Wild About Birds!

wild about birds

Birds are pretty amazing creatures if you think about it. Tiny hummingbirds buzz around looking for nectar reaching speeds up to 30 miles per hour. During dives, they can hit 60 miles per hour. They can fly backwards and even upside down. We like to watch them as they zip around our yard.

Passenger pigeons were once the most abundant bird in America. There are accounts of people hearing what they thought to be thunder, only to find themselves instead in the path of thousands of passenger pigeons as they soared overhead. As America grew and people searched for food and commerce, the passenger pigeon became a hot commodity. Eventually, settlers poisoned and hunted the birds to near extinction. The last passenger pigeon died in captivity in 1914. Read an exceptional article about the passenger pigeons here.

Can you identify the birds outside your window? I can’t identify most of them, but we are planning a bird watching hike with some friends at the San Joaquin Marsh and the Sea & Sage Audubon. I love the trails there, and you can spot over 200 bird species. Hopefully I will learn a thing or two about identifying birds. What are your favorite spots for bird watching?


Questions for Conversation

Can you think of any other birds that are extinct? Endangered?

What do you think poses the biggest threat to birds today?

How can you help protect birds?


General Information






Activities and Printables


Free Bird Printable Set of Hunting Red







Celebrating Cinco De Mayo!


cinco de mayo

Cinco de Mayo comes around every year, and people celebrate with Mexican food and drink. As if we really need a reason to enjoy tacos or carnitas. But do you know why Cinco de Mayo exists? What is the celebration all about? Some common responses I’ve heard are Mexican independence day and the day Mexico became free from Spain. Cinco de Mayo is actually the day that celebrates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Mexico was already free from Spain, but they owed a lot of money to France and other European countries thanks to the loans they received during the Mexican War with the United States and the Mexican Civil War. Mexico got tired of paying their debt in the early 1860s and stopped sending payment to France. On May 5, 1862, Napoleon III’s army faced an ill-equipped Mexican troop who defeated the French, postponing Maximilian I’s title as Emperor of Mexico. A year later, the French returned and accomplished what they had set out to do, but the underdog’s victory at the Battle of Puebla is what we celebrate every Cinco de Mayo.

Questions for Conversation

Can you think of any other battles or disputes in which the underdog won?

Why do you think the Mexican army was able to defeat the French?


General Information







Activities and Printables









Download the May 10-Minute Teacher Calendar and follow along with us this month as we teach and talk with our kids everyday! May 2015 10-Minute Teacher

Celebrating Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press

Freedom of speech

Today’s discussion about Freedom of Speech is a topic on the May 10-Minute Teacher calendar. Download a copy from the link below, hang it on your fridge, and use it to initiate a conversation with your kids anytime. 

May 2015 10-Minute Teacher

Today, people are always expressing themselves. Sometimes we do it in a blog post, other times we share our thoughts on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. We also talk to friends, family, and strangers about our religious beliefs, our political views, and everything in between. Freedom of speech is one of the most basic elements that allow us to continue in a democratic state. We have the right to talk about our choices and share our opinions with others, and to oppose things that we feel are detrimental to our liberties. With this freedom, we can speak out when we feel there is a wrong and ask others to help us make things right.

The first amendment was included in the Bill of Rights, a document that was created to address important elements that many felt were missing form the new Constitution and was implemented in 1791.

The First Amendment to the Constitution includes Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. Here is a brief description from Scholastic.com:

Freedom of Speech. This freedom entitles American citizens to say what they think, provided they do not intentionally hurt someone else’s reputation by making false accusations. Neither may they make irresponsible statements deliberately harmful to others, such as yelling, “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. There are many issues about which Americans disagree, from child-rearing practices to baseball teams to Presidential candidates. Freedom of speech enables people to state their opinions openly to try to convince others to change their minds.

The First Amendment also gives you the right to disagree with what others say without fear of punishment by the government authorities. However, if you make an outrageous statement, such as, “The earth is flat,” free speech will not keep people from making fun of you. If you express an unpopular opinion — for example, that students do not get enough homework — don’t be surprised if your classmates avoid you. The First Amendment does not prevent social or peer pressure to conform to what others think.

Freedom of the Press. This freedom makes it possible for Americans to keep informed about what is going on in government. It helps them to be responsible citizens. Reporters and editors can criticize the government without the risk of punishment, provided they do not deliberately tell lies. Newspapers, magazines, and books, as well as television and movie scripts, do not have to be submitted for government inspection before they are published. This censorship would violate the First Amendment.” (Source: Scholastic.com)








Questions for conversation:

1. What do you think life would be like if we did not have freedom of speech?

2. What kind of news do you think we would see in the newspaper if there were no freedom of the press? Do you think there would be a newspaper?

3. What kind of speech or communication is not protected by freedom of speech?



Rhinos and the Empire State Building

save the rhinos

Did you know that the Empire State Building opened on May 1st in the year 1931? At 102 stories, it was the tallest building in the world. With the push of a button by President Hoover, the lights came on and the building was ready to go. Have you ever been to the top of the Empire State Building? I had the opportunity to go, but it was cloudy the day I visited. And between myself and the other three girls I was with, we talked ourselves out of it. I blame it on the nerves.  That day, we blamed it on the clouds.

Learn about the Empire State Building here:


Recreate the Empire State Building in Legos


The 10-Minute Teacher Calendar mentions Rhinos as the discussion topic for the weekend. Rhinos are one of the most endangered species in the world. There are less than 100 Javan rhinos left, and when all five species of rhinos are combined, there are still less than 26,000 animals alive to date. Did you know that there was a woolly rhino? just like the woolly mammoth, it is now extinct but you can learn more about this and other rhinos at the International Rhino Foundation website.

Rhino Information and Education:






New for May: 10-Minute Teacher Calendar and Space Day

space day

Happy May! I’ve got a lot going on this month, as I’m sure you do too. Our calendar fills up quickly and we are all full of activities and weekend events. One new thing I will be implementing is my 10-Minute Teacher Calendar. Everyday during the week there is a new calendar topic (and one for each weekend) that you can use to engage with your children. Maybe it will include a 10-minute discussion over dinner, or maybe it will turn into something you want to explore deeper to learn more. The hope is that we can use this calendar to add a few minutes of education to our day, as well as giving us the opportunity to connect and have a quality discussion with one another. Want to give it a try? Download the calendar here: May2015 10 minute teacher and hang it on your fridge. Everyday I will be posting here about that topic with links, resources and books you can use to further your discussion and exploration, and sometimes a few extra topic ideas. Let’s get started!

10 minute teacher

May 1st is Space Day, generally celebrated the first Friday in May. This day was created to remember the advances and discoveries we have made through space exploration. Here are some links you might be interested in:

Space Day Information and Events





General Space Information






Games and Education






Books, Sticker Books and Flash Cards

Click on the images for more information

Usborne Book of Astronomy & Space  Astronomy and Space Sticker Book   Sun, Moon and Stars   living in space   100 things to spot in the night sky   look inside space   space   build your own space ships sticker book   First sticker book space   big book of stars and planets   solar system   on the moon


Historical Non-Fiction: What We’re Reading

historical nonfiction

We love reading and we love history. There are few things more exciting than getting a glimpse into what life in the past was like, especially when it is presented in well-told tales or realistic “you are there” language. We love our history book – we use the Children’s Encyclopedia of American History. But we like to supplement, and find other interesting books that tell the whole story and not just bits and pieces. So we’ve recently found a few historical non-fiction series’ that I want to share.

Blast to the Past – This series is about a group of school-children that run into historic dilemmas and are able to travel back in time to address the issue. For example, in Lincoln’s Legacy, he almost decided not to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation and the children traveled back in time to help Lincoln understand why the proclamation was important and see that his decision would change the United States forever.

My Name Is America – This series features a different person in each book and is formatted as journal entries. We are reading The Journal of Augustus Pelletier: The Lewis and Clark Expedition and are enjoying learning about his journey, his struggles, and the things he encounters along the way.

My America – The same format as My Name is America, these journal entry books follow a specific character for two or three books, learning more about their life as you go along. We are finishing book one of Elizabeth’s journey in My America: Our Strange New Land: Elizabeth’s Journey Book One. My son especially enjoyed telling me about Elizabeth’s relationship with John Smith and Pocahontas.

On My Own History is a well illustrated account of historic events such as the schoolchildren’s blizzard, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, or the composition of the Star Spangled Banner. The stories are sensitive enough for younger readers, but address the true event in a factual light.

Do you have a favorite historical non-fiction series? Please share it with us!

Social Studies Project Activites

As we near the end of the school year, our original curriculum has been mostly used up. We’ve been making due with the books I have here at home and using some online resources here and there but I wanted to find something that helps us put what we’re learning on paper, that isn’t just filling out a worksheet or answering reading comprehension questions. My son is a hands-on kid and likes to focus on a project rather than write everything down in paragraph form. I do make him do writing prompts and reading comprehension now and then, but I want to help him learn in a way that is fun for him, because I can see the thoughtfulness in his eyes and in his work when he is doing something that he enjoys.

While I am pretty good at developing writing prompts and putting together general lessons, my creativity lacks when it comes to projects that display what he’s learned. There’s really only so much you can do with a paper plate. And while I love looking at pinterest, I get lost in the images sometimes and find that some of the projects require so many special materials that I don’t have on hand. And I’d really like to cut back on the time I spend browsing the internet. So I went and browsed the local teacher supply store and found these two books packed full of creative project ideas. Perfect!

40 social studies activities   25 social studies avtivities

Friday is our adventure day so I didn’t have anything planned for the afternoon, but I found an easy activity in 40 Fabulous Social Studies Activities that my son thought would be fun. He’s reading about Japan right now, so he started his own Band Book about Japan. Here is some of his work:

Book of japan


The band book is a few pieces of paper cut into strips, folded over, and you cut triangles off at the corners leaving the pages connected by the middle section  at the fold. Wrap a long rubberband twice around at the fold and fold the pages over so you get a book with a rubberband binding at the top. Easy, cute idea that he thought looked fun and he is choosing to add things about Japan like Mt. Fuji and the raccoon dog. Tomorrow he plans on adding the Japanese words that he knows.

There are tons of other great ideas in these books. If you are like me and need some help with project development, I definitely recommend these!

What are your go-to resources for project ideas?

Mathematics Education Month: What We’re Using for Math

math education month

March had National Pi Day, but April is Mathematics Education Month. I’ve done several write-ups about math including this post on math manipulatives and a Pi Day post for Dandelion Moms.

Around here, we try to do math every day, although we do mix it up a bit. For example, last week we did one or two worksheets out of our Saxon Math 1st grade workbooks, he finished the last few problems in his 2nd grade Lakeshore Common Core Workbooks, he started his 3rd grade Common Core workbook, and we spent a day practicing counting money (I’d give him different denominations and he had to see how much it all added up to.) We got the common core workbooks because we wanted to see how it was different from what we were already doing, and I chose different grades because I wanted to see what he already knows and what we need to start working on. He actually really enjoys doing these workbooks, minus the in-depth explanation of how he found his answer.

0001590_300  0000849_300

Since we started adding Usborne books to our collection, we have found several new books and tools that make math fun to learn and practice. We love the First Illustrated Math Dictionary. The illustrations are so playful that my 3-year old loves to sit down and read it. She practices counting and names all the shapes she finds. The book covers everything in a fun and kid-friendly way from counting from 1-100, how to use a calculator, lines of symmetry, number lines, counting in groups and so much more. We love it. It’s perfect for pre-k and up.

The next step up is the Illustrated Elementary Math Dictionary. This book has the same fun illustrations but adds more difficult mathematics to the mix. This is a great resource for students, but is also super-helpful for parents! This one gives you the tools you need to understand the math your kids are bringing home, and how to help them work through the problems.

We also love the Wipe-Clean activity books. The repetition is great for practice and the kids use their books over and over again. Two of our wipe-clean books are two years old and we still use them on a regular basis.

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Here are some other great books and tools that will help you learn and love math! Click on the images for more information about each item.

Lift The Flap Times Tables   First Numbers Flash Cards   What's Math All About?   Finger Match Math Readiness   Illustrated Dictionary of Math   First Numbers Sticker Book

1st Grade Math Center Kit   10 Days to Addition Mastery   Math Kid Kit and Dictionaries

Math Center Kits are available for grades K-2 and the Mastery Box sets are available for addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Looking for something specific? Please feel free to message me at heidideal711@gmail.com and I’ll help you find what you’re looking for!

How do you make math fun? What out-of-the-box activities do you like to do with your kids?


National Poetry Month: What We’re Writing

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and while we are on spring break this week, I am getting together our poetry study for next week. We will be working on three different types of poems, rhyming poems, acrostic poems, and haiku. Rhyming poems are pretty straight-forward. In a couplet, every set of lines has a rhyme at the end, while triplets and quatrains are sets of three or four lines with rhyming patterns like AAA and ABA for triplets, and AABB or ABAB for quatrains. These will be fun and I look forward to seeing what my kiddos come up with. Here are the guidelines for acrostic and haiku poems:

Acrostic Poems

Acrostic poems are fun and easy to write. Choose a subject, and the letters from your word begin each line of the poem. The lines of the poem should tell a story about your word. Here’s an example:

Fish have flippers and fins.

In the ocean and lakes they live.

Swimming, swimming everywhere.

Happily swimming without a care.

Younger children can use short words of course, but you can increase the difficulty of this task by choosing longer words. If you want to add another educational element that increases the difficulty, choose something you’re studying, like the Civil War, and see if they can include facts about their topic in the poem.


I remember writing haiku when I was a kid. I liked this style of writing because it didn’t have to rhyme, but still, it could get tricky with the syllable requirements. Here are the guidelines for writing a haiku:

1st Line = 5 syllables

2nd Line = 7 syllables

3rd Line = 5 syllables

Haiku originated in Japan and in their original form, should evoke emotion about nature-related themes, especially the seasons. However, for learning purposes, you can teach your kids the basic structure using any topic. One thing to emphasize is the ability to tell a story or compose a complete thought with limited words. Here’s an example of a haiku:

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

– Bashō

We picked up a few books about poetry that we will use for inspiration. This is what we chose (the links below are affiliate links):

childrens poems  pocket poems  lives  immersed in verse
The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems

Pocket Poems

Lives: Poems About Famous Americans

Immersed In Verse

What activities will you be doing for National Poetry Month?

April Activities and Inspiration

April Activities & Inspiration

We welcome the month of April with pranks and jokes. Some say it originated when the calendar changed from Julian to Gregorian and the beginning of the year was moved to January 1st instead of April 1st. Years later, people who still celebrated according to the Julian New Year in April were teased and pranked by modern calendar observers.

Anywho, all joking aside, there are lots of things to celebrate in April: Easter, poetry, math, libraries, writing. So in order to celebrate properly, I put together a pack of writing prompts with April-related topics that you can download here:

April Writing Prompts

Also, April is National Poetry Month and I found this amazing poetry book that I am so excited to share with you. Dare to Dream…Change the World (aff) used to be available on my Usborne page. I just found it yesterday when I was searching for poetry books. However, it seems to be out of print there now. I found it on Amazon, so that’s the link I am sharing here. I LOVE the format of this book. It features poetry by prestigious poets who are writing about famous people who have changed the lives of many. Some of the subjects include Jonas Salk, Nicholas Cobb, and Steven Spielberg. In addition to poetry about the subjects, you’ll find a brief biological portrait. Dare to Dream became a writing contest for children who entered their own poetry and nonfiction passage about inspirational people. The results of the 2013 and 2014 writing contests were turned into free downloadable eBooks. You can download those here:

2013 Dare to Dream eBook

2014 Dare to Dream eBook

dare to dream change the world

We will be spending a lot of time on poetry this month. Do you include it in your reading or schooling? What poets do your children love?



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