A Summer Reading Adventure

Summer Reading Adventure

I recently pulled a gem of a book out of our book baskets as I was cleaning out our school room.  My Father’s Dragon is a story I remember our oldest two daughters thoroughly enjoying, but, I had somehow failed to ever share it with our younger kids. After they looked at the cover and quickly glanced through the book, their eyes lit up!  I knew we would have to embark on a summer reading adventure (AKA a boredom buster during the dog days of summer).  Won’t you tag along on our adventure?

My Father’s Dragon: Chapter 1

Print out a map of both islands from the inside cover and an image of Elmer.  Move Elmer as you read and follow him on his adventures!


My Father’s Dragon: Chapter 2

After reading the chapter, grab a paper sack and send the kids on a hunt around the house for items similar to those that Elmer packed for his journey. (We added a stick of gum, lollipop, rubber band, compass, toothbrush and toothpaste, magnifying glass, pocketknife, comb, brush, hair ribbon, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and an apple.)  In each chapter, as Elmer encounters a problem, see if kids can predict which item from his knapsack he will use to form a solution!


My Father’s Dragon: Chapters 3 – 4

Let everyone peel and eat a tangerine (or clementine) as you read these chapters!  Then, let your children try jumping on the ‘rocks’ (paper plates, paper, napkins. etc) to cross from one side of the yard to the other.  Also, have fun figuring out what the mouse is trying to say using this sheet from Glimmersnaps… My Father’s Dragon Mixed Up Talk Sheet .

Rock Hopping

My Father’s Dragon: Chapters 5

After reading the chapter, learn more about gum or read a fun story involving gum such as Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by McCarthy or Lester Fizz: Bubble Gum Artist by Ruth Spiro.  Then, encourage your children to make large tiger faces however they desire.  Once their tigers are complete, cut a small round hole where the tiger’s mouth is.  Let the children insert a balloon.  And, there you have it, a tiger chewing bubble gum and blowing bubbles!


My Father’s Dragon: Chapter 6

The fun activity accompanying this chapter comes from Frugal Fun with Boys.  Ahead of time, hard boil an egg for each child and then set it in a bowl filled with dark colored soda for an hour or more.  This will discolor the shells.  After reading, let the children use an old toothbrush and the toothpaste to scrub the egg (reenacting the cleaning of the rhino’s horn).Eggs1Eggs2

My Father’s Dragon: Chapter 7

Want to recreate the lion’s messy mane and then pretty it up?  Have your kids paint a small paper plate to resemble a lion’s face.  Then, they can hole punch all along the outer edge and attach strings of brown and yellow yarn.  Finally, they can braid the strands and attach colorful ribbons.

      LionsMane1  LionsMane2

My Father’s Dragon: Chapter 8

Using a magnifying glass, have your children go outside to explore!  Encourage them to look under rocks, on a tree, in the grass, etc.  What did they discover when they looked more closely at nature?  Have them draw one or two things they found.


My Father’s Dragon: Chapter 9

You just can’t read this chapter without letting your kids enjoy a pink lollipop!  After reading, encourage your kids to pretend to be Elmer and design/create a bridge any way they wish.

PinkLollipopsBridgeConstruction2Building the Island

My Father’s Dragon: Chapter 10

Elmer finally meets and rescues the baby dragon!  Celebrate by making and eating blue and yellow stripped cupcakes.  Then, refer to the description of the dragon back in chapter 2 to draw or craft the dragon!

CupcakeMakingBlue&Yellow Cupcakes    Dragon2Tracing   Dragon2Pieces
(printable pieces to trace and cut out onto your own stripped paper)Dragon2DragonPuppet

Our younger kids looked forward to reading My Father’s Dragon and doing the above activities each day.  You could easily make this adventure even more educational by creating a lapbook and/or adding Vocabulary and Discussion Questions for each chapter as well.

And, now we are off to continue our summer reading adventure, learning about Elmer and the dragon, as we read through the next two books in this series…Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland!

The Importance of Rhymes

Importance of Rhymes

Why is the use of rhymes so important during the early years?

Activities that involve children in rhyming help to develop their…

  • listening skills

    (paying attention to details, words, and sounds)

  • auditory discrimination

    (the ability to tell the difference between different sounds)

  • oral language expression

    (learning to use oral language to communicate wants, thoughts, and ideas, meaningfully within sentences and with correct grammar)

  • ability to manipulate language

    (making strings of rhymes, inventing their own nonsense words that rhyme)

  • vocabulary

    (expanding their use and meanings of new words)

Rhyming experiences
lay a firm foundation
for learning to read!


At a young age, children need to have opportunities to engage in rhyming experiences.  They need to be able to have chances to hear, recognize, reproduce, and manipulate the sounds of language in a playful manner.  Rhyming, and specifically nursery rhymes, assists in accomplishing this goal.  Nursery rhymes are short, funny (and sometimes nonsensical), usually have a repetitive beat, can often be sung, memorized, and easily acted out. Since they are oral, you can invite your child to participate in rhymes with you wherever you may be!

Below are two FREE Resources involving rhyming…

Letter and Rhyme Cover

While teaching Kindergarten, I implemented the use of Letter and Rhyme a Day at the beginning of our school year.  It was a quick, fun review for some children and an interactive way to introduce nursery rhymes and rhyming to others who had not been exposed to this foundational skill.  I’ve recently updated the printable Letter and Rhyme sheets.  They now have updated graphics and are easy to download in one document!  

Nursery Rhyme Charts Cover

I also created new Nursery Rhyme Charts!  There are over 40 colorful charts that you can print and enjoy.  Feel free to use them in your classroom or at home.  Maybe print them for ‘read the room’ or place them in individual nursery rhyme folders for kids to take home and share with their families.  

Please note that this Nursery Rhyme Charts booklet contains all of the rhymes used in Letter and Rhyme a Day as well as the ones utilized in our Joyful Heart Bible and Rhyme preschool curriculum.

For additional free rhyme ideas at Hubbard’s Cupboard, please check out the following…
Nursery Rhyme Olympics – fun for a classroom or at home on a spring or summer day
Kindergarten Rhyme Time – a Nursery Rhyme themed Family Night
Nursery Rhyme Artwork
and, for children who are ready, Word Family Printables


Homeschool Yearbooks

Homeschool Yearbooks

IMG_8025In high school, I had the opportunity to work as part of our yearbook staff.  It was before everything went digital.  So, I gained experience taking and developing photos, using gridded paper to design layouts measured in picas and using the rule of thirds, as well as writing copy and captions.  I absolutely loved it!

Quite a few years later, with the birth of our first child, I was able to step back into that realm somewhat with the creating of a first year album and family scrapbooks.  Again, though, it was pre-digital and everything was done on scrapbook pages, utilizing real photos that needed cropped with tools, choosing paper backgrounds, borders, and other embellishments such as buttons and stickers to dress up each page, as well as adding sticker letter headlines and handwritten captions.

Jump forward to starting preschool at home and adding more sweet blessings … My time for having free nights and weekend scrapbooking parties with other mom friends became less and less and the albums came to a screeching halt as my responsibilities increased.  There was just no time available to keep creating albums for our family.

Well, now, all of my photos are digital and are taking up space on my phone and computer.  Rarely do the pictures get printed in order to be displayed in our home and they never get printed to form a memorable scrapbook.  It..just..takes..too..much..time!

But, the photos have not stopped.   I am still constantly taking pictures of our kids. 

And, having a scrapbook or photo album for our family to refer to is still very beneficial!


We now create digital homeschool yearbooks!

Yearbook 4

One of the last things I do as our family wraps up an end of a school year is to make a homeschool yearbook.


  • shared memories

    As a homeschool family, we spend a LOT of time together – singing, reading, playing, and  learning. So much growing and changing is going on each year!   It is important to have a way to help remember these days.  Our kids look at the different homeschool yearbooks made over the years and rehash what they did, where they were, and what they learned.  The shared memories always bring smiles and laughter!

  • a record of the past

    I admit it.  I’m forgetful.  I need a place to remind me of the important events and activities in our busy family’s life.  We record holidays, birthdays, the first day of school, our 100th day celebration, any field trips, co-op experiences, photos of artwork, etc.  We also make sure to capture the everyday learning that is taking place.

  • a sense of accomplishment

    We all know that homeschooling is hard.  We never feel like we are doing enough, being enough, providing enough for our children.  And, we tend to question ourselves (at least I do sometimes) as to whether it is really all worth the time and effort as our days blur together throughout the course of the year. Somehow, seeing the pictures of our children at the end of a long, challenging school year, can be just the thing I need to re-spark the joy of schooling at home as I can visually see the web of learning that was taking place.  It provides a much needed sense of accomplishment – for myself and our kids!

An online photo book editor makes the process of creating a homeschool yearbook so much easier than previous years of doing a book all by hand!  We have been using Shutterfly, but there are other online options available.


You first choose the size of album you desire and select an overall style or theme.  Next, you upload photos.  They can either be preplaced randomly or, if you are like me, you can organize them by page.  Then, the fun begins!  You can choose background patterns and colors, customize your layout, resize and crop images, and insert graphics and text for each spread!  Tinker and polish to your heart’s delight (and perhaps shed a happy tear or two as you see how much your kids are growing). Once you think you are done, you’ll want to carefully edit your text and picture placement.  Then, hit ‘add to cart’ and check out.  (Tip: Always make sure to look for coupon codes and specials before ordering.  They run deals frequently.  So there is no need to pay full price – unless you are in a hurry.) 

We have found the most difficult part is waiting a few days for our package to arrive in the mail! 

Yearbook 1

But, oh, when it does arrive, watch your kids’ faces light up with excitement!IMG_8020

I love observing them pour over the new book each year and watching them bring out all of the others… saying, “I remember when we did that!”, asking questions, and talking about events.

IMG_8027IMG_8026Yearbook 2

It’s a wonderful way to celebrate a year of homeschool learning!

Story Book Lessons

Preschoolers and Kindergarten aged kids LOVE a good story.  How do you know if it’s a ‘good’ story for 3-6 year olds?

1) They will request it to be read again…and again…and again.

Although you may be tiring of reading the same story over and over, try to keep your enthusiasm!  Multiple readings increase your child’s vocabulary, improves listening skills, and builds a sense of story.  It opens up opportunities to briefly discuss story elements (sequence of events, characters, setting, beginning, middle, end, etc.).  Most importantly, rereading books generates enjoyment and positive memories/experiences of interacting with you and books – creating a foundation to build the love of learning for years to come!

2) They aren’t completely quiet as you read.

Do you hear your child trying to chime in on some of the words or phrases as you are reading? That’s a wonderful sign that you’ve found a perfect book with engaging text! The text in the book is probably repetitive, predictable, contains rhyme, or silly/nonsense words.  It may even be able to be sung. 

3) They ask questions and/or make observations.

Are your kids making connections between the illustrations and what is being read aloud in the text? Are they making predictions about what they think might happen next?  This shows they are interested and making connections!  They may be able to relate to the characters (people and animals) and look forward to turning the page and seeing what happens to them!

4) They continue to refer to the story long after it is over.

Do you overhear your child spontaneously retelling the story to someone else? Do they make statements in their play and everyday living referencing some connection back to the book? Do they desire to act out parts of the story?  These are positive indications that you’ve found a great book for them!

Whether teaching in a Kindergarten classroom or reading to my young children at home, these were the signs that a ‘good’ book had been discovered!

Over at Hubbard’s Cupboard, I have listed more than 25 ‘good’ books to use with preschoolers and kindergarten children.  Each book link gives ideas for rereading the book over a period of five days and lessons to accompany each story. May you be able to adapt these story lesson ideas and use them within your own home or classroom to encourage a love for reading!

Ten Red Apples  It Started As An Egg  Caps For Sale

Story Lessons

What are some books that your 3-6 year olds ask to have read again and again?

5 Things No One Ever Told Me About Having Teens

1. They will rise to the challenge.

So many times, I have heard disparaging comments directed at teens – for their lack of motivation and desire to be involved, for being prone to trouble, etc.  Those kind of remarks seem to set a really low bar for teens and young people.  But, can I let you in on a secret?  Teens can easily rise to your expectations..and greatly surpass them.  Encourage them to break the cultural norm of low expectations and remind them to strive to do what Colossians 3:23-24 tells all of us…. 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men,
since you know that you will receive an inheritance
from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

        Encourage them to  follow 1 Timothy 4:12’s advice of…

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers
in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

        Also, the following books (in addition to the Bible) are great in the hands of a
       preteen or young teen. They come highly recommended by our oldest.
          – Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris
          – Start Here by Alex and Brett Harris
          – Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
          – Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg
          – The Power of a Praying Teen by Stormie Omartian
       Encourage your teens to work hard, to pursue things that are worthwhile, and to 
       remember that everything should be done for God’s glory.

2. They can own their faith.

Being raised in a Christian home is a huge blessing, but there is also a hidden challenge.  It is possible to attend services each week, go to Sunday School, memorize Scripture, and be around other Christians without letting all of that head knowledge ever reach your heart.  You can ‘feel’ like you are a Christian just because you were raised in that atmosphere.  However, it takes the Holy Spirit reaching your heart with His Word and Truth.  At some point, you either accept or reject the Truth you have been taught.  Teens, who truly love the Lord and have a saving faith in Jesus alone, are prepared to own their faith and take a stand for what they believe.  They are eager to dig deeper into His Word with others and on their own.  They are willing to share the hope of the Gospel with others.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict your teens of their sin and that your teens will truly own their faith in Christ.

3. They want to serve and have purpose.

Teens need to feel valued and to be useful.  Provide opportunities for them to serve in meaningful ways– in the home, in the neighborhood, in the community, in your church, etc.  By serving well, they gain respect, trust, and confidence. Service opportunities provide them a bigger vision of God’s world, broadens their perspective, and builds compassion for others.  Also, teens really do make great leaders and role models…and the younger kids love them!  Encourage your teens to seek creative ways to minister and serve others – especially your more introverted ones.

4. They are constantly learning and growing.

At this point in their young lives, teens are blossoming and discovering who they truly are and what their interests are for the future.  This is the perfect time in their life to question, research, experience, and try out things they may be excited about  – writing, photography, programming, sports, theater, debate, drawing, technology, music, etc.  They need the freedom to attempt new things under-girded by your loving support.  They will learn from both their successes and failures, but within a safety net of grace.  They may never again have this much time, freedom, grace, and assistance to discern the direction in which God is leading them.  Attempt to provide experiences that will lead your teens to discover their interests and passions.

5. They still need you…just in a different way.

When younger, our children needed constant supervision, direction, structure, and ‘how-to’s.  As they have become older, they have gradually gained more and more independence – in their play, in their chores and responsibilities, in their relationships with God and others, in their education, and in their goal setting.  We are still their parent, role model, and protector, but our role is gradually shifting from rule enforcer to encourager, cheerleader, listener, and guidance counselor – continuing to point them to God’s Word as they learn to wisely manage their own lives.  They still need to know that you love them, care for them, and are always there for them!  Be intentional with your time, words, and actions in order to express your love and commitment to your teens.


    I’m encouraged and blessed as I see our our young teens, preteen, and their friends branch out and become who God has called them to be!  I pray that I am not in a tiny bubble here –  I see great hope in this next generation and how God is raising them up and working in and through them!  May our teens continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – keeping their hearts and minds focused on Him. 
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