Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

Collage Friday: Angry Birds Space and Other Causes of Extra Screen Time March 30, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:01 pm

As I mentioned in last week’s collage post, I have my quarterly editing deadline on April 1st (or so…as close to that as possible, anyway).  While I don’t generally do much editing during the day unless I get a sitter for the kids (which I did do for two afternoons this week), I was still a bit more tired than usual from all my late nights of editing.  Between tiredness, trying to catch up with chores during the day that I might have otherwise done at night, and the purchase of a new Angry Birds game…We had more of this than usual:

At least a lot of it is educational!  Other than playing Angry Birds Space as much as I would let them, the kids enjoyed a show we just discovered on Netflix called How It’s Made, working on reading and spelling with Reading Eggs, and playing favorite educational iPad apps like ABC’s of God and the TeachMe series of apps (linked to my post about these apps).

Besides extra screen time, here are a few other highlights of our week:

1. Bowling as a family, a fun activity selected by Mr. E in honor of his birthday. (He turned 5 on Sunday!)

2. Miss M reading her “assigned reading” for the week outside — “The Minstrel in the Tower.”  I ordered it from the library what seems like months ago…but I guess they only have one copy and it took a while for our turn to come up!

3. Miss M rediscovered a number of picture books and easy readers this week in addition to her usual selections of chapter books.  She read all the books in the picture one morning before we got started with school at 9:15am!

4. All the pieces for the Horse lapbook are complete! I had hoped that I could help Miss M assemble the book today, but we didn’t quite get to it.  Maybe this weekend!

5.  Love this shot of the boys, still in their PJs, using their binoculars to watch a “working truck” dig a hole up the next block.  Too bad I couldn’t get the truck in the picture too.  We had a good time speculating as to why they were digging a hole in the grass near the road.

6. Some of the “regular stuff” we got done this week:

  • I finally got to pull out my Atlas of Discovery I happily found a while back at a book sale as we read about Magellan in MOH III.
  • Miss M worked on 4 digit subtraction problems with and without the abacus for math. She decided that 4 digit on paper is much easier than two digit mentally — I think I have to agree!
  • Early in the week, she dictated a “newspaper article” to me about last week’s tree stump painting project, which I typed.  I then had her copy it in her own handwriting — it turned into about 7 pages of her large-ish handwriting!  After finishing that yesterday, she still wrote her cursive Bible verse for the week today.
  • Mr E continues to make excellent progress in learning to read…we worked on the CH-TH-SH diagraphs in Phonics Pathways

7. Happy 5 months old today to Baby J! He’s 17 lbs now, and is learning to sit up on his own.

8 & 9.  Sometimes, a mama just needs a pastry.  Not knowing any pastry delivery services, we finished up school today in short order, and headed for a neighborhood grocery store where I could both grab a couple items I needed and treat all of us to donuts.  Aren’t the kids silly?  It was a bit chilly while we were eating outside the store – I think Baby J was a little cold!  After our treat, we went to a fundraiser rummage sale at a nearby church, then headed home for a fun afternoon…of more Angry Birds once the chores were done!

Have a wonderful weekend! I am looking forward to another weekend with a forecast in the 70s…hopefully I can get my editing done so I can get out to enjoy it!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly Wrap Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

PhotobucketWeird Unsocialized Homeschoolers


Book Discoveries this Week: Adam of the Road March 29, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 7:49 am

Miss M and I just finished Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray as a bedtime read aloud.  I added “Adam” (the 1943 Newberry Award winner) to our read aloud list for the year to correspond with our history studies.  However, I didn’t quite move it to the top of the list soon enough.  We passed by the 1200’s in history at least a couple months ago.

Adam of the Road follows the journeys of Adam, the son of a minstrel and a budding young minstrel himself, in late 13th century England.  Adam travels first with his father and dog, and then alone, as his two traveling companions are lost. The first several chapters of the book are interesting, but not “page turners” so to speak.   Once father and dog are lost, the excitement level of the story picks up, and there were several nights when Miss M and I read two, three or even four chapters in our excitement to find out what Adam would discover on the road as he searches for his lost loved ones.  Adam is forced to be resourceful and self-sufficient as he travels the English countryside alone.

I really appreciated the attention to details on all aspects of Medieval life in this book.  Many real places and historical figures are woven into the story.  The various characters that Adam meets in his journeys are from all across the social spectrum of the middle ages: nobles, members of the noble household, merchants, men and women of the church, farmers and minstrels less honorable than himself.  As I have noticed with several books we’ve read this year, you really could use this book as a springboard for further history studies.  As it was, it served as a nice review of this time in history for us.

I’m linking up with Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word:


F is for Field Trips March 27, 2012

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:56 pm

Field trips are one of my favorite parts of homeschooling.  As I browse back through some of our photos from the past two and a half years or so (from when Miss M started Kindergarten until now), it was so much fun to be reminded of some of the places we’ve been and the things we’ve seen:

And this doesn’t even represent all of our destinations in the past couple of years! I didn’t always bring my camera, and some trips were not conducive to pictures (like concerts and other performances).

Some destinations we visit frequently — like the Minnesota Zoo and the Minnesota Children’s Museum.  Some destinations we visited on our own (many of the museums we’ve visited), while we have also participated in group activities through our co-op and through a local mailing list that facilitates field trips and other events for homeschoolers.

Some trips have really been just for fun, like trips to an indoor play area or a special outdoor playground.   Most have been very educational! We’ve learned about history and culture at the Minnesota History Center, the Swedish Institute, the Mill City Museum and various historical sites.  We’ve learned about science at the zoo, farms visits, the Physics Force show, the planetarium and an aquarium. We’ve been exposed to arts at orchestra, ballet and theater performances as well as at art museums. We’ve learned about our community with tours of a fire station and a pizza restaurant.

Aren’t field trips wonderful? I am so glad to live in an area with so many field trip possibilities…there are many places we haven’t even seen yet!  I can’t wait to see what we learn and discover in the future!

I’m linking up with:



Collage Saturday: Welcome Spring (and other distractions)! March 24, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:02 pm

It was definitely a different sort of “busy” in our lives this week than last week.  Last week was full of on-the-go activities.  Other than the usual library and grocery store errands and our bi-monthly homeschool co-op meeting, we stayed at home this week.   We still weren’t as productive school-wise as some of those winter weeks when there was nothing better to do than stay inside the house.  🙂  That’s really okay though — I don’t have a formal “spring break” planned this year, so we’ll just take advantage of the nice weather as needed.

I’m also in the midst of my first quarterly editing deadline since I started this blog.  I am an assistant editor for a devotional published by our association of churches.  Two of my four deadlines fall during times when we are “in session” for school, and I always find myself a bit distracted during the couple weeks before those two deadlines.  We don’t usually take any extra time off from school, but it weighs on my mind (and blogging is a distraction from editing…but that’s another story!).

Here are a few highlights from our week:

Row #1:  We welcomed spring by climbing a tree across the street with neighbor friends (their tree may only be climbed on special occasions) and painting a tree stump that is scheduled for removal.  Miss M also built this “fairy house” in the upper right corner. The “first day of spring” rarely feels like spring in MN (last year we still had plenty of snow on the ground), so this year’s weather is a real treat! The kids spent a lot of time outside again this week.

Row #2: Reading, reading and more reading.  Miss M is reading books on horses for her Expert Day project at co-op.  She also decided to read the “Pooh” books this week.  I had purchased the original “Winnie the Pooh” at a Half Price Books clearance sale, but Miss M showed no interest in it…that is, until her best friend told her how good it was! Then she immediately read the first one, and found the second one at the library.

Row #3: We got out the watercolor crayons for the first time in months.  Works by Mr E and Miss M are on the left.  Miss M also made a “make believe world” book (on the right), with elaborate drawings and collages of the castle she wishes she lived in.  🙂

I tried to offer a Phonics lesson (middle picture) to Mr. E every day this week.  I think we ended up reading together 3 days this week.  I need to be more diligent to find a good time to sit down and do it, since he really is eager to learn to read.  In Phonics Pathways, we practiced four letter words with short vowels, as well as adding a “Y” to the end of words.

Row #4: In RightStart Math, Miss M and I worked on 2-digit mental subtraction, subtraction on the abacus, as well as a review lesson.  I think I am getting the hang of the mental subtraction strategies, which helps me to feel at ease in teaching them to Miss M.

Tony built us a new “display” bookshelf out of an old VHS rack (middle picture).  I’m so excited to have a place to put books for the kids with covers facing out.  I envision rotating through books on various themes in this spot.  This book shelf is so cool, I think it will get its own post sometime.  🙂

Finally, tomorrow is Mr. E’s 5th birthday! Yea!  We had a Star Wars themed birthday party with friends today.  Getting our house ready for the party was a definite distraction from school late in the week! He wanted a “Clone Troopers and Battle Droids” cake.  The cake in the picture, my friends, is “cake decorating for non-decorators”!  I printed out pictures, laminated them, and stuck them in the “mud” (aka chocolate frosting).

I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly Wrap Up @ Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

PhotobucketWeird Unsocialized Homeschoolers


Book Discoveries this Week: Nonfiction for the Boys March 23, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:10 pm

Mr E and Mr K have gotten on a bit of a nonfiction kick again. Besides the usual books about Star Wars and super heroes, the boys’ library basket is filled with books about jets, rockets, weapons, motorcycles, sharks, bones and soldiers.  So, I thought I would share a few recent favorites:

Dem Bones: I picked this one out for a BFSU science lesson on the human skeleton, but the boys added it to their basket and asked for it many times.  This is a cute combination of the song “Dem Bones” (The one that goes, “The toe bone connects to the foot bone…” and so on) and facts about various bones in our bodies.  We all liked the fun skeleton illustrations. I think one of the reasons that the boys liked this book so much is hearing me sing the song.  Even Baby J would stop nursing and look up to watch me sing when I read this book.   🙂

Weapons of War:  We picked this one out due to Mr. E’s sudden interest in the history of weapons.  It is a really cool book.  Even Tony and I were fascinated with it.  This book has a two page spread for each of a variety of historical weapons (like spears, cross bows and early guns).  There’s a lot of text on each page, so a typical five year old might get bored, but Mr. E (who turns five this coming Sunday!) would listen to all the text on a couple different weapons in a sitting.

If I Were an Astronaut: This is a nice preschool level book that Mr. K asked me to read several times.  A lot of books in the children’s non-fiction section still have way too many words for Mr. K’s attention span.    This was one of the few in our library’s section on space/astronauts that was a good fit for him.  I also liked the fact that this book doesn’t dwell on the now-outdated space shuttle.

You Wouldn’t Want to be an Assyrian Soldier: I’m not sure what age group the “You wouldn’t Want to…” series is really aimed at,  but my guess is that most fans are older than five. 🙂 Mr E loved this book, asking for it many nights in a row at bedtime, and giggling all the way at how awful army duty might be for an Assyrian (until Tony finally told him he had to pick something else because he had picked it too many times in a row).  Mr E was thrilled to learn that not only are there more books in this series, but that several of them are about soldiers.  We grabbed three more titles in the series this week at the library!

Miss M and I are still enjoying Adam of the Road as our bedtime read-aloud. We are moving through it at a pretty good clip (two nights in a row we got carried away and read 4 chapters each night!).

I’m linking up with:


E is for Expert Day March 21, 2012

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 12:43 pm

As I read various homeschooling blogs, it is very interesting to see the sorts of “fairs” that homeschoolers participate in.  Most of us are, of course, familiar with science fairs.  I did a few of those when I was a kid!  I also see many homeschoolers participating in fairs I had never heard of before I starting homeschooling –  History Fairs, Geography Fairs, Literature fairs and more.

Our homeschool co-op takes a unique twist on the “fair” concept with our annual Expert Day. Instead of limiting projects to one subject area, students in grades one through six may choose to become an “expert” on any subject area of their choice.   Students often bring projects on favorite animals, historical events, or various hobbies.

Here’s Miss M last year (as a 1st grader) with her project on Sea Horses:

Instead of all students bringing their projects on the same day, Expert Day happens during our co-op’s “assembly time” (the first 45 minutes of our co-op meeting after announcements) for three co-op meetings in a row.  Two grade-levels bring their projects each week, and all students not presenting move around the room in small groups and listen to each “expert” give a three minute presentation on his or her topic. Students are expected to bring some sort of display.  Many choose a standard three panel display board, but others just bring props, while a few go high-tech and have a computer or iPad presentation.

Miss M’s turn for expert day will be on the 2nd Thursday in April.  She actually picked her topic for this year – horses – soon after last year’s expert day! She began a few weeks ago preparing for expert day by working on a horse lapbook.  Over the next couple weeks I’ll be helping her find more library and internet resources, narrowing her topic for her oral presentation, and of course we’ll be working on the presentation itself.

I am so happy to be a part of a co-op — it’s a great way for my kids to have valuable learning experiences like this in research, public speaking, and so on (that I would have a hard time providing with just my family alone!)

I’m linking up with:


Tech Tuesday: “Teach Me…” Apps March 20, 2012

Filed under: Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:32 pm

I usually might wait and see if an app “stands the test of time” as far as how well my kids like it before I would share it here, but I am so impressed with the “Teach Me…” series of apps by 24×7 Digital! I just couldn’t wait to share about these apps!

I’ve seen Carisa at 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 1 mention these apps several times in her posts and in her list of favorite iPad app, so I have been meaning to check them out for a while.

There are currently 4 “Teach Me” apps — Toddler, Kindergarten, 1st Grade and 2nd Grade.  I purchased Toddler, Kindergarten and 2nd grade for $0.99 each.  Trust me, these apps are a bargain.  Some apps at this price point offer a few minutes of entertainment, but these apps have a lot of content.

Each app presents educational material that gets progressively more difficult as the student advances along with rewards that get more complex with each app.

The toddler app covers shapes, colors, numbers and letters — typical toddler and early preschool material.  This is right where Mr K is at right now.  He knows all his colors and all but the more difficult shapes, but is just beginning to consistently know letters and numbers.  The rewards are simply stickers to post on a sticker scene, but Mr. K loves it!

The Kindergarten app is starting out almost a bit too easy for Mr. E, but he is enjoying it anyway and is proud that he can ace most questions in an app meant for the “grade level” he technically won’t start until next fall.  The Kinder app has basic math operations, with visual cues to help out (problems like 1+2 and 2-0), as well as K-level sight words and basic phonics.  The rewards get a step more complex as well, with coins being earned, which can then be spent on stickers.

Finally, Miss M tried the 2nd Grade app for the first time today.  The 2nd grade app involves spelling, sight words, “speed math” (basic math facts) and “long math” (more difficult multi-digit adding and subtracting). The level is right on for all but the sight word reading (Miss M is an excellent reader — way above grade level).  So far the spelling is pretty easy, but she needs all the practice she can get! While the Toddler and Kinder apps involve touching a correct answer from a selection of choices, the 2nd grade app asks the students to write answers using their fingertip (or, I suppose, a stylus would work – we may try that!).  It’s a great idea, but sometimes it missed what letter or number Miss M was trying to enter.  It’s hard to write neatly with your finger tip! The 2nd grade app has more complex rewards including not just the stickers, but a virtual aquarium, photo booth and more where the “coins” users earn can be spent.

I highly recommend this entire series of apps if you are looking for an all purpose, level-appropriate educational app.

I’m linking up with Tech Tuesday at Sunflower Schoolhouse!


Looking Back to 10 Read-Alouds from Fall 2011

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 7:47 am

One of the things I’m eager to consistently share on this blog is the books that I read aloud with Miss M (Age 7.5 — 2nd grade).  I love discovering new books via the reviews/recaps that other bloggers write, and I hope to help others do the same!  I went back to the list of books we read this school year in the months before I started this blog.  There happens to be ten of them.  (How convenient…so I can link up to “Top Ten Tuesday“!).  🙂

I doubt I will find the time to write complete reviews or recaps of these books, so here is a tidbit about each of the books I read aloud with Miss M this fall/early winter:

  1. Heidi — A classic story of friendship and unconditional love set in Switzerland.
  2. A Wrinkle in Time — This was one of my favorite books growing up and I may have overshot a little bit by reading it to Miss M at such a young age.  It’s a fantasy/science fiction genre story, but I was surprised as I read it how much the story is really about personal exploration and finding a sense of self worth. Miss M seemed to enjoy it anyway (we also went to see a play based on the book), though I will have to encourage her to read it for herself again when she is older!
  3. Alice in Wonderland — I’m not sure I actually read this growing up.  Parts of the story were familiar to Miss M and I from having seen two different movie versions.  It was a fun read, though I will admit we skipped over some of the song/poetry sections!
  4. Through the Looking Glass — Somehow I find Through the Looking Glass to be even weirder than Alice in Wonderland.  Parts of the story were familiar since movie versions tend to combine highlights of the two books.  Miss M and I were scratching our heads at points wondering exactly what was going on, but I think we still had fun with it.
  5. The Wheel on the School — This Newberry-award winning book tells the story of a group of school children who are very intent on finding a way to make storks come and nest in their small village, just as they do in the other nearby villages.  As odd as that premise sounds, this is a great story that Miss M and I both really enjoyed.  It’s definitely one of my favorites of the books we’ve read aloud this year.  I love how the story starts with one very determined girl, yet through the course of the story she really brings her whole village together.   I felt very drawn in to the lives of the characters, and how they were learning about hard work, friendship and valuing others as they tried to accomplish the goal of finding a wheel for the roof of their school (the wheel being the place for the storks to nest!).
  6. All of a Kind Family — I had never heard of this book until I saw it mentioned in a positive light in a short list of books that also included my beloved Betsy-Tacy series.  This is story of a Jewish family of five girls in early 20th century New York City.  Miss M could have read this on her own (and did read the sequels on her own), but once we started reading it out loud, I wouldn’t let her finish it on her own because I really wanted to share it with her.  I really appreciated the look into the life and experiences of a Jewish family and their holidays and customs, and it was right up my alley as a story of “fun adventures” (though there is a bit of a plot arc as well).
  7. Door in the Wall — Another Newberry winner (we’ve read a lot of those this year!).  I picked this to correspond with our history studies, since we’ve spent most of the year in the Middle Ages.  This was a bit more of a stretch for Miss M to listen to due to the vocabulary, but she still enjoyed this story of a young man learning to overcome a handicap and find his place in society.
  8. The Family Under the Bridge — We had this one on our shelf for a while, and since the title wasn’t particularly appealing I avoided it for a while. But 0nce we got going, we read through this story quite quickly of a older homeless man in Paris who takes a family of homeless children under his wing.
  9. Caddie Woodlawn — Having enjoyed the last few  books in the “Little House” series over the summer, we decided to try this pioneer adventure as well.  Caddie is a girl who doens’t fit the “pioneer girl” mold in quite the same way as Laura Ingalls.  While Laura definitely has her moments, Caddie is in another category all together as she is much more often to be found adventuring with her brothers than helping her mother. Caddie is a strong protagonist that learns how to use the ways she “doesn’t fit the mold” for good.
  10. The Thirteen Days of Christmas — I chose this as a Christmas-time read-aloud after reading a review of it at the blog Orange Marmalade.  This is a fun, silly story of a suitor in Tudor England wooing his girl, based around…you guessed it, the song “The 12 days of Christmas.”  That’s Miss M’s favorite Christmas song, so we had a lot of fun with this book.

Happy Reading!

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings


Collage Friday: Museum Day, Pi Day, Sick Day March 16, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 2:43 pm

Wow, it has been a really out-of-the ordinary week for us!  For one thing, we’ve gone somewhere every day.  That never happens.   It may have helped that the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  Weather in the 60s and low 70s is very out of the ordinary in March in Minnesota! We didn’t get nearly as much “regular” school work done this week as usual, but we certainly had a ton of fun (and I’m sure plenty of learning happened along the way!).

I took a lot of pictures this week, so it will take three collages to sum it up! 🙂  On Monday, our water was off all day for water main repairs.  I considered my options and decided that hightailing it out of my house for a field trip day was the best one.  Lucky for us, my mom was going to be in town anyway for an afternoon meeting.  So we arranged to meet up with Grandma at the Minnesota Children’s Museum — one of our favorite “field trip” destinations.  If you are in the Twin Cities, I highly recommend their new exhibit “How People Make Things.”  I think I enjoyed it as much as the kids!

Tuesday was a pretty regular day, with school time in the morning and  just a trip to the library after dinner.  Though with the nice weather, the kids spent all afternoon outside, with Miss M’s best friend from across the street joining us for most of it.  Then on Wednesday, we celebrated Pi Day:

My collage came out non-chronologically, so my list will be as well.  🙂

1 & 2:  In the afternoon, we joined friends for homeschool skate at the roller rink.   It was the first time at the rink for all the kids.  Miss M got the hang of it and even made it around eventually without the push bar.  The boys, however, were much more interested in the arcade games!

3. All my Pi Day Pi-rates.  🙂

4. We followed most of the educational ideas I had in my Pi Day post. Here the kids have gathered plenty of round objects from around the house for us to measure.

5.  Pi Pie! (We tried to eat lots of round foods all day — cheerios and bagels for breakfast, Pizza for lunch, Taco Pie for dinner and of course this fruit pie for dessert).

6. A quick stop at Sonic for “happy hour” on the way home from the roller rink…celebrating Pi Day, warm weather, and Mr. K finally putting his poo where it belongs on his own!

7. Enjoying the nice weather outside after the roller skating outing.  Miss M is so glad to be able to head outside to read!

And for the rest of our week…

1.  Lots of time outside this week with the beautiful weather!

2. Work continues on Miss M’s horse lapbook.

3. Miss M had an “Intro to Woodwinds” class in the afternoon on Thursday.  The boys and I played at the playground nearby during her class.  First playground outing of 2012!

4 & 5.  Mr E has taken a sudden interest in the history of weapons.  At first he wanted to make a gun lapbook, and then this morphed into the idea of a lapbook on all kinds of historical weapons.  I couldn’t really find many pre-made lapbook pieces for him to use on this subject. Lucky for me, he told me all he really wanted to do was glue a bunch of pictures in a folder/on cardstock.  That’s easy enough!  We got a few books on the history of weapons from the library, and we’ll add some captions to his “lapbook” at some point.

6.  I had been hopeful for a full school day today (or as full as is possible during the first real week of warm weather).  Instead, however, it’s a sick day for Miss M.  She went to bed with a mild headache/sore throat with no fever, and woke up in the middle of the night with fever and much worse headache/sore throat.  A quick trip to the Target clinic this morning confirmed strep throat.  Miss M is resting and reading for fun today when her headache isn’t bothering her too much (and enjoying plenty of ice cream, applesauce and pudding  of course!)

I’m hoping everyone is well enough for some St. Patrick’s Day celebrating tomorrow! I’ve always wanted to go to the local  St. Patrick’s day parade and festival, and the weather should be great for it this year (though crowded I’m sure with the nice weather and the fact that the holiday is on a weekend this year!).

Have a great weekend! I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly-Wrap-Up @ Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

PhotobucketWeird Unsocialized Homeschoolers


Book Discoveries This Week: Roller Skates March 15, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:04 pm

Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer is a book that surprised me in several ways.  This 1937 Newberry Award winner wasn’t on our read-aloud list.  I intended to start Adam of the Road as our bedtime read-aloud  after we finished Hitty (and we are reading “Adam” now).  But, in browsing the list of Newberry winners, the title of Roller Skates caught my eye as I pondered whether I could make it a goal to complete reading one entire decade of Newberry winners in 2012.  And having read only part of one review, I requested it from the library.

Roller Skates is the story of one year in the life of Lucinda, a ten year old girl in 1890’s New York City.  She is an “orphan” for a year while her parents travel in Italy and leave her in the care of two single women.  Lucinda takes every advantage of the new-found freedom this situation provides.  Her year is spent making all kinds of friends from every social class, reading Shakespeare and, of course, roller skating like wildfire through the city.

I started Roller Skates with pretty high expectations.  A story about the adventures of a young girl taking place in a similar era to my beloved Betsy-Tacy books? That’s something pretty appealing.  However, I was surprised to find myself having a hard time getting “into” the story at first.  Many, many characters are introduced early in the story.  After a while, when Miss M asked me to remind her who a particular person was, I couldn’t recall either and had to look back to discover the identity of this minor character, who turned out to be a neighbor. Some of the early chapters felt long as I read them to Miss M at bedtime.

As the story builds toward the celebration of Christmas and Lucinda’s ambitions to put on a puppet-theater showing of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the story grew on me more and more. One of my favorite passages in the book comes as Lucinda reflects on the Christmas celebration that she arranged for and with her friends, particularly a little neighbor girl from a poor family named Trinket.

“There is always one Christmas that belongs to you more than than any other–belongs by right of festival and those secret feelings that are never spoken aloud. This Christmas belonged to Lucinda in this way, and I think it belonged to many of her friends. I know it was the only Christmas the Browdowskis [Trinket’s family] kept everlastingly green in their hearts.” (p. 116)

After many mostly happy adventures for Lucinda, I was also surprised to find the story taking on a more serious note toward the end.  It turns out that this story has some passages that I could see upsetting some sensitive children.  Lucinda discovers one of her many friends murdered.  It took me so much by surprise I had to ask Miss M if she was okay after we read about it — she was.  It’s not graphic at all, but I don’t think we’ve really come across anything similar in other books we’ve read.

Lucinda also has an another experience with death late in the story.  I won’t go into too much detail as I think it might spoil the story a bit if you knew what was coming (again, something that might be upsetting if you have a sensitive child).  By the end of the book, you really get the feeling that Lucinda has matured in so many ways.  She is no longer just a carefree girl looking to make the most of being out from under the thumb of parents and governess.  She becomes a young woman who knows what it means to truly care for others and to appreciate the year of freedom experienced.

By the end of the book, I found myself wanting to know more of what happened to Lucinda (though you get the impression that perhaps her future years were not quite as exciting or adventurous as this one was).  It’s the kind of book I want to revisit again with Miss M as she gets older and could perhaps experience it on a bit deeper level.   There’s a lot that could be learned or studied further from this book about city life in the 1890’s, their fashions, views on immigrants and differing social classes, and so on.   For right now Roller Skates is going back to the library, but I could definitely see myself buying this one and adding it to our permanent collection.

I’m linking up with Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!