What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Nature

IMG_4158

These nature picture books are some of my kids all-time favorites.  We have read them over and over again!

*all links are Amazon Affiliate links*

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd – This is a great book about nature in an urban environment.

If You Find A Rock by Peggy Christian – This one is my kids favorite right now

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon – This is a board book but the text is just so beautiful.

Wonders of Nature by Jane Werner Watson – This is an old book but I love how it notices the very simple aspects of nature and points them out as wonderful.

What a Wonderful World by Bob Thiele- My kids love to listen to the song by Louis Armstrong as I turn the pages of the book.

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry – This is such a simple, beautiful book.

The Kids Guide to Exploring Nature by Brooklyn Botanic Garden – We love the BBG and we love this book!

On the Nature Trail by Storey Publishing – This is a beautiful take-along field guide for kids ages 4 and up.

Do you have any recommendations of books about nature?

 

Friday Finds

Here is a small collection of interesting podcasts and articles I’ve listened to and read this past week that I thought were worth sharing!

I cannot recommend listening to this podcast enough…

http://www.janetlansbury.com/2018/05/adventures-free-range-learning-laura-grace-weldon/#.WwP0A8f8VOg.facebook

If you are even thinking, even thinking just a little teeny bit about homeschooling, please give this a listen!  Or read the transcript if podcasts are not for you.  If you are trying to convince your spouse or family why homeschooling is not so crazy, send this to them!  Janet Lansbury herself is lovely (I loved her parenting books) and she is interviewing what I would call an “unlikely homeschooler,” Laura Grace Weldon.  She came to homeschooling late in the game, when her oldest son was already a freshman in high school.  Laura gives so many reasons why homeschooling was the best choice for her family and how it could be for yours too.  She does a great job explaining the research behind the value of self-directed learning.  Laura also has a book, Free Range Learning, which I am really looking forward to reading.

Recently Denaye Barahone from Simple Families shared this article on Facebook…

https://www.greenchildmagazine.com/simplify-for-happier-calmer-kids/

Denaye said “This is one of the best articles explaining why simplifying life for kids is so beneficial.”  I agree.

Peter Gray posted this article recently in PsychologyToday.com…

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/200807/children-educate-themselves-i-outline-some-the-evidence

It’s a quick and great read.

There you have it!  Happy weekend!

Local Spotlight: Battery Urban Farm

Last year I organized a homeschool field trip to the Battery Urban Farm.  I was so excited to find this gem of a place right in lower Manhattan!

http://thebattery.org/destinations/urban-farm/

The farm is open to the public from April to November.  This urban farm provides thousands of pounds of produce to local elementary schools and local homeless shelters.  The mission of the farm is “to engage students, residents, and visitors in sustainable farming techniques, the joys of tasting new foods, and the value of urban farming in the evolving story of this historic public park.”

It was truly amazing to see a functioning farm in the middle of our big, bustling city!

IMG_0046

Their field trip was so well organized.  From the ease of the online registration, to the friendliness of the staff, to the multiple hands-on experiences the kids rotated through, the entire day was full of learning and fun.  We even got to taste some of the vegetables they grow!

 

While you are there you can also check out the Sea Glass Carousel, a very beautiful and unique carousel.  You can also spend time near the water watching the boats or hop on the Staten Island Ferry.  There are many beautiful gardens to stroll through, bike paths to ride, and even a labyrinth to walk through.  There is so much for kids to enjoy in this small area of NYC.

What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Insects

IMG_7253

Here are some of our favorite books (with affiliate links) about bugs!  My kids just love when we take out the bug books each May.  Insects are one of their favorite topics to read about for sure.

A Ladybug’s Life by John Himmelman

The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer

Bugs A to Z by Caroline Lawton

National Geographic Little Kids First Book of Bugs by Catherine D. Hughes

From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman

I Like Bugs by Margaret Wise Brown – This is a great easy reader for young kids learning to read.

My Busy Green Garden by Terry Pierce

Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi – This one is my favorite.  It’s fun to read out loud and the pictures are great.

This year, Ethan (5.5) has loved The Fly Guy Series by Tedd Arnold.  He finds it so funny!

We have also been enjoying the hands-on experience of having insects in our home to observe.  This is our second year with both the Inset Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden and the Insect Lore Ladybug Land from Amazon.  The caterpillars and ladybugs are currently in pupa stage so I cannot comment on our success rate this year but we had a 100% success rate last year!

Here’s a few pictures of our Insect studies throughout the last few years.  Even though we use the same insect kits and the same books, I find the kids learn more and more each year.

 

Local Spotlight: AMNH Discovery Room

I feel like a lot of parents in NYC have most likely been to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).  But have you checked out the Discovery Room?  I hadn’t until I organized a homeschool field trip there last year.  This year I learned anyone can visit the Discovery Room, even if you are not part of an organized group with a scheduled time.  Apologies if this is common knowledge.  It was news to me!  My kids visited again recently with their grandparents and had an awesome time!

Setting up the field trip was very easy, I simply sent an email and then got a response rather quickly.  While I thought the room might be booked through the school year, it was not and I got our first choice of dates.

First, the staff who was working the day of our trip was just FANTASTIC.  Not only were they knowledgeable and had planned an interesting schedule for our time there but it was obvious they really loved children.  Sadly, this is not always the case when visiting places, even places intended for children.  They moved our group of 4 year olds through several hands-on and engaging activities.

 

My son’s favorite part of the field trip and his recent trip there was their “paleontology field site.” The museum fills a pit with plaster every so often to cover up dinosaur bones on the bottom.  Kids use real archaeological tools to uncover the bones.

He also loved the magnetic dinosaur bones which you can attach to a frame to recreate a dinosaur skeleton.

 

There are also live animals in the room along with several other artifacts and specimens to explore.

The field trip was very inexpensive as far as NYC field trips go, $75 for your group which includes museum admission for the kids and chaperones.  The museum had no problem with a large number of chaperones as each child’s mom accompanied them.  I’ve organized other homeschool field trips where places have not been able to accommodate that many adults.  The discovery room is a large and homeschool friendly place!

But again, even if you’re not part of a group, you can head to the Discovery Room while you are visiting the museum.  You will either be allowed to enter right then or invited back at later time the same day if if’s too crowded at the moment.  It’s worth the wait.

We highly recommend it!

What We are Reading Wednesday: Early Chapter Books

IMG_3755

When my son, Ethan was about 3.5 I thought he might be ready to listen to me read a chapter book to him.  I hesitated because I find immense value in picture books (especially nonfiction picture books for 0-3 year olds) and didn’t want to rush into chapter books.  He has the rest of his life for those!  But then I thought it might be fun to mix it up and try something new. After some online research I decided to go with My Father’s Dragon.  And what it hit it was!  I purchased the trilogy and we read the whole set three times in a row.  It took weeks but he really loved it.  Although we still read mainly picture books; since then we have continued to mix it up from time to time by adding chapter books into our bedtime reading routine.

Here are some chapter books my kids have loved listening to (affiliate links):

Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgiliesh – My 5 year old and 3.5 year old both love this book.  We first read it about a year ago so it could work well for even a very young child.  My kids prefer the audible version to me reading the chapter book.  I get it and I don’t take any offense.  The audible version is really good.

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo – There are several books in this series and both of my kids love them!  They are quite silly and have great full color illustrations.  They are on the shorter side and if you had enough time, I’m sure you could read the whole book in one sitting without your kids losing interest.

The Dragon Masters series by Tracey West –  There are currently 10 books in the series, with the latest due out June 2018.  We have read them all.  I’d describe them as Harry Potter lite.  There are lots of dragons, two wizards and just a little bit of suspense; just enough for a very young or sensitive child.  I bought these for my 5 year old but my 3.5 year old also happily listens to these books and follows along well from night to night as we work our way through each day.  There are small pictures on almost every page.

The Last Firehawk by Katrina Charman – We have read the first 3 books and the 4th is due out in July of 2018.  I’m sure my kids will want to keep reading.  They are very similar to the Dragon Masters series with lots of pictures and just enough suspense to keep the story interesting but not scary.  The main characters in this book are a squirrel, an owl and mystical creature called a firehawk.  So, if you don’t like talking animals, this one is not for you.

We did follow the Montessori approach of sticking to nonfiction before age 3.  I felt my kids were ready for these types of books because they have a really good grasp on reality vs. fantasy.  

I feel like it’s important to note that as a parent, I don’t mind reading any of these books out loud.  They are all good stories and interesting enough!

Do you recommend any chapter books for young kids?  I’m sure we will read some classics soon like Charlotte’s Web or James and the Giant Peach but I’ve been waiting for my younger daughter to get a little older so we can all enjoy those together.

 

A Peek Inside our Daily, Weekly and Seasonal Rhythms

The concept of a “rhythm” comes from the Waldorf style of education.  Instead of a strict schedule, families or Waldorf schools adopt a rhythm to their days, weeks and years.  It has been well documented that young children strive with predictable routines and the truth is, I do too.  

I was drawn to the idea of creating a rhythm in my home after reading the book, Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.  Among much other wonderful advice, she talks about the importance of creating meaningful rhythms in your home. 

I’ve also found some other wonderful resources about setting up rhythms… 

The blog, Frida be Mighty is a treasure trove of information written by a mom, Eloise, about her family life as a stay-at-home mom to her daughter, Frida.  Eloise is simply amazing.  She parents so carefully and confidently.  She is committed to giving Frida “a beautiful childhood” and it is so inspiring to follow along.  Eloise even offers an online course to help you create a rhythm in your home.  Her courses sell out very quickly!! Her Instagram is also beautiful and ispirational.  

Another website, also with a blog, Whole Family Rhythms, is written by Meagan, mom to four.  Her children attend a Waldorf school and she has created a beautful Waldorf inspired home.  She sells wonderful resources about rhythms that you can download and implement in your own home.  Her Instagram is likewise lovely.  

When creating your own daily rhythm, it is recommended to consider both “in breath” activities that are typically quieter and calmer in nature and “out breath” activities that are more unstructured like free or outdoor play.  You can use these types of activities to balance each other out and create a harmonious flow to your day.  

A weekly rhythm might include making pancakes on Sundays or going for a bike ride on Friday afternoons.  

IMG_5268.JPG

A seasonal or yearly rhythm might include your holiday traditions.  

Here is our typical daily rhythm on days we have morning activities outside our home…

  • I get up shower and get dressed
  • Kids Wake Up – around 7am for Ethan and anywhere between 7 and 8:30am for Lillian (on days when Lillian sleeps in, Ethan and I spend some quiet time together playing or reading)
  • Morning Jobs for the kids (vitamins, brush teeth, potty)
  • Get Dressed
  • Prepare, Eat and Clean Up Breakfast
  • Morning Basket (read aloud books, poems, calendar work, phonics activity, counting and songs)
  • Get Ready to go (fix Lillian’s hair, put on shoes, jackets, etc)
  • Out and About
  • Home
  • (If covered in mud and dirt they take a shower before lunch)
  • Prepare, Eat and Clean Up Lunch (with the nicer weather we have been enjoying lots of picnics outside and not coming home for lunch a few days a week)
  • Quiet Rest Time (Neither of my children are still napping.  Instead, they play independently in their rooms for one hour.  They also will sometimes listen to an audiobook or podcast during this time.  I find this gives them some time to recharge and get a break from each other.  And me!)
  • Clean Up Bedrooms
  • Afternoon Activity at Home (self-selected by the kids, lately they have been loving painting peg dolls)
  • Chore Time (We have daily chores we work on together.)
  • Prepare, Eat and Clean Up Dinner
  • Free Play or Play with Dad if he’s home (This time is almost always spent in our playroom and it is interesting to watch how they always self select some very calming work or play.  They wind themselves down which is great.  To help them make this transition we use different lighting at night – instead of bright overhead lights, we use strings of fairy lights.  It’s bright enough to see what you are doing but not too bright to feel like it’s still daytime.)
  • Showers/ Or Baths if needed
  • Nighttime Jobs (comb hair, brush teeth, potty)
  • Books
  • Bed – at 7/ 7:30pm

There is always free time scattered in throughout the day when they spend time in our playroom with open ended toys, Montessori work materials, books and art supplies. We are also not 100 % “screen-free” and the kids do watch tv shows a few times a week.  Their favorite show is Wild Kratts on PBS.  Usually this will happen after rest time or on a weekend morning.

If we don’t have to be somewhere first thing in the morning – my kids wake up and start playing right away!  They are rarely hungry first thing and can usually end up playing for 1.5-2 hours peacefully before we get going on morning jobs and breakfast.  I feel lucky that they love to play together and for the most part get along really well.  That is the silver lining to having kids close in age, I guess!  This time that they have to play together is also one of my favorite things about homeschooling.  We have plenty of time for play and they have had time to develop such a beautiful relationship.  

Our weekly rhythm includes…

  • Wild + Free playgroup
  • Ballet class for Lillian
  • Forest School
  • Standing homeschool playdate with another family
  • They spend one day a week with their grandparents (I am VERY grateful to have this time to spend as I please – often on errands without the kids.)
  • Spend a day at home and complete a 3 hour Montessori work cycle
  • Have poetry tea time
  • Nature journal
  • Do yoga at home

This weekly rhythm changes a few times a year as in the past the kids have taken music, yoga, gymnastics, Tinkergarten and a homeschool science class.

We have lots of yearly/seasonal traditions and I never have to worry about forgetting to do one of them.  My kids would never let me!  They love that we do the same things each year for each holiday.  They also look forward to Shark Week every year as well as getting caterpillars each May.  Simple things can turn into fun seasonal traditions!  

Releasing our Butterflies May 2017
Releasing our butterflies in May 2017

Do you have a rhythm?  Do you want to share it in the comments?  I’d love to hear about it!