Saturday, November 14, 2020

Book Review: Treasures of the Snow

Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John - a well worn and beautiful Christian children's book that was the most powerful story about forgiveness I ever read.

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Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John is a beautifully written story of forgiveness and redemption that had a profound impact on me as a child.   The story it holds, and powerful Christian message carried with it, has stuck with me through the years, and it was a joy to share this book with my own children.

The story circles through several Christmases in the lives of two children, a boy and a girl.   At first, you see the story through the eyes of the little girl and the boy is portrayed as the "villain"...but then the story shifts and we see things through his eyes.    It continues to switch back and forth between their perspectives throughout the rest of the story. 

And in the background of the unfolding drama is the beautiful Swiss alps, exquisitely captured so that you can feel the crisp air, hear the crunch of the snow, see the wildflowers dotting the hillside, and feel the height of the steep ravines and the chill of a swirling blizzard. 

Something that I didn't remember until I was reading it with my own homeschooling child, was that the little girl is homeschooled for a while towards the beginning of the story, so that she can take care of her little brother.   Even though this only brief part of the story, lasting the span of a single chapter, it was nice to have that little moment of connection when reading it to my son.

And, with its beginning and end set at Christmas time, and it's advent length of 25 chapters, it's the perfect book to read over the holidays. 

Unfortunately, if you want to read St. John's beautiful original prose, you will have to get an older version of the book.  The newest version is an adaption, and while the re-write stays faithful to the original story and I don't think it's badly done, I do prefer the Patricia St. Johns original writing better, so if you can find an older copy I suggest that.   But the story wonderful no matter which version you get.

Here is a comparison of some lines from both version so you can see for yourself, and make your own decision which you prefer...

ORIGINAL:  They had come to a parting of ways.  The crumbly white snow-path lined with sled tracks divided.  A few hundred yards along the right fork stood a group of houses with light shining in their windows and dark barns behind them.  Annette was nearly home.

NEW ADAPTION: They had come to where the crumbly white path divided.  A few hundred yards along the right fork stood a group of chalets with lights shining in their windows and dark barns standing behind them.  Annette was nearly home.

ORIGINAL: Now, as she stood along among the snow and stars, it seemed a pity to go in just yet and break the spell.  She waited as she reached the steps leading up to the balcony and looked around.

NEW ADAPTION: The magic stayed with her, and now, as she stood alone among the snow and stars, it seemed a pity to go in just yet and break the spell.  She hesitated as she reached the steps leading up to the balcony and looked around.


Here are the covers I've been able to confirm are the original version and get a picture of (thanks to some helpful book-lovers at Reshelving Alexandria).   There are others that I either don't have a picture of or don't know whether it's the original version...

This is the original Treasure of the Snow cover featuring a girl and a boy in traditional swiss outfits playing in a field with mountains in the backgroud. This Treasures of the Snow Cover shows an illustration of a boy passed out on the edge of a cliff with a climber in the background.
Treasure of the snow cover from the the late 1970s or early 1980s featuring hand drawn illustration of a girl, a little boy and a cat, a boy skiing, with mountains in the background. This Treasures of the Snow cover shows a picture from the movie that was made from this book, on a blue background.
This Treasures of the Snow cover shows a picture from the movie that was made from this book, on a white background

Revised version of Treasures of the Snow with cover showing a girl in a red dress and white sweater in a field in front of mountains.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Archaeology + Paleontology Layer Cake

Do an archaeological dig through a layer cake.  Great for homeschool history lessons, or archeaology or paleontology parties.  Eat your way through history!

Don't have a yard suitable to doing fun archaeology digs in?   Well, then just try layer cake!

I can't claim to have come up with this brilliant idea.   That honor goes to amazing homeschool mom Megan Evans who made the archaeology cake below, and graciously allowed me to share her photos of it here.

She didn't have a yard so she baked "artifacts" into a layer cake to "excavate" later.   That is the tastiest archeology dig I've ever heard of.

This shows the top of the cake with green frosting , a toy tent, and campfire scene.

On the top we have a scrumptious campsite.


This shows the layers of the cake.

Then underneath we see the layers.

I like how she made the layers from

different color cake mix.   

In this layer you can see how they made cut outs and placed tiny plastic sun glasses, a fishing rod, and a silver item in the cake.

The top layer had some modern items.

This picture shows a it's feet is a ring.

In the middle layer, a grave with grave goods.

(Love the use of the ring as a crown!)

This picture shows the bottom layer of cake with two dinosaurs inserted into cut outs.

And for the bottom layer, moving from

archaeology to paleontology, 

we have dinosaurs.

This is a project that would be so worth the sugar rush.  If you didn't want to eat through all that cake at once I could see gradually "excavating" it over several days.   For older kids you could have them string the top area off like a real archeology dig and diagram where they found things in the cake.  Such fun!   Thanks Megan for sharing this great idea!


  • Archaeology and archeology are both correct spellings of the word in the US.   To learn more, read this. ) 
  • Paleontology and Archeology, while they overlap some, are different.  Learn more here.


See More History Posts

Friday, September 18, 2020

You Tube Through Ancient History - For Middle School and High School

This is a collection of videos to expose students to an overview of ancient history, organized in a way that they could be used as a spine or as supplements for another spine or curriculum.  It's a bit unpolished as yet, and I'm hoping to add more resources to go with the videos (like free printables and such as I find them), but I wanted to get it up, unpolished or not, so that people can start to use this if they want. 

AGE LEVEL:   The general age level for this is Middle School through High School.   Most of these videos could be watched by younger children, but some may have content that is a little over their head, or that otherwise might not be appropriate.   See "Content Information" below for more info.


Crash Course
Crash course offers chronological broad overviews of history.   While it is partially animated, the concepts and pace are aimed at adults (and I feel like overall it's suitable for Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers).   There are a few jokes that are inappropriate and might want to be skipped, especially if viewing while younger children are present.  I've tried to note these but may have missed some (and if so, please tell me in a comment).  Apart from these episodes, most episodes could be watched by younger children without issue though, though many will find this too fast-paced for younger children to follow.   

Extra Credits History
Extra Credits History is my favorite history series.   It offers deeper dives into various subjects.   The series is animated, and funny, but done respectfully as well, I think.   It appeals to a wide age 8 year old and my high schooler both enjoyed these equally.

TEDed offers brief, annimated glimpses into various subjects, including history.  It is, in general, safe for all ages of least the videos listed here.   TedEd videos also come with an online questionnaire students can use to quiz themselves, and links to places they can find more info on the subject.   (NOTE:   I may have accidentally linked some of these from YouTube directly, in stead of from the TedEd site, where that extra stuff isn't available, but if I did, just go to and type their title into the search...and then come back and tell me so I can fix it.   Thanks.)
TICE Art History
These are short animated videos on art history.  


I have listed a few "discussion question" worksheets I found for free on Teachers Pay Teachers related to these videos.   There isn't one for every video, but I'd thought I'd list one where I found them free.   If you are willing to pay for them, you can find many similar discussion question sheets listed on Teachers Pay Teachers.  As mentioned earlier, TedEd videos also come with some additional resources.


Various videos suggested here have descriptions of historical violence, but I felt like this was depicted appropriately and not gratuitously. I do not usually make special  note of violence in videos because it is so common.  A certain tolerance for historical violence is necessary for using this list. 

There are references to sex in a few of these videos, but usually handled subtly/well (nothing gratuitous or crude, with the exception of a joke in one Crash course video, which I've included a warning with).   Crash course does occassionally refer to sex as "skoodlypooting" and shows a blanket with feet hanging out.    There's also a few videos with historical artwork that depicts nudity.   

Most of these contain no profanity.   A few of the Crash Course videos contain a "Long A** time" joke (and then they say they aren't swearing, because they mean a donkey).   I try to note these in red.



Below are the videos to watch in chronological order.  The videos listed on the left are ones that cover broad topics, and the videos in the bullet lists under them are extra videos related to this topic.   I've listed key videos in bold, while videos that are less essential and can be skipped if you are using these videos as a spine, are listed in regular text.

The Agricultural Revolution: Crash Course World History #1 

- Worksheet:  Discussion Questions

Indus Valley Civilization: Crash Course World History #2

Mesopotamia: Crash Course World History #
CONTENT WARNING: This has an inappropriate joke about a sex tape
(Alternative/Or Addition to Above)
Ancient Civilizations of Mesopotamia This video is aimed at Elementary/Middle School, so may be a little "young" for High Schoolers.   Its a little longer and goes more in depth on some of the civilizations, but shares a little less of the "progression of history" that Crash Course does.  It could be used as a replacement for Crash Course#3, but covers enough separately that could also be an addition)
CONTENT WARNING: Mild "swearing" (long a** time joke)
The Bronze Age Collapse SERIES - Extra History (1200 and 1150 BC)

The Persians & Greeks: Crash Course World History #5

The Alphabet - Origins of Writing - Extra History

The History of Paper Money - Origins of Exchange - Extra History - #1
(NOTE:  This one travels far out of our time frame, but does start in ancient times)

Buddha and Ashoka: Crash Course World History #6

2,000 Years of Chinese History! The Mandate of Heaven and Confucius: World History #7 

-Worksheet:  Discussion Questions

Alexander the Great - Crash Course World History #8

The Silk Road and Ancient Trade: Crash Course World History #9

- Worksheet:  Discussion Questions

The Roman Empire. Or Republic. Or...Which Was It?: Crash Course World History #10

Christianity from Judaism to Constantine: Crash Course World History #11

- Worksheet:  Discussion Questions

Fall of The Roman the 15th Century: Crash Course World History #12

The History of Rome in 20 Minutes (nice summary to re-cap) 
CONTENT WARING:  Brief mention of a rape, Renaissance paintings containing nudity.


TO ADD:   Third Century Crisis - The Great Persecution - Extra History (it's a series they aren't finished with)

Friday, July 17, 2020

My 5 Favorite Read-Aloud Picture Books

Here are five of my favorite picture books to read aloud to, or with, my kids.  

(This post contains affiliate links through which I can earn commission.)

1.  Stellaluna

My oldest son had most of this book memorized at 3 years old - we read it that much!  In it a bat gets adopted by a family of birds, but eventually finds his mother.   The story is so touching, the characters so vivid, and the dialog is just wonderfully fun to read. 

The rhythm of the dialogue even seem to fit the characters...the lines spoken by the birds are full of short words that sound chirpy when you read them aloud, while the bat's dialogue has a smoother sound.  And, the illustrations are nothing short of beautiful.

 2.  Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type

We got four fun farm animal stories by Doreen Cronin in various Chick File kids meals (the others are Dooby Dooby MooGiggle, Giggle, QuackDuck for President), and there has never been a kids meal toy we liked better! We have read these over and over and over again and it's always a joy.  They are hilarious.  Click Clack Moo is the one I loved reading aloud the most because I always made the "moo" deep and loud (although after a while the kids usually wanted say this part...which of course is even better!)

3.    We Are In A Book

I love ALL the Piggie and Elephant books.  These are the books that moved my youngest son from hating reading, to wanting to do reading first thing.  Most of the books just have two main characters, Piggie and Elephant, and the book is a dialogue between them, shown in speech bubbles in a large, easy to read font.  I would read one character's part and my son would read the other, which was a fun way to encourage him to read.

I had a hard time choosing just one to feature, but picked this one because I think it's the best one to read first, and because it has a lot of fun features especially for reading aloud.   In it Piggie and Elephant discover that they are in a book, and the way they interact with the reader is super charming and fun.  Plus, you get to say banana...many times, and who doesn't like that?  

I do want to mention my second pick though, also.   I Am A Frog is about pretending, and is super fun to read.  It is fun narrating Elephant as he worries about turning into a frog, lets you do some great animal noises, has a cute, insightful nod to parents mid way through, and a really funny twist at the end.

4.  Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

My mom grew up in New England and I think she bought this book wanting to share a little of home with us.   I really enjoy reading this with my kids.  It's so matter of fact and down to earth.   The way they describe the personalities and quirks of the different animals on this farm make me think of the animals we've had in our life. 

It's not squeamish about things like cats catching mice and hens being carried away by foxes...but it's not brutal about those things either either.    There's a frank gentleness to it.   One of the last pages is a remembering of beloved animals on the farm that had been buried in a little secluded wooded patch on the corner of a's a touching moment, and I think would be comforting to a child who had lost a pet.  

I have read this book so many times, and never get tired of it.

NOTE:   It is pretty long to read in one setting, so I usually would read a several pages from it over several days (and its easy to split up that way).

5.  A Quiet Night In

This is a charming story about a dad who is too tired for the birthday celebration his family was planning for him, and asks in stead if they can do "a quiet night in."   The humor is really directed at parents, but my children loved these books.   I love how tender the family members are to each other, even when they are mad or annoyed.   I The dialogue is fun to read, and if you have a large family you will really relate. 

(I can't find this story for sale by itself anymore though, which is why I linked to the set.   The only other one of these I've read is All in One Piece which was also a fun read, though I liked A Quiet Night In better). 

What are your favorite read-alouds?