Looking for free Audiobooks? Try NetLibrary.

August 17, 2010

I mentioned last time how we really enjoyed the Hank the Cowdog audiobooks.  I also realized on the road trip out to Utah, that I’d failed to get anything for the grown-ups to listen to during the 2-day drive.

I was kicking myself, since I couldn’t really check out an audiobook from a Utah library for the ride back.  Then I went looking for alternate sources for audiobooks and found NetLibrary. 

Basically, many libraries will pay for their users to have access to ‘e-content’ through Netlibrary.  They offer a variety of books in an electronic format.  But, what I was excited to find was access to lots of audiobooks.  You ‘check out’ the electronic resources, which means that you have a few weeks to access the book or audio file and then you can no longer open the file when your check-out time has expired.  And best of all, it’s free if your library participates.

How to Access NetLibrary

Basically, you either call your library and ask, or go to your library’s website and check under their electronic resources.  You usually need Windows Media Center for the audio files, and the first time you download, you may hit some snags.  Also, take into account how fast your download rate is.  A 10-hour audiobook may take an hour or two for you to download, so plan ahead.

On the recommendation of my sister-in-law, I ended up checking out Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters, which kept both my husband and I interested and awake for an entire day of driving:

It’s the story of Amelia Peabody, a single British woman, who is left a fortune when her father dies.  She’s sure she’ll never marry and sets out on an adventure to explore Egypt.  Along the way, she rescues a young woman who’s been conned, bullies everyone around her to do things her way, and whips out her first aid supplies wherever needed while secretly fantasizing that she’ll be asked to perform an amputation.  She’s hilarious!  The plot is secondary to the characters who really make the story great.  It’s not a fast-paced action book, but one that’s perfect to listen to when you aren’t in a hurry and want to sit back and enjoy a good story.

If you have an audiobook you’ve really enjoyed, would you mind posting the title in the comment section?  I’m always looking for good suggestions.  Thanks!

Posted under Books to Read

Our new favorite Audiobook Series – Hank the Cowdog

August 10, 2010

We just finished our first road trip to Utah, 2 days in the car, each way, with 5 kids, ages 10 and under.  Sounds like a crazy endeavor, but it wasn’t that bad.  And if I compare it to road trips I took as a kid . . . how many times can you play the alphabet game before you go insane? 

My kids are spoiled with their DS’s, DVD players and audio books.  Not to mention all the great snacks.  In fact, at the end of the first day in the car, my 4-year-old said, “I want to do this every day!”  

 Since I did a bit of looking to find some good audio stories to listen to, I thought I’d let you know about this great series we’ve really enjoyed:

Hank the Cowdogby John R. Erikson.

These are the adventures of Hank the Cowdog who considers himself the ‘Head of Ranch Security’ and works at solving a variety of mysteries from his ‘vast office complex’ which is really just a pair of gunny sacks underneath the gas tanks.  The stories are pretty funny as he gets into all kinds of trouble trying to solve mysteries or take care of problems on the ranch.  He often gets tricked by ‘Eddie the Rac (Raccoon)’.  Eddie gets him to sit on chicken eggs in the hopes of making then knit back together, and convinces Hank to help him get into the cookies and take the blame.  The stories also have original funny songs included.  My kids love the one from the cookie incident and often sing their favorite line:  “We are cookies, and we want to be eaten!”

What’s great about these audiobooks is that they are entertaining for all ages, from my 4-year-old up to my 10-year-old.  I even enjoy them!

Do you have any favorite audio-books?  Could you leave a comment with the title?  I’d love suggestions since we spend a bit of time in the car and are always looking for good things to listen to.  Thanks!

Posted under Books to Read

2010 Winter Olympic Book Reviews – Idea #8

February 8, 2010

Getting excitied about the Winter Olympics?  We love to curl up on the couch with a stack of books together.

Try heading over to your local library or Amazon and pick up some good books on the subject.

Here are a few top picks:

The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team – $10.04

This is a book about the 1980 U.S. Hockey team and their incredible story.  A bunch of unknown college kids taking on the great Russian team in a time when American spirits were pretty low.  They pulled off an amazing victory with the famous quote by Al Michaels who cried, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” as the Americans won. 

The Winter Olympics: An Insider’s Guide to the Legends, Lore and Events of the Games Vancouver Edition – $12.89

This is a fun guide specific to the Winter Olympics, written by Ron Judd, a popular columnist at The Seattle Times.  The book has profiles of the individual sports along with the history, athletes, how each sport is played and judged.

Freeze Frame: A Photographic History of the Winter Olympics – $12.89

Like pictures?  This history of the Winter Olympics takes you through how it all began, the different sports, and highlights of all the games – all in beautiful pictures.

Check out this Winter Olympic Sport Series with books highlighting individual sports, thier histories, greatest moments, famous athletes, and more.  (P.S.  These are part of Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion, so you get one free if you buy 3)

Do you have a favorite Olympic book or story?  Please share!

Posted under Books to Read, Homeschool Unit Studies

Five in a Row – The Early Reading Curriculum that doesn’t feel like school at all!

January 2, 2010

five in a row

Do your kids love stories?  Would you rather pick up a stack of library books and snuggle together on the couch with a blanket than break out the school work?

Jane Claire Lambert has designed a great curriculum where you read and reread a classic book to your children each week, while focusing each day on lessons taught by the story in five subject areas; Social Studies, Language, Art, Applied Math and Science.

This curriculum is called Five in a Row, and is an excellent first curriculum for younger children.  The daily lessons, including any facts and details, are spelled out very clearly and little preparation is needed.

My younger kids have loved these books and lessons.  Fun pieces of the classic stories have made their ways into our daily lives.  For example, we call the kids to come to evening prayer by singing, “La, la, la, la, LI!”, from “The Story About Ping” and the little duck that was too afraid of the swat he would get if he was the last one on the boat.

Has your family used the Five in a Row curriculum?  What did you like/dislike?  Please share in the comment section!

Five in a Row: Volume 1 includes lessons on the following children books:

This is an excellent list of classic childrens’ books to read, even if you don’t purchase Five in a Row.  I’d also love to hear which is your favorite classic children’s book?  Please share – I’m always looking for good books to read to the family!

story about ping

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese

Lentil by Robert McCloskey

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

pair of red clogs
A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno

rag coat
The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills

who owns the sun
Who Owns the Sun? by Stacy Chbosky

mike mulligan
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

glorious flight
The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen

how to make apple pie
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

grandfathers journey
Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

cranberry thanksgiving
Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

dancing bear
Another Celebrated Dancing Bear by Gladys Scheffrin-Falk

papa piccolo
Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley

very last first time
Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews

clown of god
The Clown of God by Tomie DePaola

storm in the night
Storm in the Night by Mary Stoltz

katy big snow
Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

night moonjellies
Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha

stopping woods snowy evening
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (with illustrations by Susan Jeffers)


Posted under Books to Read, Reading Curriculum

Favorite Chapter Books Your Kids Love to Read – Thursday Topics

July 16, 2009


Have your kids discovered a chapter book or series of books that bumped them from the “Do I have to read?” stage to the “Turn off the light.  Stop reading, and go to bed!” stage?

My 7-year-old daughter is still turning her nose up at reading, so I’d love some new ideas for a ‘princess’ reader.

Here are the ones that sparked my oldest son’s love of reading:


  1. Comic books – To get over the big change from picture books to ones with pages of just text, the classic comic books were perfect for my son.  We found the hardbound “Action Comic Archives” at our local library, which I was much happier with than current comic books.
  2. magic_treehouse

  3. The Magic Treehouse Series – This series was tons of fun for my kids.  Jack and Annie discover a magic treehouse where books transport them to all kinds of places and adventures.  The series mixes a bit of history, mystery, and adventure, plus frequent illustrations that together keep things fun for a beginning reader.  I would consider them at the 1st to 2nd grade level.
  4. animorph

  5. The Animorphs Series – What a great science fiction series for kids!  The kids in the series are given the power to ‘morph’ into any animal they can touch in order to help fight alien invaders.  My son loved learning what it might be like to be a hawk or a dog first hand.  The plots are full of battles, adventures, and mysteries.  A great read.
  6. harry_potter_7

  7. And no kids ‘love of reading’ list would be complete without all 7 of the Harry Potter Series.  There is something great about seeing a 9-year-old kid curled up on the couch with a book thicker than a dictionary and loving it.

I’d love to hear your book suggestions.  My son just finished the 7th Harry Potter book and is in the middle of the Hobbit, but I need some new ideas for my boy adventurer.  Please share in the comment section.  Thanks!

Posted under Books to Read, Reading Curriculum, Thursday Topics

What’s Your Favorite Reading or Phonics Curriculum? Thursday Topics

June 25, 2009


Teaching a child to read seems to be the first big scholastic hurdle for homeschoolers.  But there are so many books and reading programs available that it can be a bit overwhelming.

So, I’m asking you experienced homeschoolers if you would share  your advice with the rest of us – especially for those who don’t really know where to start.

Here are some of my ideas:

  1. First is simply a book, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise.  Instead of spending lots of money on expensive phonics kits, you can buy this book for around $20 and it will guide you lesson by lesson through a very complete and fun phonics program.  I’ve had great success with it and wrote a book review here.
  2. My kids have also enjoyed the beginning readers set:  “I See Sam” – I really like that each book only uses words that have been introduced in previous books, so the child can read every word in the book, not just the ones teaching the current phonics principle.
  3. Finally, the amazing phonics and reading website:  www.StarFall.com If you have an early reader, you have to check this website out.  It’s the best I’ve seen to grab a child’s interest while teaching reading at the same time.  And it’s all free – the Schutz family’s contribution to children learning to read.

Would you mind sharing some of your tips on selecting a reading and/or phonics curriculum?  What are your favorite books, early readers, and websites?  And why?

Posted under Books to Read, Reading Curriculum

Not Sure if a Book is Appropriate? Check The Literate Mother.

March 9, 2009


It’s a big milestone when your children finally start reading books on their own just for fun.  But, my son quickly followed in my footsteps and started checking out stacks of books to read.  So, how can I get some idea of what he’s reading and if there are topics I need to discuss with him or ask him to avoid reading?

Well these two awesome moms have put together reviews and ratings for lots of children and teen books on The Literate Mother website

They have personally read each book and given it a 0 to 5 rating for:

  1. language
  2. violence
  3. sexual content
  4. adult themes

They want to help parents and teacher be informed about book content so they can suggest, discourage, or be prepared to discuss reading material.  Thank you!

Posted under Books to Read, Language Art Websites

Learn How to Protect Your Children, Feel Safe, and Stop Worrying

February 26, 2009

With 5 kids, you better believe I’ve spent time worrying about how to keep my kids safe.  Plus, I have a 4th degree black belt, so I my kids should learn to foil kidnappers with perfect groin shots.  Hardly realistic, I knew, so I ended up like most of you:

  • I told my children, “Don’t talk to strangers”
  • I tried to ignore media stories about kidnapped kids.
  • I had one or two of those ‘fun’ discussions about what constitutes a ‘private part’ with instructions to come right away and tell me if anyone tried to touch them.
  • I basically knew I needed to teach my kids effective techniques to stay safe, but wasn’t sure how.  (Other than the groin kicks – I had those down 🙂

A few years back I found some much better advice by reading Gavin De Becker’s book, Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers SafeGavin De Becker is a man with a lot of personal experience with threats and violence coming from a very difficult childhood.  But, he turned that into a skill and is now a well-known expert in teaching others how to recognize specific danger signs that precede real threats.

Here are a few things I thought were very valuable in the book:

  • “Don’t talk to strangers” makes a lost kid afraid to talk to anyone, perfect bait for any bad guys around.  Instead?  Tell your child to walk up to a woman who looks like a mommy and say, “I’m lost.  Can you help me find my mommy?”  Since 90-something percent of perpetrators against children are men, just by choosing a woman, the odds of staying safe are upped considerably.  And by choosing a ‘mommy’ your child is likely to get quick help in finding you again.
  • “Violence almost always has detectable pre-incident indicators that we recognize intuitively.” (pg. 6)  Learn the 7 Survival Signals.  Learning to recognize these danger signs decreases my and my kids’ worry and fear.  I learn what to look for.  I teach it to my kids, and we are both more confident and safe.  
  • The test of 12 things your children should know to be assertive and not a victim, including that it’s ok to rebuff and defy adults if they feel afraid. 
  • Five “Signals of Denial” when we’re afraid to even think about specific dangers and instead spend all our time worrying and afraid.
  • Reassure yourself by remembering child abductions are covered intensely in the news and there are a lot fewer than it seems.
  • On the other hand, be eagle-eyed for any signs of child sexual abuse even and especially among family, friends, and other acquaintances.  Don’t dismiss anything your child mentions and work to make sure they are comfortable talking to you about it, even if it is a close relation or friend.  It is the opposite = very underreported and very common (90% of perpetrators are known to the child, almost always heterosexual males and the most common age abuse begins is 3!) .
  • I loved the clear and concise list to teach kids what is inappropriate behaviour they would need to tell you about right away.  (Instead of vague conversations about ‘IT’)
  • How to keep kids safe with babysitters, at school, with friends, when they are teenagers, etc., etc. 

I can’t recommend this book enough to parents everywhere.  Not only is it stuffed with great information, there are example stories all through the book which make it an engaging read.

Posted under Books to Read, Parenting

The Memory Book – I wish I had this when I was in school!

January 16, 2009

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

If you’ve noticed, I’ve been writing a few memory-themed posts lately.  By the time I finished medical school, I’d probably memorized and then forgotten enough information to fill shelves and shelves of books. 

My two main memory techniques in school were:

  • Repeat over and over and over and over and . . .
  • Cram like crazy the day or two before the test and hope it sticks.  I was an expert crammer!

It was only when I started teaching my own kids that I thought there had to be a better way.  I found this book at the library and groaned when I realized how much it could have helped me: The Memory Book

It’s a $7 book and one that should be on every school shelf.  Click on the book to get a copy from Amazon, or check it out at your local library and let me know what you think.  To read more posts about memorizing, check out everything I’ve written in this category.

Posted under Books to Read, Memorizing Facts

What Do I Teach, When?

September 23, 2008


Probably the scariest part of homeschooling (besides the ‘science experiments’ you find growing under the couch) is figuring out what to teach and when to teach it.  Many potential homeschooling parents never take the plunge because they are sure that there are vital pieces of scholastic knowledge that would get left out if they took over teaching their kids – scarring them for life.  OK, maybe it isn’t so dramatic.

But, amazingly enough, it really is pretty simple to homeschool kids.  After all, what do they really need to know in elementary school?  Reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic cover most of it, and there are plenty of books and resources to teach those.

The rest of an education is also taught beautifully by homeschooling: 

  • History during the trips you take when everyone else is in school
  • Civics by going with mom to the voting booth
  • Science by examining mold that grew on the forgotten cornbread on top of the fridge (we did that last night)
  • Social skills by roleplaying how to handle the bully at the park next time.
  • How to soothe a wild animal . . . when Mom has been up all night with the baby, finds a red crayon melted into the dryer load of laundry, and trips over the broom on the floor on her way to find the culprit.  (We all have those days)
  • etc., etc.

If you’re still worried that you will miss a vital subject when trying to homeschool, here is a great resource to help you out:

A handy $10 paperback book found at the library or on Amazon.com called “Home Learning Year by Year” by Rebecca Rupp.

I love this book!  It is to-the-point and packed full of great resources.  Rupp includes:

  • A detailed list of what your child should learn during each year of school, sorted and numbered by subject.
  • Book sources
  • Websites
  • And more supplements, each with their own succinct review paragraph.

Here are a few examples:

  • What age is appropriate to teach your child the upper- and lower-case letter of the alphabet, both in and out of sequence? 
  • How about a list of ten great alphabet books to help with that? 
  • What resources will help you teach inorganic chemistry to your 11th grader? 
  • A list of texts, programs, and a compilation of internet chemistry resources, including games, quizzes, and a visual dictionary? 
  • The secret to children who do what you ask, every time . . . and never fight, . . . and keep the house immaculate . . .  just kidding – let me know when you find that one!  🙂

It’s a great aid for both the extreme planner who wants to itemize each task for the coming school year and the parent who just likes to read through it on occasion to make sure nothing important is being left out. 

For $10, how can you go wrong?

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Posted under Books to Read, General Homeschool Curriculum