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    Books & Reading, Other Thoughts

    Seven Quick Takes on Creature Collections, Email Switches, Read Alouds, and MORE!

    June 10, 2016 by Brandy Vencel

    Seven Quick Takes

    :: 1 ::

    Daughter A’s creature collection has been in flux. Her rabbit, Emerald, escaped her cage while we were at the AO Conference and, unfortunately, had an encounter with the dog. We tried valiantly to save her, but she passed away overnight on Wednesday. So Daughter A is down one creature.

    TwitterBut she’s also up. Perhaps the most notable is that she is raising a baby bird that fell from the nest at Auntie R’s house. She named it Twitter, and it perches on her shoulder while she goes about her day {well, when it’s not sleeping, which seems to be its main hobby outside of eating}. It wakes her loudly every morning and is generally pretty cute.

    In addition to Twitter, she also has a fresh water snail collection. No kidding. Early in the spring, I took the children to the park so that they could collect tadpoles to raise. They had varying levels of success in catching them, but they did manage to raise many of them to the frog stage. Anyhow, A-Age-Eleven also managed to capture a snail at the same time — she didn’t even notice it until we got home. Said snail laid a bunch of gelatinous eggs. The eggs hatched. The baby snails grew up. Now we are on the next set of eggs already! Exciting times.

    It doesn’t make up for the loss of Emerald, but at least it keeps her mind occupied.


    :: 2 ::

    I have been switching email providers this past week. So many of you have had problems with email delivery and remaining subscribed to what you want to be subscribed to that I decided to move. The hassle and extra expense suddenly became totally worth it! A-Age-Eleven is just happy that she was able to earn a few dollars deleting people out of the old system!

    You might have noticed the difference in how this week’s emails looked. I’m still adjusting things and there might be bumps along the way. I’m thanking you in advance for being patient. 🙂

    Also: please note that if you unsubscribe, you unsubscribe from everything. This is true for most emails you receive from bloggers, by the way. So adjusting preferences is best unless that is what you truly want to do.

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    :: 3 ::

    This week’s links collection:

    • Want to write better? Read better writing. from The Boston Globe
      • Pretty good explanation of why we don’t want lots of twaddle going in — since this can even influence the writing of the adult brain, just imagine the influence on the growing brain!
    • How The “Tricky People” Concept Saved My Boys from timewellspent
      • LOVE the parenting advice in this one.
    • Preserve Faith-Based Higher Education from Biola University
      • My alma mater, Biola is. And they are worried about our state’s attacks on religious freedom. Of course, our state is attacking many kinds of freedom, so religion isn’t really singled out. But still: it’s a travesty. They are going to have to stop allowing their students to be funded by government loans if they want to survive as a religious institution. Unfortunately, that will make them unaffordable for almost everyone.


    :: 4 ::

    This month in 2015:

    How I Do Penmanship


    In case you were wondering. 🙂

    :: 5 ::

    We’re back in our read aloud groove and I’m loving it! Like anything in life, the time available for such things ebbs and flows. During tennis season, there seemed to be a lot less time to go around. Now that our oldest is down one activity, our time for reading aloud as a family seems to have multiplied. And as we’re wrapping up the school year, we’ve found time in other pockets as well.

    Here’s what we’ve been reading, or recently finished:

    Pinnocchio is one we finished up this week. This is the fourth time I’ve read this one aloud. I do it for first grade — it’s just so perfect for the age, and the other children have never seemed to tire of it. It was another success, for sure. It’s sort of sad to think that was probably the last time I’ll read it aloud. We read this one mostly as a lunchtime selection.

    Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates is a whole-family {even Dad} read aloud we recently finished. I had never read it before, and it was oh so great. One child made a comment about this book tricking them into learning about Dutch history. Is that a bad thing? I think not. It was also a great tale of enduring heavy trials with dignity and determination.

    The Ordinary Princess is our new lunchtime read aloud. It was a special request from Q-Age-Nine, and I can honestly say we’re all enjoying it. It’s been fun so far to connect the allusions to fairy tales we’ve read in the past.

    The Wonderful O is our new whole-family read aloud and has been such a delight so far! I’ve never read any Thurber before, and the whole thing is very reminiscent of Ella Minnow Pea — which is a favorite little novel of mine, but not very good for reading aloud because you really have to see the words to see the humor. I was a little worried that The Wonderful O would be similar, since it is also about forbidden letters, but I have been pleasantly surprised. There is music in this one, folks. It is such a joy to read aloud — the rhyming and sing song coming out all over the place. I couldn’t help falling in love.


    :: 6 ::

    This summer, I need to do a lot of reading. I mean a lot of reading. I’m choosing books that I find pleasurable to read, but the truth is that I really need to read these. Some of them are books for The Low-Energy Mom’s Guide to Homeschooling series that I’m working on. Others are possibilities for school next year. Still others are for one of the talks I’m giving at GTB. {A plenary session usually takes me about 80 hours of writing and research time!} So this summer, I think the blog is going to become a bit of a reading journal.

    I’m sort of excited about that.


    :: 7 ::

    Yes, I’m still using a bullet journal. I guess you all are in planning mode already? People! This is the last day of school for me! Why are so many of you asking this question?? 😉

    But yes. I’m still using it. It’s mainly for business purposes. I needed one central location to put ideas for the blogs, podcast topics, outlines and quotes for talks, and more. I regularly use it for doing Brain Dumps so that I can figure out what my priorities need to be.

    don’t use it as a calendar. I simply do not have the patience for drawing a calendar when I can buy a nice big pretty one with thick pages that I love. {Mine is by Blue Sky and a lot like this one except that it’s a calendar year rather than academic year.}

    So why does a bullet journal work so well for me? Well, the truth is that I used to write all these same things down, but on scraps of paper. Which I promptly misplaced, of course. So the combination of disciplining myself to write all the stuff in one central location, coupled with keeping a Table of Contents so that I know what is there, has been very powerful for me. I know a lot of people keep to-do lists in their bullet journals, but I actually don’t. The bullet journal is for my ideas and Brain Dump lists. From there, I move all of the to dos — the ways of implementing my ideas — to my calendar.

    It’s still working really well for me.


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  • Reply Claire June 15, 2016 at 4:08 am

    It’s a good idea to have a look at this Dutchman’s take on Hans Brinker – – just to be aware of the inaccuracies (looks like the history is fine, though ;)) Your review has made me look forward to reading it with my kids. I got The Ordinary Princess for my dd recently. Her name is Amy, so it was important she read this book 😀

    Am I the only person who is seriously disturbed by the legalism/ works-based righteousness message of Pinocchio? My kids hated it, too (I don’t know why), and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was over “and we’ll never have to hear it again!” I don’t know if I’ll be able to bring myself to include it in my next child’s Y1.

    Thanks for the link to the child safety website, it looks really beneficial.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 17, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Claire! Thank you for the link on Hans Brinker — so interesting!

      I am actually in the middle of writing a post on Pinocchio. I felt similar to you after the first reading, but I read more about the story, and read the story itself more, and my opinion has changed. I’ll explain in the post. But for now I’ll just say that I totally get your feelings. 🙂

      • Reply Claire June 19, 2016 at 2:14 am

        Well, it is nice to know I’m not the only one. I’ll look forward to your post.

        I made a start on sharing the “Super Ten Play-it-Safe Rules” with my kids. My 9yo said, “Oh, so if tricky adults don’t ask for help from kids, then you can’t ask me for help with the housework!”


        (He was kidding… Mostly…)

  • Reply Erika June 12, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    Love the new-to-me recommendations for The Ordinary Princess and The Wonderful O. Also, thanks for the Penmanship link. Very timely for me as my daughter is itching to get started and I’ve been fine tuning my plans. I think buying a font will be the way to go, for sure!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 17, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Buying a font really has come in handy over the long haul — some of the best money I ever spent! 🙂

  • Reply Jenny June 12, 2016 at 6:17 am

    Where do you get your book ideas once you’ve exhausted the AO books?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 12, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      Well, I am always listening for new ideas 🙂 but my go-to when I don’t have a list I’m working from is the 1000 Good Books List.

      • Reply Jenny June 12, 2016 at 6:04 pm

        Thank you!
        Now just to keep a list (I can find) in an organized manner:)

  • Reply Dawn June 11, 2016 at 1:25 am

    Oh, A, what a darling little bird!! I would love to see Twitter resting on your shoulder!

    Looking forward to all those book reviews, Brandy, although my bank account is NOT:).

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 11, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      Ha. It is my pleasure to help you get poor on books. 😉

      And Twitter really is a cutie. The issue right now is helping this creature to grow up — not sure how to transition it. We put it outside daily so it can be with the flock of house sparrows that live in the neighborhood. Strangely enough, some of the males FEED HER! So weird. I never thought they would feed babies that aren’t their own.

  • Reply Tanya Stone June 10, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I found “Pinnocchio” to be kind of disturbing in a hilarious way. But I loved “Hans Brinker”. I am looking forward to an excuse to read that one again. I not only loved the picture of Dutch life, but also how they celebrate St Nicholas Day. We’ve been practicing Nicholastide for many years now, and the kids enjoyed hearing about it in that book, since you rarely hear about it anywhere.
    And back when I was in elementary school, when the Scholastic book order forms came through, I chose one time the book “The Ordinary Princess”. I absolutely loved it! But I hadn’t thought of it in so long!! Thank you for reminding me, I will definitely have to get it for my daughters. It is SUCH a sweet story!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 11, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Yes! The St. Nicholas Day part was so interesting to us, as well. We have never done much on that day (though we acknowledge it), but my brood still recognized it and enjoyed it. 🙂

      The Ordinary Princess is so great! I love it — never read it as a child, so it’s a first for me. 🙂

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