May 29 2012

How I’m acquiring good children’s books for a good price


I was thinking about what encouraged my love of reading from such an early age, and now I think I know why:

My parents read to me, a lot.

And, I had access to really good children’s books. My much-older cousin outgrew his children’s books, and I received a ton of hand-me-downs.

Not all of those titles survived my childhood, but I have lasting memories of many.

At the time, I didn’t realize I had great books. I just thought all books were awesome.

Now, I know the truth. There are a lot of junky children’s books out there. Just like there are good children’s TV shows and bad ones, and healthy snacks and junky snacks, there are great children’s books and awful ones.

Kids deserve quality.

They don’t need to be talked-down to.  They don’t need a book to have a gimmick to keep their attention.

Shouldn’t be so hard. Many books exist solely to make the publisher money. Blech.

At first, when I heard the term “twaddle” from Charlotte Mason followers, I thought some people were being sorta snobbish.

“I wouldn’t let my child read such twaddle” sounds like someone saying, “I wouldn’t let my babykins eat a candybar,” or the sort.

But now, I get where they’re coming from and I think I’m getting on that bandwagon.

Now. If a kid is not really enjoying reading at all, but will read a book that’s considered twaddle, I do think that’s better than reading nothing at all. Still, it’s a good idea to infuse the kid with some good books, too.

[End rant.]

I like owning children’s books because by nature, kids like to read their favorites over and over again. There’s something special about owning your own book.

Here’s how I’m acquiring great children’s books without paying full-price:

:: I browsed book lists from sources such as Honey For a Child’s Heart*, Ambleside Online, Sonlight, My Father’s World kindergarten, Five in a Row, etc. I used these lists as a starting point, because I knew if they made these lists, they’d be way above a lot of garbage out there.

:: I added many titles to Johnny’s Shelfari account, and added tags to sort by reading list. Seeing the cover art helps, because if I’m quickly browsing a huge shelf of books, the ones on my list might jump out at me a little bit quicker.

:: I went to my library’s online catalog and searched to see what they had. I added those books to a list within my library account — not placing them on hold, but simply adding them to a list so I could quickly search for them later if I wanted.

:: We are borrowing many from the library, getting to know some of the authors’ styles and just plain having fun with the books.

:: The ones we enjoyed, we ended up reading a few times before returning. These were also ones high on my list to own someday. Some books on those acclaimed reading lists just plain didn’t do anything for us, so it’s not like anyone’s reading list is a gold standard; it’s a starting point.

:: I hit Goodwill. Alone. I went through every children’s book they had at a rapid-fire pace. I knew more of what I was seeking and I pulled titles from the shelves and placed them into my cart. Once I was through the shelves, I went back to my cart to look at my selections more carefully. Some, I returned to the shelves. That day, I found 17 titles at .69 each to bring home.

:: Some neighbors had a yard sale, and I wandered over and found at least a dozen other books I wanted from .25 – $1 a piece.

:: I went to a used homeschool curriculum sale and grabbed another stack in that .25 – $1 range.

In just those three outings, I’ve acquired a lot of books for a decent price. Didn’t take much effort, and we have probably an entire summer’s worth of books to read just on our own shelves.

Some books I am indeed buying new, if the price is right. I couldn’t find “The Little House” in those last searches, so I did order the four-book treasury for $13.60*. Not bad at all. I’m eyeing a few other titles that I may end up buying later in the year. Maybe birthday presents? Swagbucks, MyPoints giftcards and Amazon affiliate gift cards can all help me lower my out-of-pocket cost.

I like the treasury concept, but some of them just fall short. If they’re too abrupt with the illustrations and condense the story too much, it can just lose its effect and it’s not nearly as good as the original. Some stories within our 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury* are fine, but others we prefer the original presentation. Still, I’ve found some books within that treasu
ry that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about, so it is still definitely worth owning to me.

I’ve seen some lots of books on eBay, and that’s another option if a seller has many items you’d like — usually cheaper than buying new and faster than hunting them all down one-by-one.

Do you buy children’s books, or do you prefer to borrow them? What’s your strategy for saving money?

*affiliate link

May 18 2012

What we’re doing for preschool this year — Curriculum Fair 2012


In June, Jonathan will be 3.5 and Vivienne will be 1.5.

I thought I’d share some of the resources we’re using for Johnny’s pre-preschool as a part of Simple Homeschool’s Curriculum Fair 2012. He’ll have another year of preschool in 2013, and will start kindergarten in the fall of 2014 when he’s 5.

[This blog isn’t turning into a homeschool blog. I’m just going to have a post or two on the topic, and maybe branch out on homeschool stuff elsewhere.]

I looked at a variety of resources and curricula for this age group — Timberdoodle, Sonlight, Before Five in a Row, Heart of Dakota, My Father’s World, ABC Jesus Loves Me…and plenty of blogs.

I don’t want this year to be academic. At all. I want it to be fun, no pressure, and just introducing some prek skills. I want to read great books with my kids, do simple (keyword SIMPLE!!) crafts with them, and explore the wonderful world around us.

I greatly appreciate The Wonderment Curriculum and How to Homeschool the Early Years for how I’m trying to model what I’m doing.

Children’s literature

I’m using book recommendations from Honey For a Child’s Heart*, and book lists from Ambleside Online, Before Five in a Row and Sonlight to get ideas of what we might enjoy reading together. Not all titles on the reading lists appeal to us, but it’s nice to have a starting point.

I created a Shelfari account for the kids so I could keep track of titles I want to find, titles we own, and which books we’ve already read.

I want to buy this Virginia Lee Burton treasury*discovered in a Sonlight core and borrowed from the library, because it includes all original pictures of 4 books, at full size. I recently read The Little House to Johnny, from within that treasury book. I remember that book from when I was little.

The book had a strong effect on him. He was grabbed by the story, and concerned for how the plot was progressing. He talked about what was happening, and flipped back to study previous pictures more closely. It was awesome! He’s now at the age where he’ll sit through and enjoy a longer children’s book like that. We read through that one several times and it’s a title we need to own. He was sad when we took it back to the library, but said, “It’s someone else’s turn to read it.” awww, Johnny.

I like owning children’s books. I’m working on acquiring books affordable (that’s a post for another day) and of course using the library for all we can.

My Father’s World

Preschool toddler package for 2-3 yo (I bought the first two of these items around the time my daughter was born for my son)

  • Number Express — it’s a puzzle, train, and stacking counting tool. He likes it!
  • Wee Sing Bible Songs — I’ve loaded these tracks ontoour toddler mp3 player* and it gets daily use, with a few favorites played over and over. Both kids like it.
  • Shape and Color Sorter — I skipped this last year, though I can’t remember why. I included it with my order for other MFW things just this week. Vivienne will be able to use it later, but Johnny too.

Preschool package for 3-5 year olds


I bought the whole pack, and added an extra 8″ pegboard so each kid can have one.


When I first looked at these items, I was like, “meh.”  They just didn’t look that exciting at first. And then I thought I’d buy just a few of those items.


But the pack made an impression on me. I read reviews of the package and ultimately, I decided that these activities will help my kids learn a few preschool lessons without it being over-the-top academic. I like that I’ll be able to use it with both kids.




I love Timberdoodle for their fun, educational toy ideas. I’ve browsed their site for gift ideas for other kids, and my own. I didn’t go with a prepackaged core from them, but chose a few things.


From their preschool core (not to be confused with their prek core):

  • Colorblock Sea Turtle Maze (I bought this last year because I thought it would be a fun toy for in the car. It was too hard to use there — too much rattling. Johnny understood the concept and seemed to like it but it didn’t hold the staying power that I thought it would. Better luck with Vivie?)
  • Big O-Ball. Easy to catch and fun!
  • Big Book of Things to Spot (waiting for this to arrive, and the rest of the items below from Timberdoodle)
  • Hape Zoo Animal Blocks puzzle — Johnny likes puzzles, and I like that this is a 3-d different sort of puzzle than what he already has.
  • Day and Night logic puzzle
  • Kumon My Book of Easy Mazes — I guess this is considered a workbook of sorts. There were a few mazes in a recent coloring book he used and he seemed to like those activities, so I went with a maze book. If he isn’t into it, I’ll put it away for when he’s a little older.

From their prek core

  • My First Scissors kit — we own some scissors made by Melissa & Doug, but they are still hard for him to work. Maybe this set will be easier and more fun at this stage.
  • Big Book of Play and Find Out Science Projects

Other from Timberdoodle:

  • Hugg-a-Planet’s world globe
  • Magnetibook Crazy Face and vehicles (I might hold onto these and use as a gift. Maybe for their half-birthdays! heh)



I do want to map out some sort of Bible curriculum for the kids — probably tying songs with stories we’re reading. I have several Bible resources and I’m also browsing the free ABC Jesus Loves Me curriculum for ideas. I am still working on how I’m going to approach it.

*affiliate link

Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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