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KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 5 Owls

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This post contains affiliate links

So elusive that even if you live in the country mostly all you get is a ghostly hoo-hooo in the very late evenings or very early mornings, owls are amazing creatures.  The sheer size of the great horned owl is awe-inducing.  Here on the farm, we become aware of their presence when a chicken or rabbit mysteriously disappears overnight.  I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but we only cage our rabbits when they are pregnant.  We release mama and babies into the yard when the babies are about half grown.  I love rabbits.  I can’t stand to see them in cages.  So we have a large fenced area by the barn where they are able to dig burrows and nibble grass and really live.  Mostly without fear of predators.  But the downside of all that freedom is that owls can swoop into the yard at night and snatch them up.  It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.  And don’t even talk to me about raccoons.

Owls make for a great study.  There are so many books about them, so many characters based on them… you can even purchase owl pellets to examine in your homeschool.  If you don’t know what those are, they’re the clump of bones and fur an owl spits back out after it eats an animal whole, keeping only the good stuff to digest.  There are so many amazing things to do when studying owls.  So here are a few really good books to include in your owl study.  You know, to make them seem less like rabbit thieves and more like the majestic creatures they really are.

 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors.  She writes so man different things for children, she can’t be put into a genre.  Owl moon is about a father who takes his child ‘owling.’ That is, looking for owls under the moonlight on a clear winter night.  One of the things I love about this book is that it is told from the child’s point of view in the first person, and it never reveals the gender of the child.  So whether you have a boy or a girl, he or she can relate to the child as his or her own gender.  A cool touch to a truly lovely book.  The story is told in free verse, and the imagery is there even without the simple, haunting illustrations by John Schoenherr.  Just don’t be surprised if your little asks you to go owling.   So dress warm.

 

Owl and Moon by Heather Swick

This cute book, told in rhyme, has perhaps the most expressive owl I’ve ever seen.  The grumpy guy hates being the only person up at night.  He wants a friend.  But the is moon only other thing awake all night like he is.  Thing is, he’s stuck down here, and the moon is stuck up there.  What’s an owl to do?  I think your littles will enjoy looking at illustrations as much as they will enjoy the story, and this book definitely reminds them how different life is for nocturnal animals.

 

The Owl Who Became the Moon by Jonathan London

This beautiful book is one of our favorites.  The Littles made me read it to them over and over for years.  Not that I minded.  It is a slow-paced, sparsely worded poem set against a backdrop of gorgeous illustrations.  It’s actually a great bedtime story because of its pace, but don’t doubt that it will engage your littles any time of the day.  It makes the owl even more mysterious than we already think it, and a little mystique is a good thing.

 

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien

The owl in this tale is mean and frightening (but he would be from the eyes of a mouse.  Mouse is a delicacy for owls.) but he also Has The Answers, as any good owl would do.  I don’t know why owls became a symbol of wisdom in our culture, but it makes for some interesting characters.  Like the Tootsie Roll Pop owl.  Who is very cool.  This book could spark discussions about owl diet and habitat, and maybe even get your littles interested in researching the folklore about owls.  Not too shabby for a story about a bunch of rats.

 

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky

This is the first book in a series of 15.  We read it several years ago, and were fascinated by all the information we picked up from it about owls.  It actually sparked our first owl pellet dissection, and we were just reading it for fun.  It’s about Soren, a young owlet who gets pushed out of the nest by his greedy older brother (my doves do this, so there’s really a basis in reality).  Rather than getting mauled by a predator, Soren gets picked up by mysterious owls who take him to St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, and there his adventures begin.  When he realizes there is something very wrong in the school, Soren and his friend have to fight against the teachings and discover what is going on.  Lots of owl science here, as well as a look at human nature and politics.

 

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

This amazing environmetally-charged book is about Roy, who moves to Florida and discovers a mysterious running boy.  He follows the boy, curious as to where he’s always running.  What follows is an adventure in anti-development.  Roy and the running boy team up to stop developers from destroying the habitat of burrowing owls.   This is great for discussions about being kind to the environment and protecting habitats and species that sometimes get pushed aside in the name of progress.  Plus, it’s big fun, and your littles will enjoy the antics of the boys as they try to stop the construction of a new pancake house.

I could probably go on about owl books all day.  I mean, I didn’t even mention my favorite owl, Owl.  But if you don’t know how much I love the Pooh books, then you need to subscribe and keep reading.  (It’ll probably get annoying, even. haha)

Love wins,

KT

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 4 Insects

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Insects are fascinating to littles.  Bugs lead such different lives than ours, and there are so many different kinds.  Planning an insect study is one of the easiest things to do.  All you need is your backyard and a magnifying glass, maybe a bug catcher if you’re so inclined.  There are tons of nonfiction books out there to teach your littles the basics of the insect world.  There is a plethora of information and free notebooking pages, worksheets, and unit studies on the interweb.  Today I’m going to tell you about some fiction books you can add to your study to help give life to the nonfiction.  And remember, bees are too heavy to be able to fly.  They fly anyway.  So might we.

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

No collection of insect books would be complete without Eric Carle.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar is my favorite, but he has many to choose from.   The bold, bright illustrations are without peer, and they lend themselves incredibly well to easy crafting.  If you’re studying bugs other than caterpillars, visit Carle’s website for a full list of his insect books.

 

 

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni

This book’s simple illustrations put all the focus on its inchworm star. “I am useful,” he says, “I measure things.”  The inchworm happily and proudly measures all manner of things until a nightingale threatens to eat him unless he can measure her song.  “I’ll try,” says the inchworm.  As the nightingale sings, the inchworm measures, inch by inch, until he he inches out of sight.  So cute, and great introduction for littles to these tiny bugs.

 

 

Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg

In this adventure-filled story, two ants decide to stay in a sugar bowl and eat rather than return to their ant hole.  Their kitchen escapades include being poured into a cup of coffee, a short, heated stay in a toaster, and being stunned by an electrical outlet.  If your littles are curious as to how the ants survive all these exploits, think about that time your kitchen got raided by the tiny insects.  Killing them seems Impossible.  Ants are pretty vigorous dudes.  The tale ends when the ant troop comes back to the kitchen and the two bad ants gratefully return home.  The large illustrations of magnified objects will fascinate your littles.

 

The Summer of the Mourning Cloak by Kathleen Nelson

The Mourning Cloak is a butterfly also known as the Camberwell Beauty.  In this lovely tale, 11-year-old Hyslop and her mother go to England to visit her mother’s old friend for the summer.  A crotchety old man who lives on the property is an avid butterfly collector, and he grudgingly takes Hyslop under his wing, teaching her about butterflies and asking for her help in finding a Mourning Cloak for his collection.  There is a lot of information about butterflies in this book, which makes it one of those that teaches without littles realizing they’re being taught.  There is also a tale about relationships, about surviving in difficult circumstances, and about finding hope.  Hyslop is a lovable little girl who is doing her best to navigate a troublesome world.

 

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

My Littles love this book.  Sure, it doesn’t really teach a lot about worms, but worms are in it, and Billy’s adventures in worm-eating are great for belly laughs.  And cringes.  He has to eat 15 of the slimy buggers in 15 days.  Fear Factor for littles!  The different ways the boys come up with to dress up the taste and texture of worms… Classic.  This one will definitely have your littles laughing and engaged.  It’s a great read even if you aren’t studying worms.

 

In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus

This fascinating fantasy is about Henri Bell, who is sent to America from England to live with his great-aunt.  An accidental conversation with a fly on a boring day reveals Henri’s ability to speak with insects.  What follows is rollicking adventure including a flea circus, a  beetle army, and–of course–the search for the Goliathus Hercules, which takes Henri to British Malaysia.  It’s filled with wonderful illustrations and lots of entomological information, and would make a fantastic addition to any insect study.

There are so many more stories about insects out there, but these are a few of our faves.  Nothing is more fun than imagining what a butterfly is really thinking or picturing having a conversation with an ant.  Oh, and eating… worms?

Love wins,

KT

Day One: Donkeys

Day Two: Summer

Day Three: Water

 

11 Awesome Activities to Do in the Rain

11 Awesome Activities to entertain your littles on a rainy day

Here’s the thing.  And it’s not normal.  It has rained here–hard, like storms and heavy showers–every day for over 2 weeks.  I have complained about it on Twitter and Instagram.  I have complained about it on this blog.  I am complaining because even though I love the rain, I love it when it is sporadic.  Even though the power of good storm is one of the most awe-inducing things Mother Nature does, even that loses its attraction after 2 weeks.  I have complained because my front yard is one gigantic puddle, my garden is wilting, even the trees in my forest are looking sketchy.  It’s too much.  I want to go outside.  For more than 5 or 10 minutes between storms.  I want to see blue sky.  It’s July, after all.  There should be blue sky.  I want to feel the sun on my skin, melanoma be damned.

But the forecast for the next 10 days includes one partly sunny day and 9 stormy ones.  So I better suck it up.  ‘Cause it ain’t going nowhere.  (Total purposeful double-negative.  You have to say that in the vernacular.)

So I spent the day thinking of things we can do in the rain.  And since they’re pretty cool, I thought I’d share them with you, beautiful reader.

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Homeschooling through the Tough Times

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image provide by contextualfeed.com

A parent loses a job.  Someone close to the family passes away.  Love strikes a family member like lightning–a flash that is gone quicker than it came, leaving heartache and tears in its wake.  Wind blows the roof off the house.  Illness sneaks in.

Things happen.  Bad things.  But when we choose to homeschool our children, sometimes it is necessary to soldier on.  It is difficult.  Sometimes it feels impossible.  We just want to give up, give in, lay down, and let the world roll over us.  It’s hard to concentrate on teaching a lesson, which makes it hard for the littles to soak that lesson in.  Suddenly, your entire learning experience is in upheaval.  How do you handle it?

Prioritize

The first thing you should do, after an appropriate amount of time off to grieve, handle the stress, or get the job completed, is think about what is most important when you get back to the classroom (or dining table or blanket outside).  If your state has laws about what has to be done throughout your school day, figure out the bare minimum you can get by with and stick to that schedule for a few weeks or even months until you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Adding a bit of structure to your littles’ days will help them deal with the stress, too.  So none of you may be up to 4-8 hours of education right now.  Try to set aside 2 hours of a lighter load.  I’m a firm believer that littles should practice math daily.  Writing practice is also essential.  So if you are just too stressed or sad to teach in-depth lessons, print out some math worksheets for them to work on by themselves.  Find some copywork or notebooking pages for them to do.  Grab a list of writing prompts and give them their head.  Then read together.  Read Anything.  Fiction, nonfiction, comedy, adventure.  A lighter load can make such a difference in your healing process.  It can also take one less stress off your mind.  And remember, you can turn any moment into a teachable moment, so count those as part of your school day, too.  As long as your littles are still learning something, you are doing a fine job.

Here are some great sites to find those things:

Math worksheets

Reading comprehension

Writing prompts

Notebooking

Be Flexible

Especially if you’re grieving, it can be hard to make yourself get out of bed and do things.  On those days, take the day off.  If you have a bad Wednesday, make up for it on Saturday.  If you have a bad morning, make it up in the evening.  If you have a bad week, tack a week on to the end of your scheduled year.  I have actually done this, and it worked out just fine.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  We work around it.  The glorious thing about homeschooling is that we don’t have to do it from 8-3, Monday through Friday, August through June.  We can do it whenever we want.  Be flexible With Yourself.  Allow yourself to work through the crisis without adding more to it.

But Be Consistent

Your littles, as I said before, need a sense of normalcy and a certain amount of structure will help with that.  If you let things drift too much or for too long, you are leaving your littles without an anchor.  Math every day.  Not too hard to accomplish.  Even when your patience is at an end, you can put together a basket of busywork and tell them to get to work.  Explain to them how you’re feeling (don’t try to hide it; kids are so much smarter than we think they are, and they See Everything), let them know it’s going to be a work-by-yourself day, whatever you have to do.  Just don’t leave them dangling for too long, wondering if they will ever have ‘school’ again.

Practice Patience

And I do mean practice.  Especially when we’re dealing with financial crises, our patience seems to have run out before we wake in the mornings.  It becomes easier to snap at people who have done nothing wrong.  Everything makes us angry.  This is the time when we have to learn to leave the room before we use our voices.  Walk away, take a breath, allow yourself a minute to think about what’s really bothering you.  Then take another breath.  Decide if what just made your temper snap really deserved the tongue-lashing that wanted to leap from your mouth.  Remember, they’re just little.  They have no intention of trying your patience during this difficult time.  Also, be patient with yourself.  We are so hard on ourselves.  We want to hurry up and get over this so we can move on.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Hard times have their own timetable and our desire to make them end sooner doesn’t change it one whit.  So don’t be disappointed when you are still sad after a couple of weeks, still stressed even after the roof has been fixed, still wondering where you’re going to come up with the money.  Be patient.  As my neighbor says, they can’t eat you.  It really will work out in its own time.

Seek Inspiration

Whether it be spiritual or just support from other homeschoolers.  Connect with peers, with blogs you love, your pastor, whoever will make you feel that spark again that got you homeschooling in the first place.  When I’m feeling blah, I like to go to my favorite craft sites and find something new to try with the Littles.  Whatever works for you, find that inspiration and soak it up.  You don’t even have to do anything with it.  Just reading about it might help you be better prepared to face tomorrow.  For spiritual inspiration, try Alive to Grace.  For spiritual homeschool inspiration, try A Homeschool Mom. To remember why you love being a parent, check out Mom Life Now. For a good belly laugh about parenting and homeschooling, go to Stories of Our Boys.  For really awesome craft ideas, look at The Crafty Classroom.  Come here.  Email me.  I promise to be here for you.  You never know when I might need you in return.

Take a break

At a homeschooling seminar I spoke at this year, a lovely young woman approached me and asked what to do about her preschool-age daughter, who seemed to balk at all of her lessons.  After sitting down with her for a while, I learned they had lost two very close loved ones that year, and there had been an inordinate amount of upheaval in their lives.  My advice to her was to stop pushing.  Her daughter was grieving.  She was grieving.  She needed to give them space to do that.  No one would expect that sweet little girl to care about learning her ABCs or handwriting just them.  The mother was worried she was failing in some way.  I told her to take a break.  Don’t push her daughter to do ‘schoolwork.’ Read with her, sing the alphabet with her, buy some of those great bath paints and let her make letters with her fingers.  I told her she would be surprised at the end of a couple of months how much her daughter had learned without scheduled, paper schoolwork.  If you have older littles and you decide to take a break, set some parameters.  Tell your kids you’re going to take a break, when you will be picking back up, and what you expect from them during the break.  That way they still have that sense of consistency.

Sometimes whatever the tough times are, they are just too tough.  Don’t push yourself or your littles to achieve a grand school year during those times.  Do what you can.  Give your family a break.  But do soldier on.  Don’t give up.  Don’t let the world roll over you.  There will be sunshine again, and you will be glad you didn’t send your kids back to school or shut down completely.  Because

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  My series 25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool will pick up Monday with Day Four: Insects. 🙂