Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review: Underland Chronicles (series)

I just finished reading this amazing series of five books about the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. Here's the Scholastic summary of the series:

When 11-year-old Gregor follows his little sister Boots through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment building, he discovers a vast, dark Underland beneath the city. It’s a gloomy yet strangely beautiful place where humans have learned to live without the sun, and giant cockroaches, bats, and rats have learned to speak. The humans are influenced by the prophecies of their ancestral leader, Bartholomew of Sandwich, whose words foretell the coming of a Warrior from above who will save the Underland from a variety of perilous situations. Is Gregor that Warrior? And does he care enough about the Underland to risk his life for it?

The five books are:

I have to admit that we bought two of these books about a year ago, and they've been sitting on our bookshelf. I bought them for my son, but he's been reading other things, so we hadn't gotten around to them. I finally decided that I really wanted to read them, because I love the author, Suzanne Collins, who also wrote the Hunger Games trilogy. Well, once I started reading these books I was totally hooked and had to buy the rest of the books in the series right away.

I absolutely love the main character, Gregor. He is the oldest of three children, and truly has such a tremendous heart for his family and naturally gravitates toward peace. He has such care and concern for his family, and is a wonderful big brother. He has to grapple with many circumstances beyond his years, but with his youth he brings an innocence to each situation. You can see through the pages how he's wrestling to make sense of seemingly senseless things. His genuine heart stands out. I've had my 11-year-old son (who is the oldest of three kids) start reading the series as well. I believe the book has many great character lessons in it.

I will also say that these books are also full of action, violence, war, and death. But with this comes the overall message of peace that Ms. Collins is trying to get across. Through Gregor and the other characters in the books we are able to see their views on war, discrimination, violence, forgiveness, revenge, loyalty, and so on. And I love the ultimate message of trying to solve problems through more peaceful means, and not through violence. I think these are great topics to discuss with my kids. I'm looking forward to my son getting along in the books so we can discuss these themes and his opinions as well. The books even address the idea of prophesies, or the

The books were action-packed and I had a hard time putting them down. The characters moved me. I cried when they cried, smiled when they smiled, and mourned when they mourned. Even as I finished the last book last night (early this morning), I had a hard time getting them out of my mind. I woke thinking about them and wanting to read more. I highly recommend these books for adults and children 10 and up. To be safe, it is always good for parents to read first. I loved the books, and feel grateful to have read them.

Fly you high, Gregor the Overlander!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lego Club

I found out about this little gem of a class about 10 minutes before it started, but I'm very glad I did. CurrClick has many great online classes. The Lego Club is the first one we have tried. It was easy to sign up for and it's free, although they suggest you make a donation to support the leaders (just click here to get more details).

Once a month this Lego Club meets online and the teacher leads the attendees in a live class making various Lego creations. This month's theme was Crazy Contraptions. Ian only had enough time to gather the materials for one of the creations, since we signed up so late. But he had a great time making it - a Candy Dispenser. Plus, they record the classes for later viewing, so Ian will be able to go back and make the other creations.

Here's Ian watching the class and making his creation. He loves the final Candy Dispenser product and luckily we had some M&Ms so he could test it out. And we're happy to report - It works!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal, June 25

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week…

We attended my beautiful cousin Shasta's wedding. I'm older than my cousins on my mom's side, so it was nice to finally see one of them get married. Her new husband, Gabriel, is a Marine and a really sweet guy. It was a special night and I wish them all the best.
In our homeschool this week…

VBS was our big thing this week. But I also attended a Used Curriculum Sale and found some neat finds for the kids next year.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

This was the kids week of VBS. Many of their friends were there, so it was a fun-filled week. They spent every morning at VBS, then many afternoons with friends. One afternoon we went to a library show about Balloons and played with our friends afterwards. One day we went to a friend's for swimming. And another day was an all afternoon playdate followed with a sleepover at our house. My kids were not lacking in socializing this week.

My favorite thing this week was…

Dancing with my son, Ian, at my cousin's wedding. It was Ian's idea, and even though I'm not a big public dancer, I loved dancing with him. He's such a fun kid. Then he danced with my mom. So cute!

Things I’m working on…

While the kids were at VBS, I had three hours every morning to myself. This was the first year they were all old enough to go. And how did I spend my time? Cleaning and organizing and curriculum shopping. It was nice to be able to organize something and know that in another room of the house no one was making a new mess.

I’m reading…

* The book of Deuteronomy in my Bible
* Finished: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins
                   Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
* Currently reading: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

I’m grateful for...

My incredible husband. My beautiful boys. My family and friends. My amazing church. My life. My God.

A photo to share…

Our family at my cousin's wedding

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The boys enjoyed the free show at the library today after VBS - Nifty Balloons. It was a husband and wife team, Mr. Dave and Shana, and they had a whole show using balloons, stories, and silly jokes that entertained all the kids. (During the show I was thinking to myself how cool it would be to work with my husband. I love when he works from home and we get to have lunch with him.) Anyway, the kids enjoyed the show and getting to sit with their friends. Libraries are such a great resource for more than just books.

Lizard Lapbook

My boys love lizards, especially Ian. He is an expert lizard catcher, and has a hard time passing one by. He even caught a lizard while we were picking blueberries this week. So doing a lapbook on lizards is right up their alley. I found these great lizard lapbook activities on Homeschool Share. (Except, the coloring page was found here.) Ian and Cole did most of the writing, with me helping with the tedious parts. Bode listened along and colored the blue-footed lizard seen on the cover.


The Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you to Jen from Chestnut Grove Academy for this award! I'm so encouraged!
The rules of the award are:
Thank the giver.
Tell seven things about yourself.
Award fifteen bloggers with the award.

Seven things about myself (in no particular order):
1. I never wanted to homeschool before, and here I am four years later loving it.
2. I have my Master's Degree in Family and Consumer Science (emphasis in nutrition) and work as a Clinical Dietitian most weekends.
3. I have been known to forget about plants and let them die, which is perhaps why my kids are loud. They don't want me to forget to feed them :)
4. I have a funny baptism story, but the end result was that my husband (whom I barely knew at the time) baptized me in the ocean in Santa Barbara in the winter (brrr, cold) because he was the only one from our church who came wearing shorts (we were mostly college students). 8 months later we started dating. 3 years after that we were married. Gotta love God's plans.
5. I discovered the band Mumford and Sons this year and am loving them.
6. I love to read and have to remind myself that I'm supposed to be doing housework, too.
7. I randomly quote movies and songs, mostly with my husband.
And now for the awards (not quite 15, but I'm new to blogging, so this is what I came up with)...

Friday, June 17, 2011

"B" for Blueberry

Bode's letter of the week was "B" and our book was Blueberries for Sal. The idea of "rowing" this book came from Five in a Row. I still don't have the official Before Five in Row book, but I'm enjoying lapbooking with Bode just the same. There are a lot of great online resources.

Day 1:

I read the book aloud, which Bode was really into. It's a very cute book. Our first activity was to talk about the Favorite Foods of a Black Bear (activity from Homeschool Share). Bode cut out the food pictures and pasted them. Then Bode matched "B" words and their pictures and colored a letter "B" coloring page (worksheets from Enchanted Learning). Bode also traced his name, which of course starts with a "B". Then we made blue pancakes for lunch (with chocolate chips, of course).

Day 2:
We read the book together, and this time Cole sat in with us. Bode cut out pictures of things that start with "B" then pasted them onto a Bb page (activity from Homeschool Creations ). These cutting activities are great practice for him. He also played Blueberry Match, by matching upper and lower case letters on blueberry cards (activity from Homeschool Share ). Bode also did the I Can Color B Words worksheet (from Enchanted Learning), where he had to follow directions and color each B word picture with the appropriate color.

Day 3:

Today we simply went blueberry picking. Bode got to be Little Sal.

Day 4:

Bode finished up his "B" projects. We discussed why bears hibernate (from Homeschool Share ). Bode did Blueberry Math and cut and pasted Are You My Mother matches (from Homeschool Share ). He traced his upper and lower case Bb letters (from Homeschool Creations ). He also made a Rainbow Bb by tracing with the colors of the rainbow.

Finished Product:

Homeschool Mother's Journal, June 17

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week…

This was our first official week of summer. Unfortunately, we started the week with illness in the house. Ian hasn't been feeling well all week. Cole was just sick for a short time, and I had a few problems of my own. Bode and hubbie have been fine. Luckily it hasn't been anything major, but poor Ian doesn't like being sick.

In our homeschool this week…

Since the boys have been under-the-weather, we took it easy this week. But we did start working on a Lizard Lapbook, which is almost finished. Ian loves to catch lizards, so this has been fun.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Cole, Bode, and I volunteered at Children's Hunger Fund this week. We filled bags of food for their Food Paks. It was a great experience in volunteering and serving. The boys had a great time and we look forward to serving there again.

My favorite thing this week was…

I loved taking the boys to serve at CHF. But I also loved going on a date with my hubbie this week. We have a date night co-op with another family, where we alternate weeks of either going on a date or watching each other's kids. This week was our date night. Even though it was just dinner and a movie, it is always nice to have special time with my hubbie.

Things I’m working on…

This is my second week of ABC preschool with Bode. I'm enjoying this time with Bode. He loves "school time," so I want to continue to promote that love of learning in him. This week was "B for Blueberry."

I’m reading…

In addition to reading my Bible, I've been enjoying lots of fun reading this week. Having an upset stomach has been the perfect excuse to sit down and read. This week I read: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, and Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins. Divergent is an exciting dystopian young adult novel. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. The Gregor books are a series of five books for preteens/independent readers, but I have been thoroughly enjoying them as well. I bought them for my son, but since he hadn't gotten around to them yet, I thought I'd start them. They are full of action, oversized creatures, and Gregor is a great character.

I’m grateful for…

I work on the weekends as a Clinical Dietitian in a hospital, and was complaining about it this weekend. But in reality I'm grateful for my job and financial help it gives us. I have a very flexible job, so I need to always remind myself how lucky I am.

A photo to share…

Bode and Cole in front of all the pretzels we bagged for Children's Hunger Fund.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Children's Hunger Fund - Volunteering

Today, Cole, Bode and I had a great time volunteering at Children's Hunger Fund. (Ian was home sick, poor guy.) But this was a good opportunity for the younger boys since they were too young to participate last week at My Stuff Bags with Ian. We brought a group of 24 participants - 7 adults, 17 kids (ages 2-14).

"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."  Deuternomy 15: 11

One of the things that Children's Hunger Fund does is assemble "Food Paks" for needy families. These food paks contain items to help a family of 4 or 5 for a week. Many of these items are bulk items that volunteers then bag up for the individual food paks. Our group helped with cereal squares, animal cookies, and pretzels. My boys worked on the pretzel bags the whole time.

Look at that huge box filled with pretzel bags (which was empty when we started). The kids worked for two hours and had a blast helping and filling that box. This was a great opportunity for them to serve and they look forward to doing it again.