All Creatures Big & Small

 

all creatures big and small

We were invited to attend a screening of the movie All Creatures Big & Small, a new movie available exclusively on Google Play. The 80 minute animated film was entertaining, funny, and uplifting. Based on the Noah’s Ark story, two young animals get left behind as the ark is carried away by the flood and together they face the challenges of survival and finding friendship. We left the screening with smiles on our faces and we’ve even watched it again by streaming it from Google Play on our television. Here is the link: All Creatures Big & Small. It is available for free for a limited time so watch it soon!

The screening event  was at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. There is a Noah’s Ark exhibit for kids that is a must see for anyone in the LA and Orange County Area. Lots of area to explore and imagine with opportunities to climb and “feed the animals”. There are family events with crafts, and archaeological dig area, and many other exhibits to view. I’ve wanted to check the Skirball out for quite some time so I was delighted to be invited by Melissa over at Dandelion Moms.

noah's ark skirball

Author of the Month: Barb Rosenstock

author of the month barb rosenstock

So I was walking through the library – quickly – because I already had a bag full of books and my shoulder was about to fall off. But this book caught my eye, so I swiped it on the way past and added it to the load. Ben Franklin’s Big Splash. My son likes learning about Ben and Tom and George, so I figured he might like this one. I was right. We all love this one. So much so that I was prompted to go back to the library a few days later to return some others and search for more Barb Rosenstock books. We found more, we love them all, and I’m about to tell you why.

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash tells the story of Ben as a boy and how he came to find a love of solving problems and creating solutions. It speaks of how he failed, but didn’t let the failure define him. Instead he used it to propel him to find new solutions. It lists his major achievements and includes a timeline of his life. And then I found her website. When I searched for Barb Rosenstock I found something that every homeschooling parent and teacher loves – Educator’s Guides! Yep, all of Barb’s books have educator’s guides that offer activities and lesson plans to help you and your kids learn even more and get the most out of these amazing books. I’m in love.

Here is the list of the other books we picked up at the library and we love each and every one of them.

The Noisy Paintbox (Vasya Kandinsky)

The Streak (Joe DiMaggio)

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

The Camping Trip That Changed America (Roosevelt & John Muir)

 

Pick up some of Barb Rosenstock’s books and then visit her webpage here to get the educator’s guides. You can also order her books directly from links on her website.

 

Book cover images courtesy of Amazon.com

Our Book List: What We’re Using for Preschool

preschool booklist

This year we are officially starting preschool with my daughter. While I won’t be forcing any work on her, I want to be prepared with preschool-level curriculum that she will be able to use and learn from. Last year was our first year of homeschool and she loved sitting at the table with us while we did first grade work and I spent a lot of time searching for things for her to do and modifying 1st grade work to fit her level. While my preschooler will spend a lot of time doing creative activities and playing with play doh or sand, this year we’ll be more prepared with other learning activities.

Reading:

Start To Read Pack – The Start to Read Pack introduces letter sounds and follows the synthetic phonics system. It comes with 8 beginning readers, an activity book that reinforces the letter sounds, and a colorful poster to help us identify and master our letters.

Very First Reading Set – This 15 book set includes level one readers that focus on shared reading – the parent reads one page and the child reads the next. The pages that children read helps them master word sounds and builds up reading confidence. The end of each book includes story review activities, sequencing, and phonics lessons. The set also comes with a parent guide and online resources for additional learning resources.

Start to Read Pack

Math:

First Illustrated Math Dictionary – We’ve got this on our shelf already but we’ll be using it a lot more this year. The math dictionary introduces basic math concepts from counting to shapes and so much more (great for pre-k through 2nd or 3rd grade as it covers fractions and symmetry and lots of other advanced topics). It includes activity ideas as well. We’ll focus on learning the concepts and use our math manipulatives kit (bear counters, rulers, pattern blocks, etc.) that we got for our math program last year. If you want to know more about how we use our manipulatives kit (because we use it all the time) read my math post here.

Wipe-Clean First Math – This wipe-clean activity book comes with its own dry erase marker so kids can practice their early math skills in a fun way. We have others from this series and they get used constantly around here!

first illustrated math dictionary   first math

Spanish:

My First Spanish Word Book – We’ll be using this book to match words with pictures as we begin our adventure in preschool Spanish. She’ll get additional practice from the books her brother and I use that are closer to his level.

My First Spanish Word Book

Writing:

For writing practice we’ll be doing a lot of pencil and paper, but we’ll also have these two wipe-clean books on hand: Get Ready for School abc & 123 and Ready for Writing.

get ready for school abc & 123   ready for writing

 

What will you be using with your preschooler this year?

The Quest for Curriculum

quest for curriculum

So the search is on. I am on a mission for the next two months to pin down the products I want to use to kick off our school year in September. I say kick off because we used a significant amount of our first grade curriculum by winter break last year. Now I have a better idea of the types of things I want to include, the things I can leave out, and what we will be able to add and vary throughout the year. For anyone considering homeschool or also searching for educational material for the upcoming school year, here are some of the choices I’ve got on my list, though I haven’t narrowed it down  to the finalists yet!

Language Arts:

All About Spelling – Last year we used level 2 so we’ll be moving on to level 3. This was one of our most enjoyable curriculum purchases. There are lots of little magnetic letters and word cards, but they make learning so tangible and interactive and easy to digest. Kids need to do more than listen to rules and read sight words and this set gave us lots of tools to work with. The pre-scripted teacher’s guide is also one of the easiest tools I had for first grade. All I had to do was pull it out, open it up, and we were ready for our lesson. We usually only needed about 20 minutes for a spelling lesson which is so doable any time of the day.

All About Reading – I’ve heard a lot of great things about the All About Reading program, and since I love the spelling side, I may try this out for my 4-year old.

Write Source – I like the way these are laid out to teach different writing traits and styles. I was going to purchase this last year but never got around to it. I hope to include it for our second grade studies.

 

Math:

Saxon Math by Houghton Mifflin – We used Saxon Math 1 for first grade and we purchased the manipulatives kit which we love and use often (read more about our math manipulatives here). I think we will end up using this program again but I’ve got a few others on my list that I may try in addition to this program.

Life of Fred – I’ve heard a lot of good things about this program and it takes a different approach to teaching math. Might be a fun twist to our traditional routine. Last year I tried to break our math studies up – using curriculum a few days while focusing on telling time, counting money, learning measurements, etc. – on other days. Life of Fred could be a fun alternative.

Math-U-See – Another program I have heard good things about. I haven’t done a lot of research into this one yet but I’ve got it on my short list.

 

Science:

Science Fusion –  This is the program we used last year and my son loved it. It comes with a work text that the student can write in plus online access to interactive online lessons, experiments, and additional printable worksheets and learning material. I liked the program but the only drawback was that I found it a bit difficult to navigate some of the online content and it took me a lot of time to get our lessons together because of this. Someone more savvy may find this program easier to use. We may go ahead an choose this program again for the simple fact that it was one of my sons favorite parts of school.

Houghton Mifflin Science – This is the other science program by Houghton Mifflin (also publishes Science Fusion) and we got the first grade set by mistake last year so I was able to see the difference between the two. This is more expensive but it has its benefits. For example, the printable materials and teacher resources come on a cd-rom that is much easier to navigate and you can quickly select and print the resources you want to use for the lessons. This is the same text that many schools use for their science curriculum and there is a homeschool version as well as a teacher’s version.

Apologia – This creation-based curriculum is on my short list. I like the areas of emphasis like botany, astronomy, and zoology.

 

Social Studies:

Harcourt Horizons – For first grade we did a little bit of everything for social studies. We didn’t have a specific curriculum to follow. I like the idea of having it all in one place when I want it, but being able to branch out when we are feeling adventurous. I’ve heard good things about this one so I may consider it for our 2nd grade studies.

 

What are your favorite curriculum programs to use? Do you buy specific and structured programs or do you use other resources? Please share your favorites (and your least favorites)!

Summer + Giveaway = Best Summer Ever!

summer giveaway

I have a lot to be excited about right now. A – It’s summer vacation! Today is our last day of school and I look forward to spending time unhurried and unplanned. B – I found a great character building activity book that I love and the kids love, so we’re going to add those activities into our days when we’re hanging out at home with nothing to do. C – I’ve got a giveaway going on for some of the fun activity books I sell as an Usborne Books & More Independent Consultant. I wanted to be sure to tell you about the giveaway with plenty of time to enter. If you win, you’ll get 3 activity books – Optical Illusions Activity Book, What Shall I Draw?, Awesome Doodle Pad – and a set of Brain Games wipe-clean reusable flash cards. The books are super fun and perfect for introducing to the kids when they start complaining that they have nothing to do. To enter the giveaway visit Dandelion Moms here.

Yes, I am excited about not having to plan for lessons every day, but we are a learning house and we will continue to add educational elements to our days. One thing we will be doing is continuing with our character building activity book. Daily Character Education Activities (affiliate link) has 180 lessons that focus on citizenship, compassion, fairness, honesty, respect, responsibility, self-discipline, integrity, trustworthiness, and perseverance. This week we talked about how being a good citizen means respecting all creatures – including animals. We talked about how we can help the animals around us, and how we can respect their space. We are also learning a song that is included in the book about character and the kids really enjoy learning the new verses every week.

daily character education activities

The book gives several ideas for making bird feeders including pretzel hangers, pine cone feeders, and apple treats, but we decided to try the cereal feeder. We took a long piece of yarn and strung it with Cheerios and hung it on our tree that is frequented by bird friends in the morning hours. This activity was great for both of my kids. My first grader still enjoys activities of this nature and it’s a good fine motor skill workout for both of them (ages 7 and 3). We didn’t spot any birds feeding from our cereal but both strings were empty the following day – I’m guessing from the opossum or rats that hide quietly in the tree. Either way, the kids were excited to see that their feeders had fed something.

 

cereal feeder

 

Happy summer! How do you plan to pass the time?

Countdown to Summer

countdown to summer

While some people are already into their summer vacation, we are still going, with just a a little more than a week left. We finished all of our curriculum that we purchased at the beginning of the year, and now we are reviewing a few of the things my first grader needs work on and doing deeper research into topics we are interested in. As the end of the year approaches, I decided I wanted to give my son an end of the year survey. He filled out a birthday questionnaire the other day and I loved his answers so I look forward to seeing what he has to say for this one. Here’s a copy of the questionnaire if you’d like to try it with your kids too.

End of the Year Questionnaire

In addition to review, we are doing some character building activities and we’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors to wrap up the year. Do you go full steam to the end of the year or do you wrap it up when you’ve covered all the bases? What do you like to do when you’ve used up all of your curriculum?

 

Also, here are a few free storytime apps available for iPad. I don’t have an iPad so I haven’t been able to try them out yet. Hopefully they’ll be available for android soon as well!

Bloomie & the Birthday Blunder   not without bear

 

 

Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer

summer book packs

We all look forward to summer vacation – or any vacation for that matter. But once the novelty wears off, we all hear the same thing from our kids: “I’m bored!”

My kids like activity books and I like to keep a variety of styles on hand. We have sticker books, make-your-own-paper-airplane books, wipe-clean mazes, wipe clean doodle flashcards, coloring books, and puzzle books. I keep these on a bookshelf or stacked on their desk, and when I hear the moans and groans of boredom, I bust out one they haven’t used in a while. Generally, they’re occupied for at least 30 minutes, and usually when they tire of that activity they have mustered up enough imagination to find something else to do.

As a book seller, I am fortunate to have access to so many amazing activity books. I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites for the “Puzzle Pack” and the “Summer Boredom Busters Pack”. Each set comes with 3 activity books and one pack of wipe-clean flashcards that can be used over and over again. The flashcards are great for on-the-go, too. I drop them in my purse or their backpack if I think there will be a period of time that they need entertainment while we’re away from home.

Stop by the Bookworm Store to get your book packs today!

 

Composting With Kids

composting with kids

Years ago before I had kids, my husband and I had a trash can that we turned into a compost bin. I have to admit I was surprised at how much it reduced our waste. We moved around a little after that and it never made sense to start composting again, living in a condo with a patio and no plants. Now that we are back in a house and have started a garden (growing strong since Valentines Day), it seems more doable. We have a lot of space on the side yard of our house that would make a perfect spot to hide a compost bin.

I love that you can toss waste into a bucket and after time spent decaying and breaking down, it becomes an element that provides important nutrients that bring life to other plants. I also love that it reduces the waste that gets carried off to some hidden landfill. Americans generate over 250 million tons of trash every year. While paper and cans are popular recyclables, only about 3% of food waste is composted or recycled and it makes up the largest category of products taking up space in our landfills. Less than 8% of all plastics are recycled. The top 3 recycled products are:

  1. Paper
  2. Yard Waste
  3. Metals/Cans

Here are some great resources I found online that will teach you and your kids more about composting and how to get started:

Composting For Kids Slide Show – Great slide show teaching about the benefits of composting and how to do it.

Do the Rot Thing: Teachers Guide To Compost Activities – Teachers guide with lots of fun project ideas and information about composting.

US Composting Council – Includes a list of links and resources that include lesson plans and printable activities.

PBS Kids: The Greens – Outdoor Composting – Information and activities

Getting Dirty: Five Fun Composting Projects for Kids – Project ideas

 

Books about recycling and other ways to reduce our footprint – Click on the image for more information:

Why Should I Recycle?   Why Should I Bother About The Planet?

Do you compost? What kind of critters do you think you would find in a healthy compost bin?

Happy Anniversary to the Golden Gate Bridge

golden gate bridge

I’ve been away from the computer since last Wednesday on an unexpected camping trip. While it took me away from my regular blog posts and providing updates for the 10-Minute Teacher calendar, it was a much needed get-away. We headed to Giant Sequoia National Monument in Sequoia National Forest and camped among the trees. The kids had an amazing time fishing and walking the Trail of 100 Giants. In 2011 a giant fell, 2 huge sequoias grew together with the bottom 30 feet of the tree serving as one trunk, with two separate trunks for the remainder of the tree. Today you can climb up and walk the length of the tree. It’s pretty amazing. Here is a picture of the roots of that tree…see the guy sitting on top?

fallen giant

San Francisco has big trees, too – mostly Redwoods. I lived in the area for a few years and one of my favorite things to do was walk among the Redwoods. San Francisco also has the Golden Gate Bridge. May 28th marks the day the bridge officially opened to traffic in 1937. I’ve walked across the bridge and that’s actually where my husband proposed, so it holds a special place in my heart. I love the view from the bridge, and any view that includes the bridge. It’s magnificent. Have you been to the Golden Gate Bridge?

The Golden Gate Bridge was designed by Joseph Strauss with later design contributions from Leon S. Moisseiff and architect Irving F. Morrow. The bridge design became a simple suspension bridge with an Art Deco design. The color is International Orange and is known to resist rust and fading. The bridge is 4200 feet long, spanning the nearly mile-wide Golden Gate Strait. It was the longest bridge in the world until 1964.

So what was the point of building the bridge? Well, imagine being in San Francisco in the early 1930’s. There are no bridges connecting the land surrounding the San Francisco Bay. So if you want to get to the northern portion of California you have to take a boat, or drive all the way down and around the bay. Even with today’s cars and freeway systems the trip would take several hours, so imagine undeveloped roads and rough terrain. The $35 million bridge was a great investment.

Facts:

They blasted rock 65 feet below the water to plant earthquake-proof foundations.

May 27th was pedestrian day, as the bridge was opened for people to walk the length of the bridge.

Eleven men died during the construction of the bridge. Their names are on the memorial plaque on the bridge.

There used to be a pedestrian fee charged for walking the bridge that was collected at turnstiles.

 

Poems About The Golden Gate Bridge:

The Mighty Task is Done

by Joseph Strauss

Written upon completion of the building of the Bridge in May 1937

At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.

On its broad decks in rightful pride,
The world in swift parade shall ride,
Throughout all time to be;
Beneath, fleet ships from every port,
Vast landlocked bay, historic fort,
And dwarfing all–the sea.

To north, the Redwood Empire’s gates;
‘To south, a happy playground waits,
in Rapturous appeal;
Here nature, free since time began,
Yields to the restless moods of man,
Accepts his bonds of steel.

Launched midst a thousand hopes and fears,
Damned by a thousand hostile sneers,
Yet ne’er its course was stayed,
But ask of those who met the foe
Who stood alone when faith was low,
Ask them the price they paid.

Ask of the steel, each strut and wire,
Ask of the searching, purging fire,
That marked their natal hour;
Ask of the mind, the hand, the heart,
Ask of each single, stalwart part,
What gave it force and power.

An Honored cause and nobly fought
And that which they so bravely wrought,
Now glorifies their deed,
No selfish urge shall stain its life,
Nor envy, greed, intrigue, nor strife,
Nor false, ignoble creed.

High overhead its lights shall gleam,
Far, far below life’s restless stream,
Unceasingly shall flow;
For this was spun its lithe fine form,
To fear not war, nor time, nor storm,
For Fate had meant it so.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Written upon completion of the Bridge sometime in 1937

I am the thing that men denied,
The right to be, the urge to live;
And I am that which men defied,
Yet I ask naught for what I give.

My arms are flung across the deep,
Into the clouds my towers soar,
And where the waters never sleep,
I guard the California shore.

Above the fogs of scorn and doubt,
Triumphant gleams my web of steel;
Still shall I ride the wild storms out,
And still the thrill of conquest feel.

The passing world may never know
The epic of my grim travail;
It matters not, nor friend or foe –
My place to serve and none to fail.

My being cradled in despair,
Now grown so wondrous fair and strong,
And glorified beyond compare,
Rebukes the error and the wrong.

Vast shafts of steel, wave-battered pier,
And all the splendor meant to be;
Wind-swept and free, these, year on year,
Shall chant my hymm of Victory!

Source: goldengatebridge.org 

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Who Wants to be a Millionaire

We all want more money right? What if you could be a millionaire? What would you do with the money?

The economy is changing all the time and I think one of the most important things we can teach our kids is how to be self-sufficient. My son already has a few ideas for businesses he would like to start and I am going to work with him to develop mini-business plans and outline goals for his businesses. What kind of business would your kids start if they could ? What are they passionate about and how could they turn that into a business? Short post today, but here are some links with information on how to get your kids to think like an entrepreneur!

http://bizkids.com/themes/entrepreneurship

http://www.entrepreneurkidsacademy.com/

http://www.kidpreneurs.org/

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/238987

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