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Diverse Representation in Children’s Nature Books

First, Let’s Talk About the Lack

The lack of diverse representation in children’s nature-based books should come as no surprise. If that statement does surprise you, I recommend reading this article from The Atlantic from 2019:

Where Is the Black Blueberries For Sal? (Ashley Fetters)

The article talks about how most children’s book in nature-based landscapes feature either animals or white families. Further, many picture books that do feature black children in nature do so either in an urban landscape or in the wilderness as they escape from slavery.

All children deserve to see themselves represented in picture books. For more on this, I recommend viewing Amber O’neal Johnston’s lecture Mirrors & Windows: When Living Books Are Not Enough (Charlotte Mason Inspired Online Conference, 2020).

There are a great many nature-based children’s books available but only a small amount feature BIPOC families. Bears have better representation in children’s books than BIPOC children! Since creating this website I have been an advocate for regular nature-based experiences for children, combating in Richard Louv’s words Nature-Deficit Disorder. And I truly believe that children seeing themselves represented in nature adventures in picture books at such a young age can attribute to that desire and practice. 

Where Do I Look for Diverse Books?

How Do I Support BIPOC Authors and Illustrators?

  1. Buy their books!
  2. Write to publishers asking to see more diverse representation
  3. Educate yourself more and more

Diverse Nature-Based Picture Books

I am not going to pretend to be an expert on diversity or diverse books as a whole, but I do consider myself a connoisseur of nature-based books. I receive review copies of nature-based books from a range of children’s book publishing companies (large and small) and have noticed a trend in the last year or so to include more non-white children and families in nature landscapes. That said, there still is a major lack of representation in terms of the authors and illustrators. The books I am highlighting are worthy of celebrating, but there is still a long way to go.

Today, I am sharing my list of 40+ favorite nature-based children’s picture books that represent diverse characters. The hope is for more and more books featuring diverse protagonists, back to the original article I shared: the black Blueberries for Sal.

I will continue to add to this list as new books come in.

I have housed my list in two places:

Diverse Nature Based Picture Books – Bookshop
Diverse Nature Based Picture Books –Amazon

You can view a video flip-through of some of these on my YouTube channel.

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Our First Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

FIRST GRADE HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM.jpg

ABOUT OUR HOMESCHOOL

What School Year Are We In?

This coming year I have a 6-turning-7 year old and a 5 year old. My oldest will be doing his First Grade year and youngest will be doing Kindergarten. We have been homeschooling from the beginning with both children — you can read about our Preschool and Kindergarten curriculum choices and years of learning on this blog.

What I Changed This Year

This year I am changing some things up a bit and I am very excited about it! Last year (for Kindergarten) we used The Good & the Beautiful for Math AND Language Arts but this year I have chosen not to continue with The Good & the Beautiful. I honestly do not have any major complaints — they provide wonderful curriculum options at very low prices. Truthfully, the low cost was a major factor in my choice for that for Kindergarten. Plus, the Level K Language Arts program helped me teach my son to read. How cool is that?! That said, we ended up skipping a LOT of the curriculum — both in the Language Arts and the Math–more so in the Language Arts. And I had concerns about continuing with it. I will explain more in detail in those subject areas below.

What Is my Homeschool Philosophy?

Note also that I do not follow any one homeschool philosophy. If you are new to homeschooling I recommend you check out my Homeschooling Resources page for helpful articles and quizzes on a variety of philosophies as well as websites and curriculum broken down by a few of my favorite philosophies. We are an eclectic mix of all the things and I am happy to change it up at any time.

Preference for Secular Curriculum

One other factor that has guided our curriculum choices: We are cautiously Christian and prefer secular curriculum. I did not realize this last year but I do know now! We are a Christian family and faith in God and spiritual practice is important to us, but I am finding that most Christian-based homeschool curriculums are not in line with our family’s values and beliefs. I am more often than not frustrated with institutional Christianity and I guess in a way it is not surprising I find Christian-based homeschool curriculum to be frustrating as well.

When thinking about a science curriculum, I do not want it tied to the Bible. When thinking about a history curriculum,  I want something that features a diverse and inclusive set of voices. When thinking about literature, I want books published today and not 75 years ago. I am not saying all Christian-based curriculums are wrong or off, but that I have a less likelihood of running into these personal-preference problems if I seek out secular curriculum.

Now — please know I’m sharing my own personal preference here and not making any kind of judgment overall about how I think everyone else should operate. I thought I would take a risk and share the truth of my journey with homeschool curriculum choices because I know many of you struggle with this kind of thing. There is no perfect curriculum so we all have to make our individual choices on what we feel is best. I am also NOT saying I will never use a Christian-based curriculum, just that I am generously skeptical about it.

For me, I have found that basing our core curriculum in a secular framework works best, and then I can add in our spiritual practices in a manner befitting our family. 

Alright, so here we go!

FIRST GRADE SUBJECTS

  • Language Arts
  • Reading and Spelling
  • Math
  • Science
  • Nature Study
  • History
  • Art Appreciation
  • Music Appreciation

And a few extra things which I will explain in detail below!

Keep in mind: curriculum covers academic subjects but home education is about SO MUCH MORE than academics. 

LANGUAGE ARTS

Blossom & Root Language Arts 1st Grade.jpg

Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell

I love the literature included in this curriculum and how Blossom & Root incorporates principles of Charlotte Mason using living books and narration. The literature featured in this curriculum and others of Blossom & Root are diverse and inclusive, which I often find lacking in many Charlotte Mason booklists. Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters is an excellent example. This curriculum even integrates geography and culture as you explore the countries of origin of many of the folktales you read together. “Language arts” can include MANY different categories—in this curriculum it includes:

  • literature projects
  • journaling
  • word building
  • poetry activities
  • narration
  • copywork

Oral narration and copywork are both things I am excited to incorporate more with my oldest; that said — I plan to do this gently at least at the beginning. Because we are also doing a reading/spelling curriculum (see below), it may not be that every week we are completing all of the language arts elements listed above from The Stories We Tell.

What I love about Blossom & Root is that this curriculum invites you to explore narration through play and imagination, not just in a formalized oral narration or written narration. It should be fun and natural, and in that regard both my kids are already excellent at narration–we just don’t write it down! I highly recommend reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass if you are interested in incorporating narration in to your homeschool.

Note that we are using other elements from the whole Blossom & Root First Grade pack.

Jot It Down! from Brave Writer

I love Julie Bogart and Brave Writer! She’s such an inspiration. Highly recommend reading The Brave Learner. The Jot It Down! curriculum includes one project per month for 10 months and is geared towards ages 5-8. I will note that Brave Writer is not just a writing curriculum—it’s a lifestyle. There is much that I am excited about with this addition to our homeschool.

READING AND SPELLING

All About Reading All About Spelling.jpg

All About Reading / All About Spelling

I mentioned in the introduction that last year for Kindergarten we used Level K Language Arts from The Good & the Beautiful and it helped me teach my son to read. However, we skipped so much of the curriculum. He was interested in the reading portion, but the curriculum incorporates spelling alongside the lessons which I felt he wasn’t ready for. Not to mention we skipped things like poetry memorization or art narration or curriculum-specific stories included in The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts. At base level I thought: if I’m skipping so much, why are we using this?

Enter: All About Learning! This curriculum separates out reading and spelling which is EXACTLY what I wanted! Here is a helpful post explaining why reading and spelling is taught separately. It’s brilliant. I really wish I had done this last year. Honestly, a big factor in my decision last year was this felt more expensive than The Good & the Beautiful, but now I totally see the value and understand why. This is an amazing put-together curriculum that’s easy on educators and incorporates a wonderful multi-sensory learning style that I know my kids will love and respond well to.

For my First Grader we are using:

For my Kindergartener we are using:

I also LOVE LOVE LOVE the coordinating Letter Tiles App which we will use on our iPad. This removes the need to have a white board and physical letter tiles for the lessons (which has been the standard use for All About Learning). We live in a small house and I am so excited there is this option to have LESS STUFF to manage for lessons. The app also makes it super easy to switch between children at different levels as well. It’s made for multiple-child families in mind. Love it!

Note: Later we will likely add in a bit more grammar lessons. This post is helpful to understand language arts sequencing as a whole.

MATH

Dimensions Singapore Math

Dimensions from Singapore Math

Last year we used The Good & the Beautiful Level K for Math and as I mentioned in the intro, I felt like we just skipped a lot. The content of math subjects and flow was fine, but it felt like there was a lot of narrative and stuff I just skipped. To be honest: I also found when we got to cartoon Native American depictions in the 2nd half of the curriculum, I just could not bring myself to continue. Note — I also had *briefly* tried Math Lessons for a Living Education before we started last year and did not care for it. It is not comprehensive.

As I researched what math curriculum to switch to, this was a helpfuI post I came across:

I ended up landing on Dimensions from Singapore Math. This is a helpful detailed review of Dimensions Math I do not feel the need to repeat. But, I will say this: I am a huge fan of math! My favorite subject in high school was Calculus. I want math for my kids to be fun and interesting and yes: challenging.

What We Are Using

For my First Grader we will be using Dimensions 1A and 1B. Note that pacing of these levels is entirely up to you. I have looked through 1A and think we will end up going through that pretty fast with my son because he knows most of that already.

For my Kindergartener we will be using Dimensions KB and we will go slow with that for her.

Key Notes on Dimensions from Singapore Math

  • Dimensions is the newest line of curriculum products from Singapore Math. It was written by American educators who have been using Singapore Math in their classrooms for years.
  • Singapore Math use a unique CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) progression to learning.
  • Dimensions has full-color Teacher’s Guides and Workbooks through all of Elementary.
  • The curriculum provides a wide range of activities and hands-on learning to make math hit home. You will use math manipulatives to pair with the lessons. The textbooks are fun and engaging, but that is not the core learning of this curriculum.
  • Currently the Teacher’s Guides are designed for classroom use. They WILL be making Home Educator’s Guides for the Dimensions line soon (Home Educator Guides are available for the other Singapore Math lines that exist). But, this means in the meantime if you have Teacher’s Guides as a homeschooler you will need to adjust and adapt (or just skip) some activity options! To me, this has been no big deal because I am not interested in doing EVERY activity anyway. I strive to keep our Math lessons short and engaging.
  • I think this curriculum works well for a range of types of learners!
  • Coordinating printable resources (flashcards, printable ten frames, etc.) are all available online and organized by chapter.

Thankfully there are a lot of different Math curriculum options out there. I am happy to have found one that so far seems to work well for both of my learners.

SCIENCE

Blossom & Root Science First Grade

Blossom & Root: Wonders of the Earth & Sky

This year for science we will be using Blossom & Root: Wonders of the Earth & Sky. As indicated in the name, this is an earth science curriculum. We will learn about geology, weather, the seasons, and more.

I love the Parent Guide in this curriculum — each lesson is guided with several options on how to explore the topic further depending on what type of family and learner you have:

  • Minimalists
  • Book Basket
  • Visual Learners
  • Outdoor Learners
  • Table-led Crowd
  • Crafts-and-Projects

The idea is that each week you aren’t doing ALL of these to learn one thing; instead, you can pick which idea best suits your situation! I love this. There are so many great ideas and depending on the week I think we will change our tactic. Maybe one week we will do an outdoor learning idea and another watch curated videos and the next do a craft.

Note : the purchase of Wonders & Earth & Sky also comes with the Blossom & Root Book Seeds curriculum which focusing on great thinkers in the STEAM world: Marie Tharp, Mary Anning, William Kamkwamba, Isatou Ceesay, Charles Darwin, and John Muir.

Secular Homeschool Science

For those interested — here is a helpful list of secular-based homeschooling science options.

Additional First Grade Science

I would love to also do sometime this school year another science unit — I think both of my kids would love a Human Anatomy unit.

We may also do one of the Burgess Simple Studies units this year because my kids love those stories.

NATURE STUDY

I do not follow a specific nature study curriculum. You can read more about how we do nature study here. The short version is: we spend time in nature every day. We let that be our curriculum. Nature is the curriculum. If a particular topic or creature becomes a notable interest point, then I go about gathering some coordinating books or printables. Though, most often we are not doing some elaborate nature study parent-guided lesson!

That said: I fully appreciate that we live in a not-average setting. We live on a woodland camp property with a lake, wetlands, creek, etc. to explore with easy access right out our front door every single day. I fully appreciate that that is not normal! If we did not live where we live now, I would possibly follow something like Exploring Nature With Children. The truth is I have tried to follow that before and became frustrated when topics did not line up with what we were actually witnessing in the natural world. So, I just gave up and we do our own thing. But in a different setting, I could see that working out well.

Note that Blossom & Root does have a coordinating Nature Study that pairs with the above-mentioned science unit. It is very open-ended and prompts are not even designated specific week numbers! You just do the prompted activities as you see fit.

HISTORY

History Quest

History Quest: Early Times from Pandia Press

This school year we will be studying the ancient world using History Quest this year! My son has been showing major interest in this part of history so I am so excited to be using this curriculum. History Quest is designed as a narrative-based history curriculum (similar in style to The Story of the World for those who are familiar, but History Quest is secular and excludes religious bias). Note that Pandia Press is committed to inclusivity and anti-racism and is currently rewriting all their older history guides.

I am excited that this ancient history goes all across the globe to different places and includes wonderful coordinating book lists where we will explore archaeology, mythology, and a variety of world religions. Because of the nature of this curriculum, this inherently includes culture & geography. Through the year I will use related fun books like See Inside World Religions or The Ancient World in 100 Words.

We will also use the coordinating Study Guide which includes curated book lists, educational videos, simple-to-implement projects, as well as journaling through narration and illustration.

Shopping for history homeschool curriculums presents a challenge if you are looking for diverse and inclusive options. Truly inclusive. I do know many people end up just creating their own “curriculum” by reading from diverse and, more importantly, own voices literature. Moving forward, after we do this ancient history curriculum, I would like to do American History. Some sites for inspiration I am currently looking at for that are here:

I want to wait to do American History until my youngest is at least First Grade level that way we can dive in a bit more.

ART APPREICATION

Art Appreciation.jpg

Blossom & Root: Exploring the Math in Art

For art appreciation we will be using Exploring the Math in Art from Blossom & Root. This is a super simple guided art appreciation curriculum that includes a wide range of art styles, eras, and country of origin. I appreciate an art curriculum that goes beyond “the masters” which predominately means white Europeans and Americans.

For this curriculum, each week we will explore an art piece in three ways:

  • Simple Picture Study
  • Explore the Math Concept in the Art Piece
  • Create a Coordinating Art Project

I will find each week’s art piece online or in a book if we have it. I have the following art history related books that we may or may not use depending on the week:

Note that art appreciation is also incorporated in to our history curriculum.

MUSIC APPREICIATION

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SQUILT: Eras of Music

We will be using the Musical Era Bundle from SQUILT this year, beginning with the Modern Era. These lessons are wonderfully curated and include important music concepts in such a fun and engaging way for kids.

We also have a SQUILT Membership BUT you do not need to have a membership to use the Musical Eras Bundle! You can also purchase the Meet the Composers cards, Meet the Instruments cards, and Elements of Music posters. I keep all of these in a “music” bin and we use them regularly through our lessons.

I am also super excited about the upcoming release of the book Composers: Their Lives and Works to enhance our music learning experience.

You can view my Favorite Music Appreciation books and resources here.

CULTURE & GEOGRAPHY

Our culture & geography is covered both in History Quest and Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell.

We also subscribe to Letters From Afar.

After we finish History Quest, I plan to do a culture, geography, and history unit on Africa. We will using books from Heritage Mom’s blog post African and African-American Culture: Early Elementary Books and her Amazing Africa Heritage Pack as well as others!

You may also be interested in a previous Culture & Geography post of mine.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Morning Time

Seasonal Songs

Rooted Childhood is a thoughtfully created inclusive seasonal guide that includes poetry, book recommendations, songs, handcrafts, and recipes to help connect through seasonal-based experiences. We use the songs (which include tutorial videos for those who are like me and not musically-inclined) for our morning time and love them!

You can save 10% at Rooted Childhood if you use the code: SILVAN

Spiritual Transformation

Spiritual Transformation.jpg

We include meditation and mindfulness into our spiritual transformation practices. I also seek to find Christian-based prayers, hymns, and meditations that are in line with our beliefs. Below are a few current favorite things in our Morning Basket:

Bible Curriculum

Telling God’s Story: Year 1

The Stories We Tell.jpg

As a progressive Christian who is frustrated with institutional Christianity, I struggle with finding children’s Bibles and Christian-related curriculum that are in line with our beliefs and faith practices. Most children’s Bibles feature a white-skinned Jesus, or the theological bent is too fundie. I do find it hard to know exactly how I want to pursue faith-based practices with my kids, and it is something I am constantly thinking about and discovering new things to incorporate and try. That said, I do truly do feel we encounter the Divine on a daily basis without my efforts or the need for structured curriculum!

The current children’s Bibles I am using are:

I read from The Jesus Storybook Bible a fair amount but even that one I don’t fully love.

I also have The Child’s Story Bible and the Read Aloud Book of Bible Stories which I can’t fully get in to. It’s just a CHALLENGE for me to happily read a children’s Bible to my kids is all I’m saying.

Okay, so now that we have the Bible covered. I was excited to find this curriculum authored by Pete Enns called Telling God’s Story. I have incorporated some of these lessons already in our Kindergarten year and will continue with First Grade. The lessons are based on short Bible stories you read together and then do a few correlating activities (the options vary by each unit but usually include crafts, games, memory work, recipes, and other projects). The sequence of the curriculum runs 1st through 4th grade. We will do one unit per week on Fridays.

While you can definitely skip A Parent’s Guide to Teaching the Bible, it is useful for understanding Pete Enns’ methodology and reasoning in creating the curriculum. Like most things, there are aspects I like and agree with and aspects that I don’t jive with. I cannot decide for you if you will like this or not.

If this interests you I also recommend reading:

Creative Time

Art is integrated in to several of the curriculum choices above but we will also do projects from ChalkPastel and Rooted Childhood.

I am also interested in maybe trying out Waldorfish this year.

Poetry Tea Time

Poetry Tea Time is something we have done for awhile and I plan to continue. It’s honestly way simpler than it sounds. The idea is for it to be time together reading poetry and (sometimes) drinking tea. We don’t always make fancy snacks or anything. It is often popcorn and chocolate bars. I have a range of poetry books I use and enjoy skipping around. We will use poetry from Rooted Childhood and once a month also use the Chickie & Roo Flower of the Month Club once a month.

Brave Writer has a wonderful free quick-start guide on Poetry Tea Time if you are interested!

Spanish

The Cultured Kid

I honestly really want to continue with our Spanish learning but it happens so slowly. I treat this more as a fun thing to add on rather than a true curriculum we have to incorporate.

Everyday Life

And I do not want to leave out the fact that just “living life” is a subject of its own that is beyond the scope of curriculum. This is such a huge benefit of homeschool: we incorporate chores and self-care and all that good stuff just as a result of all being together in the same space all day. It is simultaneously simple and maddening, right?

I also try to be mindful of health & safety on a regular basis. This stuff isn’t popular to talk about and doesn’t make for pretty social media photos but it’s so important. Do my kid’s know how to call 911? Do they know their address and phone number? What should they do if someone is choking? And we have conversations about getting lost in the woods and body autonomy and so much more. I put a “health & safety” note on my monthly planner pages just to make sure I am mindful to incorporate these topics regularly. I have the Safety Unit from The Good & the Beautiful (*religious content) which works well for some aspects but I don’t feel it is wholly necessary to have a guide like that.

FOR MY KINDERGARTENER

My Kindergartener will join along for Morning Time each day. She will listen to the stories from our language arts curriculum: Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell. She will not do the coordinating oral narration or copywork, but will certainly participate in our play-based narrations and general enjoyment of literature! I often let her choose picture books she wants to read for Morning Time as well.

I imagine my Kindergartener will want to participate in the History Quest stories and lessons but I am not requiring her to. It’s totally up to her!

For reading, she has been showing interest and readiness, so we are doing All About Reading Level 1 with her.

For math, she is on Dimensions KB by Singapore Math. Lessons are short! Maybe 15-20 minutes at most.

For science, she gets her own Student Notebook to pair with Blossom & Root: Wonders of the Earth & Sky, but I am not requiring it of her. I suspect she will want to fully participate though. She really does not want to be left out of what her big brother is doing and loves anything labelled as “school.”

Nature study = go outside every day.

And I imagine everything else she will participate in to the degree she is interested. We really do most things together. She especially loves crafts and cooking so I plan to have some focused one-on-one time with just her during our weeks as well.

VIDEO INSIDE LOOK

HOW DOES THIS ALL COME TOGETHER?

Well … you’ll have to wait for it!

But, seriously, that was just a lot of info so I’m saving our weekly schedule & plan and how this comes together for a separate post. Stay tuned!

Note that this post contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information see my disclosure policy.

Uncategorized

Preschool Homeschool Curriculum Comparison

Preschool Homeschool Curriculum Comparison - The Silvan Reverie

To Preschool or Not to Preschool…

There is a wide range of opinions in the homeschool world about whether or not to “do preschool” with our children. Charlotte Mason purists will hold to the idea that under age 6 should be a “quiet growing time” and that no formal lessons should begin until age 6. I believe that most homeschoolers are some kind of eclectic mix of philosophies and are not purists in the sense they hold fast to that as a hard rule. Many are willing to do school in some way before the age of 6.

I think sometimes there is this notion if you buy a preschool curriculum or you see others doing preschool with their children, that it creates an overly structured learning environment that is too much for kids at that age. We use phrases like “protecting childhood” which are important, but I truly do not believe if you are going through a preschool curriculum you are NOT robbing your children of childhood. Most preschool curriculums are specifically designed to NOT be overly time-consuming or burdensome. There are SO MANY hours in a day that you have to spend with your child, and a preschool curriculum might give you some intentional learning space for anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes a day.

Further, the activities in these homeschool preschool curriculums are often so gentle and naturally fit in to the flow of your day. Many activities are about focusing on the child and where they are at, figuring out their learning style as well as what works for you as the home educator. It’s supposed to be fun!

Preschool at home can appear to be overwhelming, especially if you are considering it for your first child, but it truly does not have to be!

One last point I have is that preschool for your children likely is going to look vastly different between your first child and subsequent children. It’s just a thing that happens. As your older children move up in grades they will require more planning and prep and focused time from you, so moms of multiple children will have to get creative with preschool curriculums if they are interested in incorporating these with their preschoolers. There are a number of ways to do that: only do a few of the activities each day, or take one day a week to dedicate special time with just the preschooler, or involve the older children in helping do activities with the preschooler. Lots of options for creativity and finding a fit that flows with your family!

When to Begin Preschool?

Between the ages of 2 and 6 there is such a WIDE range of interest and ability when it comes to learning. You as the parent are going to have to figure this out on your own. No one can do this for you. And you will likely falter and need to re-find your footing. There will be some things you try with your child that just do not work. Try not to take that personally. Try not to see it as failure. The fact that you are the parent at home with your child and able to see that child in love and fullness is a huge gift! You get to decide that something is not working and reimagine something new for them. They will not have to be forced in to something simply because 20 other kids their exact same age are doing that thing already.

One of the best gifts of a life of a preschooler spent at home is: freedom. This time truly should be filled with unstructured time and play and read alouds and creative exploration and lots of outdoor time. If you buy a curriculum, keep in mind your core home values and make sure to stick to those things. Feel free to skip activities or take weeks or months off of caring about the curriculum. These are invitations, not requirements. Know your child. Love your child.

Similarly, what I feel does not get said enough is that YOU matter. You as the home educator matter: what you enjoy, what you are capable of, who you are. Be attune to yourself and your needs and try not to compare yourself to what others are accomplishing with their children.

How to Choose Curriculum

I encourage you to sit down and think about your homeschool vision and priorities before you start shopping around. This does NOT mean you need to have your entire homeschool philosophy for the next 12 years perfectly articulated and solidified! I am still in the early stages with my children but, as I understand it, many homeschoolers shift and change and revise and grow as their kids grow. The vision may alter and adapt as needed, but that does not mean your initial vision was wrong! It was right for the right season.

Here are some helpful places to start thinking about your homeschool philosophy and vision:

For example, our home incorporates a mix of homeschooling models, but we have some core value “key terms” that I try and consider and even revise a few times a year:

  • Knowledge of God
  • Living education, not school
  • Outside every day
  • Atmosphere of love
  • Rhythm, not schedule
  • Celebration of beauty
  • Whole self health
  • Community-mindedness

I have a list where I expand on each of these items and try to evaluate if any are lacking at given times.

Four Favorite Preschool Curriculum Options, Reviewed

Below I have provided some detail for four Preschool Curriculums that I own:

I encourage you to download the free sample week from each shop if you are interested in seeing what these are like.

Here are some helpful budget-friendly options to print digital versions of curriculum:

The Peaceful Preschool Overview- The Silvan Reverie
The Peaceful Preschool

Overview

A literature and project-based 26 week gentle curriculum that runs on on a letter-a-week theme. The Peaceful Press is predominately Charlotte Mason and Montessori inspired, though elements of other pedagogies weave their way in.

We did this curriculum all the way through, and absolutely loved it. I decided, since my son was 3.5 at the time we began, to extend the time of preschool to longer than 26 weeks and instead spread it out over longer than a year. We spent 2 weeks on each letter and did some extra on-theme activities, taking breaks here and there. This is not at all necessary! You can stick to the 26-week curriculum and not add on a single thing.

Subjects Covered in a Week

  • Read Alouds
  • Phonics
  • Counting Skills
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Large Motor Skills
  • Practical Life Skills
  • Art Skills
  • Field Trip

Highlights

  • Easy to follow; the weekly grids are well-designed and supply lists are organized meaningfully
  • Adaptable to work with what works best for your family
  • Excellent book list!! The book list for this curriculum is so good! Even if you do not wish to do a full-blown preschool curriculum, any home library for little ones would be enriched by any book from this book list.
  • Developmentally appropriate activities, hands-on learning and beautiful projects
  • Considers natural rhythms and home life with multiple children
  • Budget-friendly activities — most activities take in supplies you likely already have around the home or at least could come up with a suitable alternative.
  • Access to a private Facebook group when you purchase.
  • Designed with some religious content (Bible stories and optional weekly Bible verses) but this can be easily adapted for the secular household

What Comes Next?

Depending on when you began, you have a couple options if you want to stick with The Peaceful Press. You could go to their Early Elementary series like The Playful Pioneers (based on The Little House on the Prairie series) OR they have monthly guides that work well for a Kindergarten year (e.g. Sky, Mountain, Desert). There are (or will soon be) 12 guides so you could do one per month! Check out The Peaceful Press for more.

A Year of Tales Preschool Overview - The Silvan Reverie
A Year of Tales Preschool

Overview

A literature and hands-on approach to preschool with beauty and nature learning weaved in. This uses the Beatrix Potter tales as well as nature-based literature for a gentle year of hands-on learning and exploration. It is a full and rich curriculum and well worth reading the introduction for general homeschool inspiration.

We used the A Year of Tales elementary curriculum for our Kindergarten year for my oldest child — this blog post details what I planned for that year. Towards the end of our year when the Preschool curriculum was released I began incorporating it with my Preschooler (age 5).

Subjects Covered in a Week

  • Character
  • Phonics
  • Literature
  • Math
  • Imagine and Explore
  • Handcrafts and Project-Based Invitations
  • Friday Tea
  • Field Trip

Highlights

  • Easy to follow with weekly grids and supply lists but also adaptable — the activities are invitations and it is up to you to decide what works for you
  • The nature learning is beyond excellent and age-appropriate
  • Hands-on approach that is also age-appropriate and full of beauty
  • Emphasizes character building and takes in to account the whole child, not just academics
  • You get a LOT of extra worksheets and printables with this curriculum to weave in if you child is interested and ready, but these are not at all necessary to do the core work of the curriculum. There are also nature study-based printables that are beautiful and would be useful for beyond the preschool years. It is shocking how much extra you get for the price.
  • Easy to pair with the A Year of Tales elementary curriculum if you have multiple children. You can take two approaches: pair it with A Year of Tales Elementary, or do it on its own going through the alphabet A to Z.
  • Incorporates a Friday Tea Time which is used for engaging in beauty and review of the week
  • This does incorporate Bible verses weekly but if you wanted to do this from a secular approach I believe you could

What Comes Next?

Blossom & Root Early Years Overview - The Silvan Reverie

Blossom & Root Early Years

Overview

A comprehensive open-and-go curriculum with hands-on learning, engaging projects, and beautiful incorporation of the arts. You can read more detail and download free samples here.

Note there are two volumes to the Early Years Volume 1 covers ages 2-4 and Early Years Volume 2 covers ages 4-6. You can purchase them bundled together and save.

Subjects Covered in a Week

Early Years Volume 1

  • Read-Together Time & Prompts for a Literacy-Rich Environment
  • Environment / Experience Prompts
  • Nature Study
  • Composer Study
  • Math & Science (with Environment, Experiences, Engagement)
  • Picture Study
  • Kindness & Connectivity
  • The Arts (Visual Arts, Dramatic Play)
  • The Kitchen Classroom

Initially this might seem like a lot of categories for ages 2-4 but these are truly meant to be incorporated so easily in to your day!! Everything is experience and play-based and minimal to no prep is involved for each week.

Early Years Volume 2

  • Read-Together Time (Read-Aloud plus Activity Invitation, Poetry)
  • Reading / Writing Readiness
  • Composer Study
  • Picture Study
  • Kitchen Classroom
  • Exploring Artistic Expression
  • Early Math Foundations
  • S.T.E.M. Activity
  • Nature Study & Notebook
  • Interest-Based Investigations

Highlights

  • Hands-on learning requires no worksheets or printables to manage
  • Open-and-go and little prep is involved
  • In my opinion this is the best option out there for a secular household or a household that incorporates its own specific religious traditions. We fall in to this category. We are Christians but often I am shopping for secular curriculum to ensure it fits with our worldview.
  • Budget-friendly and designed for a busy household. Most activities are incorporated in to the flow of your day.
  • A beautiful and seamless incorporation of the arts (picture study, composers, etc.)
  • Weekly STEM-based age-appropriate learning in addition to math and nature study. I really appreciate the STEM focus!
  • Excellent book list and incorporation of poetry

What Comes Next?

I highly recommend buying the Early Years & Kindergarten Bundle to save money!

Habitat Schoolhouse Preschool Overview - The Silvan Reverie

Habitat Schoolhouse

Overview

This curriculum is mostly housed in a worksheet-style student notebook but that does not mean there are no hands-on activities! I love the inclusion of a wide range of arts & culture lessons, the science is nature-based and there is an inclusion of Montessori-based skills on a daily basis. You can read more about the preschool curriculum here.

Subjects Covered in a Week

  • Reading
  • Letters & Phonics
  • Number/Counting Skills
  • Shapes & Color
  • Arts & Culture
  • Plants & Animals
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Practical Life Skills
  • Field Trip

Highlights

  • Pretty much everything you need for this is right in front of you once it is all printed out
  • Low-stress for the home educator to incorporate
  • I think this works well for having multiple children around and wanting to not spend a ton of time gathering resources each week
  • Some children genuinely respond well to worksheets and the ones in this curriculum are engaging, thoughtfully-designed and beautiful. I know many parents are grateful that a program like this exists.
  • Globally-focused in literature, art, culture, and nature
  • Includes shape and color recognition activities every day
  • There is a private community for this program but you need to purchase a membership

What Comes Next?

Comparison Charts

Preschool Curriculum Comparison

Preschool Curriculum Overview - Weekly Categories Covered
A Few Other Options

I have had friends use the following curriculum for preschool and love them. I personally have never used these so I cannot speak directly, but I wanted to add them to the list here for your exploration:

A Year of Playing Skillfully (Religious)

  • Designed for ages 3-7 to have a year of wonder and discovery through hands-on activities and play. Each month has a set theme and the curriculum activities are laid out monthly instead of weekly/daily to allow flexibility. Charlotte Mason inspired and includes memory verses from the Bible. Free sample here.

Before Five In A Row (Religious)

  • A precursor to Five In A Row, designed for ages 2-4 but similar in style in that it is literature-based. Activities are built around the stories. You can download the Goodnight Moon unit as a sample.

My Father’s World (Religious)

The Gentle + Classical Preschool (Religious)

  • Charlotte Mason-inspired with hints of Classical. Follows Charlotte Mason’s List of Formidable Attainments Before Age 6. Includes memory work from catechism and the Bible. Open-ended, literature-based. Level 1 is for ages 2-4 and Level 2 is more Kindergarten-leaning, for ages 4-6. Level 2 includes math. Note: The Teachers Guides are completely free! Seriously! You can then purchase printable bundles to pair with each level.

Torchlight Pre-K (Secular)

  • A 32 week full curriculum designed for ages 4-5. Not dependent on religious beliefs. Follows traditional educational standards for this age but also includes the development of emotional intelligence and humanistic values (truth, morality, etc.)

Charlotte Mason – A Quiet Growing Time

If you are sold on a more purist Charlotte Mason style homeschool I do recommend Leah Martin’s Charlotte Mason Preschool Foundations guide.

For a secular perspective of Charlotte Mason’s principles for ages 3-6 see A Quiet Growing Time from Juniper Pines.

Nature Study · Uncategorized

National Parks Unit Resources

National Parks Learning Unit - The Silvan Reverie

Curriculum:

Traveling the Parks uses guided lessons with a Student Notebook as a way to pretend to travel to National Parks throughout the U.S. together, learn about the parks in an engaging way, and includes wholistic learning. The curriculum mainly uses the book America’s National Parks (Lonely Planet Kids) as a guide. Maps are provided and prompts on what to record as you learn. There are curated booklists and videos to view based on each park. The pack also includes Animal Profiles as well as fun games to play as a family!

Book Seeds Profiles in Science: John Muir is an early elementary guide (ages 6 to 12) which features the life of John Muir as well as a number of science-based learning topics. The curriculum includes four STEAM activities, three art projects, nature study prompts, three guided “invitation to play” activities, books to read together, a kitchen classroom activity, as well as thoughtfully curated links to videos and additional learning. We love John Muir and this guide was as a huge hit for the whole family. We especially enjoyed reading John Muir: My Life In Nature together.

Books:

Park-Specific & Geography Books:

For Fun:

 

Nature Study · Uncategorized

Natural Backyard Play Supplies

Natural Backyard Play Supplies - The Silvan Reverie

“Daily exposure to the outdoors stimulates the brain in many ways: (1) There are no expectations. Children are forced to use their imagination in order for that stick, rock or pinecone to become a part of their world. (2) There are endless possibilities. The outdoors challenges the mind to constantly think in new ways. (3) There is no pressure. When engaging in active free play, children can play with others or not, make up their own rules or follow someone else’s, be rough-and-tumble or quiet and contemplative.” (Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom)

Books to Inspire Nature Play

See this post for all my favorites books to inspire outdoor nature play.

Note that I do not think anyone NEEDS any of these books! These types of books certainly are popular for publishers to put out in the last couple of years. And I get it. I think they can provide a fun way to flip through for ideas you might not have otherwise thought of. I certainly have appreciated having these and have learned a lot of new skills. I enjoy these types of new and fun activities with my kids, but we certainly aren’t referencing these books every week. They are there if we want to try something new.

Our Outdoor Play Supplies

Below I will be sharing a list of all our outdoor play supplies. I organized most of the smaller items in to an IKEA TROFAST storage system on our front screened-in porch. I absolutely love that the plastic bins can individually come out. The kids can handle moving them around and clean-up all on their own. PLUS, the bin itself serves as a play element.

Note that this is protected from the elements since it is housed on our porch. You could also store these types of things in a small shed or garden-tool bin.

Our mud kitchen supplies stay in a crate with that area of the yard. Other large items like tree stumps, ramps, crates, and tubs stay either in the yard or in our storage shed.

(1) Natural Loose Parts

The term “loose part” has become a bit of a fad. Basically it means something that can be played with in a very open-ended way. The opposite of a loose part is a “fixed toy”—a Mickey Mouse figurine can only ever be Mickey Mouse (and always happy because he is smiling). A pinecone or “loose part” can be currency or an ice cream cone or a mixer or a bug or a rocket ship or … even a Mickey Mouse!

Here’s what we have for loose parts play:

  • Tree slices (large & small)
    • We made ours but you can purchase these at craft stores or Amazon
  • Sticks (various lengths and widths)
  • Rocks (a variety of sizes)
  • Tree nuts
  • Acorns
  • Pine cones
  • Large movable tree stumps
  • Flat wooden boards

Nature Loose Parts Play - The Silvan Reverie

We also have some non-natural loose parts in the mix like old tires and rope. I’m also including a traditional wood block set made for us by my father-in-law.

We actually have a gravel driveway and the rocks there have proved to be a favorite yard toy for years.

Shells, dirt, sand, mulch, wood chips are just a few other ideas for natural loose parts.

We have small wood scoops for use with the small loose parts like acorns.

(2) Imaginative Play

Note that I’m including a separate list for imaginative play BUT the idea with the loose parts listed above is that they could also be used for pretend play. A pinecone can be a hand mixer in the kitchen or currency at a shop. A stick can be a horse or a wand or musical instrument. Small loose parts can be built in to small worlds like castles or bug villages.

  • Play Silks (be sure to see this list for the play possibilities with play silks if you are not already familiar with these)
  • Bow & Arrow
  • Butterfly Wings
  • Crowns (handmade, could be crafted or made with nature items)
  • Wands (just a plain stick or one that is crafted)
  • Bubbles
  • Pinwheels
  • Spray Bottles
  • Sheets, Tarps (for building shelters)
  • Garden tools (hand rakes are fun and so are kid-sized shovels and rakes)
  • Wheelbarrow (kid-sized)
  • Wagon
  • Baskets
  • Buckets
  • Tray for outdoor art & play dough
  • Peg dolls for fairy houses
  • Schleich animals
  • Small tubs for sensory play / water play
  • Sand pit

Backyard Nature Play - The Silvan Reverie

You can also construct stick shelters or use play silks or tarps for shelters to go along with imaginative play. As mentioned earlier, I also think imaginative play can include building small worlds for wooden peg dolls or other toys–e.g. build a camp site or fairy houses.

I will also say: if you have a tent, you can always set it up in your backyard for a couple of days for your kids to just play in!

(3) Mud & Water Kitchen

Note that you won’t find a Pinterest-worthy mud kitchen in our backyard. Here’s how I put it together: I scrounged around for items we already had. I spent no money. Remember you do not need elaborate & beautiful mud kitchens: you just want something your kids will want to play with!

The hose is nearby so the kids have a water source they can manage on their own to make mud.

  • Pots & Pants
  • Muffin tins, cake pans, pie pans
  • Plates, Bowls, Cups
  • Mixing spoons
  • Large mixing bowls
  • Pitchers
  • Canisters
  • Scoops
  • Buckets
  • Spray Bottles
  • Watering Cans
  • Large tubs for holding water

Again note that the natural loose parts listed above are often used as ingredients in our mud kitchen or used in water play.

Mud Pies Nature Play - The Silvan Reverie

(4) Nature Study, Art, & Handcrafts

I created a category for nature study and nature art because I find that we will bring back a variety of nature treasure from hikes to our yard and I wanted to have materials accessible to explore and play with those nature finds some more.

Art & Handcrafts

Organic Artist For Kids - The Silvan Reverie

Wildlife Observation & Nature Collection

(5) Games

I am aware there are a wide variety of lawn games but I wanted to share what we have: my preference is for (1) traditional games with not a lot of bells & whistles and minimal plastic parts, (2) games that can be used by small children and (3) games that can be used in a variety of ways. For example, wood tree slices make for great lily pad jumps in an obstacle course and can also be used to roll down ramps.

  • Rope Rings and Stakes for ring toss game
  • Bean Bags (we have a bean bag toss game with boards)
  • Wood Boards (various sizes work great for construction projects, ramps, etc.)
  • Milk crates
  • Kubb
  • Balls (a variety of sizes)
  • Wood Block Set
  • Old Tire(s)
  • Movable Tree Stumps
  • Rope(s)
  • Clips
  • Buckets

Other ideas for games are making water ramps with old gutters or PVC pipes. Make a pulley system. Make a scale. Create an obstacle course.

(6) Practical Stuff

I like to be well set up so that I am not having to run in and out of the house. Here are just a few things I keep with our outdoor supplies:

** I love this style of outdoor tarp blanket because it is light enough to be used to make a play tent and it is really easy to clean if we spill food on it while picnicking (you do not have to put it in the laundry, you can just wipe it down or hose it down). Also, it compacts down small so it is easy to travel with.

Nature Play Ideas Checklist

Nature Play Ideas Checklist - The Silvan Reverie

I have used this list for Nature Play ideas for a few years . I find it is helpful to just glance at every once an awhile and have one or two ideas in the back of my mind that could be fun for us to do that week. I do not see this as a checklist where I feel like we have to do everything here or my kids will have a deprived childhood!

It simply is a list of ideas. Potential. Opportunities. Inspiration.

Hopefully it is of use to you!

This printable is available to Newsletter Subscribers

Thanks for reading! Enjoy your backyard play adventures.

Books · Nature Study · Uncategorized

Dinosaur & Fossils Study Resources

Favorite Dinosaur Books - The Silvan Reverie

Books

*Note that the first of these from DK is for ages 5-8 and the second is ages 9-12

Dinosaur & Fossil Resources - The Silvan Reverie

For Fun

Flash Cards

Fossils Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Fossil Study

Dinosaur Fossils - The Silvan Reverie

Nature Study

Pond Nature Study

POND NATURE STUDY.jpg

Books

Nonfiction
Fiction

Pond Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Printed Resources

Whole Ecosystem

Mammals

Water Birds

Reptiles & Amphibians

Freshwater Fish

Insects

Plant Life

Pond Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Uncategorized

Land & Water Forms Nature Study

Land and Water Forms Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Books
Printed Resources
For Fun

Try to create your own land and water forms using one of the following:

  • Play dough
  • Air dry clay and paint
  • Felt
  • Graham crackers & blue icing
  • Blue & green glass gems
  • Cardboard
  • Colored rice

Have your child sort land and water animals OR sort land and water vehicles.

Find famous examples of each on a world map or MAPS book and explore real images.

FOR MORE OF OUR NATURE STUDIES SEE THIS PAGE
Uncategorized

Ocean Nature Study

Ocean Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

A Quick Note

This post is meant to house all my favorite ocean-themed books and learning resources, but please know I have never gone through ALL of these at one time with my kids! We have done ocean units a few times and each time change the focus a bit—one time was more about whales, another time more about lighthouses and sailing, another time ocean explorers. I follow my kids’ interests! Hopefully this list is helpful to you and not overwhelming.

Without further ado, here are my favorite ocean-themed learning resources!

Nonfiction Books:

All-Encompasing

Sea Life

Coral Reefs

Ocean Exploration

Humans & the Sea

Sea Birds

Fiction Books:
Curriculum:

I have the Marine Biology Unit from The Good & the Beautiful but have not done it with my kids. I know many people love this! 

Printed Resources:
Just For Fun:

Ocean Bingo (LOVE this game!)

Small Figures for Sensory Play and Learning

Peg Dolls

Schleich Ocean Animals (larger toys – the blue whale is our favorite)

DIY Wood Boat and Lighthouse

Coloring Books

FOR MORE OF OUR NATURE STUDIES SEE THIS PAGE

 

Uncategorized

Books to Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day Books - The Silvan Reverie

A Note About Earth Day

We are an “Earth Day Every Day” sort of family, but I love the idea of setting a day aside to celebrate our wonderful planet and inspire ourselves and others to care for it.

My kids witness the harm done to our precious natural world with their own personal experience and observation: we find trash in our woods all the time, they have seen signs up in protected spaces asking people to not trample a sensitive area, we observed boat motor scars on the backs of Manatees while on vacation in Florida, and we have talked about how chemicals upstream from us sometimes make our lake unsafe to swim in.

I am not interested in being so heavy-handed with my kids and to forcibly burden them. I mainly focus on giving them an out-of-doors life, care-free, for hours of unstructured time each day. The already love the Earth; I do not need to tell them they should.

“Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life.” -Charlotte Mason

I do find, though, that reading books together we can work out some of that angst we naturally witness and feel. Learning more about our home called Earth, how to care for it, and what a nature-advocate looks like are important lessons and need not be approached in a way that robs children of childhood. We just need to start with love.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” -Jane Goodall

With that in mind, here is a list of Earth Day inspired stories and reference books.

Picture Books: Fiction

Nonfiction & Reference

Below are some favorite nature nonfiction and reference books we own and peruse often. But first I want to share this previous blog post:

Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies

The post above includes favorite children’s biographies of Jane Goodall, Beatrix Potter, Rachel Carsen, David Attenborough, John James Audubon, John Muir, and many more!

I tried to keep the list above condensed as much as possible, but be sure to also check out these favorite nature-based authors:

Books for Nature Engagement

Books for Parents