. When Wanderer finds them, will she report them to the “proper” authorities? Or will she develop relationships with the humans that have successfully resisted?

Thoughts

As I mentioned before, I love this book. It was Stephenie Meyer’s first foray into adult fiction, and I think it was a resounding success. A lot of people don’t like it (likely because of those first 70 confusing pages), but I think it deserves more love than it gets. I like how the two-characters-in-one-body start off so volatile toward one another but slowly develop a friendship. I enjoyed watching the relationships develop between Wanda (as the humans shorten Wanderer’s name to) and Jared (Melanie’s boyfriend) and Ian (a human in the cave who takes an interest in Wanda). It was fascinating to “see” how the other characters slowly come around to Wanda. Reading about the other made-up planets Stephenie Meyer created for Wanda to have inhabited was so neat – I could see all of the details in my mind’s eye as I read. I also liked how she didn’t spare the characters – some of the humans died, some of the souls were killed, and one of the main characters nearly died. There was a lot of emotion poured into this book. As a reader, you go through everything with the characters – love, pain, joy, betrayal… it was really well written (the exact kind of book that makes me want to write another novel).

Movie

The Host was turned into a movie starring Saoirse Ronan and William Hurt in 2013. It captured a lot of the main plot points of the book, but lacked most of the character depth of the novel. The movie felt like it just sped through the storyline with very little reason to care about the characters. It wasn’t a bad film, but it certainly didn’t compare to the book. At all. If you’re interested in the story but don’t want to commit to reading a 650-page book, it’s a decent substitution. And if you like the film, then you should definitely pick up the book.

Have you ever read The Host? Seen the movie?

Blessings,

Learning About the Dollar (review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

When you think of the word “buck,” what do you think of? My first thought is a male deer, so I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that Buck Academy is actually a company that’s created a series of books to help you teach your children about financial literacy. Because I have a toddler as well as elementary-school-aged children, I received a copy of each of their books. Let’s take a look at them.

BUCK Making Cents is a hardcover picture book written with children ages 5-10 in mind (in my case, Grasshopper and Dragonfly). The book is split up into three sections. After a brief introduction for parents, the first chapter covers basic things like the definition of money and common nicknames for an American dollar (like a “buck”!). The main character in the book is Buck the dollar, and he shows up throughout the book. The rest of the first chapter covers the coins. After a brief introduction of the coins as a whole, including pictures that are foiled for realism, each coin (penny, nickel, dime, and quarter) gets its own page. On these pages, there are more pictures of the coins as well as information about the coin. It also describes the image on the heads side and tails side of each coin, including discussion of past iterations of the tails sides (like the quarters before 1999, when the state-quarters were introduced). The final page of the first chapter is the same as the coin pages, except it focuses on Buck, the one-dollar bill.

Chapter 2 is a lot shorter than Chapter 1. It focuses on the coins again, but this time in how they relate to the dollar. It has pictures of the correct number of each particular coin to equal a dollar.

The final chapter in the picture book is the “memory bank,” which is a clever name for a review/quiz chapter.

Baby BUCK, How Much Am I… is a book to help you teach very basic financial literacy to your toddlers. It’s a board book, perfect for ages 0-4. The story is a super simplified version of BUCK Making Cents, and it has an interactive element which makes it fun for toddlers. Instead of teaching how many of each coin make up a dollar, Baby BUCK teaches the value of each coin. The pages ask the question “how much am I?” for each coin, and there’s a lift-the-flap with the answer beneath.

My kids love having read-aloud time, and the Buck Academy books were a valuable addition (pardon the pun) to our home library. All three of my younger boys enjoyed the books; we read them many times. Even though the two book technically have different age ranges as their demographic, all of my kids enjoyed both books. Dragonfly loved lifting the flaps in Baby BUCK just as much as Bumblebee did! And Bumblebee sat quietly and listened to BUCK Making Cents with not a trace of boredom. These books are great for teaching the most basic lessons of financial literacy for kids – without a formal math class!

Make sure to head over to the Homeschool Review Crew site for more information and to read additional reviews!

Blessings,

Our Favorite Study Guides for Literature

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

If you’ve been here very long at all, you know that I’m always excited to review Progeny Press study guides with my children. Every single year I’ve been a part of the Homeschool Review Crew, we’ve been blessed to work with these guides, and 2021 is no exception. This year, Grasshopper (4th grade) and Scorpion (9th grade) are the lucky recipients.

About Progeny Press Study Guides

The study guide we received is the digital edition, as always. Each study guide comes with the guide itself and an answer key, both in PDF format. I had no problems downloading the files to my computer. I’ve got a folder full of our past Progeny Press study guides, and I added this year’s guides to it. When it was time to begin work on the study guide, I printed off the pages we needed as we went, rather than printing the entire study guide at once. These guides are also designed to be editable PDFs, so if you prefer, you can have your student work directly on the computer. Printing works better for us, so that’s what I did.

Progeny Press officially recommends that you/your student read the entire book within the first week of the unit and then work through the study guide at a pace of 3-5 pages per week, depending on your kids’ ages. That’s never worked for us. It’s just too much time between finishing the book and going back to answer the questions when you do it that way. So I looked at the breakdown of the study guide and we worked in those chunks – reading the chapters, then printing and working on the questions. Then we’d read the next set of chapters and answer those questions. And so on. I had Scorpion work the same way with his book.

When you purchase a study guide from Progeny Press, you get as many downloads as you need for 1 year. After that time, if you don’t have a copy saved somewhere you will need to repurchase the guide if you want access to it again.

A Cricket in Times Square Study Guide

This is a classic book written by George Selden in 1961 about a group of unusual friends: a country cricket, a city mouse, a city cat, and a young boy. We are introduced to the characters in turn over the first four chapters, and then quickly move through their adventures together in NYC. The animals all teach each other valuable lessons through their various life circumstances, and none are more important than the others.

Grasshopper and I have been reading this book together out loud. He is capable of reading it on his own, but it’s nice to have a bit of snuggle time with him as he’s getting older. When I found out we were getting this study guide to review, I checked the digital library and the book was only available as an audio book with a 6-month wait (!). So I ended up purchasing the Kindle edition and we’ve been reading that. (This was before I got my new library card.)

The study guide for A Cricket in Times Square is 52 pages, including the cover and copyright pages. Progeny Press is really great for Christian parents because every single one of their study guides is from a Christian perspective. This means they always include spiritual lessons that can be learned from even the most secular books. Cricket is no exception. Grasshopper and I were able to practice finding Bible verses together and interpreting them and culling lessons from them that related to the book we were reading. This was really good for him. There are also the “basics” of study guides in Progeny Press – your standard reading comprehension questions and opinion questions as well as vocabulary words and longer writing assignments.

Frankenstein Study Guide

Scorpion has been working through the Frankenstein study guide on his own. He didn’t have a firm reading or literature class in his curriculum, so it was fairly easy to just add this in. We started with a digital library book for him (because it’s a classic novel, it’s “always available”), but he didn’t really like reading on his iPad. So when we were able to start getting physical books from the library, we found him a copy to check out. Even our tiny town library had a copy of Frankenstein!

The Frankenstein Study Guide is 79 pages, as like I mentioned before, it is able to be typed right into as a PDF on the computer or printed out. We printed out just the pages we needed as Scorpion completed his work and reading. It took him, on average, about 1-2 weeks per section to complete. There are a total of 8 sections in this guide, so he’s got a ways to go still.

Because Frankenstein is a book for older students, the study guide is more complex than that of Cricket. The vocabulary pages rely more on the student being able to rephrase the definitions on their own than simply choosing the correct definition from a list. The comprehension questions are a lot more difficult, too, and there are a lot of writing assignments that are more essay-length than simply requiring a few words to answer.

As always, the Progeny Press study guides have been a fantastic addition to our school days. Members of the Homeschool Review Crew were able to choose from a total of 4 study guides this year: Wagon Wheels, A Cricket in Times Square, Redwall, and Frankenstein. Click through to the main website to read more reviews!

Blessings,

The Year of Boats and Fast Cars

My birthday was in the summertime, and Will went with a theme: boats and fast cars. We were pretty fresh off of our pontoon rental, and since it was early July the weather was still hot, so Will had boats on the brain. So on my actual birthday, we took a lunch cruise on the Willamette River in our state capital. It was a short ride (about an hour), but very pleasant. We dressed up and had a lovely time. I just love being in and on the water!

The other thing he got for me was the opportunity to drive a Lamborghini! He’d heard of Circuit One Events, which offers drives and rides in luxury cars. Options include a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, and a Corvette. A Lamborghini is his dream car, so when he discovered that was an option, it was a done deal. We bought the ticket in July, but the event wasn’t until late September, so it hasn’t been that long since the event. Let me tell you a little bit about my experience.

Funny anecdote: When I was a teenager, my dad had a Corvette. For this reason, I wasn’t that excited by the new Corvette at the event. I told my family about those thoughts after the fact at home, and Ballet Boy told me I was being crazy. “That doesn’t mean a Corvette isn’t amazing. It means your dad was even more awesome than I realized!”

I was so nervous going up to the event! But that’s fairly normal for me; I’m a rather nervous person in general. I was very jittery clear up until I was inside the car. When it was my turn (there were quite a few people there to drive the fancy cars), the staff guy took me up to the car. The first thing I had to do was figure out how to get into the car! There was no obvious door handle like on “normal” cars. I finally got it, though, and then it was time to drive. The gear shift was very different from any car I’ve ever driven before, too. Once I got over a bit of my nervousness (forgetting my right from left as the staff member guided me to putting the car in “Drive”), it was time to drive!

The first thing you notice is the power of the car. The difference between Will’s car (2019 Nissan Sentra) and mine (1995 Ford Escort wagon) is vast. The difference between the Lamborghini and Will’s car was even more noticeable. It was a very smooth drive, even when going super fast. And the Lamborghini could stop and turn on a dime. I tried my best not to “take it too easy” while I was driving. I really wanted to release all my nerves and let loose in the car. And I felt like I had. Until I traded places with the staff member for my turn to ride rather than drive. (That was an extra fee.)

When I pulled over and we traded places, he asked me if I wanted him to take it easy or really push it so I could the true power of the car. As nervous as I can be, I love thrill rides, so I told him to push it to the limit! When he hit the accelerator, I was literally thrown back in my seat! I couldn’t help but spend most of the time giggling (I told you I love thrill rides). At the end of the ride, he told me that he’d maxed out at about 80 mph – quite impressive considering the length of the loop was quite small. I hadn’t paid attention to the speedometer while I was driving, but based on that information I figure I must not have gone more than 45 or 50. Maybe slower. So much for letting loose!

Over all, it was a really fun experience, and I’m really glad I got to do it.

Have you ever driven a luxury car?

Blessings,

Using the Library in Homeschooling

A common question that homeschoolers are asked is “What is something you couldn’t do without in your homeschool?” and a common answer to that question is “The public library.” If you don’t have a large home with a jillion bookshelves, then you probably already knew this – and utilize your own public library for help with gathering homeschooling resources. Let’s take a little while to explore different ways to use the library in homeschooling.

using the library in homeschooling

Books

This is a no-brainer. The library is a fantastic place to gain access to more books than you could ever want, especially if your library is part of a larger system that allows you to borrow books from a variety of locations (my library is part of a 17-library system, which is good because it wouldn’t be very useful otherwise; small towns don’t normally have good libraries and mine is no exception). The library is likely to have dozens, if not hundreds, of books on any given topic – way more than most families could possibly buy for themselves. And even if you do have loads of space for books and an unlimited budget for book buying, the library will probably have books that you can’t get your hands on (usually older books). Even if an older book has information that’s a little outdated, they can still be valuable to teach your child to be discerning in their research.

Librarians

Don’t be afraid to talk to your librarians! Just today (the day I’m writing this article, not the day it’s posting), I got a new library card. I hadn’t been to the library in my small town since before COVID, and only a few times then, so the librarians didn’t really know me. Because I was a “new” patron, they were especially helpful, and it was a really nice experience to get to know them (albeit briefly) in this manner. The children’s librarian gave me a short tour of the children’s room in the library, showing me where to find the various types of books (they separate the children’s fiction into “series” and “non series”), and she gave me several crafts to bring home for the boys. The adult librarian showed me where to find all the fiction books and nonfiction books (they’re in separate rooms). She explained to me that the nonfiction room has a different internet provider from the rest of the library (and from the one we use at home), so if our internet is ever down at home, it’s likely working at the library and we’d be welcome to use theirs if needed. (I explained to them that we were homeschoolers.) There are more resources than just books at the library, and your librarians are the tickets to finding out about those resources.

Digital Books and Audio Books

I wrote a whole article on using audio books in homeschool, and we use the digital version of those audio books. But many libraries have CDs of audio books that you can check out (if you still have a CD player in your home – we don’t). There are benefits of regular books and benefits of e-books, and I don’t personally have a preference. I know some people are adamant that “paper books are the only way to bother reading,” but I’m not one of those. I’ve had a Kindle since they were brand new, and I still read books on it almost every day. The biggest benefit to using an e-book instead of a paper book from the library is no late fines! I love the freedom of being able to check out library books right from an app on my phone, and then when my loan period is over, the book disappears from my Kindle the next time I connect to wifi. I love that there’s no risk of losing or damaging a library book and having to pay for it later. But for kids, nothing beats a paper book. They need that tactile experience of holding the book, feeling its weight, and turning the pages. It’s more than a story for kids. But having the flexibility for both digital books (reading or audio) and paper books is invaluable. And if your library is part of the Overdrive system, having fines on your regular card doesn’t prevent you from borrowing digital material like it might from paper books.

Other Programs

There’s the obvious here, like summer reading. But did you know that a lot of libraries run a variety of things all year round, especially for kids? Like I mentioned earlier in this article, our tiny library gave me a craft for each of my younger children today for Halloween. In the past, our larger library system has provided free access to language learning programs right on their website. All you needed was a valid library card. Our library system also allows you to check out passes to a variety of children’s and family museums in the area. This is an amazing way to get into some of those expensive museums for free, if you’re willing to wait a while to get the access pass (they tend to have long hold times). Ask your librarian if you have any resources like these available to you. You might be surprised!

Do you use your local library? What’s your favorite thing about it?

Blessings,

Roar Like a Lion (book review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Devotional books bring a lot of joy and meaning to people’s lives. I have read many of them over the years. Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of reading Roar Like a Lion: 90 Devotions to a Courageous Faith with my younger kids (and having them read it together without me).

The devotional, written by Levi Lusko with Tama Fortner and published by Tommy Nelson Books, was designed with kids in mind from cover to cover. The front cover is rather exciting, with bold geometric shapes making the lion’s face. It looks very ferocious (courageous, maybe?) with its teeth bared. And then you get to the inside of the book. The pages are thick enough to stand up to repeated use, even among slightly younger kids. The color printing is very bold. Because the pages are matte (almost like card stock), it’s not an overwhelming bold, though.

When you get to the devotions, the illustrations match the style of the cover. They kind of remind me of Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) style illustrations – as if they were made from paper cutouts rather than pen and ink or paint.

Each devotion has one main illustration to help it make its point and go along with its title. There’s also a “Did you Know” section with additional information that’s related, but not directly related, to the lesson. Like most devotions, the book is written specific lessons in mind and Bible verses are chosen to support each lesson. For example, in the lesson “Roar Like a Lion,” the verse is 2 Timothy 1:7:

God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid. He gave us a spirit of power and love and self-control.

Each devotion also ends with a simple prayer related to the lesson (also fairly standard devotional fare).

All of the devotions are written under the umbrella of being bold and courageous in your faith. Take a look at part of the table of contents to see what I mean:

The devotions are very encouraging for children. They offer great information to help your children understand how we can be strong in God. We read one each day, and it was great to see the boys show such interest in the topics presented. Sometimes, Grasshopper even did the reading!

Nearly 20 members of the Homeschool Review Crew have been spending time with Roar Like a Lion: 90 Devotions to a Courageous Faith. I invite you to head over to the main website to find links to all of those reviews this week.

Blessings,

Book Club: Sooley

I love basketball, and I love John Grisham books. So when I found out that his new book this year was a stray from his normal legal thriller into the world of “hoops,” I was intrigued. I’m not normally a fan of his non-legal books, but because, well, basketball, I wanted to read Sooley anyway.

This post contains major spoilers for the book Sooley by John Grisham.

Samuel Sooleymon is the oldest child of four living in a small village in South Sudan with his parents and three  younger siblings (two brothers and a sister). He loves playing basketball, but in the poor nation he can only play on a dirt court. When he is recruited for a summer league to represent his country against other teams as they play in America, he is thrilled – and apprehensive – to go. But go he does because he wants the opportunity to play his favorite game against other good players. He and the team from South Sudan don’t do so well, and most of the team is sent home after the tournament having won nothing.

While Samuel and the rest of the South Sudanese team is playing in the summer league, his parents’ village is ransacked by militant rebel soldiers. His father is killed and his sister is kidnapped. The family never finds her again, and doesn’t know whether she’s been sold as a slave or killed. His mother and two brothers walk from their home country to the neighboring nation of Uganda. When they make it to the refugee camp, they are finally safe.

Samuel’s coach in the summer league learns about his village and has the difficult discussion with Samuel, letting him know what happened and imploring him not to go back. He promises to help him come up with a way to stay in America. This is accomplished through an emergency refugee/student visa, and his coach convinces a college coach to give Samuel a scholarship so that he can honor the terms of his visa and stay in the country. Grudgingly, Coach Lonnie Britt of NC Central in Durham, North Carolina, awards the scholarship. After seeing Samuel in practice (he’s terrible – barely made the summer league team), he decides to “redshirt” him, meaning he gives him a spot on the team to keep his scholarship but he doesn’t let him play. He gets to practice and will join the team more fully the following year.

As the year progresses, Samuel practices basketball every single day, even on the team’s off days. He shoots and shoots and shoots, eventually shifting his percentage from well below 50 to above it. As Lonnie sees the improvement in Samuel, now called Sooley by his teammates, he takes a chance on him and lets him play in a game. Sooley blows the socks off everyone, becoming the star of the game.

He continues to practice and is rewarded with more game time. He quickly becomes the star of the team, playing almost every minute of every game and scoring upwards of 40 points per game. He ultimately leads his team, always a national underdog, to the college championships – clear up to the Final Four.

Unfortunately, they lose their first game in the Final Four and are eliminated. But Sooley had such an amazing season that he is encouraged by his coaches to enter the NBA draft, and he is taken in the first round by the Indiana Pacers and then immediately traded to the Washington Wizards. He’s thrilled with this because it means he’ll be close to his North Carolina family. The NBA money means he can come up with a plan to bring his family to America, out of the refugee camp they’ve been living in for over a year.

A party in the Bahamas turns tragic when Samuel ODs on Ecstasy. He never makes it to the NBA. He never gets to sponsor his mother and brothers for immigration to the US. It’s a tragic story.

But Murray, Sooley’s college roommate (and part of the “NC Family” I mentioned before) turns the tragedy into something beautiful. He starts a foundation in Samuel’s name and within days it raises millions of dollars. He uses some of the money to finish Sooley’s work of bringing his family over. The rest goes into a scholarship fund in Samuel’s name for future Central basketball players.

I loved this book. I was floored when Sooley is killed near the end, and from that moment on I couldn’t put it down until I discovered how Grisham would turn the tragedy around in just under 10% of the book. It’s so rare to see an author kill the main character of a book, and frankly I’m not sure I liked it. But it worked. It’s been a few days since I finished reading it, and I still feel a little raw when I think back on the story.

As for the writing, I thought it was very well done. I don’t follow college ball, but I found each of the games exciting. They were well described, and I could see all the moves in my head as I read the words. I did find the phrase “behind the arc” to be a bit overused to describe 3-pointers, but that’s literally my only complaint. Now that my library loan for this book has ended, I want to get a copy of my own to have for rereading at the drop of a hat.

Sooley gets 5 stars from me.

Do you like sports, or sports books and/or movies? What’s your favorite sport?

Blessings,