Making the Most of Used Book and Curriculum Sales - tips on finding the best books and investing wisely

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Just recently, our local homeschool group organized a big Used Book and Curriculum Sale.  This is when a whole bunch of homeschool Moms (and Dads!) get together and buy and sell with each other.  

It is seriously a whole room full of awesomeness, especially for us crazy book lovers.  It is like a Homeschool Conference Curriculum Fair multiplied by 100 times the bliss.  There are not only used books but also used curriculum, homeschool resources, and hard to find stuff that only other weird homeschoolers would ever have.  And at a fraction of the cost.  Seriously!?

It's pretty much one of my favorite places to be.  Yep...  put me in the middle of a Used Book and Curriculum Sale and I'm in (earthly) geek heaven.

So, for the recent sale, I was a vendor (ie: I sold books at a table).  I enjoyed 'selling' quite a bit because I got to chat with so many wonderful homeschoolers and offer thoughts and advice about various books and resources we have used and enjoyed.  I kept my prices super low because, in all honesty, I'm there to support the homeschool group and be an encouragement to other homeschoolers - not to make a fortune.

But as I chatted with the many different homeschoolers...

I was reminded again how much new homeschoolers struggle to find the right resources for their families.  

I've been there.  

I remember the first ever Curriculum Sale that I went to about 7 years ago.  I think I left almost in tears, I was SO overwhelmed.   I had no idea what I was looking for.  I had no idea what a good deal was.  I had no idea which programs were good or which curriculum would suit our child.  I was lost.   I spent way too much money and walked away with a weird pile of mish-mashed resources, most of which I never used.  (The one shining light of that year was how God led me to pick up a $5 beat-up, used copy of Five in a Row Volume 1, which was the BEST purchase I've ever made for our homeschool!!!)

Anyways, over the years, I have learned (often the hard way) how to not get so overwhelmed and also how to make intentional, wise purchases at book and curriculum sales.  So, well, dear friends - I thought I'd share my experience and ideas.

So, here goes...

Thoughts to help you avoid regret, find great deals, and invest wisely at Used Book and Curriculum Sales:

Arrive Early.

Just today I had a chat with a homeschooling friend who shared her complete frustration with a local Used Book and Curriculum Sale.  "I waited nearly TWO HOURS in line and was so exasperated by the time I got in...."   Yep, that would be super frustrating.  She arrived about an hour after the doors opened and, well, the sale was packed, and she not only had a negative experience, but struggled to find what she was looking for.  Go early. Homeschool Moms are crazy.  Be one of the crazies.  Embrace it.  It's for the sake of the children.  And the books.  *wink*

Bring Cash.

This seems super basic, but in a world where most people rarely carry cash, it can be EASY to forget to take actual money. People (especially at a used sale) will ONLY take cash, so bring as much as your budget can allow and try also to bring small bills and coins.  This is helpful in getting better deals (helps you bargain) and also a lot easier for the vendors!

Bring something that allows you to comfortably carry your purchases/books.

Alright, I'll admit it - I totally LAUGHED at the ladies with wheeling suit-cases at the Used Curriculum Sale a few years ago.  Completely snorted.  Now?  Oh, you better believe I've got a rolling suitcase with me, sister!  BEST. THING. EVER.  Honestly, if you are purchasing piles of books, you will not want to carry them around in bags all night/day.  Your arms and back will be killing you.  Bring a wheeling something if you have one.  Yep, you'll look crazy and the newbies who don't know the secret of the wheelies will laugh at you - but it's totally worth it.

Know your homeschool goals, philosophy, and style and try to stick to what you know will work for your family.

This is not easy.  This is actually HUGE.  It can take a while to really know what your goals are and what philosophy (or philosophies) you believe in and want to establish in your homeschool.  (If you need help in this area, consider checking out PLAN YOUR YEAR!).  

I spent a lot of money going back and forth with big boxed curriculums in my early years because I didn't really understand my own personal style and what our family philosophy of learning was or should be. Now that I have a much clearer picture of who we are and where we are going - it is so much easier to say 'no' to a mountain of resources.

Do some research and start to shape your own philosophy of learning. If you are leaning towards Classical or Charlotte Mason, that will alter what you purchase (and what you don't!).  Same for if you are unit study based, school-at-home, or more of an unschooler, etc.  The key is to know what you believe and what you need to achieve the educational philosophy you are striving to embrace.

Resist the temptation to make expensive, spontaneous curriculum purchases just because they're a great deal.

Um, yeah... ask me how I know.  I am the girl who drops $300 on the shiny phonics program that doesn't get used... oh, and $200 on the boxed curriculum that didn't get used...  I've made very spontaneous purchases at curriculum fairs and EVERY SINGLE TIME I have regretted it.

Every. Single. Time.  I've lost money and I've been frustrated and I still didn't learn because I did it every year for like, oh, 5 years.  (sigh)

There may be the odd time that this works out.  Honestly though, big purchases and big decisions (like a whole year's worth of boxed curriculum) are not best made on the fly.  Take time to research and be certain that if you want a program, which one would work for you.  If you already know what you want and what would work and THEN you find it - that is a different story.  Spontaneous, "OH!  LOOK!  A big curriculum that I had no intention buying!  BUT it is normally $600 and she's selling for $200!!!"... don't do it, Mama.  

Just my humble 2 cents based on experience!

Look for tables where you can easily and clearly see your philosophy of education displayed.

So, for example - if I see a table heaped with Bob Jones University curriculum, I'm not going to stop.  If I see a table full of various fill-in-the-blank workbooks - I'm not going to stop.  It's not that I have anything against these things, I just know that they do not work with my philosophy of education.

If you never use workbooks and don't ever plan to use a boxed curriculum like BJU, then don't waste your time at those tables.  Move on and find a table that DOES offer what you're looking for... for example...

If I see a table full of living books, historical fiction novels, resources for greek, latin, nature study, dictation, or narration - I'm going to stop.  These are clear signs that this Mom (or vendor) is selling materials that would appeal to my more Classical, Charlotte Mason philosophy of education.  

Look for classic books and don't be afraid to snatch them up.

I really don't have to expand too much.  Classic literature is ALWAYS worth the investment.  Seek out and don't be afraid to purchase classic picture books and novels.  I've never regretted those investments and the majority of these types of books will never leave our family library.  When you can get a classic for $1 - it is always worth the purchase! (Even if you won't use it for a while or your kids have outgrown it!)

Get familiar with titles in the booklists that support your philosophy of education.  When you see the titles from the lists - grab them.

So, this is kind of related to the whole idea of buying classics.

After several years of homeschooling with a Charlotte Mason inspired philosophy, I've grown very familiar with the types of books to look for.  Think: Sonlight catalog, Heart of Dakota books, Ambleside, Simply Charlotte Mason, classics, living books lists, biographies, poetry anthologies, etc.
So, if I see books that I know are frequently listed as great living books, I quickly grab them up.  Even if my kids won't be ready to read them for another couple of years!   I am actually quite liberal with my purchases of these types of books because they rarely disappoint.

If something is under $5 and you are really torn as to whether or not to buy it... just get it.

Don't leave the sale regretting not buying that novel for two bucks.  If something inside of you is nudging you to grab it, listen.  Better to grab it at a cheap price than regret not getting it later.

Come with a list and don't be afraid to actually ASK people what they have.

Honestly?  It know it seems a bit 'over-kill' to walk  up to table vendors and start rhyming off a list of books you are looking for - but, it's not a bad idea.

At the sale last week, I casually mentioned that I was looking for the Nature Liberty Readers and the Mom promptly dug in a box and placed two (the two I needed!) in my hands.

Trust me, you might feel silly, but it will save you time and frustration to just ask.  Plus, if you ask first - well, you know, the early bird gets that worm!

Recognize and grab everyday, useful homeschool books at a great price.

I'm talking Atlases, Dictionaries, Thesauruses, high quality Encyclopedias (like Usborne's World History ones), Nature Guides, and handbooks for Math and Science concepts.  

There are countless Atlases in our home and we use them all.  Explorer's Atlas, World Atlas, Canadian Atlas, Animal Atlas, these are all incredibly useful and will stay in your 'library' forever.  

We also have the Usborne Junior Encyclopdias, several World History Encyclopedias, and books like, The Last 500 Years and The Encyclopedia of Planet Earth.

Bird guides, plant guides, animal guides, and local nature books are also really helpful to have on hand.

These types of resources are very  good investments no matter what content or curriculum you cover year to year.  You will always have a great selection of books to access when you need information about a wide range of topics.  These may never be read-alouds or core books, but they will be used often and in many ways.

Stick around to the end of the sale and grab the best deals (and even the freebies!).

Yep, I totally do this.  On purpose.  Because no doubt, every time, when the sale is coming to a close - people get crazy and start either dropping their prices crazy low or actually giving stuff away. (I did!)  Most Moms who come to a used book sale with piles of books have already emotionally detached from the books they are selling.  They really don't want to bring heaps of stuff back home with them.  Come the end of the sale - they may very well give you some GREAT deals.  It's worth sticking around to the end.

Alright, now, let's see if I actually put my own tips into practice...  to give you an idea, I spent about $100 cash on everything you see in the photos below.

A look at what I purchased at a recent Used Book and Curriculum Fair:

A Child's History of the World $10 (this is such a classic living book for world history and my copy was falling apart... so a no brainer purchase in my opinion!), Pocketful of Pinecones is a classic Charlotte Mason Nature Study book, the three HEROES books from Dave and Neta Jackson were a GREAT find (if you ever see these, buy them, they are amazing!), Christian Liberty Nature Readers are classic Charlotte Mason readers for narration, Among the Night/Farmyard people are also classic Charlotte books, Plutarch's Lives is a classic, and Story Starters is a Writing Resource that I have seen in various Charlotte Mason inspired lists and catalogs, so I grabbed it when I saw it.  LOVE this pile.  Super happy with these purchases!

The Children's Book of Home and Family goes along with William J. Bennet's various other virtues based literature (The Children's Treasury of Virtues, etc.).  Any time I see books like this, I buy them because they are great for character study, read-alouds, and narration.  I grabbed the Apologia Science because it was $10 and we do not have a good resource for creation-based human anatomy.  The White Stallion of Lipizza is in many living book lists and is hard to find.  The others caught my eye and fit our philosophy, so I grabbed them.

Living Literature!  Many of these are titles I recognized from lists, or were written by authors we are familiar with and enjoy.

More Living Books!  Here I was excited to find tons of biographies.  Biographies are a wonderful way to learn history and study character and Hero Admiration.

I've actually always really loved the books from Christian Light Publications, so I don't hesitate to purchase them when they look good!  ($2 for this, I think!)

This is a beautiful resource for bible study!

Inside Story Starters.

All About Reading Level 2 - Full Review

Monday, May 16, 2016

The very first thing I want to mention (and I've said this before!) is that I absolutely love the people behind All About Learning Press.  They are authentic, kind-hearted, wonderful to speak with, and they truly care about children and parents.  They really, seriously, are in this to help kids read and spell well and the help parents help their kids succeed in literacy and in life.  And that is a very good starting point for the kind of products I want to use in our home every day.  I'm sure you agree!

As for the program?  We really LOVE All About Reading.  Audrey completed Level 2 this year, and Alex completed Level 1 and is nearly done Level 2.) They both frequently have asked to do their All About Reading work.  Not only do we love it - it is incredibly effective.  This year, they have both progressed leaps and bounds in reading and I accredit it hugely to All About Reading.

Many homeschoolers have asked me about All About Reading.  It is one of the best known reading and phonic programs on the 'homeschool market' today, and for good reason. I am really excited to be working through it so I can really speak honestly and openly about our experience with this amazing program.

One of the things I love about the All About Reading program is that it is very self-paced.  You work through it at the speed you need or want to.  We chose to move through Level 1 quite quickly because we could and Alex was ready.  

There are may families and children who will take an entire school year or longer to work through Level 1... and that's perfectly fine!  You can go at the pace that works for you and your child, which is lovely.  Likewise with Level 2.  It took a little longer for us to finish Level 2 because the concepts are more challenging and Audrey was also reading other readers along with her All About Reading work.

This program is also very multi-sensory.  This means that it engages many different senses and will appeal to many learning styles.  Our children both loved all the elements of the lessons.  They were motivated and excited to work through All About Reading.  It was their go-to when they started their day, always wanting to 'do' their All about Reading work.

Getting Started:

Okay, so this is one 'shiny curriculum' I actually endorse (and there aren't many).  Why?

Because it works.

And it's reading.

Learning to read is (in my opinion) the most important 'academic' skill your children will learn in their young years and I believe a good program is worth every penny.  If you are committing to All About Reading, don't go half in- buy what you need to REALLY do this program.  The materials are so beautiful, so colourful, so high-quality...  we were drawn to them and wanted to use them!  (Let's just say, this is not the case for all reading programs!)

This is a (mostly) non-consumable program - which means, if you take care of your materials, you can use them again and again for every child in your home.  The only part that could potentially be consumable is the activity sheets.  We used them in a way that allowed us to reuse them and we took care to store our cut-outs in a folder so they could be used again by another child.

I'm pretty sure I actually started the program for Level 1 and 2 the day after I received my box.  This program is so 'open and go', that it was quite easy to do this.  I just read the material in the first few pages and got the manipulatives ready (mostly, I had to take apart the Phonogram and Word Cards and put magnet stickers on the back of the letter tiles - which came with the materials in the Student Packet).

I decided to store all our pages from the Student Packet in a plastic folder, as this was what my good friend had done and it seemed to work well!  Taking out the pages and cutting the activities ahead of time is helpful, but not necessary.  There are many days I did it on the fly.  *smile*

It was so simple to start, literally, just open up the Teacher's Manual and go.  This is so helpful for a busy homeschool Mom, isn't it?  No long prep time, no confusing teacher's guide.

I love how the Teacher's Manual is set up.  It makes it so incredibly easy to follow along.  They use icons to show what to do next and the print is large, bolded in parts, and simple to read as you teach.  

At the top of each first page of a new lesson, the items you will need for that day are clearly listed.  There will be a step-by-step lesson plan that follows.  You can read it ahead of time or just open and go.

The first thing I always notice every single time I open my All About Reading Teacher's Guide is how hands-on, easy, straight forward, and open-and-go it truly is.  I LOVE these guides.

I try to do some prep work for lessons, but I can still teach an effective lesson even if I haven't opened the guide before we dive right in.  I find the most important 'prep' to do for the All About Reading lessons is the cutting out and preparing of the activities in the Student Activity Book.    Even having said that - I've forgotten to cut things out and I have managed to throw it all together in 5 minutes, no sweat!

All About Reading Level 2 - Student Activity Book, Teacher's Manual, and Readers.  I had already taken the Phonogram and Word cards and placed them in the Reading Review Box (below).

The Different Elements of the All About Reading Level 2 Program

So, naturally, Level 2 comes after Level 1 (shocking, I know!).  But that doesn't mean you have to complete Level 1 first.  It really depends on your child's current reading Level.

We were blessed to be able to review both levels (read my full review of Level 1 right here).

If you are ordering All About Reading Level 2 for the very first time and you have no other All about Reading Resources, you will need to buy the following:

-All about Reading Level 2 Materials (includes the Teacher's Manual, Student Packet, and the 3 Readers)
-A Reading Interactive Kit (you choose if you want the Deluxe or the Basic, we got the Deluxe - if you already own the Interactive Kit from Level 1, you do not need to repurchase anything!)

The lessons flow in a very natural and fun format.  Generally, you work through a concept in one lesson, then in the next lesson, the child will read one or two of the stories from the readers which uses and applies that reading concept.

Of course, the stories get harder as the child moves through the level.

Some snapshots of the children enjoying the program.

Figuring out where to place your child in All About Reading can be a bit tricky.  You can use the All About Learning Press website to help you as well, you can contact their super friendly and helpful staff.  You can also use their Placement Tests which will give you a pretty good starting point.

How the Lessons Actually Work

Here is an overview of a typical lesson flow for All About Reading Level 2:

1. First we do our Review
We start with a review of the Phonogram Cards and Word Cards we had in our "review" sections in our word box.  These are cards that have previously been taught but that the children still need to practice until they are mastered.   All the Phonogram Cards are yellow, and the word cards are green.  This 'review/mastered' pattern follows for Level 1 to 4 of All About Reading.

Word Cards with the All About Reading Review Box.  I love having this box, it is such a tidy, colorful way to store our cards which we use daily. The kids recognize it as their 'word box' and they know where to find it.

Divider Cards for the Phonogram and Word Cards.

2. Then we do our New Teaching - Here we are presenting the new concepts.  This often includes new letter sounds (here we use the Phonogram Cards), new reading concepts, new rules, etc.  This starts very simple and gets progressively more difficult.

Here are some examples of what the New Teaching looks like in the lessons for Level 2:

Lesson 1 -  Closed and Open Syllables and reviewing words from Level 1 with the Feed the Anteater game.

Lesson 14 - Introducing the idea of silent E to change the sound of the initial vowel.  For example, changing dim to dime.

Lesson 27 - Here we are learning how to combine words by using an apostrophe.  So, he will = he'll, she had = she'd, etc.

Lesson 50 - The  Third Sound of A is the new teaching for this lesson.  We are talking about yet another sound the vowel can make.  This time, it makes the sound "aw" as in call, ball, fall, mall, etc.

3. The Letter Board!  Our children love playing with the Letter Tiles on our big magnetic white board.  These boards are not required for All About Reading, but I highly recommend making the investment!  

We use the letter tiles usually in the 'New Teaching' section of the lesson.  This is used to build words and practice what we've learned in previous lessons as well as new concepts.  The kids use the tiles to sound out the consonants and vowel sounds in words and eventually, to build their own words.    

We also play "Change the Word", which our children love.  Here we simply swap out beginning and ending consonants to create new words.  It works like this, imagine each new bullet is the new word:
  • mob
  • mom
  • mop
  • top
  • hop
  • hot
  • rot
  • pot
  • got
I will say, "Ok, change 'mob' to 'mom',  now change 'mom' to 'mop'!  (And so on.)  This is a fun, easy way to play with words and practice reading.  The hands-on, tactile process works so well with my children, as I'm sure it would with most children.

How we store our extra Word Tiles - just a simple crafting bin from a dollar store.  

All About Reading uses Letter Tiles in almost every lesson.  You don't need to purchase a large magnetic board, but it is suggested.  We decided to buy one at a local office store for about $40.  Make sure if you buy a white board, that it actually is magnetic and that it is the recommended size listed in the All About Reading information.  (4ft by 2ft, I think!)

4. Next there is usually some kind of Activity or Game to complete The games and activities vary in difficulty, length of time, and style or learning.

Some examples of activities/games for Level 2 include:

  • Be a Lumberjack - children use a paper ax to 'chop' compound words in the middle.   For example, given the word admit, they would place the ax between the d and the m.
  • Bug Hunt - children practice plural words by placing word cards in a bug 'net' and then reading the new plural words with an 's' at the end.
  • Hammers and Feathers - children choose either a hammer or a feather to place beside word cards that either have a hard C sound or a soft C sound.  For example, the word cold would have a hammer next to it, since it makes the hard 'ck' sound at the beginning.
  • Word Flippers are also often used to help with reading practice (shown below from Level 1).

Once we took the pages out of our Student Activity Book, we kept our sheets in a plastic folder.   This was an easy way to store all our games, fluency charts, print-outs, and progress charts and stickers.

5. Now - We Practice our Reading Words!  This is the part of the lesson where we apply what we've learned.  I took out the required Word Cards and we flipped through them together, having Alex read each word as it came to the top of the pile.  If the child is able to read the word, it moves to the 'Mastered' section of the Word Box, if not, it is placed in the 'Review' section.

6. On to Fluency Practice!  The Fluency Practice sheets are found in the All About Reading Blast Off Activity Book which comes in the Level 2 Materials Pack.

There are various parts to these sheets including, New Words, Mixed Review, and Phrases and Sentences.  These sheets will combine what children have learned in previous lessons to build on their reading skills.  These sheets can seem a bit daunting to some children.  There is quite a bit to read though and practice.  We often didn't read through every single word.  These are meant as a tool to practice what you've learned. They are a great resource!

Hooray, if your child has completed their lesson, it is time for a sticker on the All About Reading Level 2  Progress Chart!   This is a cherished and favourite part of the program for our children!  They love the feeling of putting that star on that chart and seeing their progress!

And... that's what a typical Lesson looks like!

Sometimes, it would take us a couple days to a week to finish one lesson, just for reference.

The 'Reading' Lesson

Some lessons are what I call,  Reading Lessons.  These lessons are ones where the child applies what they've learned by reading one or two stories from their All About Reading Reader.  No new concepts are taught during the Reading Lesson.  The child simply focuses on reading the story or stories assigned.

The main idea is to snuggle up and read together, having your child read his best through the assigned stories.  Once they have successfully read the stories for that lesson, they earn another sticker for their Progress Chart!

A peek inside the Level 2 readers, showing the progression from the easiest (top row) to the hardest (bottom row) reading levels.

When I'm considering a program and reading a review, one of the biggest questions I have is: 

"What will this look like on a daily basis?  How would I use this with my children?"  

These two questions help me decide whether a program would work for me and for the specific child.

So, in light of this - I thought I walk you though a lesson.   (Taken from my Join us for a Lesson post.)

Take a look:

This is how we worked through Lesson 4.

First, I talked briefly about what we would be learning.  I introduced the idea of words that have the letter Y at the end that says the "eye" sound.  I then built some words using our Letter Tiles and our large magnetic white board.  Some of the suggested words were: my, try, by, fly, cry, dry, sky, shy.

We then looked at our Y phonogram card (phonogram cards are the yellow, word cards are the green).

After that, I encouraged Audrey to test out various letter and vowel sounds on the Phonogram Sounds App.  

One of the really fun, hands-on components of the All About Reading program (and the All About Spelling Program!) is the interactive Letter Tiles.  Our children love working with the tiles, building words, and playing games with them.

The next step after the Phonogram App was working with the Letter Tiles.  We first worked on our review of Closed and Open Syllable words.  Audrey built words that were Open Syllable (we, she, be) and also some Closed Syllable words (slept, cat, dog, Mom).

Then we worked on the main concept of the lesson - Y as a vowel, saying the "eye" sound.

We built the word CRY and then played the "Change the Word" game.  Both our children love this activity.  I make CRY and ask Audrey to change it to DRY.  Then we go from dry to pry to fry to try to fly to sly and so on.

After working with our Letter Tiles we moved on to our Activity Sheet component.  Our children also really enjoy this portion of the Lessons.  For Lesson 4, Audrey chose word cards from a pile and decided whether they belonged in the "Y like Yak" column or the "Y like Fly" column.

Next came our Reading Word Practice using our Word Cards.  I love the organization of the Phonogram and Word Cards.  They are just fantastic for both 'teacher' and child.  Here's the way they work in a nut-shell.  All cards are placed in the Reading Review Box in the order they will be used.

The cards are clearly labelled with lesson and card numbers.  As we work through the lessons, we use various phonogram and word cards along with the lessons.  All cards we haven't yet used are behind the "Future Lessons" divider.  All the cards the child has mastered go behind the "Mastered" divider, and all cards that still need review are placed behind the "Review" divider.

Boy, do the kids ever love to see those cards get filed behind the "Mastered" section!

Phonogram cards and Word cards are kept separate, as you can see from the photos below.  Color coding helps too!

In Level 2 there are also "Leap Cards".  These cards are showing high-frequency words that don't always follow the regular rules or that have phonograms we haven't covered yet.  I love the large graphic of the frog on the card - it is a very visual reminder that these words are different.

You can see also below the way the cards are labelled along the bottom so you never lose one or have a hard time figuring out where the word places in terms of lessons!

For this lesson, we reviewed two "leap" words, your and are.

After the Word Card work, we move on to the Fluency Practice Sheets.  Some days, Audrey will read through all of the Fluency work because she really wants to accomplish her lesson.  Other days, she will chose to read half and continue the following day.  It really depends upon how she's feeling.

I personally love the way the Fluency Sheets are written and I find they really help solidify what we are learning in the lessons.  They are typically a combination of new words, mixed review (with new words and previous words together), phrases, sentences, and challenge words.

Hooray! Audrey completed Lesson 4 and earned the Lesson 4 sticker for her chart!  I never thought the progress chart would mean much to our children, but they LOVE it.  It really motivates them to want to achieve the lessons.  Audrey will often accomplish one lesson every day or 2 because she is really focusing on accomplishing this level.  Many children will not accomplish a lesson every day.  The lessons are full of new concepts, lots of learning, and many different steps.  Some parents even focus on one lesson per week, and that would be totally fine for many children.  As long as they are learning and progressing, that is the goal!

What we think after completing Level 2...

I would quickly and happily recommend this program to my closest friends and family - and that is exactly why I am comfortable promoting All About Reading here, on this blog. (In case you ever wondered - I only recommend programs that I have tried, used, and really, really believe in!  I consider you, the reader here, a friend... and I would not recommend to a friend a curriculum I didn't fully believe in.)

I think we are in love with All About Reading in our family~!  

Audrey completed Level 2 a few months ago and I have Alex nearing his completion of Level 2 as well.  They both LOVE All About Reading.  Both of them will go to the Letter Tile Board and play with the tiles on their own.  They have also both created 'progress charts' for  their doll and stuffed tiger (Charlotte and Hobbes, respectively...!).

Here are a few candid shots I managed to grab of Audrey working on building words with her doll, Charlotte, and Alex reading his Level 1 Reader to his tiger, Hobbes.  Melts my heart to see this!

Another look at the beautiful quality of the readers from Level 1:

Some of my other All About Reading posts:

Join us for a Lesson (Level 1)

Spelling Can Be Easy When It's Multisensory

Thanks for reading!

This post contains affiliate links.

A Review of the Jesus Inspires Me activity and coloring book from Graham Blanchard

Monday, May 9, 2016

Alright, I will admit it - in the past several months I have spent way too much time finding good deals on journaling materials (think washi tape, colored pencils and way-overpriced drawing pens).   I have fallen in love with being creative on paper!  And my daughter has caught the bug too!  So...

I was happy to take a peek at this brand new Jesus Inspires Me coloring and activity book.  

This is a beautiful coloring and activity book to share with a child who loves to color in quiet moments together.

The book is very nicely designed with a combination of activity pages and really pretty creative coloring pages.  We had a lot of fun with color and shading on our pages.  Coloring pages include biblical truths and scriptures, activity pages include secret messages, connect the dots, mazes, etc.

The premise of this book is that it goes along with the Knowing My God series - featuring the familiar faces that children see in the board books series.  (I LOVE this series, here are my reviews of Jesus Shows Me and Jesus Helps Me.)  It helps connect what children are learning in the book series - wonderful truths about who they are, God's love for them, and how Jesus is a part of our every moment in this life.

Such meaningful books to put in the hands of our children!

Honestly - I love all the titles that I've read from Graham Blanchard

Some words from their website:

"Bringing a new soul into the world is a profoundly spiritual passage of life for new parents. We welcome you to a loving community of moms and dads, mentors, educators and pastors who have developed helpful resources to support your growing family’s spiritual life."

I adore the way this publisher categorizes their books into three groups - Learn, Absorb, Praise.  Jesus Helps Me is a 'learn' book by Callie Grant.  The book shares truth about how Christ helps us by using John 12:44-47 as the basis of the writing.

Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.  I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

Yes!  What truth to plant into the hearts of our children.

The Jesus Inspires Me activity/coloring book is in the ABSORB category and is aimed at children age 4 and up.  My daughter is 9 and loved coloring the pages.  I'm much older than 9 and I enjoyed it right along with her! (smile)

Other noteable features from Graham Blanchard:

There are links to various book-tie-ins on Pinterest.

You can get a good look inside the book, by clicking here.

Also, Graham Blanchard offers a 'Free Tips for Parents' section for this book on their website.   This offers insight and ideas for engaging further with the book.  Ideas include things like, encouraging our children to engage their senses in worshiping God for His creation, visiting the sea (or waterfront) and comparing the various aspects of the boy's day to your child's experiences, talking to children about the idea of water and how oceans, lakes, rivers, etc. cover much of the earth.  I love these ideas!
Many of the books on the site include engaging ideas like these in the Tips for Parents sections. What a great tool for applying these books to our children's lives!

You could absolutely use these Knowing My God books as 'curriculum' for younger children.  

They are such GREAT quality books, not only beautiful to look at but full of biblical truth and enriching content.  Your children will be introduced to the foundations of faith, scripture, nature study, science, the animal kingdom, relationships, and object lessons (learning spiritual truths through physical examples).  I highly, highly recommend these books.  WELL worth the investment.

Just take a look at this detailed chart of the Scope and Sequence of this series!

Right now, if you visit, you can sign up to receive a free ebook, called, Spiritual Parenting in the First Five Years.  

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