Elementary

The Buck Stops Here

Author(s): 
Alice Provensen

We've always been big fans of the Provensens. Martin and Alice Provensen authored and illustrated so many of our early childhood favorites including The Year at Maple Hill Farm, Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, and A Book of Seasons. The two also illustrated The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown as well as the original Fuzzy Duckling.

Easy as 1,2,3

Author(s): 
Nancy Nicholson

This is a teacher's manual of sorts for those "seeking a primary-level presentation less restrictive than a text", as the author states in the introduction. The author recommends using Childcraft: How and Why Library by World Book's editions predating 1980 and The Everyday Science Sourcebook to go together with this guide, along with library books.

Great Estimations

Author(s): 
Bruce Goldstone

Great Estimations is an eye-popping introduction to the art of, or perhaps the science of, mathematical estimation. Bold colors and clear photographs are used to demonstrate simple, concrete approaches to an abstract mathematical concept. Penguins and pennies. Jelly beans and elbow macaroni. Plastic shoes and paper clips. Practice the techniques for eye training and the methods for clump counting and box counting. Then you can estimate how many of them there are - maybe before your young student does!

Flower Gardening for Our Lady Chart

Comes with a high quality china marker that works quite well. Children can mark all of their good deeds for each day of the week, as well as affix earned flowers stickers (2 sheets with 100 stickers each included). They can also "lose roses" if they sin ("fight, lie, are unkind, disobedient, lazy", etc) which is something I hadn't seen in a chart like this before. The back of the chart lists rules for using it and how many flowers children should attempt to win daily. Suggestions of "holy rewards" are given, as well as more examples of sinful behavior that will cause one to lose roses.

Connecting with History Vol. I

Author(s): 
Andrea Chen
Sonya Romens

A guide for implementing a very comprehensive history program for all ages from preschoolers through adults (yes, even mom!), Connecting with History also incorporates religion, literature, discussion, composition, scripture and poetry memorization, hands-on activities, and more. The stated goal of this program is to help families better understand the Catholic Faith through the study of history, and to better understand true history through the study of the Catholic Faith.

Greathall Audio Productions

Author(s): 
Jim Weiss

Listening to good quality and content audio recording has been a mainstay for our family: they complement reading alone and reading aloud quite well. We have crossed the country listening to great renditions of Fr. Brown, Jeeves and Wooster, and Huckleberry Finn among many others. My husband commutes at least four times a week to the University 55 minutes away and has been become quite a critic of audio productions.

The Story of Cardinal George

Author(s): 
Father Eugene Keusal
Illustrator(s): 
Madeleine Ferrara

Children who live in the Archdiocese of Chicago know that their Cardinal Archbishop is Francis Cardinal George. But do they know anything at all about his life?

After meeting Cardinal George at a mass at our parish, I was immediately struck by two facts: one--that he was much shorter than I imagined him to be, and two--that he walked with a limp. I was curious about that limp, but never expected to have that particular curiosity satisfied.

The Blue Knights Boys Club

Author(s): 
Dan McGuire

General Overview...

The Blue Knights Boys Club is “a catechetical program” for young boys modeled after the Little Flowers program by Rachel Watkins. The age group that is targeted is 4-7, but it could be used for older boys up to age 12. The goal of the Blue Knights program is to develop in the boys a devotion to St. Joseph, using the theme of Knighthood based on virtues. This program “seeks to lay a foundation of virtue on which subsequent stages of catechesis can build.”

Why mental math?

The authors state that "two common problems found in all levels of math classes are the inconsistencies of math terminology and the lack of self confidence in students when answering simple math questions." This series of books was written to address these problems and to provide practice in solving math problems both mentally and quickly. The use of terminology from standardized tests is also beneficial; my children have been confused by different terms even when they understood the concepts well. To a first-grader, "add" doesn't always mean the same thing as "plus".

This series of math supplements is available for grades 1 to 5, and is designed to be used each day of the school year for the first 10 minutes of math class. These courses provide practice and review, but no direct instruction; this is not a complete math program. In addition, these courses require the active participation of the teacher; Mental Math cannot be considered an independent program. From my perspective, this is a particular strength for homeschoolers. Many students work on their math independently, and these courses give the homeschool teacher an opportunity to casually and regularly assess the progress of their student. First graders begin in the second semester of the school year while the other grades start at the beginning of the school year. With the exception of the first grade book, each book begins by reviewing material from the previous grade level.

The instructions for each book clearly state that the teacher is to read the questions to the student twice and then to go on to the next question. The student is not permitted to ask questions, to talk, or to request that the problem be repeated. The student is also not permitted to use scratch paper. Because these courses were designed for the classroom, the student is instructed to write the answer. In a homeschool setting, the answers could be given orally as well.

The only confusing part of the program to me was the numbering system used on the daily worksheets. Each sheet is coded with the grade level and the types of problems being practiced. A key is provided to explain it, and the system makes sense, but I floundered a bit until I developed some experience. This is done to provide flexibility; the program does not have to be used in a specific order. My children have enjoyed these books, and they look forward to showing me just how much they have learned. Sometimes they are quicker to find a solution than I am.

Reviewed by S.K.

Catholic Cardlinks: Bible

Author(s): 
Thomas Craughwell

Thomas Craughwell has a knack for informative yet captivating writing! This is a very nice first Bible for a beginning reader, and of course it could be read aloud as well.

Each page has an illustration and a Bible verse in bold, ranging from Genesis to Revelation. I wish the illustrations were a bit more professional, and that the text agreed with the way the "card" pages turn: it is a bit awkward to flip the clunky volume from front to verse on each page.

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