Homeschool Discoveries

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

Book Discoveries this Week: Black Beauty and Justin Morgan Had a Horse December 6, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:27 pm

Miss M and I have been on a bit of a “horse kick” the past few weeks with two horse-related read-alouds:  Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry.

We did a horse unit study last Spring, so this is not a new interest on Miss M’s part.  But of course there are so many great horse-themed books out there it may take awhile to get to all of them.  😉  Black Beauty was a read-aloud I considered last year.  But somehow I had gotten the impression it was a really sad (or even depressing) book, so I didn’t end up selecting it.   So far this school year, my bed time read alouds with Miss M have all been history related, mostly due to her desire to keep selecting historical titles tied into our American History studies.

After our last read-aloud, Miss M asked that we picked something unrelated to American history next.  After a brief attempt at a fantasy book that neither of us were very keen on, we decided to go for historical fiction of a different sort than we have been reading.  I chose Black Beauty from my list of potential non-US-history read-alouds for the year.

In case you aren’t familiar with the plot of this classic story, Black Beauty is told from the perspective of a horse in 19th century England.  Black Beauty gets his start in life as a colt on farm where he trained and treated kindly, after which he is sold to a gentleman named Squire Gordon.  The Squire and his employees also treat Black Beauty very well, but when the Squires wife falls ill, the horses all must be sold.  Thus begins a long line of owners for Black Beauty ranging from another nobleman to cab owners to a corn dealer.

Sometimes Black Beauty is treated well, other times he is ill used or treated harshly.  But in all cases he maintains what you might call “good character.”  He remembers what he was taught in his youth, and always does his best to work hard and not return evil-for-evil.  There are some difficult moments in Black Beauty, which may be where it got its reputation for being a sad book in some ways.     Animal cruelty is definitely present in this book, and a few horses (other than the main character) do die through the course of the story.   But moral lessons are present throughout and I think the author’s hope was that by telling this story of how horses were treated, that perhaps people might think twice about how they treat their horses or other animals.

Miss M and I both definitely enjoyed this book — she told me it may be her favorite read-aloud so far of the 2012-2013 school year!

We continued with the horse theme but also picked up with our current historical time period in US History (roughly the time from the end of the Revolutionary War through the War of 1812) with Justin Morgan Had a Horse.  This 1946 Newberry Honor book begins shortly after the Revolutionary War, and ends sometime after the War of 1812.   It’s a fictionalized account of the horse that was the foundation sire for the Morgan Horse breed, one of the first breeds to be developed in the United States.

Henry’s story opens with schoolmaster Justin Morgan and his young pupil Joel taking a justin morganlong journey from Vermont to Massachusetts to visit a man who owes money to Mr. Morgan.  Morgan’s friend can’t pay back the loan in cash, but offers two horses instead.  Little Bub was so little that Morgan hardly wants him at first.  Joel, on the other hand, just knows that Little Bub would grow up to be a special horse.

Time proves Joel to be correct.  Justin Morgan gives Joel the opportunity to gentle this special horse.   Little Bub may be tiny, but he can pull and race better than the best of them.   Joel hopes to some day buy Little Bub for himself – but the road to owning the horse he loves turns out to be much longer than he expected.

Justin Morgan Had a Horse is the story of a famous horse, but it’s also a coming-of-age story as Joel grows into manhood, and never gives up his dream of bringing Little Bub home to his own stable.

This was another book that both Miss M and I really enjoyed.  It was a quick read — one that Miss M could have easily accomplished on her own.  But I’m glad we shared it together, as I am putting it at or near the top of my list of favorite read-alouds for this school year!

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



Book Discoveries this Week: “Once Upon a Horse” and “A Little Princess” April 19, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:00 am
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It’s two-for-one on Read-Aloud Thursday for me this week since I was too busy to get a “Book Discoveries” post written last week.  There’s even a semblance of a fairy tale theme, if only in the book titles.  🙂

Miss M and I took two weeks off from reading Mystery of History Vol. 3 to read “Once Upon a Horse: A History of Horses and How they Shaped Our History” by Suzanne Jurmain.  We just finished a unit study of sorts on horses to prepare for Miss M’s expert day presentation at co-op (she first broadly chose the topic of horses, then wanted to focus in on the subject of how horses were used through history).  I reserved several books on horse related history from our library, and this one seemed to be the most generally readable.

Jurmain’s book opens with a chapter about the evolution of horses, which to be honest, we skipped in our read-aloud since we hold to a creationist view.  I explained to Miss M why we were skipping the chapter.  She knows that many people hold an evolutionary point of view, and I’m sure as she gets older this is something we’ll study in more detail.  Following this chapter is a discussion on the domestication of horses.  The rest of the book is comprised of eight chapters, each covering a different aspect of how humans use or used horses.

We spent the most time reading and re-reading sections on the horse as it was used in war, for work, for travel and in sending messages since Miss M was most interested in those topics, while we glossed over more quickly chapters on topics like horses in sports and racing.  I really enjoyed how this book touched on many topics we’ve covered in the past two years of reading Mystery of History — the Huns, the Mongols, the first mail delivery system in Persia, Knights on horseback and more.  A general reading of history doesn’t highlight the role of the horse, but the horse really was an important “player” in many of these important points in history.

This book is definitely worth a read for horse lovers that are also history buffs.  I’m not sure if this is a big segment of the population, but given that at least one publisher offers an entire course on the history of the horse, I would guess that there are a few others out there besides my daughter!

This week Miss M and I finished “A Little Princess” by Francis Hodgson Burnett as our bedtime read-aloud.  A lot of the books we read I could almost as easily just hand to Miss M and have her read herself.  This was not one of them!  In fact, I was very glad we were reading this one using the Kindle app on the iPad, because I had to use the handy “dictionary” feature a few times myself!

A few friends were surprised that I had not read “A Little Princess” previously.  It’s yet another “children’s classic” I missed as a child in my rush to get to reading books in the adult section of the library.  If only I could have known what I was missing out on.  At least that gives me more to enjoy and discover now!

“A Little Princess” is the tale of the rich daughter of a British officer stationed in India.  Her mother died at birth, and now her father is sending her off to school in London.  Sara Crewe could easily be a spoiled little brat, but instead she is a model of virtue.  She willingly shares and is kind to others and doesn’t let riches and privilege go to her head.  A few chapters into the story, Sara’s fortune changes.  She loses her wealth, status and most of her material possessions.  She is faced with the challenge of living a life of princess-like virtues without her princess like material surroundings.

I have a confession to make.  After reading about seven chapters or so to Miss M (and seeing just how bad things were getting for poor Sara Crewe), I clandestinely skimmed the rest of the book one night after Miss M went to bed.  Shhh….don’t tell her! She hates it when I do that! 😉  But, I just had to know if it was one of “those” kind of fairy tales. It’s not.  Just so you know.  I felt much more relaxed after knowing that, and we both enjoyed the story quite a bit.

A Little Princess” does not happily smooth over the harshness of life for those less well-off in late 19th century/early 20th century London, but I didn’t think it was inappropriately dark since Sara maintains a positive attitude through it all.  The ending was almost a little over the top for me, but I don’t think Miss M felt that way about it at all.

Has anyone seen a movie version of A Little Princess? I’m curious if it would be worth a watch.

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


Book Discoveries this Week: Misty of Chincoteague April 5, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:56 pm
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After finishing Adam of the Road early last week, Miss M and I started in on Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry as our next bedtime read aloud.  We made quick work of it, finishing it in just over a week.

Miss M loves horses, but she hasn’t read very many horse-themed fiction books yet, other than a few fantasy stories about winged horses and unicorns.  I thought this Newberry Honor book (published in 1947) would be a good starting place.

Misty is a “kid” story just as much as it is a “horse” story.  Two children living on the coastal island of Chincoteague, Virginia have their hearts set on a horse.  And not just any horse — a wild mare living on the nearby island of Assateague.  Each year, the wild horses are rounded up on “Pony Penning Day”.  The horses are driven to Chincoteague for something of a local festival, where all the horses are displayed and some of the young horses are sold to willing buyers from near and far, before the older horses are returned to the wild.  Paul and Maureen Bebee are hard working kids who endeavor to fulfill their dream of not only owning Phantom, the horse they’ve had their eyes on, but her foal Misty as well.

Misty of Chincoteague is loosely based on a true story.  The real Misty was born at the Bebee ranch, not in the wild.  You can even “visit” her, as I learned via wikipedia that she was preserved via taxidermy after she died! (Okay, that weirds me out just a bit — I’m not sure I want to see a taxidermied horse!).   Pony Penning day is a real tradition on Chicoteague Island that began in 1925 and continues today.  This surprised me a bit too, since the idea of swimming wild ponies across a channel to entertain the masses doesn’t strike me as fitting with modern ideas of kind treatment of animals.  But, I will admit I know very little about horses (I never went through a “horse phase” as so many kids seem to do), so maybe this is something that the wild horses don’t mind too much.

Miss M really enjoyed this book, begging me to read extra chapters each night.  The chapters are short, which made it easy to say “yes”!  While I wouldn’t say it’s among my favorite read alouds this year, it was reasonably interesting and exciting.  I’m guessing that Miss M will want to read more of Marguerite Henry’s books in the near future.

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


Collage Friday: Math Games Week January 20, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:36 pm
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Collage Friday - January 20th, 2012

Collage Friday - January 20th, 2012

1 & 2:  We had a “math games week” this week.  When I looked at the upcoming lessons in Right Start C at the end of last, I noticed that we were scheduled for two lessons to learn new games, followed by a review lesson with suggested games.  We played games for math each day M-Th — Short Chain Subtraction Solitaire is the game in both pictures.  We intended to play a game today too, but the review sheet took longer than expected.

In #2, even Mr. E got in on the act of helping with the game.  He is what some people might call “mathy.”  I have never really taught him anything about subtraction, but somehow he figured out the answer to a bunch of problems, or could figure them out with a small hint.  He begged for a Right Start lesson of his own today, and we ended up breezing through about three lessons of level A, after not doing any since well before Christmas break.    I feel bad about rarely doing a lesson of Right Start with him…but he seems to be learning plenty of math whether I do the lessons with him or not.

3:  Miss M, hard at work in her spelling workbook (we are using “How to Spell” book two and “How to Teach Spelling”….sort of.  I am not sure I am quite using it as designed).  The desk is a new addition to the play/school room.  Miss M seems to like it as a new spot to work, especially if she is allowed to stand at the desk and work without a chair!

4:  Miss M loves horses and loves to draw pictures of them.  Aren’t they great for a 2nd grader? I think she can probably draw a horse better than I can!   Miss M found several horse books at the library this week.  She is reading them for fun, but some of this reading I’m sure will benefit her “Expert Day” project at co-op later this spring.  (Expert Day is sort of like a science fair, but the projects can be on any topic.)  She declared months ago that her topic would be horses!

5. The boys totally love Legos.  This was what they were doing several days this week while Miss M and I did school.  Daddy discovered a bunch of his childhood Legos during a recent basement clean-out project, and those Legos joined our recently-organized collection on Sunday afternoon.

6.  Baby J and Mr. K checking out the “bus” at the Children’s Museum.  The kids and I went to the museum for most of the day on Saturday while Tony cleaned the basement.  I could make a whole collage just of pictures of our visit — we had so much fun!  The kids all particularly enjoyed the “Storyland” exhibit that creates play spaces based on several favorite children’s books including “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, “Peter Rabbit”, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and “The Snowy Day.”

7. This nearly empty room means…Miss M is about to get her very own room.  As soon as we gave her the news this past summer that her new sibling would be a brother, we tried to soften the news by telling her she would eventually get her own room (she currently shares with the two bigger boys).  While we originally thought it would not happen until Baby J was old enough to move in with his brothers and out of Mommy and Daddy’s room, we decided it was time to move her sooner rather than later.  Our old office room is getting cleared out and items moved elsewhere in the house (hence the new desk in the school room), and “moving day” is scheduled for tomorrow!

8. Mr. E says HE wants a handwriting book with Bible verses in it like Miss M’s book (She is learning cursive with A Reason for Handwriting Book C).  I told him I would order Book A for him, but I had a challenge for him first: write out all the letters in the alphabet, upper and lower case.  I don’t think he actually knows how to write all the letters yet, but I wanted to see what letters he needs more work on.  He got about half way through the upper-case alphabet on Thursday, and wasn’t too interested in writing today.  The challenge will continue into next week.  Mr. K got right up at the table next to him and declared that he was writing letters too.   I bet his random lines will start looking like real letters pretty soon. 🙂

I’m linking up with…

Collage Friday @ HomeGrownLearners

The Weekly Wrap Up @ Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers