PB&J lifehack.

Does PB&J really needs a makeover?

Some bloggers certainly think so. Hacks and tricks range from somewhat useful (check out Crystal Paine Freezer-Friendly Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches) to unintentionally comical and controversial (who remembers Bev Weidner’s Peanut Butter Slices Recipe?)

Well, guess who is now brave enough to share her PB&J hack? This girl! No, I’m not kidding. I can’t believe it either. Let the merciless mockery ensue.

Lifehack is a clever technique, tip that is meant to simplify a task or make it more efficient. While my tip will not reduce the time needed to spread nut butter and jelly on a piece of bread, it will reduce your guilt over throwing away perfectly good crusts because of unexplained crust phobia that has consumed toddlers, kids and adults alike. Without further ado, I present to you the

PB&J hack

  1. Arrange sliced bread on a clean surface.


2. Using a large cookie cutter or a knife cut off the crust.


3. Place the cut off pieces of bread on a baking sheet and place in a 300F oven for 15 minutes. After bread cools off, put chunks into the food processor and pulse until desired crumb size. Transfer to an air tight container (I use mason jars.) For optimal freshness, place in refrigerator for 1 month or in the freezer for 3 months.


4. Place crustless bread back into the bag, trai Ta-da, crusts are not going to waste anymore!


**Mini-tip #2:  If you are planning to freeze the sandwiches, put peanut butter on both slices of bread. This will prevent jelly from turning bread into mushy mess.

***Mini-tip #3: Seal edges by flipping plastic cookie cutter upside down to seal the edges together.

****Correction and tip #4 from my eldest: “Mom, you can’t use PEANUT butter on my co-op sandwich. It can kill my teacher and hurt some of my friends. Use cashew butter, please.” Good point, kid, thank you.

So this long post can be summarized in 1 sentence. Don’t throw away the crusts, turn them into bread crumbs instead.

The end.

Globes, maps and scissors: why all maps are inaccurate. 

That map you have on your wall? It’s wrong.

The map we use daily in our homeschool? It’s wrong.

This Google World map? Still wrong.

The new fancy accurate map? It’s wrong too.

ALL maps are wrong. Why?

It’s square peg through round hole kind of situation: we are trying to take a sphere and represent it on the flat surface.

In this experiment we will try to do the impossible: take a 3D bubble and flatten it into a 2D map.

1. Cut a line from North to South pole along the longitude line.

2. Try to lay the “map” flat. Stretch, cut, struggle, sob, quit.

3. I made several cuts along the longitude lines, leaving the segments attached at the equator line.

Now it’s time to play connect-the-dots game: complete latitude lanes and fill in the gaps. Ta-daaaa! You have successfully transferred surface of three dimensional object to a two dimensional sheet of paper, but at what cost?

Landmasses near equator kept their shape and size. The further away from the equator, the more distorted the image is. Greenland appears to be as big as Africa; India looks tiny, Indonesia is barely visible.

Check out The True Size Of web site for some eye-opening maps.

The most recognizable version of the world map, the Mercator projection, was presented in 1569 (!!!) by the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator. His projection is a great tool for nautical purposes, but is widely criticized because it distorts sizes.

Should we stop utilizing all the maps? Using a globe, three dimensional representation of our planet, seems like a logical conclusion, buuuut…

…all globes are wrong too!

Earth is not round.

No, I am not suggesting that Earth is flat, it’s just not a perfect sphere. We travel through time and space on an oblate spheroid—a sphere that is squashed at it’s poles and swollen at the equator.
I’m beginning to think that the best way to study geography is from International Space Station. Field trip, anyone?

February homeschool plans: yes, we are giving in to Olympics craze!

As Christmas season was coming to an end, I was hoping to enjoy slow January full of rest, snuggles, hot tea, good books and lazy couchschooling. Series of unexpected events and no ability to control our schedule led to the busiest month in a long time. It’s OK, we’ll move the R&R month to February!

Except February is full to the brim with fun events and learning opportunities: Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, webcasts and online classes, the biggest book sale of the year, regular meetups and clubs, co-op classes, tutoring sessions and Winter Olympics 2018.

Olympic games were always a HUGE deal in my childhood home, especially Winter Olympics. But how do I tie this unit in with Valentine’s day and other holidays?

There is a Greek connection to everything, it seems. Coincidentally, we have been going down the Ancient Greece rabbit hole for the past few months, so this unit study will fit in organically into our schedule. Our history unit will tie it all together:

  • the Ancient Olympic Games were staged in Olympia in honor of Zeus,
  • Valentine’s day is influenced by Greek festival in honor of Pan, held around February, 15th
  • Athens is a birthplace of democracy, making it relevant to Presidents’ day study,
  • Groundhog day…I’m sure there is a festival that was celebrated first week of February.

During the next few weeks we will cover the plethora of related subjects. Here are just a few:

  • geography
  • history
  • culture
  • art
  • music
  • I’ll throw in some PE for a good measure

Opening night plans

As much as I enjoy the atmosphere of a live broadcast, we have another commitment on Tuesday mornings, so we will settle the party with taped Opening Ceremony in the background. To kick off the party we will:

  • snack on fruit and vegetable plate arranged in Olympic symbol;
  • start drawing flags of the countries participating in the games (you could find free printable version, but we prefer to sneak in some coloring/writing practice and add a unique personal touch to the flag banner. We will pick a handful of flags to draw each day.)
  • make Olympic torches and have a relay (or maybe a game of hot potato.)
  • kids will design an obstacle course and all family members will try to conquer it. Anticipation is killing me! I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

How are you incorporating Olympic fun to your homeschool or after-school enrichment?

Do you want to build a snowman? Baking soda dough.

The winter is almost over, and to my kids’ chagrin, it hardly snowed in Oklahoma this year. I’m not complaining, but they are. Loudly.

To distract them from this tragedy, during the past few weeks we painted with ice, froze some treasures in a block of ice, instantly froze some water, and played with this “win-win-win-win” fun messy baking soda dough. Why quadruple win? I’m glad you asked.

  1. Kids did 100% of prep work and loved every moment of sifting, measuring, stirring and molding. Sifting is not required, the boys insisted.
  2. They enjoyed the messy sensory fun and played with the dough for hours. They built (and destroyed) snowmen, created mountains, clouds,
  3. Just when the boys started losing interest, I asked them if the would like to add some vinegar to their creations. You could see the wheels turning “Vinegar…baking soda dough…YASSSSS!!!!”
  4. …aaaaaand my favorite part: both baking soda and vinegar can help clean all over the house. While baking soda mixed with vinegar is not the most effective cleaner, the aftermath of this fun messy sensory activity can be used to scour sinks and bathroom surfaces.
    *****I always thought that baking soda+vinegar cleaning solution was effective, but the science behind this fizzy bubbling reaction proves that I was wrong. Baking soda is basic while vinegar is acidic, their reaction produces water and sodium acetate. Mostly water with tiny amount of salt in it.*****

Note: this dough is not edible.

Note #2: the recipe is modified to make enough fizzy dough for an entire preschool class.


4 lbs (about 8 cups) baking soda

0.5 cup salt

2 cups of water

4 tsp dish soap



optional: food dye, glitter and few drops of essential oil.


  1. In a large bowl combine baking soda and salt, whisk.
  2. Add dish soap and stir until the mix is crumbly.
  3. Slowly add water until the snow dough reaches the desired consistency. If it’s too crumbly, add more water, if it’s too runny, add more baking soda.
  4. Optional: add glitter and few drops of your favorite essential oil.
  5. Time to play! Mold your baking soda dough! We made snowmen, volcanoes, snowflakes and flowers. After your creations are completed, use dropper or a condiment bottle to pour vinegar on baking soda dough.
  6. If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that there is a twist. We made some baking soda snowflakes and tried to  freeze them. It would have been a great activity…if the recipe didn’t have salt in it and the dough didn’t freeze. Oops.
    I’ll combine 1 cup of baking soda with a few tablespoons of water and repeat step 6. Stay tuned for the updates!

Check out this fun and EASY activity:

Detailed step-by-step instructions can be found >>>here<<<.

Explaining Bernoulli’s Effect to a 5-year-old

If I stated Bernoulli’s principle to my 5-year-old, I’d probably get crickets or millions of questions as he would try to understand this word soup (for a young kid, anyway.) Ok, let’s try it:

If no energy is added to the system, an increase in velocity is accompanied by a decrease in density and/or pressure. The law is directly related to the principle of conservation of energy.

Hmm, he picked option c.) mumble “Ooooookaaaaay” and walk away.

What if I tried a different approach? Here goes nothing:

Explaining Bernoulli’s Effect to a 5-year-old

Can you throw a ball?

Can you throw water? (Pro tip: make sure you ask this question outside.)

How about gas? Can you throw air? After all, air doesn’t hold it’s shape the same way solids or liquids do: you can’t grab a handful or pour a glassful of air. Go ahead, try it!

This experiment will demonstrate that air, like other matter, responds to force. We will apply force to the air molecules and throw them! We will send them flying in a single direction using Bernoulli’s Effect. We are going to throw air!

Materials needed for this experiment:

Let’s start small:

  • Plastic or paper cup
  • Large balloon or a heavy duty trash bag
  • Rubber bands
  • Scissors
  • Adult supervision and help
  1. Cut a hole in the bottom of the cup. The plastic cup we bought kept breaking, so we ended up using heated knife to create the opening. (Please, please, please use caution and responsible adult’s help!!!) To avoid sharp heated objects, use paper cups.20180127_214254
  2. Create a membrane that will go over the top of the cup by cutting off the neck of the balloon or by cutting a circle out of heavy duty trash bag/shower curtain. Stretch it over the lip of the cup and secure with the rubber band.20180127_214301
  3. Point your air cannon at the lightweight object, gently pull back the membrane, then release it. You can also fire your air cannon by tapping the membrane.
  4. Play around with the size and shape of the container, shape, size or the position of the opening. Which changes improve or diminish your air cannon’s performance?
  5. Optional: fill the plastic cup with water vapor (made with dry ice or fog machine) or smoke (smoke bomb.) Repeat steps 3 and 4.

Fun experiment, isn’t it? Let’s multiply the fun factor by making it BIGGER!!!!

*****Since this project is much more labor intensive and attention demanding than the small one, we made this version of air vortex cannon during kids’ nap time.*****

For the giant version of this experiment you will need:

  • 32 gallon plastic trash can
  • heavy duty trash bag or a plastic shower curtain.
  • bungee cord
  • box cutter
  • Adult supervision and help
  1. Using the box cutter, cut a 6″ hole in the bottom of the trash can (most trash cans have a line that will guide you.)20180127_215115
  2. Cut a piece of heavy duty trash bag and attach it with bungee cords over the top of the trash can. Option 2: use duck tape to secure the membrane to the opening. We added a bungee type cord handle for bigger…”kick.”20180127_215126
  3. Point your air cannon at the target (solo cup tower or a balloon) and gently tap the membrane.
  4. Oooooh and aaaaah
  5. Play around with the size and shape of the container, shape, size or the position of the opening. Which changes improve or diminish your air cannon’s performance?
  6. Optional: if you have access to fog machine or another smoke source…USE IT!!!! Fill the inside of the air vortex cannon with smoke from available source and repeat step 3. The rolling rings of smoke will demonstrate Bernoulli’s effect.

The science behind the experiment:

Bernoulli’s principle states that the faster air is moving, the lower its pressure. The air inside the vortex ring moves faster than the air outside the vortex. The pressure inside the vortex is higher than the pressure outside. When the membrane is pushed forward, it rushes the air molecules toward the air cannon opening. This action causes a chain reaction of air molecules crashing into each other on their way out. The outer edge of this moving air is rolling backwards on itself and… whoosh! A stream of air rushes straight out of air vortex cannon.

Explaining Gravity To A 5-Year-Old

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High school physics usually include a brief introduction to Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation:


By then, physical science students already have a preconceived notion of what gravity is. Teachers  have to explain it in a  way that’s entertaining, but not too difficult, considering the nature of the law of gravity.

But how do you explain the concept to a curious 5-year-old who relentlessly barrages you with never-ending questions?

As with any difficult concept, first of all, give your little scientists a lot of examples and counterexamples!

Second, break the new information down into small manageable chunks.

Third, let them practice and explore!

Fourth, sacrifice some of the details and accuracy in favor of the big picture. Dan Heath, co-author of Made to Stick, notes that “the more you know about something, the harder it is for you to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge”. This has consequences when communicating ideas, especially to a young child.

Finally, don’t assume that you know your student’s learning style.  Multi-sensory experience creates more connections and associations and helps your budding scientists remember and retain learned information more effectively.

With that in mind, let’s go on an adventure of

Explaining gravity to 5-year-olds

Most 5-year-olds have experimented with gravity. A lot. Just Google “kids vs gravity.” Ouch!

Gravity is an invisible universal force of attraction that acts on all matter. It keeps you and everything on Earth from flying out into the space.

Sir Isaac Newton, an English mathematician who lived 300 years ago, discovered gravity.

What was the world like before the discovery of gravity? Did everyone float around?


No, things have been falling down since prehistoric times, and surely Sir Isaac wasn’t the first one to notice it, but he was the first one to come up with a theory that we now know as law of gravity.

One of the most famous anecdotes in the history of science says that Sir Isaac Newton made the discovery when he saw a falling apple.

He noticed that the objects always fell to the surface and he realized that some force must be acting on falling objects, it has a hold on…everything! Newton called this force “gravity” and he determined that gravitational forces exist between all objects.

You exert gravitational force on the people around you too! That force isn’t very strong because you are not very massive.  Now if you were the size of a planet, it would be a different story.

What goes up must come down…Down…does it mean that things in Australia float off into the space? No, as it turns out, no matter where on Earth the object is, the planet’s gravitational pull will always draw it toward the center of the planet. In this case “up” means “away from the Earth” and “down” means “toward the center of the Earth.”

It can be demonstrated with these simple experiments.

  1. Wrap a tennis ball with a few rubber bands, ask your child to put a finger under the rubber band and gently pull away from the ball. Repeat the experiment on all sides of the ball. The rubber band will act like gravity.
    My 5-year-old upgraded this experiment: replace tennis ball with an apple and finger with LEGO minifigures.
  2.  Experiment with a balloon and static electricity. Rub a balloon with a wool cloth or your hair to create static electricity, then attract small pieces of paper to the surface of the balloon. Explain to your students that the Force is keeping pieces of paper on the surface of the balloon.

Newton described gravity, but he didn’t know how it worked. “Gravity must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws, but whether this agent be material or immaterial, I have left to the consideration of my readers,” he admitted.

For over 200 hundred years nobody truly considered what that might be, until in 1915 an agent causing gravity was described by none other than Albert Einstein. According to his theory, gravity is much weirder.  It’s a natural consequence of mass’s existence in space.

Well, this just begs for a General Relativity Explained to 5-Year-Olds post, don’t you think?


Reading aloud to wiggly kids

Research shows that reading aloud to young children from the day they’re born is the single most important thing parents can do to prepare their kids for learning and reading on their own. It helps to develop a child’s vocabulary, phonics, storytelling and comprehension, and simply a familiarity and appreciation for the written word. It also fosters empathy, and encourages social and emotional bonding between parent and child. (See www.ReadAloud.org for more information and research.)

An award-winning author Emilie Buchwald said “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” An avid reader myself, I have always dreamed of perfectly peaceful snuggles during our hours-long read-aloud adventures. Who doesn’t like to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and read, read, read?

My kids, apparently. They’re wiggly and full of energy, to say the least. I often joke that we read AT them, not TO them. Many attempts to make them sit still ended in tears, meltdowns, self-deprecating comments and aversion to story time. What was I doing wrong?


I was conditioned to believe that good listeners sit perfectly still, hands folded in their lap, listening ears turned on and eyes wide open. After all, fidgeting while being read to can seem rude.

With constant nagging, “Sit down, sit still, stop wiggling, stop fidgeting,” the kids  were spending ALL their mental energy trying to keeping their bodies still and could not concentrate on the story.  Attempts to build early literacy through reading aloud were detracting from my boys’ enjoyment of the books. We had to find a better way to enjoy reading together, so we came up with the compromise.

If you have been following our Reading Snowflakes Challenge (#readingsnowflakes  on  Facebook and Instagram pages,) you have noticed that my kids always have some kind of project that keeps their hands (or mouths!) occupied during reading times. To make read-aloud sessions a positive experience, I read, they listen and keep themselves busy with quiet activities during reading times.

These are some of out favorite activities:

  • drawing or doodling in the journal
  • playing with playdough or slime
  • building with LEGO, Duplos, wooden blocks
  • creating with magnets
  • working on a puzzle
  • creating shapes on geoboard
  • finding a way out of mazes
  • building with toothpicks, pipe cleaners, marshmallows, dry noodles, etc
  • playing single player logic games (Shape By Shape, Q-bitz, Rush Hour and others)
  • exploring sensory bins (salt, sand, beans, chickpeas, water beads, shaving cream)
  • scissor practice (this is our favorite activity this winter! We have soooooo many beautiful snowflakes created during reading times!!)
  • acting out scenes from the book

How to maximize read aloud time:

  • let the kids explore the books on their own, even if they are not fluent readers yet.
  • read aloud in the morning,
  • read during meal times,
  • explore story time at the local library or bring a book to read during playdates,
  • have a tea party (poetry tea time became our favorite activity!)
  • OUTSOURCE! listen to audio books and podcasts in the car.

What read-aloud tips or activities do you have? I am always open to new ideas and suggestions.

Water defying gravity

What happens when you take a mason jar full of water and turn it upside down?

When I asked my kids this question, my two year old replied with “Cup. Empty. Oh no!”  Five year old stated the obvious  “If the lid is not on, water will spill out. Gravity.” I think “duh” was implied. 

“What if I told you I could turn the jar upside down without spilling a drop?” I said and braced for displays of shock and amazement. “You just have to take it to space or on the airplane that goes like this” (makes parabolas in the air in the air.) Not the response I expected.  

“We are not leaving our kitchen for this experiment!”

“Oh…then there is no way you can keep the water inside the jar. It will spill and go EVERYWHERE!!!!” he shouted.

Challenge accepted.  

Materials needed for the experiment:

Jar with a round opening

Pitcher of water

Piece of fabric large enough to cover the mouth of the jar (I used cheese cloth)


1. Cover the jar with fabric.

2. Pour water in the jar.

3.  Keeping the mouth of the jar covered with your hand, use your other hand to turn the glass upside down. 

4. Remove your hand. Ta da! Water appers to be defying gravity! 

Science behind the experiment

Water leaked through cheesecloth holes when we poured it in, it’s only logical that the same will happen when we turn the jar upside down, right?

Cheesecloth stretched tightly over the mouth of the jar helped water molecules form surface tension. Water molecules bonded together to form a thin layer that kept the water in. 

There are many ways to observe water tension in action. These are my favorites. 

  1. Drops of water form a dome when they’re carefully placed on top of the coin.
  2. Belly flops! The burning sensation comes from water molecules forming a thin membrane that is harder to break with larger contact surface. 
  3. Water striders utilize water tension to glide on the surface. 
  4. Bubbles! Tension will always make the surface area of the bubble as smallest as it can. 

Peculiar countdown to Christmas: #ReadingSnowflakes Advent

Christmas traditions!

They vary from country to country,  from family to family, but each and every one is special and magical!

Christmas trees, twinkling lights, stockings, candy canes, hot cocoa,  oranges, favorite treats,  cards and gifts…all these things makes December the most wonderful time of the year.

Book advent is our family’s FAVORITE tradition: we get to snuggle on the couch, sip hot cocoa, read wonderful books and make memories…or I get to shout the lines from our favorite books AT the boys who are bouncing around acting out scenes from the pages.

This year I’m adding one more detail to this tradition: a challenge! Share a picture, broadcast live or record a video of you or your children reading a book and share it on social media with #ReadingSnowflakes. Be sure to tag:

@school_for_peculiar_children on Instagram

@School For Peculiar Children in Facebook

By Christmas we will have collected dozens of fun read-alouds (and a few of bloopers from me, no doubt!)

Who’s in?

Without further ado, best reading snowflakes  from our holiday collection.  

Snowflake #1:

The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg.

I LOVED the story the first time I read it. My children? Not so much. They saw the movie first, and it was too much for sensitive souls to handle. Two years later they finally enjoy both the book and the movie. Over. And. Over. And. Over….
Young boy is awoken by a train that magically appears in front of his house. Where is the train headed? Why, to the North Pole, if course! Travel through cold, dark forest, climb the tallest mountains, hills and snow-covered plains, cross barren desert of ice to rediscover the magical sounds and feelings of Christmas

All abooooooard!

Snowflake #2:

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer

We have been decorating the house today (inside and outside) and I feel like we lived what is described in this book! Broken ornaments, tangled lights, missing cookies, loud noises at 6 am. This was a great reminder that little helpers are trying their best, even if the outcome is unexpected and messy.

Snowflake #3:

Sylvester And the Magic Pebble by William Steig.

While not winter themed, it is one of our favorite books and we’ve read it HUNDREDS of times. I am not exaggerating, HUNDREDS! The Scientist INSISTED it should be on every book list. Forever. And ever.

When I bought it, I was asked to read it 5 to 10 times a day for 2 months. one day the obsession stopped, and it didn’t stop gradually as obsessions usually do. It CEASED.

I love everything about this book, the story line,  the characters, the vocabulary, the lessons it teaches, the questions it raises. Sylvester And the Magic Pebble by William Steig triggered some deep and emotional conversations with our 5-year-old.

Snowflake #4:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

This poem is a perfect companion to Poetry Tea Time, one of the ways we enchant our homeschool and make learning fun. Not only it’s a beautiful way to make memories,  but the kids actually learn and retain more material.  Tea time is our secret weapon: it makes social studies, language arts, STEAM and other subjects more (fun.)

Snowflake #5:

Winter Song by Vladimir Kremnev

Beautifully illustrated Russian story for beginner readers. This delightful lullaby will soothe your little ones to sleep with rhyming words and lovely pictures.

Snowflake #6:

The Gingerbread Man  Loose in the School by Laura Murray

This book is often used by teachers to introduce school layout and procedures. My kids love the story, the rhyme and the Gingerbread Man’s adventures (did you know that our cookie friend’s escapades also include zoo, leprechaun school, Christmas and fire truck explorations? ).

“I’ll run and I’ll run as fast as I can, mommy, I’m your gingerbread man!” my boys like to chant as they play after we read this book.

We often pair this book with cookies or sandwiches shaped like gingerbread man (cookie cutters and sandwiches are best friends.)

Snowflake #7

Frosty the Snowman
by Walter Rollins and Steve Nelson

My sweet “I don’t know how to read” boy loves reading/singing this one to his brother, over and over. Fun, magical book brings back wonderful holiday memories and can be accompanied by adorable crafts.

Snowflake #8:

Snowflake Bentley by Jaqueline Briggs Martin

Born in the heart of “snowbelt,”  Willie Bentley loved snow more than anything else in the world. He found that snowflakes “were masterpieces of design. No one design was ever repeated.” Often misunderstood, Bentley kept up with his passion. His patience and determination paid off.

After we read this book, one of our kids exclaimed “I’m just like Willie! Sometimes kids make fun of me for liking weird things!” I am so glad that he was able to find a positive role model in this book: regardless of how hard it was, William Bentley did not give up on his passion. He persisted and made a difference!

Snowflake #9:

Maple Syrup Season by Ann Purmell, illustrated by Jill Weber

A fun and informative book! My boys adore How It’s Made show, they LOOOOOVE maple syrup…This story about an extended family making maple syrup was an instant hit and is read every. single. time we eat waffles or pancakes.

Great combination of fiction and tree tapping/syrup making facts.

Snowflake #10:

When the Snow Falls by Linda Sweeney, illustrated by Jana Christy

“Mommy, it’s winter now. When is it going to snow?” my sweet 5-year-old wonders. With 70+ degrees outside, it’s not going to happen anytime soon, but then again, we live in Oklahoma, where all 4 seasons are possible in less than 24 hours. Until it snows, we will live vicariously through books.

Rhyming two-syllable words describing the day’s events touch on variety of subjects: bundling up for winter weather, hibernation, snow sports and activities, winter in the city, family traditions. Sights, sounds and smells of the world after a big snow come alive with each page. Simple text is great for beginner readers.

‘When the snow falls, each part of the day is an adventure!”

Snowflake #11:

Morozko (Father Frost)

Beautiful winter tale for the littles! Morozko offers valuable words of wisdom boldly and with ease. Real life lessons intertwine with fiction to create magical winter wonderland.  Story teaches the little readers important lessons: jealousy and greediness will not make you happy, but patience and humility will result in wonderful gifts.

Snowflake #12:

Once Upon A Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Jean E. Pendziwol’s beautiful poem is a beautiful gem wonderfully complimented by serene magical illustrations. Mostly black and white, with skillfully places splashes of color, the pictures highlight this beautiful lullaby. Once Upon A Northern Light is a unique and delightful poem about the wonderful things that happen during snowstorm. Saving this in my Poetry Tea Time Folder!

Snowflake #13:

The Smallest Gift of Christmas written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

Peter H. Reynolds became our instant favorite the moment we read The Dot.

Ronald, like most littles,  is excited about Christmas. Will he get the biggest present? He was greatly disappointed that his present was tiny…

Great message and a reminder for kids of all ages.

Snowflake #14:

How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Sr. Seuss 

I must have read this to my kids hundreds of times! Who hasn’t? Does this Christmas classic really need an introduction or a review?

Snowflake #15:

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

I adored fairy tales written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson!

The Snow Queen is a story of a girl who is determined to find and save her friend who has been affected by Snow Queen’s curse. The story shows darkness, light, complexity of the human soul, beauty and heartbreak. Pages are filled with adventure, love, pain, courage, heartbreak…

While it is reported that Frozen was based on the Snow Queen, I fail to see much of the original story in Disney’s adaptation. Snow. That’s all the two stories have in common. The adaptation is skillfully done and my family enjoyed it, but nothing will replace the original in my heart.

Snowflake #16:

Pajama Elves by Hayden Edwards

This book inspired a fun family tradition: kids could open a special Christmas Eve box with new holiday pajamas, hot cocoa, popcorn and a book. Over the years the tradition moved to the day after Thanksgiving (we wanted to wear our fun pajamas and read the stories the entire month leading up to Christmas!!) This year our eldest teared up and divulged that his “heart is overflowing with love and joy. The day-after-Thanksgiving-box is the best!” I’m not crying, you are!!!

Snowflake #17:

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Shultz

It’s Christmas! Everybody is getting into the spirit of Christmas spirit – except for Charlie Brown. It seems that everybody has forgotten what Christmas is truly about.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a beloved classic Christmas story that is adored by all 4 human members of our family. A heartwarming story that ends with Charlie’s friends coming together and celebrating the merriest Christmas ever.

Snowflake #18:

The Littlest Christmas Tree by R. A. Herman illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers

A sweet heart warming tale fit for the Holiday season.

It’s almost Christmas, but the Littlest Christmas Tree has a big wish: it wants someone to take it home, decorate it, and put presents under its branches. But as Christmas Eve comes to an end, all of Christmas trees have been takes to their new homes, except the Littlest Christmas Tree. It looks as if it’s wish wont come true, until the unexpected happens…

Snowflake #19:

Finding Christmas by Helen Ward illustrated by Wayne Anderson

In a dark, snowy town, a little girl struggles to find a present for “a special person.” Then, on a shabby street, she discovers a toy shop that nearly explodes with fantastical playthings. The girl is dismayed when a single customer makes off with the store’s entire stock, stuffed into an enormous sack (the customer’s beard, twinkly eyes, and barely visible red suit will clue in most children to his true identity).

Snowflake #20:

Christmas Around the World by Mary D. Lankford

From Ethiopian fringed umbrellas and star-shaped Filipino parol lanterns to candlelit Swedish St. Lucia crowns, Christmas Around the World brings together Christmas traditions from twelve different lands, like decorations on a splendid tree.

Snowflake #21:

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

Grab a box of tissues and prepare to cry your eyes out! Holiday time is not always a happy time for everybody.

“It’s a bitterly cold New Year’s eve. The snow was falling. A poor little girl was wandering in the dark cold streets; she was bareheaded and barefoot.”

When reading this for the first time, I kept hoping for a happy ending, but this story reflects the darkness of the real world.Rachel Isadora’s  beautiful soft illustrations capture strong emotions and compliment the sad, heart breaking story.

Snowflake #22:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I have seen and read countless adaptations of this true Christmas classic, and every time I’m left hoping for more. A Christmas Carol is a simple tale of how a man turns into an irritable grouch and how, when faced with memories of his past and the possible outcomes of his choices, he is redeemed by making positive changes in his life.

I have to confess, that as much as I love the story, I struggle reading old English seamlessly. To avoid butchering it with my choppy reading, wrong intonations and misplaced pauses, I bought an Audible narration.

Snowflake #23:

A little Fir Tree  Was born in the Forest

This popular Russian poem/song has been New Year/Christmas favorite since 1903. Everybody knows the lyrics to about a little green fir tree who became a beautifully decorated Holiday centrepiece.

Snowflake #24:

The Year Of the Perfect Christmas Tree: an Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston

We all have our own cherished Christmas traditions, and this little North Carolina town is no exception: every year one of the Church families picks a perfect Christmas tree for  the season. This year the honor falls on the family in the book. Will they find the perfect tree? Will they deliver it to Church? The answer will make adults and children alike delight in this wonderful picture book.

Snowflake #25:

If You Take a Mouse To the Movies by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond.

This fun book from Laura Numeroff’s beloved If You Give a… series incorporate holiday activities. My kids enjoy the series and just discovered If You Give a Mouse a Cookie on Amazon Video and it was an instant hit!

Some days I feel like I am that mouse: always on to the next thing and end up exactly where I started.

Snowflake #26:

Childhood by Ivan Surikov

Bright, colorful illustration compliment the famous poem. Simple but precise language awaken the feeling of a snow day: sledding, laugh, snowball fight, chill, the heat of the wood stove, the snowstorm howling outside, bedtime stories, magical dreams, wild and free childhood, not burdened by grief and troubles.

Snowflake #27:

Santa Calls by William Joyce

William Joyce is a wild of card. I never know if his unique stories will inspire and move my children’s imagination or frighten and confuse them. I was equally excited and nervous to introduce this one to my peculiar boys.

While not a traditional sugary sweet Christmas story, it was an instant hit! An exciting journey to the North Pole to help Santa is full of mystery, thrills, magic, wonder, daring rescue. Beautiful traditional illustrations with wonderful details round off this exciting fast-moving story. Eight thumbs up (from all 4 members of out family!)

Snowflake #28:

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe

Sad, but a beautiful story with stunning illustrations. A Christmas tree wants to be picked by a family, but it’s too tall and nobody takes it home. His animal friends try to comfort him. While the Christmas tree slept, they decorated it hoping to brighten its day.

Snowflake #29:

Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett

The story is set in Norway and follows siblings, Treva and Sami as they prepare to celebrate Christmas. Things keep disappearing! That’s hoe Treva discovers that Trolls are stealing holiday items because they want to celebrate Christmas too and mistakenly think that Christmas comes from the items they’ve stolen. Treva teaches them about the Christmas spirit and generosity. Illustrations  are gorgeous! The pages are filled with Scandinavian motifs, pictures are intricate and stunning.

Snowflake #30:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day, is the simple tale of a boy waking up to discover that snow has fallen during the night. Keats’s illustrations, using cut-outs, watercolors, and collage, are strikingly beautiful in their understated color and composition. 

A true classic! The simplicity of this story is lovely! beautiful story and pure minimalistic pictures bring back chilldhood memories of the snow days.

Christmas Book Advent Calendar

This post contains mentions of Christmas. And it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. Le gasp! You have been warned, proceed at your own risk.

Gratitude tree post reminded me of our favorite December tradition: book advent calendar! We have been doing a version of it for the past 5 years. Last year I added a spin on it – live broadcast on Facebook. It went fiiiiiine, everytbing went fiiiiiine 100% of the time…NOT!

A little about me. I’m hilarious online or in text messages, but very dull in person. I need that extra 20 seconds to process information and come up with something punny and witty. When I’m face to face with a real human, I turn into a walking awkward penguin meme. Talking to a live audience  is way out of my comfort zone and so much can (and does!!!!) go wrong. And that’s why I do it.

This year I’m adding one more detail to this tradition: a challenge! Broadcast live or record a video of you or your children reading a book and share it on social media with #ReadingSnowflakes. Be sure to tag:

@school_for_peculiar_children on Instagram

@School For Peculiar Children in Facebook

and like/share/follow my page:



By Christmas we will have collected dozens of fun read alouds (and a few of bloopers from me, no doubt!)

Who’s in?

Blog/page is still in its infancy and I’m trying to build up content and spread the word out. Thank you for your support and participation! It means more than words can express. ❤