We Love Evan-Moor Pockets

Last year we started using History Pockets by Evan-Moor as a way to add more interactive layers to our studies. We use Story of the World as a beginning history curriculum and we found History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations for grades 1-3 touched on all of the main areas of Story of the World. While Story of the World contains map work and activities to do in the activity book, we wanted to take our learning a step further and this was the perfect addition. As we went through the different ancient civilizations like Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China, the kids made Words to Know vocabulary booklets, postcards from ancient civilizations, puppets, and more.

My learners don’t like assignments that are heavy on writingimagehandler-1 so this was a great way to learn while using their hands to cut, glue, color, and write small amounts about what they were learning. Best of all, they looked forward to the assignments.

This year, I added more pockets to our studies. My third grader took on a new history and geography curriculum and as a complement to his studies we added History Pockets: Native Americans and History Pockets: Life in Plymouth Colony. We are emphasizing Life In Plymouth Colony now and will be finished by mid-December.

The Native American Pockets we are staggering as we cover different regions of the United States. Our history and geography curriculum is broken up into regions – New England states, Southern states, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, etc. The Native American pockets cover tribes by region so as we learn a new region, we add the tribe for that area.

Evan-Moor pockets don’t just focus on history, though. They also have theme pockets and literature pockets. Theme pockets are fun because each book covers a selection of topics. For example, the December Theme Pocket resource book covers December Celebrations, things to do during winter break, and animals that are associated with winter and the arctic.

imagehandlerWe used the Literature Pockets: Folktales & Fairy Tales last year as part of our preschool/kinder curriculum and my daughter loved it. This year, even though she isn’t doing the history and geography curriculum that my third grader is using, she makes the Plymouth Colony and Native American Pockets with us. They are easily adaptable for all ages, easy to make and require only a few supplies.While my kids are working on coloring, cutting or assembling their pockets, I generally find material to read to them about the topic they are working on.

If you’re looking for a fun way to learn, I highly recommend the Evan-Moor products. I didn’t get anything for free and there are no affiliate links here. This is just my honest opinion and I hope other families can benefit from these resources like we have. Also, any parent – not just a homeschool parent – can use these resources as a fun and educational activity to do with the kids. Great for weekend craft time or holiday breaks to keep the minds working.

What is your favorite educational resource?

Junior Rangers and a Grand Adventure

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We just got home from an amazing adventure. We took a road trip to the Grand Canyon, parked our pop-up at Mather Campground and spent five days exploring. It was one of the best vacations ever.

When we got to the park, we spent the first evening setting up and running out to Mather Point to catch the last few minutes of sunset. It was our first glimpse of the canyon and it’s true – pictures don’t fully express the grandness of the canyon. You can’t see the depth and the color that seems to change depending on your location and the time of day. It’s pretty darn beautiful.

We arrived on a Sunday evening and spent Monday through Friday exploring. We decided to start at one end and work our way down the South Rim.

Highlights of the Trip:

Mule Deer: These guys were awesome to watch. The campground was relatively empty Monday through Wednesday so we had lots of Mule Deer foraging in the area. We gave them plenty of space, as you should. But they didn’t seem to be bothered at all by our presence. They even came to our campsite to chew on s few trees, and a pair of deer settled in for a nap in the campsite across from us. At one point a group of five large males with big antlers were all withing a few hundred feet of us. They lose their antlers every year and grow new ones, but if you find antlers, you must leave them where they lie. They are protected within the park.

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Hiking in the Canyon: We had a tight grip on the kids for both canyon hikes that we went on, but traveling down into it was like stepping into a different world. The huge walls and cliffs of limestone, shale, and sandstone were awesome.

Earning the Junior Ranger Badges: The kids completed the activities in their workbooks and attended two Ranger talks (Critter Chat and Geology Glimpse). When they did their park pledge and received their badges from the ranger they were so proud! They are now Junior Rangers at two parks – Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree.

Here is what our week-long adventure looked like:

Desert View Watchtower Day 1: We first went to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and picked up Junior Ranger books for the kids. We don’t explore National Parks without these awesome books and the kids love working on their workbooks and earning their Junior Ranger Badges.

Then we drove about 25 miles to Desert View Watchtower, stopping at the Tusayan Museum and Ruin on the way. The short, self-guided paths at Tusayan were fun to explore and the kids enjoyed seeing what was left of the meeting areas and storage rooms that local tribes built and used nearly 1000 years ago.

The Watchtower, built in 1932 in the Ancestral Puebloan style, was exciting. There are four levels, with 85 steps to climb, an outdoor observation deck, and is painted inside with Native American symbols. From the top of the Watchtower you can look out and view the Grand Canyon from the highest point in the park. There are many lookout points on the side of the road that travels along South Rim, and we stopped at all the major points on our way back to camp.

On our last stop we were surprised to find a herd of elk resting in the trees. They were pretty amazing to see.

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Day 2: We hiked South Kaibab trail about a mile down into the canyon to a spot called Ooh Aah Point. This is the first main stop on the trail with a grand view of the giant canyon that is spread out in front of you. People tend to walk out on the rock pile for a better view, but we help on to the kids and stopped to rest and have a small snack before heading back up. The hike up is tough, but my 5- and 8-year olds handled it well. They say it is equivalent to climbing 76 flights of stairs to get back up from this point. The trail is semi-rocky with lots of built-in steps to climb.

Day 3: We spent the bulk of our day traveling the Hermit’s Rest route. You can take the free shuttle bus to many major lookout points and end up at Hermit’s Rest, a stone building that was built in 1914 for tourists and travelers. You can get on and off the shuttle bus to get from one location to another, but there is also a trail that goes along the path that you can walk on. We opted to walk a stretch of the path where the lookout points were closer together and got back on the bus for the longer distances. Overall, this adventure took us about 4 hours, but if you stay on the bus it’s about an hour and a half.

Day 4: We hiked down into the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. This path was a little less rocky and there weren’t a lot of steps built into it so I thought it was easier than the South Kaibab Trail. There are two tunnels to pass through on this hike – meaning that you pass through holes in giant boulders on the canyon trail. The first tunnel is a short distance from the trail head and is an easy out and back walk. The lower tunnel is about a mile down from the trail head. Getting back up is like climbing 65 flights of stairs.  We also went to the Geology Museum and attended the Geology Glimpse ranger talk which was fun and informative and the kids got their Junior Ranger books signed for attending one of the ranger talks.

Day 5: Day five was crowded in the park. People were filtering in for the weekend. We spent the day collecting souvenirs from the Hopi House and the Bright Angel area.

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Our trip was an unforgettable experience and the time we took for it was perfect. We got to see everything along the South Rim without rushing. We planned family meals that we made together in the Pop-up trailer. We had no television. One of the smartest things we did was keep our cooler and dry food in the back of the car. After our hikes or while we were out exploring, all we had to do was pop the back open and make sandwiches, complete with drinks, chips, and other snacks.

Lastly, my camera broke almost the moment we got there. Turns out that was good and bad for me. Bummer because I didn’t have a camera, but wonderful because I spent the entire trip capturing memories with my eyes and enjoying each moment, rather than fumbling for the camera to get a picture and missing tiny moments in between.

The day after Thanksgiving is GreenFriday and many California State Parks are offering free passes to get outside, rather than going shopping. Click here to find your park and get a pass. Spend time with your family this Thanksgiving holiday. What do you want your next adventure to be?

For more information about the Grand Canyon and to start planning your trip, Visit the National Park Service website.

 

New Pterosaur Exhibit at the Natural History Museum

Digital visualization of flying dinosaurs

Like most kids, my children have interests that pass. I thought dinosaurs and woolly mammoths would pass. I nurtured the interest like any good parent and expected the next year to bring a new love. And it did. We have added many new loves to our list, but one thing that has not passed is dinosaurs. In fact, it has grown into a love of paleontology and archaeology. A fascination that stays with us in a way that we are often pinched with the bug to find new ways to feed our fossil fire. Where can we dig? What can we watch? What’s in that rock?

This year we purchased an annual pass to the Natural History Museum, which also includes admission to the Tar Pits and the Page Museum, and the William S. Hart Museum. We were planning a trip anyway to explore, and we wanted to see the Mummies exhibit before it left so it made sense to just purchase the annual pass knowing we would get several uses out of it.

We’ve wondered what might take the place of the mummies that occupied the space downstairs near the cafe, and we were excited to learn of the Pterosaur exhibit. We were surprised through, that the exhibit is near the main member entrance and the space downstairs is still behind covered windows.

We entered the new exhibit on a member-only preview day so the crowds were limited once inside. It was sort of magical for us because we have such a polished appreciation for the age of dinosaurs and other creatures from long ago. We walked into rooms filled with fossils, and replicas, and informative plaques, and short films, and life-sized models of the Pterosaurs that once took to our skies. Some hover overhead, similar in size to the school bus in the parking lot. Some were smaller than your cat.

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There are interactive screens, like a video game, where you can dive for fish or hunt for bugs. My son loved that part. My daughter liked using the joystick to learn how the Pterosaurs used their wings to harness the wind during flight. I liked the room near the end with the Pterosaur replica soaring over the water. Such a beautiful display.

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I expected to pass through quickly, as my kids often do, jumping from one display to the next. But this one lasted. They took their time. They explored. They watched. They enjoyed. This one is definitely not to be missed.

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New Articles at Dandelion Moms!

So it’s been awhile since I posted here, but it isn’t because I haven’t been busy. I’m also the educational contributor over at Dandelion Moms and I’ve posted a few things there. Check out what I’ve been up to! Just click on the image to read the articles:

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A lesson in the desert is an article about our experiences and education from our camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park. So much fun!

Portrait of happy mother and two daughters cooking in the kitchen

Here you’ll find a few fun activities that will keep your kids brains working this summer. Don’t let them get caught up in hours of video games – get them moving and keep their heads in the game so they are ready for the new year that lies ahead!

I’ll be posting again soon with some of our favorite activities that are educational, but don’t feel too much like school. Stay tuned!

Exploring Route 395

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We recently went to Mammoth for a long weekend to see the snow. But some of the best parts of the trip were the places we stopped along the way. And the best part was that each of our stops was a mini science lesson.

Fossil Falls

Located on the east side of the 395 off of Cinder Road, Fossil Falls is the byproduct of volcanic activity and a rushing river. Thousands of years ago, the nearby cinder cone erupted, splattering the surrounding desert with lava and rock. As the lava poured into the Owens River, the rushing water sculpted and polished the rock. Today, with the flow of Owens River diverted and Owens lake now dry, all that remains is the fossil of what was once a majestic waterfall. Stone cliffs and ballasts and holes bored out of the center of giant rocks show years of erosion and is truly amazing to see in person. Photos do not capture the depth or the detail that you find at Fossil Falls.

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There is a small parking lot with restrooms at the trail head. It is a short hike from the parking lot, maybe half a mile. It is rocky though so wear appropriate shoes. Also, this is not the place to let your kids run free. Little ones should be kept close and supervised at all times. There are steep drop-offs, and it’s a long way down. Lots of holes in the rocks so watch your step!

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Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns

You can read the history of the Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns here. It’s located off 395 just north of Cartago. There is a small Historical Landmark sign on the road. When you turn onto the road you will see the commemorative plaque, but you can not see the kilns from this location. You must continue down the road about one mile to see the kilns. They are surrounded by a fence now, but it is interesting to look at and think about the history and the changes that were made to the landscape because of the gold rush, the mines, and the kilns. An area that once featured a flowing river and plentiful trees is now barren and dry. Just past the kilns is a passageway through the hillside but we did not drive that direction to further explore the area, so I’m not sure what lies beyond the kilns. Although it was interesting to see, it felt a little creepy out there.

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Hot Creek Geological Site

This was my second favorite stop and I wish that we could have spent an entire day exploring this area. You can read all the details about Hot Creek here. We saw and explored the main stretch from the photo but there are trails along the gorge that go much further than we were able to discover given our time-frame. But the warm water and the blue-green algae and knowing the background of the ancient volcano piqued my interest and the scenery was stunning. I will go back here and spend time exploring. There are restrooms in the main parking lot, although they weren’t pretty when we visited and only two of six were open. The walk down was a bit steep so wear appropriate shoes for this one.

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Mt. Whitney Hatchery

My husband loves fishing and so we are often subjected to trips to area fish hatcheries. Not so bad when they have the quarter machines to get food to feed the fish, but sometimes a trip to the fish hatchery can be less than amusing. Our third and final fish hatchery for this trip was the Mt. Whitney Hatchery (yes, I did say third). Fortunately, this was the most exciting hatchery we’ve been to. The Mt. Whitney hatchery is no longer operational, but some areas are still open to visitors. The hatchery is located on an alluvial fan and receives a lot of natural mud flow from the nearby mountains. The hatchery and several of the buildings were destroyed years ago and the rainbow trout were killed, so the hatchery function was shut down. However, this is one of the most stunning hatcheries you’ll find complete with fish pond, castle, and fish food machines. I’m not lying when I say there were some seriously large trout in that pond. Check it out if you are ever out that way. Pack a lunch, it’s a great spot for a picnic. The visitors center slash museum is open from April through September. Unfortunately we were there in March so we didn’t get to go inside but it’s still worth the stop. Learn more about the Hatchery here.

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What’s your favorite side trip on your way to Mammoth? Share your hot-spots!

 

 

 

Homeschool Holiday at Aquarium of the Pacific

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One of the things I like about being a homeschool mom is taking my kids on field trips to local venues that offer educational experiences at a discount. In December we attended the homeschool event at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. The admission rate is deeply discounted for homeschool families and you can purchase tickets in advance online. Typically, the Aquarium has two homeschool days per year: one in the spring and one in winter. We attended the spring event last year.

 

During homeschool days at the aquarium they do not take reservations for regular school field trips so it is only homeschoolers and the general public, which means a much less crowded experience. They have tables set up with educational information and homeschool-related material. They also open the classrooms from 9:00 to 12:00 for kids to experience the touch tanks and there are tables set up with games and activities to teach students about the animals of the ocean. My four-year old loved holding the starfish, and my seven-year old loved examining the skulls.

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We fed the lorikeets, watched the sea lions and seals, and spent lots of time at touch tanks with jellies, starfish, sea cucumbers and so much more. My daughter has really been interested in learning about penguins lately so we had a lot of fun checking out the June Keyes Penguin Habitat. Something that we have been having fun with since our visit is keeping an eye on the penguin habitat from home by tuning into the webcams on the Aquarium’s website. They have an under water and above water webcam of the penguin habitat so we get to see them from different angles.

I’m also really excited about the new lesson plans that the Aquarium has linked up to some of the webcams. You can find the Aquarium Webcam Resource Kits here. There are lots of other great teacher resources available on the Aquarium website too, so take a few minutes to browse through their wonderful educational offerings. I also like the many resources that are available on the Monterey Bay Aquarium website. Especially the Sea Searchers Handbook. Many of the resources are meant to be used when you can visually observe the exhibits, but I think the materials are flexible enough to be used as teaching tools without being there. If you haven’t been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I highly recommend it. That was my son’s first aquarium adventure when he was a baby.

What is your favorite aquarium or marine science exploration activity?

Explore more with these amazing books:

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Informational Text Worksheets

informational text worksheets

My kids love to read. Chapter books, picture books, comics, nonfiction. You name it, they’ll read it. Sometimes when I am going over an assignment for school, my son will ask, “Can’t I just go read?” Sometimes I say no and require that the assignment gets completed, but other times, I say “What the heck, go for it.” I mean, really, he’s reading. My response to the “go ahead and read” theory is that I need something that he can put down on paper when he’s done reading to show that he is learning and making progress in critical thinking and writing skills. So I am putting together a few different worksheets that I can print up for him to complete when I decide that reading time is over. So far, I have made a 3-2-1 Summary worksheet and a Main Idea & Details worksheet. These are mostly to be used with informational text, but can also be used with other books with educational elements. For example, my son reads the Extreme Adventures chapter book series and these include informative passages about animals and geographic locations, so these worksheets could work.

We read a lot of short nonfiction books too, so these are great companion worksheets that can be completed quickly after independent reading or story time, when we read together as a family. For my little one who is four, I have her write a few words about the subject, like the names of the animals or planets, then I ask her to draw a picture about what we read. I always write the words for her on a separate piece of paper, but she copies it onto her own page and then draws her pictures.

You can download the worksheets here for free!

3-2-1 Summary: 3.2.1 Summary

Main Idea & Details: Main idea

New! Who, What, When Worksheet: Who.What.When.Where.How.Why

 

See our nonfiction and picture book selection here.