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Read Aloud Thursday

I am super excited about this week’s Read Aloud Thursday!  After several weeks of being unable to spend much time in the library, we’re finally back in the game!  In fact, we currently have books from two libraries, and we are really enjoying the discovery of some new treasures.  Let’s get started!
A Cold Snap!: Frost Poems by Audrey B. Baird is the first poetry collection I’ve shared in a while, but I couldn’t resist this one.  I’ll admit up front that I usually enjoy poetry far more than my girls do, but I keep reading it to them in the hopes (conviction?) that they, too, will love it one day.  It might be that this one is just a wee bit over their heads, with its figurative language and puns, but exposure never hurt anyone, right?  A Cold Snap! is chock full of poems about cold weather, and it’s just a delight.  I don’t want to share any of the poems in their entirety here, but here’s a little teaser, from a poem entitled “Trees and Me”: 

Trees undress

in November,


their clothes

where they stand.

The ending of this short little poem is quite clever and witty, and I think it would really tickle the funny bone of children not too much older than mine.  Patrick O’Brien‘s illustrations match the tone of each poem, which I think is most important in a poetry book for children.   Highly Recommended, especially if you’re studying (or enjoying or enduring) winter weather

Now this one did tickle their funny bones, and mine, too. 
Good Times on Grandfather Mountain by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is a folktale, of sorts, about an old man named Old Washburn who just won’t be beaten by anything.  Old Washburn’s talents are whittling and looking on the bright side, and he can do both with the best of them.  When his cow, Blanche Wisconsin, runs away, he confesses that her milk never did make good cheese, anyway.  When a storm blows down his house, he admits that he’s just at home under the stars as under a roof.  In addition to his optimistic declarations, he literally turns his losses into something to add beauty to the world:  he whittles himself a whole array of mountain musical instruments.  I won’t give away the ending to the story, but it’s very satisfying.  Susan Gaber‘s watercolor illustrations are colorful and folksy; they remind me a little bit of Patricia Polacco‘s.  (This is a huge compliment from me!)  Some of the illustrations are close-ups that take up a whole page, and I really like that.  This one’s good–Louise requested that I read it again immediately after the first go-through.  (Hmm–I just realized that Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the author of Snowflake Bentley!  No wonder we like Good Times on Grandfather Mountain so much!  You can visit Ms. Martin’s website here  for a list of her other titles.)

This last one is pure silliness and fun.  Coriander the Contrary Hen–the title just about says it all, especially if any of the little chicks (or hens or roosters!) at your house have a tendency towards contrariness.  😉  Coriander the hen decides that she will no longer roost in the chicken coop with the other cooperative hens.  Oh, no–she decides to make her nest in the middle of the road.  What ensues is a country traffic jam of gigantic proportions.  Of course, Coriander behaves in the end, but her contrariness spunkiness is evident clear to the last page.  Dori Chaconas incorporates lots of onomatopoeia and rhyme into this story, which is perfect for my blossoming reader.  Marsha Gray Carrington‘s cartoonish illustrations even include some of the text (namely, the onomatopoeic or rhyming words), and this made it even easier for my girl to follow along.  We all got a kick out of this one!

I’m feeling abundantly blessed right now–it’s amazing to me that I can simply visit my local library and come home with this much literary wealth!  🙂

What is your family feasting on this week?  Please share your family read-alouds with us by linking up your blog post on the MckLinky below, or simply by leaving a comment!  Please feel free to use the Read Aloud Thursday button, too!

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Friday’s Vintage Find::The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader

Just in case I haven’t shared enough books about show this week, I thought I’d share one more.  (You can read my other posts here and here.)  😉  The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader was published in 1948 and won the 1949 Caldecott Medal.  (Newsflash:  I just realized that I usually refer to this as the Caldecott Award, when its title is actually the Caldecott Medal.  I stand corrected.)  This book is as deserving of this medal as any I’ve seen; reading this book is like looking through an artist’s nature sketchbook.  The illustrations alternate between color and black and white.  It’s very vintage-y, as one would expect from a book over fifty years old.  It was probably just that familiar musty smell, but our borrowed library copy reminds me of something (old encyclopedias, I think) that I used to read at my grandparents’ house.  The story itself is very simple–a huge variety of animals get ready for a big snow.  In the end, many of them depend on humans to feed them.  Reading this book made me want to get out in the freezing (for Alabama, anyway) cold weather and finally put up those bird feeders we bought back in October. 

I give this one a Highly Recommended.

Read Aloud Thursday::Katy and the Big Snow Go-Alongs

I generally prefer for my Read Aloud Thursday posts to be all nice and random, but life, with all its requisite nightly activities, has begun in earnest at the House of Hope this week.  The girls have resumed their music classes, and I, alas, must hie me to the local community college twice weekly for instructing students in reading skills.  (Appropriate, huh?)  I wanted to make the books we’ve enjoyed as a part of our Five in a Row unit on Katy and the Big Snow all its own post, but I’m killing two birds with one stone here for sake of time.

I’ve highlighted Ezra Jack Keats before here at Hope Is the Word, but I only mentioned The Snowy Day briefly in that post.  However, no sharing of books about snow would be complete without this Caldecott Award-winning book!  The Snowy Day is about Keats’ most famous (only?) character, Peter, and the fun he has out-of-doors on an unexpected snowy day.  With simple, colorful illustrations and a story line that capitalizes on the fun even a city boy can have when his world turns white with snow, this is a perfect example of how good a simple picture book can be.  Highly, highly recommended, and I’m adding it to my Best Picture Books list to prove it!  🙂

This next one is pure silliness, but I like it.  There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow! by Lucille Colandro is my favorite of the ones of read of her “Old Lady Who” series, and I’ll admit that it took a second reading for me to even get that in this book she isn’t the “old” lady, but the “cold” lady.  Cute, huh?  More perceptive readers than I will probably recognize what it is, exactly, that’s percolating in that cavernous stomach of hers (based on what she swallows), but I thought it was very clever.  My girls like this one a lot, too, and the illustrations by Jared Lee are just as appropriately colorful and silly.

I don’t usually like wordless picture books, but I do like Emily Arnold McCully’s illustrations (and her writing, too, for that matter), and this one works for us.   (Ironically enough, we inadvertently ended up with two McCully books from one library run, and they’ve both made Read Aloud Thursday!)  I’m beginning to suspect it’s because Louise is much more willing to narrate the story for us, and now that she’s old enough, Lulu’s predilections don’t have as much sway over what we read, etc.  Anyway, First Snow is a sweet, sweet picture book about a family of mice who take a day to go sledding, and one little girl mouse overcomes her fright of going down the big hill to have the best time of all.  One good thing about wordless picture books is that they force you to really stop and inspect each page.  I have such respect and admiration for children’s book illustrators that this is always a good thing for me.

This last book really deserves a post all its own, but as you know, I’m trying to kill the proverbial two (or three or four) birds with one stone here. 
I’ve been on a quest to purchase all of Robert Sabuda’s pop-up books ever since the fateful day I ran across his Narnia book at my local Tuesday Morning.  Since then we’ve added Peter Pan: A Classic Collectible Pop-Up, and just before Christmas I ran across a banged up copy of Winter’s Tale at T.J. Maxx.  I paid more than I should’ve for it, given its condition (some of the pop-ups are a little crumpled; some feature, I suspect musical, at the end of the book just doesn’t work), but I couldn’t resist.  I’d already given the book a place of honor on our shelf, next to our other pop-up titles, when I happened to remember it.  I’m so glad I did!  The girls really enjoyed this 3-D version of a world covered in snow, and we all marvelled at Sabuda’s ability to create such intricate likenesses of snow-bound creatures like an owl, a family of deer, and a moose.  This would make a great companion to any book that focuses on snow and its effects on the animal world.  One bonus for me was that since the book is already less-than-perfect, it was easier for me to give in and let the girls really look at it.  If you’re unfamiliar with Robert Sabuda, be sure to visit his website for a taste of what this amazing paper engineer has to offer.  You’ll be hooked, too!   🙂

One last title that I want to share in detail here is another Caldecott Award winner.  Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian actually appears in a later volume of Five in a Row (we’re currently in volume one), but I couldn’t resist sharing it with my girls this time through.  It is the true story of Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farmer whose passion in life was collecting and photographing snowflakes.  The story is all about his determination to follow his dream, despite the hard work and sacrifice.  My girls enjoyed this book tremendously, and while I didn’t read every detail about his life to them (there is more information in the “sidebars” of the story), they liked it enough to request it twice in a row.  The illustrations truly are worthy of their Caldecott distinction–woodcuts with watercolors–beautiful!  I’m pretty sure there’s no shortage of resources out there for this book, but I did want to link the Original Wilson Bentley images website for those of you who are unfamiliar with this remarkable story. 

We did read a few more titles, of course, which I’ll  list here:

Some other titles which we’ve read before would’ve made a great addition to this unit, if only I’d had the foresight to borrow them again from the library:

I had planned to read The Long Winter for our next chapter book selection (Louise having declared that she’s afraid of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which was my other choice), but it turns out that I no longer own this book, or at least I can’t find it.  I settled on Farmer Boy instead; since it is set in New York, I figured that much of the book has to take place in a winter time decidedly more winter-ish than ours. 

I was inspired by Candace’s Winter Nature Study post at His Mercy Is New, also. 

Whew!  That’s an unusually long Read Aloud Thursday post, and if you’re still with me, thank you!  🙂  I actually have at least one more book to share, but it will wait for Friday since it’s actually a Vintage Find.  😉  I also hope to share some pictures of our lapbooks, but since we haven’t put them together, that will also have to wait for a future post.  Stay tuned!

What about your family?  Is it cold enough where you live for everyone to hunker down by the fireplace for some good, old-fashioned entertainment in the form of shared stories?  Please tell us about it by either leaving a comment or linking up you blog post below! 

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Read Aloud Thursday

As much as I love Christmas, I am glad to shelve all the Christmas titles for another year and get back to glorious randomness.  🙂 

Although we do not live in a large city, we are blessed to have several libraries within a five mile radius of each other, and I am always pleasantly surprised when we deviate from our normal routine and visit one of the ones we don’t frequent as often.  We did that at the end of last week, and I was so happy to learn that not only does one of our local libraries own the entire Road to Avonlea series (which doesn’t relate to Read Aloud Thursday, but I thought I’d mention it in honor of the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge😉  ), it also has a wonderful and varied assortment of children’s audiobooks.  The girls have already enjoyed listening to Heidi (unabridged!), as well as a few more that I might get around to posting about some day. 

Of course, the point of this post is not to sing the praises of the library, but to mention a few picture books we’ve enjoyed together.  I’m coming to that.  🙂

When I saw Mountain Dance and Cloud Dance on the shelf, I knew we had to have them.  We’re no stranger to Thomas Locker’s beautiful artwork; we have read a companion title, Water Dance, before, as well as the beautiful book Sky Tree.  Would that I had known about Cloud Dance earlier this year when we studied clouds!  (You can read about that adventure here and here.)  Cloud Dance does a beautiful job of gently pointing out the different types of clouds in a very inobtrusive way.  This is not a science text book–as in all of Locker’s books, the illustrations take center stage and do most of the “talking.”  However, there is a two-page spread at the back of the book which provides plenty of technical information.  Mainly, though, I just love looking at the pictures.  Similarly, Mountain Dance relies on gorgeous illustrations to discuss what I consider a very dry topic:  the formation of mountains.  This one’s actually a little over my girls’ heads (and maybe even over mine–earth science was never my best subject!), but the illustrations alone make it a worthwhile book to share.  This one also contains four pages of explanatory material, so either of these books (or any of Locker’s, for that matter) would be entirely appropriate even up to high school, in my opinion.

The other book I have to share today is one of those fun-with-a-subtle-message books, but being the moralist that I am, I love those.  😉  I have unfortunately been unable to find a picture of the cover of The Amazing Felix by Emily Arnold McCully, but if you’re familiar with her Caldecott Award-winning Mirette on the High Wire, its illustrations will seem very familiar.  The Amazing Felix is the story of a little boy named Felix who is traveling on board an early nineteenth century ship with his mother and sister to meet his father, a famous concert pianist.  He and his sister have been commissioned by their father to practice their piano faithfully so that when they meet up again, he will be proud of their progress.  Felix, however, doesn’t love the piano, so he does not practice faithfully.  On board the ship, though, a magician catches his eye, and in the sleight of hand tricks that this fellow teaches him, Felix finds something he is willing to practice.  The story ends well with Felix getting his sister out of a scrape through his level-headedness and then entertaining an audience not with this piano skills, but with his magic skills.  His father is, of course, proud of his accomplishments and even admits that magic tricks are something he wishes he could perform.  Lesson learned:  find something you are passionate about and do it.  A good lesson, right?

We’ve been busy this week reading about snow, too, since we’re supposed to have some early Thursday morning and where we live in the Deep South this is a rare occurrence indeed.   Watch for a post later this afternoon if we do happen to hit the jackpot.  Either way, look for a few posts about some snow-related books in the near future!

I’m really excited about what 2010 holds for Read Aloud Thursday .  I’m looking forward to meeting new participants and getting to know returning participants even better, so let’s get the ball rolling with the first link-up!  Click below to link your blog post, or simply leave a comment.

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My Light by Molly Bang

I picked up My Light by Molly Bang not knowing what to expect.  I was familiar with When Sophie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry and a few of her other “touchy-feely” books, so I was surprised when I read My Light to my girls and found a beautiful picture book that provides a fantastic but not-too-technical overview of the energy cycle.  This story is told from the point of view of the sun and briefly goes through the water cycle and goes on to hit the high points of dams using water to produce electricity, windmills using air to produce electricity, and plants using light to produce food.  The plants then go into the earth to produce energy in the form of coal, which is used once again to produce electricity.  Solar energy is introduced last, and all of these disparate sources of electricity are synthesized into the flip of a light switch.  The book ends with a pulling away from earth, back to the viewpoint of the sun.  There are copious author notes detailing the energy cycle at the end of the book, as well as a link to Molly Bang’s website where she provides even more information.  (I also learned on her website that she has written several science books that I think would be worth a look.)  First and foremost, though, Molly Bang is a talented artist.  Her illustrations in this book almost literally pop off the page.  Because of the illustrations and the simple way in which a very complex process is described, I think this book has lots of kid appeal.  Lulu agrees.

nonfiction_mondayI’m linking this post up at this week’s Nonfiction Monday which is hosted by Wrapped in Foil.



As a part of TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a copy of Educaching:  GPS Based Curriculum for Teachers by Jason Hubbard and the Staff of SDG Creations, Ltd.  This 128-page curriculum is divided into five sections:

  • Teachers Training
  • Lesson Plans
  • Field Sheets
  • Acquiring GPS
  • Beyond the Basics

This curriculum is written by a fifth grade teacher who obviously has a good deal of knowledge about GPS units and the concept of geocaching, which he tweaks in this curriculum to make it more “educational.”  Plenty of introductory information about GPS units is provided so that even a novice (like me!) should be able to read the first section of the manual and have a pretty good idea about how to proceed.  The lesson plans are written for general classroom use in grades 4-8, and some of them are basically a technological version of a scavenger hunt.  For example, the curriculum suggests that a very basic “mathematical” educache is one in which math problems are hidden and then found via the GPS unit, solved in the field, and then brought back to the classroom for discussion.  However, some of the lesson plans actually integrate the subject matter and the technology so that the students are actually using the GPS unit as a part of the lesson, not just a fancy toy to get them out of the classroom.  One such lesson plan involves a class game of modified kickball in which the students each kick a ball as far as possible three times, input the location at which the ball lands as a waypoint in the GPS unit, and then return to the classroom and use the data for all sorts of mathematical calculations.  Although this curriculum is heavy on the science and math connection for obvious reasons, efforts are made to integrate all areas of the curriculum and make it a multifaceted approach.  Field sheets for recording data are included for each lesson.  A section for classroom teachers about how to acquire funds for classroom sets of GPS units are included.  The curriculum ends with several pages of ideas of how to take educaching beyond just the lesson plans provided.   

Although my children are young, I was excited to have a chance to review this curriculum because Steady Eddie has participated in geocaching himself and has used it in this job as a science educator and has talked enough about it for me to know it’s something I would enjoy.  However, I did not factor into the equation of receiving this curriculum that we would have the rainiest fall in memory.  We finally had enough of a break in the weather (and enough sense to plan to do it when we had a clear day!) earlier this week.  Because my girls are only 5 and 3, Steady Eddie set us up with a modified version of one of the lesson plans.  He marked four waypoints at various places around our neighborhood block, each one of which was near a tree or bush.  The original idea was to have the students identify the trees and plants.  Instead, Steady Eddie provided us with clues (typewritten AND in rhyme, no less), and I just intructed my girls to gather a leaf from each tree or bush we located.  (It would’ve actually been much harder to get them to NOT collect leaves–Louise, especially, excels at collecting nature specimens, and we have an overflowing nature shelf to prove it.)  I carried the GPS unit and did all of the navigating, but I did show it to the girls, and they were somewhat interested in it.  I am pleased to report that we properly identified three of the four plants.  (The one we missed had more to do with miscommunication between Steady Eddie and me than anything.  Keep in mind that he gave me my little GPS inservice/lesson preparation session just after 6:00 that morning before he left for work!)  The girls definitely enjoyed this activity, although I think it had more to do with the fact that daddy left us a scavenger hunt than the fact that we were “educaching.”  Obviously, my girls are still a little young for this.

Educaching is a neat idea, and I do think this curriculum covers the basics of using a GPS unit in an accessible way.  Although the lessons are geared toward classroom use, most of them are adaptible for homeschool use with fewer students.  However, I’m not sure that every single lesson would have enough educational value to warrant doing it for one or two students.  (Sometimes it’s just easier to solve the math problems and then go outside and enjoy a walk in nature sans technology, in my opinion.)  Educaching would be fun, though, for use in a co-op or some other group setting.  The curriculum itself is well written and it is obvious that a lot of thought, planning, and passion went into its design. 
Educaching is available for a cost of $32 plus shipping, handling and applicable taxes, or to avoid shipping costs, it can also be purchased in electronic format for $32 plus any sales tax.  You can also download sample lesson plans to see if Educaching might be a good fit for your homeschool or your homeschool group.  You can read more Homeschool Crew reviews here.

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This curriculum was sent to me free of charge for review purposes.

Nonfiction Monday::Seeds and Trees

nonfiction_mondayI was responsible for helping to teach a few lessons to our elementary homeschool group in September, and in preparation for this, I happened upon several good nonfiction selections about trees and plants that I wanted to share here at Hope Is the Word.

Seeds by Ken Robbins is a beautifully illustrated picture book which details a different type of seed every few pages.  Seeds as disparate as milkweed seeds and coconuts are discussed, and each discussion is accompanied by beautiful, almost life-sized illustrations.  The tone of this book is more conversational than text-bookish, which is the way I like my information served best.  🙂  If you’re looking for a beautiful and useful introduction to seeds, this one is not to be missed!  (As a side note, did you know that a maple tree seed is called a samara?  We didn’t, but we do now, thanks to this book!  My girls take great delight in picking up what we previously referred to as a “helicopter leaf” and saying, “Look!  I found a samara!”  Their joy at this is compounded by the fact that we know someone by that name.  🙂 )

A Tree Is Growing by Arthur Dorros is one of those books that is appropriate for different ages, depending on how it is read. 
The text of the book is conversational and straightforward.  My girls listened to it with no complaints, ‘though it is pretty detailed.  However, there are enough diagrams and labels to satisfy the curiosity of much older students, in addition to the fact that it contains copious amounts of side-bar information.  S.D. Schindler’s illustrations are gorgeously reminiscent of an old-timey nature journal, with the aforementioned diagram labels, etc.  This book is a joy to look at and to read.  I would be very happy to add this one to our home library!

If you’d like to read more juvenile nonfiction book reviews, Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by Jean Little Library.

Nature Friend Magazine and Study Guide

Nature FriendAs a part of TOS Homeschool Crew, I received two issues of Nature Friend magazine to try out in our homeschool at the House of Hope.  I put it off looking at it with my girls for a while, although I did look through it numerous times myself, enjoying the beautiful photography and the artwork.  I thought it would probably be way over my girls’ heads, since I have a kindergartener and a preschooler.  I knew, though, that I needed to put it to the test in order to write a balanced review of this resource.  As I was looking through the September 2009 issue, it finally registered with me that the first article in it would be a perfect place to start.  You see, a few weeks ago, this fellow somehow found his way into our home:

 walking stick

We spent a good deal of time capturing this walking stick and observing him. Lulu even took him to our homeschool group for show-and-tell. I’ll admit I was not too thrilled with the idea of capturing him (especially the second time 😉 )–something about these critters really gives me the creeps–but my girls were non-plussed by him. I knew, then, that Sharon H. Anderson’s article in the September 2009 Nature Friend, “Sticks That Walk,” would likely be a hit with them. I was right. Written as a short story in which a girl and her mother find a walking stick and discuss it, this article is full of facts about walking stick insects: they like certain types of leaves better than others, they can regenerate parts of their bodies, they molt, and it is usually only the males that have wings (which is how I knew to refer to this one in the masculine!). My girls have listened attentively as I read this article aloud twice already, and I’m pretty sure they could tell almost any layman a thing or two about the walking stick insect by now.

Nature Friend magazine has many features that are appealing to younger students, as I found when I opened to magazines to my children. The very first feature in each issue, a hidden-picture puzzle called “Invisibles,” was a real hit with my girls. They enjoyed searching for the various animals hidden in the picture, and they were able to find some of them with no help.  They enjoyed looking at the various readers’ submissions to the “You Can Draw” gallery, and they were particularly interested in the entries by children close to their ages.  In addition to the features I’ve mentioned in this review, any given issue of Nature Friend might contain 

  • Reader submitted “Pictures and Poems”
  • Puzzles and riddles
  • “Wondernose,” articles in which nature questions are discussed in depth
  • “The Mailbox,” in which reader-submitted letters, questions, and photographs are published
  • “Creation Close-ups”–more reader-submitted photographs
  • “You Can Draw”–step-by-step drawing lessons in which the subject is something from nature
  • “The Story Behind the Photo”–reader-submitted photographs with the details behind how they were captured
  • “Learning by Doing”–step-by-step activities in which some aspect of nature is observed and recorded

As the girls looked through the magazine, the beautiful photographs really caught their attention.  In fact, Louise requested that I read an article about a snapping turtle (well written by a twelve year old reader, I might add) based on the accompanying picture.  Obviously, photography is a big part of this magazine; each issue is full-color and contains many reader-submitted nature photographs.

If you’re a regular reader here at Hope Is the Word, you know that I enjoy nature photography, so this aspect of Nature Friend really appeals to me.  The magazines that I received for review also contain an additional feature:  a Study Guide, which is available by subscription for an extra $2 monthly.  One part of this Study Guide is a feature called “The Photo Critique.”  This feature provides helpful hints for taking better nature photos.   The Study Guide also includes puzzles, research questions, writing instruction, and even recipes!  For older children especially, I think the Study Guide would be an excellent and cost-effective additional resource.

The subtitle on the masthead of every Nature Friend magazine is “Helping Families Explore the Wonders of God’s Creation,” and this is a very accurate description for two reasons.  First, this is a Christian magazine written from an obviously Creationist viewpoint.  A Bible verse might be on any page, and each issue contains a “Motto for the Month,” which is a Bible verse superimposed over a beautiful nature photograph.  Second, this truly is a magazine the whole family can enjoy together.  Although according to the website the target age is 8-16, both my young children and I (well past my teens 😉 ) enjoy it. 

A year’s subscription to this monthly magazine is $36; including a year’s worth of the Study Guides would bring the yearly price to $48.  Although I would not consider such a resource as a necessity to a successful homeschool, I do think that it is extras like this that often “light a fire” in some students and give them the extra boost to pursue a passion.  If there is a little breathing room in the homeschool budget, I would consider Nature Friend magazine and its accompanying Study Guides as money well spent.  I even think Nature Friend would make an excellent birthday or Christmas gift, if it’s not in the education budget.  This magazine has been going strong since 1983, and it has many additional online features that would be helpful in determining if it would be a good fit for your family.  You can also view sample issues or even check out more TOS Homeschool Crew reviews for more opinions about this resource.

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Rock Spring Nature Walk

crossing the creek


September is hummingbird migration time, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird travels through our neck of the woods in large numbers.  In fact, you might remember several weeks ago that my girls had the unique experience of holding one!  One of the hummingbirds’ favorite spots is a place on the Natchez Trace Parkway that is just a little drive from our home.  The spot is called Rock Spring, and jewelweed grows profusely along the water there.  Hummingbirds love jewelweed! 

A couple of weeks ago, we drove down to Rock Spring on a Friday evening to see if we could observe some of the little birds in action.  It was already getting dusky-dark by the time we got there, and we have figured out after going late in the evening two years in a row that evening is not the best time to see hummingbirds.  Although we saw a few hummers, we didn’t see nearly the number we expected.

However, we did see a few other things that made the drive worthwhile!

We saw fog, which was perfect since we had just read Hide and Seek Fog (my thoughts here).


We saw jewelweed, of course, which is a very interesting looking plant.


jewelweed, closeup

We even saw an large, older beaver dam which we remembered from our trip last year.

beaver dam, large

We were surprised, however, to see a smaller beaver dam this year!  These fellows have been hard at work!  I love how the spring is already diverting around the dam.

beaver dam, small

By the time we got to the end of the trail, night had come to the woods and it was too dark for me to get any good pictures of the girls throwing rocks into the spring.  It was a good evening of family togetherness and being out in  God’s beautiful creation, even if we didn’t see many hummingbirds!

jewelweed and beaver dam

Next year we’ll have to remember to make this a day trip!

Storm in the Night Go-Alongs

Our first FIAR selection of the year, Storm in the Night, spawned a study of clouds, thanks to one of the science lessons presented in Five in a Row volume one and a few things I saw on Homeschool Share.  By the time we finished our readings and activities, Lulu (and sometimes Louise, too) could converse freely about types of clouds and offer our opinion about whether a cloud is cumulus, stratus, or cirrus.  As a family, we also discussed nimbus clouds and even dabbled a little bit in the more complex cloud types:  nimbostratus (or is it stratonimbus?), cumulonimbus, altostratus, etc. 

To introduce the idea of clouds and to expose my girls more to reading nonfiction (we have the fiction part down), I borrowed from the library a number of weather-related and cloud-related nonfiction selections.  Most of them were series books, and really, most of them were just okay, nothing terribly inspiring.  I will mention one here, though, just because I happen to really like the author.  🙂  Tomie DePaola’s The Cloud Book is a fun resource for cloud study because it contains more than just the rudimentary information on types of clouds, etc.  It delves a little into the history and mythology associated with clouds, as well as weather forecasting based on clouds.  Although it contains more details than my girls really need to know at their ages, Lulu will always remember that cirrus clouds look like “mare’s tails.”   😉  With DePaola’s trademark illustrations, this one is a great volume for a study of clouds.

Really, though, nothing beats just going out and looking up, right?  We did a lot of that, too. 



nonfiction_mondayThanks to Sherry, I’ve found a new carnival to participate in!  😉  I’m linking this post over at Bookends Blog for this week’s Nonfiction Monday.