Thursday, 14 June 2018

Socrates with S'mores Pt 2

Not long ago someone jokingly called my family preppers. It may have been meant as an insult, referencing zombie apocalypse or complete breakdown of society scenario, but when I thought about, we are preppers in a sense. No we aren't ready for zombies or nuclear war... somehow I doubt our tents, fire lighting kit, camp stoves and slingshot would really make the difference. But we are prepping our children, not for war and death (or undeath) but for life.

 Camping, fishing, Bush craft and survival skills all give a child confidence. They encourage him or her to get outside and explore, to learn and ask questions. They break children away from what we not so jokingly refer to as electronic life support... the internet, and encourage them to get outdoors and get active.  These activities prep a child for a healthy and active life. Many skills such as archery and knot tying increase dexterity. Putting up a tent can involve problem solving skills, all the more so if you use a Halfords tent (more on that in an upcoming post),  and all of that activity can help children remain physically fit. I am also am a firm believer in the benefits of dirt, fresh air, exposure to every sort of plant, animal, insect and yes possibly a few pathogens in low doses from an early age. Children who grow up immersed in these things develop natural immunities. How often do you see a child with allergies on a farm?

 Outdoor activities can serve as a catalyst for more traditional learning as well. My son's interest in outdoor skills. We have read book after book on scouting, outdoor skills, fire making, plant identification, map reading, plant identification and more. Many of the skills learned do transfer to other fields, plant identification may be helpful in biology, maps and orienteering use some maths skills, learning about fire making and fire myths has taught us about world cultures and most of all , all that reading is an excellent way to boost academic attainment.

But of all the skills my children have learned in the outdoors what I like most of all is "prepping" our family to remain close. My youngest spent an entire day alone with his father, something they would rarely do, just catching fish. The smiles and easy camaraderie between the two building bonds to last a lifetime. My oldest is in the teen years now. He still talks to me, but not as often, but sitting together beside a fire, we chatted happily for hours. I know things won't always be so easy, troubles will come as they age, and distances may appear between us when they grow up. But the time around the campfire, telling stories in tents and even in the complete disaster of the worst tent ever, these all make memories, they forge connections and hopefully prep our family to remain close and loving for life.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

                           Socrates with S'mores, 

Bringing out the natural philosopher in your child.

                                                            Part one Socrates

  As soon as a child can speak he begins to wonder about the world around him. Young children want to touch, explore and examine everything. They ask question after question in an attempt to discover the nature of the world.  In this respect, they have more in common with the ancient philosophers than do most adults. Socrates too sought to understand and illuminate the world around him through questions. The Socratic method of teaching refers to  teaching through asking leading questions. Unfortunately Socrates questioning angered those in power, and he was put to death. To me, every time we brush off a child's eager questions of the world, or force them to endure monologues which are aimed at teaching the established narrative rather than seeking truth, we kill some part of the natural wonder and joy of learning in a child. Even when we do do absolutely know the answer, or at least think we do, how much better to allow the child the joy of discovery, to present the evidence we can find and let them from their own conclusions. True, it isn't the safest way to teach, my children have not always come to the same conclusions I have, but I view my job as being to teach them how to think, not what to think. A famous quote attributed to Socrates tells us "the unexamined life is not worth living". It is easy of course to say such things without meaning them, but Socrates did mean what he said, as evidenced by his choice to die rather than give up questioning anything and everything. The foundation of my educational philosophy is to question everything.

 Now not all of our education is centred on the Socratic modelled, nor do I teach an entirely  Classical Education, I will go into the other half of our educational in part 2 - S'mores, and in fact that is the most fun part, but I view the basics of a classical education as the essential underpinning of any well rounded education. Wikipedia defines the Classical education movement as a Western phenomena. According to their site "The Classical education movement advocates a form of education based in the traditions of Western culture, with a particular focus on education as understood and taught in Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages."  There are of course alternatives for other parts of the world, and in particular the  Vedic version fascinates me, but my children our European and I have based their education on their own native culture, history, religions (yes Europe has had more than one religion) and heritage. That isn't to say we don't learn about others as well. It is simply that we focus on the basics of any good education regardless of locale, the old fashioned three r's : reading, 'riting, 'rithmatic  + what I consider the 4th r, or requirement of a well rounded education, rambling, or outdoor activities (more on that in part two) and the history, literature and heritage of their own culture. In addition a classical education includes philosophy and the sciences. A classical education would traditionally include instruction in Greek and Latin as well, but while this would have been essential at one time, to read so much of the Classical literature, I do not see these languages as particularly relevant today other than the basic understanding of Latin names and classifications of plant and animal life. We have decided to use our time on other subjects instead.

  It would not include the many practical skills a child needs to learn, but I imagine it was assumed a child would learn these at home. A classical education, in and of itself does not prepare a child for any career other than teaching. It has drawbacks as does any other strictly adhered to method of education, but that does not mean it does not have value. We combine elements of a classical educations with more modern pursuits, such as computer assisted learning, computer building and electronics; as well as outdoor skills, building a fire, shooting a bow, or finding wild food; martial arts and defensive; and the bare necessities of domestic life, how to cook, sew and clean clothes.

 In General we focus on our own history, culture, literature and religious beliefs, though we do include those from other nations as well. After all, we believe every story has many sides. A classical education traditionally would include tuition in Greek and Latin. We do not pursue these subjects as the odds of the children remembering them are slim and the amount of time devoted would take from other subjects. While part of our studies are devoted to the essentials, we also include anything the children take an interest in. Some of our previous unit studies have included prehistoric plants, insects and even diseases; biological and chemical warfare; parasites that effect some degree of mind control (zombie makers), and the evolution of weaponry. Our current project is an on going study of fire and we have been making plans and gathering materials to recreate a primitive armoury, everything from fire hardened spears to a bola, sling, and possibly an atlatl. The children are also desperate to create thermite, and believe they could do this wish aluminium powders and rust. I haven't researched the safety aspects of this  to decide on whether to give consent yet. The classical subjects form the roots of education, but the whole philosophy is more like a tree with many branches. Every day is another adventure.

For more information on classical home schooling , from slightly different perspectives please see:

Or if you just want a really quick definition:

A good  Socrates for children:

A philosophy book we are using now:

See also my older post on books that teach values.


Monday, 24 February 2014

Some of these species have existed virtually unchanged for millions of years. One was thought to be extinct. All of these have very minimal change from the time of the dinosaurs or beyond, and all are things you can obtain and keep in the UK without spending an absolute fortune.

Dawn Redwood - Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

Thought to be extinct for millions of years, a single specimen was found alive in 1941 in China. Although critically endangered in its natural habitat, these are widely available as seeds or saplings online. This is a large fast growing redwood but is also often cultivated as a bonsai tree. The dawn redwood is the only known deciduous conifer. Grew fron the Cretaceous up until 2mya.

TREE FERN - Dicksonia Antarctica

 A very common plant in the Jurassic, these continued to growin New Zealand and are widely available as seedlings

Ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba  - Cretaceous. This tree is thought to have gone extinct in the wild, but been cultivated in Buddhist monasteries, and then as an ornamental tree.

Monkey Puzzle Tree - Araucaria araucana

The closest relative to the trees which flourished in the carboniferous period.

Horsetail Plants

Cretacous - prefer very damp locations, ideal to plant near ponds, but can be grown indoors or out if you keep,


Fossil ant nests have been found from the Jurassic period. The ants of this time spent more time underground, but they aren't too far from modern ants.

 OK you probably don't want to keep these as pets - but they have been around from the time of the dinosaurs, as well as their  companion, malaria - all right we definitely do not want to keep that living fossil, but perhaps understanding how it evolved may help us to fight it someday.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach:
Not completely unchanged but very very close to the creatures that have survived every mass extinction event in the history of the earth - and if anything survives the next one, my bet would be on these things. All the same, not something I really want to keep in the house, but many people do. You can buy one on ebay for about £7 including postage.

Living Fossils

Most children go through a  dinosaur phase, but it has been more than a passing fancy for my oldest, who has wanted to be a palaeontologist since he was 3 years old. So we have the usual collections of rocks and fossils, but sometimes it is nice to see something alive, much as it was millions of years ago. There are some plants and animals that have remained virtually unchanged. Of course none of us can go out a  coelacanth to add to our fish tank, but there are some relics of the dinosaurs age you can keep in your own home.

Fancy three eyed, prehistoric, cannibal pets? Try Triops.

We absolutely love triops. For those of you unfamiliar with these lovely creatures - they are the oldest living animal species on earth. Triops cancriformis has existed virtually unchanged for 200 million years. They have three eyes - hence the name triops and appear to keep growing as long as they live shedding a complete skin every few weeks. These little creatures allow children to own and observe a living fossil, a creature that shared the earth with the dinosaurs, and has survived a number of mass extinction events. There are only two drawbacks to these little beasties in my opinion. The first is that they are short lived. These animals evolved to hatch out in puddles grow and mate quickly ( oh and they can mate and produce young all by themselves - a single animal can impregnate itself and produce young) and then die out leaving the eggs behind for the next rainy season. The second problem is that they are cannibals. No matter how many hatch out - I always end up with one big fat one. I am going to try more substrate and plants next time though in the hopes that some hiding places may increase the survival rate.

In the past - I have bought a number of triops kits. They tend to be fairly expensive for what you get - a packet of eggs - usually this exact same packet eggs stamped Triops USA from Netyfish, a packet of food and a small plastic container completely unsuitable for raising a triops to adulthood. The purchase price for these kits ranges from £9.50 including postage to £21.99 with an average price of around £11. These eggs will cost you £3.00 including postage from Amazon, and if you want the food that will cost you additional £2.00. Postage is automatically combined if you purchase the two items together. It isn't an absolute requirement, but I do prefer to use the prepared triops food when they first hatch, switching to larger foods as they grow. One pack of triops food should be enough to last the average lifespan as the only food.


Ideally you need 4 litres per triops. The containers sold in kits are usually about 1/2 litre. Obviously this is not going to work. I use a cube type fish tank which works quite well. If growing triops in the summer, you can use a plastic goldfish tank, or any other large clean container that has never had soap in it. Any soap residue will kill these. A large well cleaned glass jar will work, as will a goldfish bowl. Even a big new bucket, although that would not provide ideal viewing opportunities. In the winter however you will need a heater - which means you need a glass tank. This is one area where I take issue with many of the kits which claim these can live at room temperature. The recommended temperature is 22 degrees. I have found these do very well without a heater in the summer months, which are still obviously below these temperature, but these are not going to hatch without daytime temperatures of at least 14 degrees and preferably higher, nor will they survive a single night in autumn to winter unless you leave your radiator on 24/7 or use an aquarium heater or heat lamp. Personally I don't quite understand the recommendation of a heat pad or heat lamp made by many triops enthusiasts. An aquarium heater id the ideal way in which to keep an aquarium heated.

You can use a small aquarium filter once your triops reaches 1/2 " or more in size, but a small air stone would probably be better, and unless you happen to have a large a number of triops that have refrained from eating each other, this really isn't necessary. You may also choose to use any substrate suitable for tropical fish, but again it is not required. If you have access to a bit of pond mud, this may provide additional nutrients, but it will also cloud your water.

Please note - these things are microscopic when they first hatch - it will take awhile before you can see them swimming about.


You are meant to use distilled water or rainwater only. I have used rainwater when possible but have also used tap water as long as it is well aged. I simply scoop a bit from my fish tank. Chlorine will kill them though and the drops used for tropical fish don't seem to work for them as other substances in the water that settle with time may pose a problem.


Your triops favourite food will most likely be his siblings. After he has dispatched all of these he will eat triops food, fish food, blood worms, dried brine shrimp, daphnia, tubifex worms, alagae wafers or anything you could feed tropical fish. They love algae as well. They will also eat - a pinch of dog food, lettuce, spinach, apple, boiled carrot or potato, peas, corn, cress, aquarium plants, even the roots of grass. They will eat cooked meat as well, but this will pollute your water quickly. I have allowed mine a tiny bit of cooked chicken, but remove anything leftover after a couple of hours.


This is the worst thing about these creatures. The lifespan is meant to be two months. I have had one for three and a half and it grew huge, but there really is no way to keep these creatures for years. You may be able to hatch the offspring - this requires completely drying out the substrate, preferably for months and then rehydrating. The eggs can not hatch without a dry spell. They also will not hatch until temperatures are right, laying dormant for many years if necessary before the conditions for hatching are correct. They can survive freezing to almost boiling temperatures while dormant.


I do think these creatures are quite educational, but only if you take the time to learn about them. Just watching them swim about isn't highly educational, but if you look them up online, find out how they evolved, how the planet has changed since the first triops appeared and ask why these little things have survived longer than any other animal on the planet - they become highly educational. Our guesses for their survival include: The ability for only one to reproduce, the ability to remain dormant for many years until conditions are right for survival of the hatchlings and the ability to eat virtually anything. I would also recommend " When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got Munched and Pterosaurs Took Flight - A Cartoon Prehistory of Life in the Triassic". The mention of triops is limited, but this does give an idea of what the world was like in the early Triassic just after the Permian Extinction, which the triops is listed as a survivor of, although to my knowledge the fist fossils date back to just after the event. " When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Before Dinosaurs " would also be quite useful as this discusses life before the curtain fell on most of the earth's life forms.


Yes, but preferably for children over age 4. I would also explain to the child before the triops are hatched that they have a very short lifespan, and will not live for more than a few months. My children are still always disappointed when they die, but always want to try again with a new one. If you are wanting to test a child's commitment to keeping a pet though, this might be just the thing. If the child grows tired of it and will not care for it anymore, you won't have too many months of looking after it yourself, and it is pretty low maintenance. I only wish they could breed a strain with a longer lifespan.

I would certainly recommend this package of eggs over any of the sets going. After all, all you can really use out of the triops sets is the eggs and the food so why pay for a plastic bowl and a fancy box?

Summary: A unique chance to own a pet that shared the earth with dinosaurs.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Educational Board Games

We no longer hit the books on Fridays in our home. Instead we head for the games shelves. I once read ( and have spent forever trying to find the link) that there were the top three family activities to help children succeed academically were :

Books - reading to your children, reading with them, and providing varied material for them to read themselves.

Days Out - The obvious museums and zoos and such, but also simple days out such as parks, the seaside or wooded areas.

Board Games: This one took me by surprise but it makes sense. There are so many skills children can learn from board games. You need to read and follow instructions - at least to get started - we often make our own rules or variations later. Even the simplest games encourage conversation, teach children to take turns, and of course how to cope with both winning and losing. Younger children's games often include matching, colour recognition, counting and fine motor skills. Older children's games are apt to include a few more math's concept like counting money and change,  strategy and more. There are a wealth of board games designed specifically for educational purposes each with their own goal in mind. I'll be trying to include as many of the games we use and enjoy as possible for now - so if my ratings look a bit one sided - it is because I am only including favourites for now. Age recommendations are my own. I consider the children's interest levels, difficulty of problems etc when estimating age, but assume some parental help is available for very young players.


Candyland by Hasbro
A perfect first board game. Teaches colours, taking turns and a wonderful game for Christmas time.
Ages: recommended 3+ but both of my boys played this from age 2. Still gets used at Christmas time but really best for children under age 6
Players : 2 - 4
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  **** 1/2   Educational Value ****


What's The Point by Greenboard Games
Teaches, fractions, percentages and decimals
Ages Technically 8+, but my five year old enjoys playing this as a team with me.
Players: Technically  2 or more - you could go up to 6, but it would grow tedious with too many players. This could be played alone as well.
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  ** 1/2   Educational Value *****

Sum Swamp  - Learning Resources
Very basic addition and subtraction - fun but only for younger children.
Ages 4 - 6
Players 2 - 4
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  ****   Educational Value ****

Magic Cauldron Maths - Orchard Toys
Simple addition subtraction, a couple of very easy multiplication questions.
Fill a cauldron by collecting cards that equate to the correct number for each spell. Uses heat sensitive cards, but these can be hard to work on a cold day. I resorted to keeping a cup of tea handy and holding the cards against the cup, but children playing alone could use a heated bean bag ( not included).
Ages 4 - 7
Players - 2 + but could be used alone if you really needed to.
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  ****   Educational Value ****

Run, Run, as Fast as you Can!  by Orchard Toys
An all time favourite in our house. Teach simple fractions and counting as well as adding abit of rhyming and literature if you wish. My youngest has played this since age 2, my oldest still enjoys this at age 8, and I'm quite certain I will never outgrow it.
Recommended ages 4+ but I would recommend from age 2 with suprevsion if you child has outgrown eating small parts.
Players 2-4
Reading Required? No.
Entertainment Value  *****+   Educational Value *****


It doesn't really matter which version you choose, we have a lovely set by Galt with animal pictures and a ludo game with different habitats on the back, but any Snakes and Ladders game will work.
When playing the game as you are meant to, children learn to count up to 100 and simple addition.

Adding a few sets of flash cards and some coloured markers creates a whole new game. You can use a ready made set of flashcards or make your own. Just be sure you will have answers that equal up to 100. We use coloured glass pebbles like you would have in a fish tank as markers, but anything will work : Hot Wheels cars ( although they roll about terribly) toy dinosaurs, zoo animals etc...  The object of this game is to get four of your markers in a row, while clocking other players from doing the same. Any time you correctly answer a flash card, you place your marker on that square. If it is already occupied - we allow the child to choose another square, but if you want to make it more cut throat you can bump the player off. Other options would be to draw another card, or just miss the turn. In all honesty this doesn't teach any more than flash cards alone - but it is a lot more fun.

For more variations see my review @


Scrabble by Mattel

The ultimate in spelling fun, this also teaches vocabulary, especially if played with a dictionary, and quite a lot of maths adding up scores, especially with triple or double and letter scores. This is an all time family favourite and one every home educating family should have.
Players 2 - 4
Reading Required? Yes
Entertainment Value  *****+   Educational Value *****

Fish N Spell Game
What's In The Box?
  • cloth pond
  • wooden fishing poles with magnets.
  • 80 magnetic fish with letters.
  • cards which have common words in four languages. You can choose to spell them in English, French Italian or Spanish.
  • two cards with eight fish shapes to spell your words on.
The idea of the game is to turn all the fish upside down and see who can find the all the letters to the given word first. It is meant  for only two players, but more can play by sharing the fishing rods and having the older players play without the card. The card is just a bit of paper anyway. I do wish it had been magnetic as it would have kept the letters together better. You are not meant to take turns which can make this  mad race, but we do take turns.

We also often use our own cards, either Kipper's Word Games cards from ORT, or home made cards using words from my son's phonics books. With my oldest we have played using a spelling list as well - so he doesn't get a card to guide him them.

There are a few flaws with this game. The fish stick together easily, the card for making your words is a bit flimsy, and the words on the cards are all easy in English. I don't really feel you can learn a foreign language with this as you wouldn't know the pronunciation, but it would be handy if you were already studying one of the three extra languages. But this still earns five stars because it is so flexible.  You can leave the fish right side up for younger players and use this to teach alphabet recognition  as well as simple spellings. By adding your own cards, you can focus on any subject you wish. You can even try spelling dinosaur names  or latin names of plants - there are enough tiles for most words.

Highly recommended for ages  3 - 10 but be aware that this does contain magnets. These are very weak, but the game is still not recommended for under 3's.

Hangman by Milton Bradley:

This is played very much like the original paper and pencil game. Each player chooses a word and places the letters in a rack at the front of their case. Players take it turns to guess a letter. If it is correct - the letter is placed facing out in the appropriate position in the rack at the top of their case, making this visible to person guessing, If it is incorrect their opponent turns the wheel one click revealing a part of a gallows - or the gallows with part of a body swinging from the hangman's noose ( although the noose itself isn't shown. When a whole body is displayed that player has lost - or in our house died - complete with gasping and choking with hands clutched to throat before collapsing in a very melodramatic death.

As an alternate you can place all the tiles on top of the case to begin with facing the person who has made that word. As their opponent guesses letters correctly - these are turned over, but my son did find it difficult to spell his words in reverse when he was younger.

Traditionally, each player should just make up their own words and must be able to spell any word they will be using. This is the way we play now as my oldest is 8 and can spell a reasonable number of words. When my son was very young ( ages 5 -6) I often gave him a book we were reading at the time and we would each choose a word from the book. This makes this game easy and fun for very young players. I feel this also helped my son learn to read and spell the words he was using in his every day school work as well. As he has grown older we tried using spelling lists for awhile, and it does help him to learn the words, but it also made guessing the words quite easy. Now we just choose whatever words we like - although as an adult I do refrain from using words I know he will not be familiar with - where if I were playing with another adult I would choose the most obscure words possible.

The biggest drawback to the plastic version of the game is that your are limited to only 8 letters. This leaves many dinosaur names out of the game. I also find the cases very hard to open, but my son can open them easily enough so I suspect that is just me. There are plenty of tiles and we have never come across a word that needed more of any letter than we have.

Stop back soon I hope to be adding more games daily.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Children's books that build character - chapter books - including dyslexia friendly titles.

I am including regular chapter books along with the smaller dyslexia friendly books published by Barrington Stoke. I have honestly been blown away by the quality of the writing and the number of books with very strong moral values published by Barrington Stoke. In addition to brilliant stories and strong values - Barrington Stoke is hands down the very best publisher for dyslexia friendly books. All the books are printed on thick cream coloured paper, in a specially designed font to make reading easier, with double spacing and frequent paragraph breaks. My own child does not suffer from dyslexia - but these books make reading easier for any young child.

Football Crazy by Tony Bradman and Michael Broad - dyslexia friendly. ****** +
This is a real gem for parents as well as for children. It should be required reading for anyone involved in youth sports. Tis book teaches children the real meaning of sportsmanship - as well as making clear that adults are not always in the right. This book features a group of football loving boys and a coach who will do anything to win - even cheat. Please se my complete review on The Bookbag - and excellent resource for new book reviews, with a good dyslexia friendly section as well.

Ninja: First Mission (Ninja Trilogy) by Chris Bradford and Sonia Leong - Dyslexia Friendly *****+
A unique blend of action and adventure with peace and tranquillity. This book has a lot in common with Zen Koans. It teaches a child to persevere and to make defeats into victories.

Cherry Green Story Queen by Annie Dalton and Charlie Adler - dyslexia friendly *****+
At first glance I would have expected this book to be a terribly shallow. Talk about a lesson in not judging a book by it's cover, this turned out to be one of the best books with a moral I have ever read. The story is deep, moving and unforgettable. It reminded me very much of the parable of the long spoons.

 Hagurosan by Darren Shan - dyslexia friendly ****
A very deep moving story for the more philosophical child. The story begins with a young child, living in a small village at the foot of a holy mountain. When he is told to take a small cake as an offering to the spirits of the shrine, he is disappointed as he would rather play with his friends, but he does as he is told. It is a long walk though and he soon grows hungry. Surely the gods will not mind if he has just a tiny nibble at the cake? But one nibble leads to another and by the time Hagurosan arrives at the shrine, he has eaten the whole cake. All children make mistakes, but what Hagurosan has done is a terrible offense in the culture he lives in. He isn't a bad child and confesses his crime to the spirits with great sorrow and fear. The spirits are not totally unkind. They take a liking to this child offering him one wish which he makes very unselfishly - but there are strings attached. He can stay with the spirits as they desire, making his home in the temple, or he can leave but his wish will not be fulfilled. It is a heavy burden for so young a child.

Varjak Paw - S.F. Said *****+
I would never have considered this book in a million years if not for the recommendation of a friend. A karate kitty just sounds a bit lame in my opinion, but this book is so much more, exploring the true meaning of karate as a way of life. This book deals wit prejudice, class, gangs and violence, but most of all it is a story of hope and redemption. Please see my complete review @
I would strongly suggest the review on dooyoo by Koshka as well.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Children's books that teach values.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Michael Morpugo
A truly epic tale of courage and honour.

Noguchi the Samurai
Wits are the greatest weapon of all and this is one of my very favourite children's books ever written.
Please see my complete review:

The Empty Pot by Demi
Another of my  favourite books. Teaches honesty, courage, and giving your best effort. A beautiful story in which the emperor decides his successor by giving all the children a seed and seeing who can grow the most beautiful flower. Ping has always been a talented gardener, but his seed never grows. In all humility he presents the emperor with an empty pot, but there is a twist to this story and a wonderful moral.

Little Monkey's Journey: Retold in English and Chinese by Li Jan
Respect for parents, kindness, courage.

The Water Dragon A Chinese Legend - Jian Li
"Self discovery, kindness, helping others"

Jin Jin The Dragon - Grace Chang
"Self discovery, kindness, helping others"

Jin Jin and Rain Wizard by Grace Chang
How to right a wrong, courage, forgiveness,  and not being wasteful

Leo the Late Bloomer - Robert Kraus
Believing in yourself, giving everyone time to blossom/

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
Obedience and respect for parents, a mother's love.

The Koi Who Cried Wolf by Katina Lawdis
A beautifully illustrated and unique retelling of the famous tale. If you don't chose this though, do tell some version of this story.

The Snow Dragon by Vivian French
Courage, self sacrifice, love

The Muffin Muncher by Stephen Cosgrove
Helping others allows others to help you

Trafalgar True (Serendipity) by Stephen Cosgrove

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth
Zen Koans in an easy to understand format for children. We especially loved a story of Good Luck or bad luck - showing how what looks like a bad luck may work out for the best - or vise versa.

The Emperor's New Clothes
There are several versions of this. You can choose any, read an online story or simply tell it from memory. But every child needs to hear this. This teaches the most critical skill - question everything.

My Bedtime Anytime Story Book by V. Gilbert Beers

This one  was written by a prolific Christian author, and is wonderful for teaching Christian ethics to very young children, but does not specifically mention religion. It has wonderful lessons in life for friendship, honesty, forgiveness and more relevant to all children. It has lovely animal cartoon characters and is a wonderful collection of stories which are both fun and educational.

The Usborne Illustrated Tales of the Knights of King Arthur
These stories form the backbone of chivalry, honest and courage in a young reader. I will never forget my oldest son listening to these at age 4. Not long afterwards he saw some bullies tormenting a little girl. The bullies were twice his size, but he marched up to them , demanded the wee girls tea set be handed over to him, then  returned it to the crying girl, comforted her, and helped her gather her things.

The Usborne Illustrated Norse Myths. 
Another good one for courage and honour, as well as loyalty, and perhaps thinking things through carefully.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
This one needs no introduction. It should be on every families bookshelf. True some stories are silly and not relevant today, but many others contain the body very oldest wisdom of our people.  The stories teach both morality and common sense and connect children to a small portion of their heritage.