I thought about getting together a list of picture books for you for Earth Day tomorrow, but there are already several posts like that floating around the ol’ interweb, and I figure if you’re reading me, you read other homeschool blogs and have already taken advantage of their brilliant suggestions. If you’ve not seen it yet, check out my Story Time on The Giving Tree for some great craft and activities ideas if that’s what you want to do to celebrate the day. I promise, they’re awesome.
This time of year provides us homeschooling mamas and dadas with a great opportunity to teach our littles about life and biology and botany and how connected we are (or should be) with our planet. Getting into the garden or the greenhouse is one of my favorite ways to teach.
You can study life cycles in the garden, simply by growing a plant from seed and watching it for an entire season. Keeping a diary or calendar of the plant’s growth can help your little understand scientific observation. Planning a garden helps your little learn about how things grow together. If you’re planting flowers, you can add an ongoing color lesson for art studies. If you’re planting vegetables your little can learn about where food comes from and what is good for his body. Littles can learn how plants need water, soil, and sunlight. If you’re starting in a greenhouse, they can learn about how different seeds need different temperatures to sprout.
There is so much a little can learn about life from gardening, but one of the most important lessons they can take away from gardening is that hard work pays off. Gardening takes some work–you have to baby those seedlings, make sure your plants are getting the right amount of water, keep weeds from stealing the necessary nutrients, and harvest at the right time. My Littles have been helping with the gardens since they were old enough to walk, and they groan when the weeding or hoeing needs done, but they realize that all that work is going to result in lots of fresh food and beautiful flowers to enjoy from the patio. So they do it. I love that it keeps them physical all summer, beyond jumping on the trampoline or swimming in the pool. It makes them work those growing muscles in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.
We always grow one special thing for each of the boys in our veggie/fruit garden. For Littlest it’s watermelon. For Middle, it’s our grape arbor. This year we bought some new seeds that are supposed to grow giant watermelons, so Littlest better have his grubby hands ready to get sticky. We’ve walked out to the orchard and looked at how our fledgling apple trees are covered in blooms this year, promising an actual crop of fresh apples for the first time. Even the pear trees are producing this year, though not quite as much as the apples.
Every year the things we grow provide fresh insight and lessons into science and nature. I want the whole world to enjoy that connection. I’ve made up a couple of freebies for you, and you don’t even have to subscribe to get them. Though it’d be a lot cooler if you did.
Here’s a set of Garden Planning Pages to get you and your littles started:
And here is a set of Garden Diary/Calendar pages to help your littles learn all season:
Print these out and get outside with your littles and enjoy glorious spring. Learn while you’re having fun? Yeah yeah.
That’s the stuff.
What? Even bloggers need a vacation. 🙂
I needed this one for my sanity. I hadn’t given myself any slack since about April, which is great when all you have to do is write a blog, not so great when you also have to homeschool, farm, plan curriculum, be a mom, clean your house, and make sure your beautiful husband knows how much you love and appreciate him. Social life? Meh.
Sorry I didn’t warn you, dear readers. Because I also love and appreciate you. But it was my sanity-cation and I took it before I broke. And to recover from reading Go Set a Watchman, which I will not be reviewing any time soon. Because I had 10 pages left to read for a week and couldn’t bear to finish it. Because I knew what was coming and I didn’t want to read it. And I was right. And my disillusionment is grand. And I have to give myself some time.
But I’m back and today I’m going to give you a few lit suggestions if you and your littles do a camping unit. Some of these would even enhance a camping day if you plan a homeschool summer camp. Why would you study camp? Well, why do the Boy Scouts do it? Duh. There is so much to be gleaned from a camping lesson. How to track. How to bait a hook. How to pitch a tent. How to build a fire. How to store food. How to cook on a campfire. How to find water. (The whole family contributed to that list.) And a good book to accompany such an amazing lesson is Always a Good Thing.
We Love the Little Critter books. This one was one of Littlest’s favorites because it reminded him of him and his dad and all their outdoor adventures. The illustrations in this are far more telling than the simple text, and watching Little Critter make mistakes and make up for them is always good for a laugh.
The illustrations in this book are phenomenal, the text is a beautiful homage to nature, and the characters are appreciative of their time outdoors. It is a perfect book for teaching your littles all there is to love about camping.
This book is hilarious. When Maddie comes home from Wolf Camp and sniffs her pet collie in greeting, the laughter is on. The question is, what changes did Wolf Camp really bring about in Maddie? Are those howls for real? Your littles will truly enjoy this lively book. And maybe get a few ideas of their own. So try to keep them from chewing on your tires.
Talk about quickly learning survival skills… Mark’s 5th grade class is on a week-long campout. First day out he gets in trouble with the teacher, Mr. Maxwell, and runs off into the woods. Mr. Maxwell goes after him and together they not only get lost but have to survive. What’s cool about this book is that not only does the adolescent learn a few life lessons, so does the adult. They kind of have to, if they’re going to get along well enough to get out of the woods. Plus, the story is action-packed and thrilling. My boys couldn’t bear to put it down.
Well, Mama, did you forget that Ralph runs away to Happy Acres Camp? I love the Mouse and the Motorcycle stories, and camp is a good excuse to read this one. Cleary definitely knew her stuff when she wrote these amazing stories about mice using toys and lost items to furnish their lives. And it’s adorable that Ralph goes to camp in order to meet ‘boys his age.’ I crush on that. Cute little mouse.
Sure, Holes is set in a camp for delinquent boys, but it’s still a camp. And the character building… I wonder if I can get my Littles to go outside and dig me a 5×5 hole. And find me a treasure. This action-packed mystery is sure to inspire, so hide your shovels.
On a nonfiction note, if you’re looking for activities to include in your camping unit, check out The Kids Campfire Book by Jane Drake. It’s full of really great ideas for making a camping trip special.
Have fun. And use an air mattress.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)