The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Book Review

Many of the books that I’m reading for the co-op lit class I’m teaching are books I read myself in high school.  It’s been long enough that I remember my general impression of the book, and I remember overall what happened, but I can’t remember the fine details.  So in some ways, it’s like reading the book for the first time.

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The Scarlet Letter follows the story of Hester Prynne who had a daughter not only out of wedlock, but while married to a different man!  That’s still a bit scandalous now, so imagine how bad it was roughly two hundred years ago when the story takes place.

As punishment, Hester Prynne is forced to wear a scarlet letter A on her chest for the rest of her life because she’s an adulterer.  She takes a small cottage on the edge of town and lives quietly with her young daughter, never revealing the name of her partner in crime, so to speak.  No one in the town will speak to her in public, though they’re happy to hire her for their sewing needs since she is a fine seamstress.

While reading, I kept thinking how lonely life would be for Hester and Pearl, her young daughter.  Can you imagine living in a small town where no one will speak to you and only looks at you with scorn?  Yet she not only perseveres, but thrives.  The same cannot be said for Pearl’s father.

To add complexity to the story, when Pearl is just a small infant, Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, finally arrives.  (He had sent her ahead to America two years before.)  He sees Hester’s predicament and asks her not to reveal that he is her husband.  His reason for doing so is ominous.

I remember when I was initially reading this book in high school, wondering who the father was.  However, this reading through, the father’s identity wasn’t much of a mystery.  Instead, I dwelt on the loneliness Hester felt.

The story is still suspenseful, all the way to the end, though I find the story a bit more melodramatic than I previously remembered.

4 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.

Can Do Cubes: A TOS Crew Review

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

Younger kids often like to work with objects when they’re learning.  As much as possible, I try to fulfill this natural instinct.  For math, we use math manipulatives.  But for reading and spelling, we didn’t have anything until we got to try Can Do Cubes from (and just2ducks LLC).

About Can Do Cubes

Can Do Cubes can be used by themselves, or they can be used in coordination with Jolly Phonics or the reading program that you are currently using.

The Can Do Cubes come in a box and include many items:

Stage One Blocks–There are 27 wood blocks for this level, and each has a letter or phoneme printed on each side of the block.  For instance, the first set of 6 blocks contains the letters s, a, t, i, p, n so students can create words like “sat,” “tip,” and ”pin” with these cubes.


Stage Two Blocks–There are 32 blocks in this level including more complicated phonemes like “oi” and “ear”.  There are also blocks with capital letters as well as punctuation.


Can Do Cubes Home Edition Stage One booklet–This booklet explains how children learn to read and how parents can help them with Can Do Cubes.  There are a variety of ways suggested to teach your child phonemes with Can Do Cubes.

Can Do Cubes Home Edition Stage Two booklet–This booklet is in the same vein as the Stage One booklet, but it’s for more advanced students.

Three charts–Two At a glance word charts for Stage One (the first explains what sounds and words can be made with cubes 1-5 while the second is for cubes 6-8), and the simple and complex alphabetic codes overview.

Two CDs–one that explains how to use the Can Do Cubes, and a Teacher’s Guide and Template Book.

How We Used Can Do Cubes

I primarily used the Can Do Cubes with Cuddle Bug (6) who is in the beginning stages of learning to read.  There were several ways that we used the cubes.

IMG_8230Sometimes I had her create the words that were in our lesson for the day.

IMG_8243Sometimes I printed off the sheets that came in the Teacher’s Guide and Template Book CD.

Other times, I let her mess around with the cubes and create her own words.  (She had fun with this, though it was a bit more difficult for her to do.)

When we were learning the -in words, I had her practice her rhyming skills with the cubes.

What We Liked about Can Do Cubes

My daughter likes to learn by doing, so the cubes were a fun activity for her.  I don’t think that she ever thought of them as school.  She just thought they were fun!

Both of my daughters also routinely took all of the cubes into the living room to play with.  Cuddle Bug created some words on her own, but she also just used the cubes to play, which was fine with me.  PB & J Girl tried to create entire sentences with the cubes!  There are also Can Do Cubes that have whole words on them, which would make PB & J Girl’s task of creating sentences easier.  We are considering buying those cubes on our own and adding them to the collection.

I loved how the blocks were smooth and felt good to the touch.  In addition, the phonemes are imprinted on the cubes, so there is no need to worry about them rubbing off after constant wear.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we liked the Can Do Cubes and plan to keep them as part of our regular school day.  Between Jolly Phonics and Can Do Cubes, your children can have fun while learning to read!

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
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Can Do Cubes
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