Saturday, October 31, 2009

Genesis by Catherine Zoller

I used to love playing "what's that" when reading to my children. "What's that?" I'd ask, pointing to a bug or a dog in the story. They'd race to be the first to shout the answer. If the illustrations were colorful and complicated, I'd changed it to, "Where's the bug?" or "Where's the dog?" I still remember my kids' excitement as they searched the page to find the object in question. This is the kind of reading that makes wonderful family memories.

Catherine Zoller's Genesis is the perfect "What's that?" book. Each page of this beautifully illustrated book is a treasure chest of colorful and zany animals, insects, birds, and people, just waiting to be opened.

The text, written in poetry, along with the colorful and zany illustrations make this a very fun book to read as a family. The subject matter and the vocabulary make it educational.

Zoller tells the story of Genesis from creation to Abraham in words that not only entertains, but also challenges the listener. She uses words such as dedicated, interpreted, and corporate, as well as testimony, communion, and implement. Not the type of vocabulary usually associated with books written for this age group; but, by reading a few pages at a time, discussing the pictures and talking about the meaning of the more difficult words, parents are provided a perfect opportunity to share not only a great story, but also their faith.

Genesis is a delightful book, and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series. For more information, log on to

Wright on Time: Arizona

Review of Wright on Time by Lisa M. Cottrell-Bentley.

Finally, a children’s fiction series about homeschoolers that is fun, educational and family-friendly. Each book in the series relates the adventures of the Wright family as they travel the U.S in an RV. Fifty books are planned, one for each state.

These are easy-to-read chapter books that entertain and educate similar to the Magic Tree House series, but without the magic. As you read each book, you’ll experience adventure, humor, and positive family values, qualities that are not often found in today’s children’s literature.

In this first book, Arizona, your children will learn about Arizona, bats, and minerals as they follow Nadia and Aidan Wright deep into a desert cave located in Arizona. Weird noises, mysterious objects, and “freaky awesome” bats will definitely keep your children’s interest; and when they are done, they’ll be asking for the next book in the series!

Be sure to visit the Wright on Time Web site to read Nadia’s Blog, read biographies of the characters, and learn which state will be featured next in the series.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Exploratorium Science Snackbook, 2009 Edition, Review

The Exploratorium in San Francisco is 40 years old this year, and one of the ways they are celebrating is the republication of The Exploratorium Science Snackbook. It was originally published in 1991. This new edition has been updated with new snacks (miniature science exhibits and investigations), illustrations, references and teaching tips. Although it was created for students in grades 5-12, it can be used with all grades with adult supervision.

Part One includes snacks that focus on sight and visual perception. Part Two: electricity, energy and matter; Part Three: light and color. Part Four: Force and Motion; and Part Five: Sound.

Teachers and parents can use the snacks as demonstrations, lessons and labs. Students can use the snacks for science fairs, science lab projects, and to earn science badges.

Each snack includes an introduction, a list of materials needed, instructions how to complete the snack, and an explanation of the science behind it. Photos and illustrations are included to help you visualize the project.

Materials needed for the snacks are not always readily available, so you will need to do some shopping around for some items. There is a list of science supply resources in the back of the book. One that is not on the list that I would recommend for homeschoolers is Home Science Tools. I recommend that you purchase your science supplies as needed and keep them in a safe place for your whole homeschooling career.

The Exploratorium Science Snackbook is an excellent resource for homeschool science labs, especially for those of you who do unit studies. As you study each different science topic, you can use the snacks in this book as a resource for science labs.

For instance, let’s say you were doing a unit on sound. You could have your child research sound on the Internet. Next, assign some nonfiction library books and/or biographies related to sound. Then using the index and the “tuning fork” icon in the Snackbook, select snacks that relate to sound and have your child complete them for lab. For art, have your child illustrate a concept learned from his or her research. Play a sound-identification game. Download and print off worksheets or coloring pages from the Internet related to sound. Many of these can be found freeing by doing a search for “sound” and “worksheet” or “sound” and “coloring page.” Finally, have your child write a report or research paper (depending on age level) on the topic. Instant unit study!