Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
Powered by Squarespace
Live and Learn Categories
Live and Learn Tags

Entries in holidays (14)


Weekly book shelf 10/15, Halloween

I've been falling behind in book reviews, so this weekend I caught back up with some back posting, in case anyone was interested in books about dinosaurs or yet more books on evolution. But with Halloween coming up I thought I'd share some of our favorite All Hallow's Eve stories around here.

Want to know about the origins of this spooky holiday? Halloween by Alice K. Flanagan will answer that and many questions about this favored children's holiday. This is just one in a series of holiday books by the same author, but I think it's the best of the bunch. It's not a chapter book, but information is broken down in to sections, one or two spreads per time period or location and belief. Some traditions are religious in nature while others are more secular, but the book (the whole series, actually) has a notably Christian leaning. It's because of this book that we always eat an Irish meal when we carve pumpkins at our house!

Like all the early books in the Franklin series, Franklin's Halloween by Paulette Bourgeios is an endearing story with enjoyable illustrations. Franklin and his friends are getting ready for the big Halloween party, and after hemming and hawing a bit Franklin finally comes up with a great costume idea. They are all really excited. But when the party comes around Bear is stuck at home with a cold. The other friends have a great time at the party, especially getting spooked in the haunted house, and at the end of the evening they pool their candy and take a share to Bear. Sweet and entirely lacking inauthentic, forced conflict.

A little old lady is on her way home when she gets spooked by a pair of shoes chasing after her! Next it's shoes and pants, then a shirt, too, and so on. She is very brave, and when she finally gets safely home she announces that she was not scared! so what does the apparition do? It sulks, and she feels sorry enough for it to make it her scarecrow. We have the book and audio version The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything, by Megan Lloyd, and while the book is cute all on its own, the real trick is in the reading out loud.

A Visit to the Haunted House by Dean Walley is an out of print pop-up book that I swear melds the Wizard of Oz movie with the Electric Company TV show. A pair of kids goes into a house that is known to be haunted and are scared out of their wits by strange happenings. Turns out it's just the man behind the curtain. When they figure that out, and he is appropriates remorseful, they invite their friends to make a Halloween happening out of it. Calvin loves it because it's a pop-up book.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving with the 1928 illustrations of Arthur Rackham is a classic of classics. The eight full page color plates and several smaller pencil sketches are fun to enjoy, and the story in its entire and original form is quite possibly the best ghost story of all time. For anyone who doesn't know it, Ichabod is the new school teacher in Sleepy Hollow. Not dashing or brave he's rather unremarkable, but he falls in love with a beautiful girl who is sought after by another more dashing bachelor in town, Brom Bones. Unwilling to be daunted Ichabod pursues the girl, even while being harassed by Bones. One night he disappears, and the legendary headless horseman is believed to be the culprit. Or was it Brom Bones after all? No one will ever know. Aside from the mysterious ending, there are plenty of other spooky references, such as goblins, haunts, and witches, all throughout the book, and the sketches especially due justice to these.

Gris Grimly's illustrated version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is another fun way to read this old tale. In graphic novel version the emphasis is on the sketches while the text is broken up and abridged, but the story is still fun, and the images add their own special touch. This one is visually spooky while Rackham's obviously leaves the emphasis on the original text.

Both Grimly and Rackham also published illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, but while Sleepy Hollow is already pushing the envelope on age appropriateness (though Calvin really loved both of these versions and can't get enough of them), I think the Poe works are right off the scale for us yet. Maybe next year, though, because I really do love Poe.


The Story about Ping

The Story about Ping, by Marjorie flack, takes place in China and is a FIAR book, so we played around with it a bit over the past two weeks while we were gearing up for our Chinese New Year celebration. As a book I didn't find Ping all that exciting, but it wasn't unenjoyable, either. We spent most of our time focused on China or on art because that's what Calvin was most interested in.

Like most kids Calvin loves drawing and creating. The FIAR guidebook suggested using Ping as a springboard to discussing the representation of water in drawing, so we tried our hand at reflections and ripples.

I have a wall full of these pictures now and I love it.

My favorite of the whole bunch—Ping swimming up to the boat from behind.


Happy Chinese New Year

Today we made fortune cookies

Yesterday it was paper lanterns

All week we counted down with Chinese characters

We've actually been talking about China for nearly two weeks now. Calvin is infatuated with the Great Wall. Earlier in the week we watched a handful of National Geographic short videos on this wonder of the world.

The Yangtze was another source of interest, especially the Three Gorges Dam. We tapped into an Eyewitness book on China to get a little more information on these, and watched the mountains section of BBC's Planet Earth for more on the Himalayas. Per Calvin, this picture is: "The Himalayas and foothills and the Yangtze River and buildings that are flooded by the Yangtze River because of the Dam. And Ping sitting in the reeds and a truck loading a shark to eat for Chinese dinners."

Pandas also took a good portion of our time. We got a National Geographic video about Pandas  from the library (which he watched 3 times) and we have a Nature Conservancy book about pandas. He doesn't draw pandas right now, though, as he says "they are too black and white."


Journal entry: All I want for christmas is...underwear?

Calvin has been talking about what he wants for Chrismtas for many months now. I am on the fence about wether this is good or bad. On one hand he's been commercializing Christmas for that long and thinking "I want I want I want" while on the other hand he's been thinking "I want I want I want" instead of "I must have right now" so I'm leaning towards seeing this as good planning and patience. The other plus here is that the list is not long and has been exactly the same for all that time. He wants a microwave and coffee maker for his kitchen, an "El that moves with doors and people" (like El in Chicago, that is) and underwear. Why underwear? It's not that we're raising an overly pratical child, nor are we failing to meet his personal hygiene needs, but in the Hiller household we each always receive underwear (and usually socks) as one of our gifts and Calvin does not want to be left out.


Making the train costume happen

Last year, after spending some time trying to figure out how to make a train costume and then having Calvin fall in love with a Winnie the Pooh costume at the resale shop, I told Calvin that he could be anything he wanted from then on as long as he could make the costume. About the same time I told me that this year he would return to the train idea, and that he wanted his dad and myself to be signals. As long as we can make it, kid...

This year, as the date neared, I found myself wrestling with ideas and plans. There is nobody else out there making a train costume that isn't Thomas, but I found another mom's costume plans posted on her website and adapted them to fit our own needs. I followed her plans for basic box assembly—starting with a paper box (the same box we used over seven years ago to deliver the decorations to our reception site, and again three years ago to move baby items to the new house), a shoe box of matching width, and (thanks to my mom) two hat boxes.

Calvin helped me shop or search the basement for all the necessary items, and then he helped me use the t-square and pencil to mark the boxes for cutting. We used the hot glue gun to attach the boxes initially, then covered the whole thing with black duct tape; Calvin helped hold the pieces in place while I applied hot glue, and he helped press the black tape into place. The duct tape added stability to the whole ensemble and also made it relatively water-proof just in case.

Calvin picked out black paper plates for wheels and silver and gold poster board for accents. He also picked a picture from his historical trains book for me to use as inspiration. He decided on silver for the wheels and gold for the accents. I cut the accents and wheels after he went to bed (since I'd waited until last minute and wanted the costume done before the costume parade in Dexter the next morning—nothing like last minute). There's nothing like scrapbooking materials for a project of this kind—I used my circle cutter on the wheels, the t-square and my circle punch for the side accents, and the Cricut to cut the fours. Engine, engine number four...

The straps are nylon and I stapled and duct taped them to the inside of the box before applying adhesive backed Velcro at the appropriate sizing for Calvin. The final addition, though, was the smoke stack. The original plans called for a tube but Calvin wanted an old steam engine, which would have had a conical smoke stack in front, so we stopped by our downtown hardware store while we were trick or treating on parade (even without the smoke stack he was a hit on the first dry run) where we found the perfect metal funnel. At home Calvin helped me measure for the location, I used a box cutter to make two diagonal cuts, and I adhered it to the front with hot glue.

You'll remember that he also asked us to be signals, so to round out the ensemble on Halloween night I made a RR sign and a railroad crossing sign which two of his loving entourage (including also his Oma, Opa, and Aunt Ann) carried throughout our neighborhood escapades.

My favorite part of this costume was Calvin's involvement. He picked the costume and he helped make it, which means that when person after person asked him if his mom made it he was able to say, truthfully, "we made it together," and then often went on to explain what each part was made of and how it was assembled. Even the remotely curious were treated to his well spoken explanation.