Reading and Listening: Audiobooks

Since we use “real” books and not as many textbooks in our home school, we spend most of our days reading. Because two of my children are struggling readers and the books that they are “reading” are quite demanding, I usually read aloud. This is good for all of us; but there are occasions where I simply do not have the time or that they are just not listening to me because the baby wants my attention or they are just sick of hearing my voice. During these times, I have found it extremely helpful to use Audibles and LibriVox. Audibles is through Amazon and is a pay program. You buy the audiobook. I use it with my older child. She reads along as it reads it aloud. This was one of the recommended methods for her due to her phonological processing disorder.

LibriVox is a free program. People volunteer to read chapters or whole books. The books in this program are all public domain, so only certain books are available. We used it with Burgess Animal Book. I felt like the girls listened along much better and we were able to pause or go back and repeat if we needed to do that. I like both programs and would highly recommend both to anyone who enjoys listening to stories.



Please continue to keep The Freckled Fox family in your thoughts and prayers.

The Little Duke

One of the books we read for school this year is The Little Duke by Charlotte Mary Yonge. It is a great story and very well written. It has some dated language and some of the names are hard to pronounce, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. There were definitely things I had to stop and clarify, but I think this is a benefit. It allows for better comprehension and it makes the story more relatable if they truly understand what is going on and can put themselves in the story. If the records are accurate this is their 34th great-grandfather, so it makes it even more special to learn about someone in our own family.


This true story is about Richard the Fearless, the Little Duke, who became the Duke as a child. The description of the back cover of the book says,

Richard the Fearless, the great grandfather of William the Conqueror, became Duke of Normandy at just 8 years old, after the assassination of his father. The Little Duke tells the heroic tales of his trials at home in Normandy and at the court in France where he was a prisoner.

My children would beg me to read more, but as we got close to the end they begged me not to finish just yet. They were sad to be done with the story.  This historical novel makes history come alive for children. They get the opportunity to “get to know” a figure from the past. They get the chance to see that kings and dukes were once little children too. One of my favorite parts of the book, was when they found a chest that contained Richard’s father’s  (William Longsword) “treasure”. The priest explained to Richard and the men why the contents of the chest were his father’s greatest treasure. It is a beautiful story, and it shows why Richard would become the kind of man that he was.

We truly loved this book and I’m looking forward to reading it again someday with my little boy.

Grow Your Heart

Pretty much everyone has read How the Grinch Stole Christmas or at least seen the movie. Well, since I can feel a little Grinchy about Christmas this new Grinch Good Deeds Grow Your Heart program is perfect for me. .

Along with our daily Advent scripture reading, we will be racing to do as many good deeds as we possibly can for the next 24 days. The best part of all is that at the end of the 25 days,you can send in your good deeds letter and Random House and First Book will donate a book to a family in need in your own community. How great is that?!good-deeds-letter

There are lots of printables on  There is even a printable activity book.

We introduced the whole thing to our children last night at dinner. I made Grinchy Spicy Broccoli and Chicken Casserole, Grinch Cookies, and they had Grinch Punch (Lime Sherbert and Ginger Ale) too.

We read the book and we went over the Good Deeds Journal. They got started right away doing as many good deeds as they could.


“Then the Grinch thought of something
he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought,
doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas…perhaps…
means a little bit more!”

Hopefully, this along with our daily Advent reading will make the holiday seem more like it should. I would love to think that my own little Whos would celebrate Christmas even if the Grinch had stolen all that we think makes up Christmas; that their spirits wouldn’t be dulled by a lack of presents or a tree. I want love to shine through this season just like it did all those years ago in a simple stable.


Understood Betsy {Great Books}



Another great book that we discovered this year is Understood Betsy. This may be in my top ten favorite books of all time. The narrator is funny and sharp. The characters are so well developed that you will feel like you know them personally by the end of the book. The story couldn’t be better. I loved every page in this book. I told my husband about each chapter after we’d read it. Just hearing about it from us left him wanting to know how it all worked out in the end.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about Understood Betsy

A warm and charming portrayal of life in the early 1900s. Sheltered 9 year old Elizabeth Ann has always heard her Aunt Frances talk about “those horrid Vermont cousins.” Now she is terrified. Aunt Frances can no longer take care of her, and she has been sent to stay with her New England relatives. “Betsy” gradually comes to enjoy the challenge of living with her country cousins, and she has a difficult choice to make. A delightful book.

This was a literature book for our homeschool. It didn’t feel like school at all. We all cried at certain chapters and my girls made me hold off with the final chapter for a week just because they could barely stand the thought of it being over.

This would make a lovely Christmas or birthday gift for a child.




Everybody has them. Some people excel in mathematics, others in science, others in the realm of technology. There are many people who have several things in which they really excel. For almost everyone there is at least one area of school or life or both that challenges them.

For my oldest daughter, Victoria, this is algebra. That girl could read at four years old and had poetry published by ten. Math, however, has made her cry on more than one occasion. She’s so incredibly smart that I have no idea what she’ll do in life because she could do anything except be a mathematician.

For my second oldest, Lillian, reading was her struggle. Diagnosed with a phonological processing disorder in third grade, it took her longer for her to learn to read and her confidence took a hit because of it. Years later, she reads like a pro, but her confidence still affects her willingness to do it. Her strength is that there is not anything that she can’t figure out and make happen.

My third daughter, Olivia, is a unique story. At the age of one, we had confirmed what I had long suspected…she had a brain abnormality. She has colpocephaly. It is extremely rare with only about 40 documented cases. We were told that since so few people have it that they had no idea what her life or her challenges would be. Today, she has begun to read and finally grasp the concept of numbers. She has the most incredible memory of any person I have ever seen. She can tell you what she did on a particular day down to what she had to drink.

Then there is Eva. She is a math whiz but also struggles to read. She is the truest example of a dyslexic that I’ve ever encountered. She learns best through listening and has a great memory too. She is good at history and loves science. She loves people and it shines through her daily encounters with those she meets.

So, what’s the point to all this?

As a homechool parent, I struggle with knowing if I’m doing the best thing for these children. There are days that I feel like I fail and other days where I feel triumphant. Truthfully, when I did student teaching in college I felt the same way, but they weren’t MY kids. One of the best things about homeschooling is being able to let each child move on where they are doing well and stay and continue to practice where they are not doing well.

That’s why at my house we don’t focus on what grade something is;  but rather if it is the appropriate level for that particular child.

I have tried SO MANY things to help my struggling readers. There are two that have made the biggest difference.

Years ago, when Lillian was struggling with reading we hired a tutor. She used a program called Academic Associates. Within a year she was reading well. It was incredible. We still use the binder with my two younger girls.

This is what their website says about the program:

“Our Reading Program uses the 44 sounds of English.

The Academic Associates Reading Program provides students of all ages the “tools” that unlock the million words of English. Amazingly, non-readers can be reading over 300 words within 3 hours!

Most students complete the program in fewer than 50 hours. They will gain 2 to 4 grades during this time.

Those with dyslexia and other learning challenges make remarkable gains.”

The thing that has helped my younger two girls has been Primary Phonics. It works very slowly through the sounds of the letters and the blends. I’ve ordered the books from Ebay and Amazon. They may even be available at some used bookstores or education stores as well. The progress I’ve seen since using this has been impressive.

primaryphonics_hero (1)

I’m excited to see what lies ahead for these girls. Our challenges don’t define us but refine us. They have more empathy for others because of what they see and experience. They learn that if you want something, sometimes it requires MORE….More time, more effort, more work; but it’s all worth it in the end.

Life would be boring if there weren’t any challenges.

The Hundred Dresses

Yesterday was National Young Readers Day. It is suggested that on that day parents and adults read to the children in their lives. This book is a great book to do just that!

I homeschool my children with the exception of my high schooler. I have homeschooled them from the beginning and for our family it was a very good decision. Anyway, with all that I have going on I usually only have time to read the books my children are reading or that I am reading to them. One of these books is “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes. I read it aloud to my youngest two girls and then made my older two read it because it is just so good! I cried. I usually do at good stories and this one is so very good.

Goodreads says,
“Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.” This powerful, timeless story has been reissued with a new letter from the author’s daughter Helena Estes, and with the Caldecott artist Louis Slobodkin’s original artwork in beautifully restored color.”

This book was written over 70 years ago; but the message and the moral still ring true. Bullying is wrong. It hurts more deeply than we may ever realize. The bully is wrong, but the people who watch and do nothing are wrong too. One of the beautiful things in this story is the way that the girls who bullied feel remorse and have a true desire to make it right. The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”  is proved WRONG in this book. The girls in the story come to learn that words have weight and they can hurt more than a stone. The best part of all is that Wanda is one of those people who doesn’t carry bitterness.There is much to take away from this little 90 page book!  I think this is a must read for all children and this parent loved it too!

Today is Veteran’s Day so to all those who have served and those who are currently serving