The Joy of Discarded History Books

I hate a love-hate relationship with the public library.

I love going to the library. Whenever I move to a new location, the public library is the first place I visit after the grocery store and the bank. The quiet immensity of any public library fills me with a sense of wonder.

But I also have trouble whenever I enter a public library because inevitably they have a discarded-book-sale section. And despite my best efforts to the contrary, I am inexplicably pulled toward said book-sale section. I find my eyes and fingers scanning the titles–even as my brain is saying, “You DO NOT have any room in your house for more books!”

Guess which one wins?

Actually, some of the best books in our house have been discarded by the library. Often these discards are for seemingly minute reasons–like the pages are getting a little worn where people turn them at the spine so they “might” rip soon. Seriously? THAT’S what merits discard status?

But the library’s loss is my gain. Well . . . gain for awesome books on my shelves. Not so much gain for my bank account.

Nevertheless, here are a few of my favorite history books that we’ve acquired over the years: Continue reading


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If at first you don’t succeed . . .

. . . your first inclination may be to throw your hands in the air and cry “uncle.”

I know that was mine.

Pea Pod (7) and I had hit a stale mate. She was absolutely not interested AT ALL in learning to read. This was quite a change from before, where we blissfully played reading games and snuggled on the couch. Simple sounds blended into short words, which became easy sentences. I THOUGHT everything was going well.

And then one day, she was done. No reading, no how. No matter what I offered. No matter how I “inspired,” she wasn’t interested. I was failing somehow. (Insert mournful background music here!)

So I backed off. But inside I was freaking out. She was seven. She was doing well. She seemed to “get” reading so much better than her older sister had. (Pepper’s reading trajectory is a whole different story!) What happened?!?

I did a lot of thinking. I did a lot of praying. And I came up with a two-part plan. Continue reading


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Math Magic

Time for another great little gem that my family found the other day.

Math and Donald Duck. Who knew that such a combination could be so entertaining? On a day when I could do little more than slap some food on the counter for lunch, this served for a great educational diversion.

And my kids, who are enamored of Pythagoras because we’ve read “What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras,” and “Pythagoras and the Ratios” by Julie Ellis recently, spent the next few days pointing out golden rectangles wherever they could find them.


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A Giant Science Opportunity

On a day I’d rather not remember, I mentioned we started out by watching science videos by the very cool, very talented, very musical group “They Might Be Giants.”

We found said videos because I had borrowed their alphabet CD, “Here Come the ABC’s” from the library, and we had listened to it over and over and over again in the car . . . and in the living room . . . and in the kitchen.

Why I went searching for videos, I can’t remember. But I stumbled upon an entire YouTube channel of They Might Be Giants educational videos. And what a treasure trove it is.

I really enjoy their alphabet and number songs (they have a CD for each with a DVD that has a video created for each song), but the one they did for science has turned out to be my favorite!

You can watch all the videos on YouTube for free. (Here’s the science videos. And the alphabet videos.) I ended up buying the CD/DVD combo for the science one because I loved it so much and wanted to own a physical copy. How can you not want to own songs about the periodic table, cells, and photosynthesis? And what’s not to love about lyrics like these: Continue reading


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A Parable of Porcine Proportions

When I was a junior in high school, I read The Scarlet Letter in English class. Nathanial Hawthorne’s language was a bit daunting at first, but after awhile, I grew to love his flowery, adjective-laden prose. As one of the closing assignments, my teacher assigned her students to take a minimalist, modern short story and rewrite it using Hawthorne’s language.

I loved it. I found it exhilarating to watch the plot unfold in the same way but with completely different words. I gained a new appreciation for the power that words have.

So I was delighted when this video of the Three Little Pigs by comedian John Branyan started floating around the internet. Continue reading

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Music Fun and Games

It’s time to drill . . . and no, we are not going to the dentist.

Lima Bean (9) is getting more and more proficient at the piano, but his teacher requested we spend some extra time doing note recognition with flash cards. The ones I found several years ago online are small and only have one staff. I knew it was time to look for something new.

Ah . . . the joys of Google. Five minutes later, I stumbled upon an AMAZING music-teaching resource site. Not only does she offer great flash cards, but also all sorts of games and ideas for teaching music theory, along with a series of technique books.

And IT’S ALL FREE! Continue reading

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Tickets, Please!

So many times, what you CALL an activity determines how FUN the activity is. (Remember Garbage Monster?)

So it is with “ticket math,” another little gem of a game that we pull out from time to time to review facts (mostly math).

Here’s how you play: Continue reading

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