What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Land and Water

*all links are Amazon affiliate links*

I recently purchased this book, Water Land:  Land and Water Forms Around the World by Christy Hale, after seeing it on Instagram.  It’s a beautiful, simple book which very creatively makes comparisons between water and landforms.  It was an instant hit with Ethan who is 5.5.

Ethan is very interested in maps, different landforms and any kind of water so I thought this book would be a jumping off point for a more in-depth study.  I purchased the following books to help our study along:

The Pond by Jim LaMarche

The Raft by Jim LaMarche (I have yet to be able to read this beautiful book without crying.  What a great story!)

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown

As we move forward I plan to add kinetic sand and water with blue food coloring to our sensory table for him to explore.

I’ve also downloaded these 3 part cards from The Helpful Garden to help us learn the land and water form vocabulary.  There were many great 3 part cards available for free download on the site.

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If you follow us on Instagram, I plan to share more of our land and water study there.

 

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What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Nature

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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?

 

What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Insects

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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.

 

What We are Reading Wednesday: Early Chapter Books

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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.  

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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!

What We are Reading Wednesday: Books about Rocks and Soil

We recently kicked off a small study of rocks, minerals and soil, per my kids request.  Below are the books we are using to learn about this topic (affiliate links).

My Books of Rocks and Minerals by DK

Mud by Mary Lynn Ray

Rocks and Soil by Rebecca Rissman

The kids have requested I read the book Mud, several times a day.  I don’t mind at all because the pictures are great and the language is really beautiful.

My Books of Rocks and Minerals was great to help us identify the minerals we found when we broke open real geodes.  We used this kit, Break Your Own Geodes, which was a lot of fun!  The geodes were not easy to open and required a lot of patience and perseverance from the kids.  When they finally smashed them, they were so excited!

Fossil Digging Together

Any other junior geologists out there?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Poetry Tea Time

I first learned of the idea of Poetry Tea Time from Instagram.  It looked lovely and I knew I wanted to learn more about the idea!  Julie Bogart creator of Brave Writer, the online writing and language arts program, first created Poetry Tea Time when she was homeschooling her own children.  She loved poetry from an early age but knew there was a “culture of anxiety around poetry.”  She wanted to introduce her children to poetry and thought about doing that over tea, a time when “there’s a universal urge to pause, to rest, to draw in to self and community around a soothing beverage.”

Doesn’t that just sound so lovely?

You can check the #poetryteatime on Instagram and see that thousands of families, all over the world, are now enjoying Poetry Tea Time, just like Julie and her family.  We tried it and it’s as delightful as it sounds!  We now have Poetry Tea Time once a week.  We will usually bake a small treat to enjoy with our tea and then gather at the table to read some poems!

I purchased Julie’s book, The Poetry Tea Time Companion, from Amazon (affiliate link).  It’s a great book with wonderful poems arranged by season.  But although I am happy to own it, I don’t feel you need it to make Poetry Tea Time work for your family.  You can check out her website – http://poetryteatime.com or look at Instagram for inspiration.  It’s so much fun to set a pretty table and sit down together.  I’ve picked up a few seasonal mugs at Christmas Tree Shops and my kids love this added flair of a pumpkin mug or a shark mug, depending on the season!

Shark Week Poetry Tea Time

I definitely agree with Julie that poems and tea go well together!  I’m glad to have another time of our day when we include poetry.  It feels natural and special at the same time.

Do you have Poetry Tea Time in your house?  If you need any inspiration of good poetry books for children – check out this post or you can find a .pdf list in the Booklist section of the blog that you can download with poetry books we enjoy.