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Deep Dive: Thoughts on Our Transition from Homeschooling to Public School

I shared in January how we decided to switch to public school mid-school year and I was met with a lot of encouragement and support but also lots of questions! All excellent questions, but I know many of you want more details and I am happy to take the time to share. I think a number of you were very surprised at our decision given how public I was about our homeschool journey and how much I clearly loved it. (That wasn’t just me faking it for Instagram: I did genuinely love it).

It’s important to say right at the beginning of this post: this post contains my opinions, my thoughts and feelings on our family’s unique experience. My kids are unique and our public school situation is not the same everywhere. Yes, I have some broader opinions about education that you may or may not agree with. We can still have mutual respect and agree that all of us are just trying to do the best we can for our children. I believe that for you. I believe that for me.

One other thing I want to say is that we are still at the beginning of this journey and of course will be navigating this day by day. The public school experience, just like anything else, isn’t always going to be one thing. Right now, four months into it, it’s fantastic but that doesn’t mean I expect it to always be so. Also, we are open to the possibility that homeschooling might make sense for us again some time.

All that to say: I’m sharing about our experience right now and in no way am pretending to be an expert or an advice-giver. I’m personally always wary of advice-givers when it comes to parenting. We all have to make our own decisions and who I am to tell you what you “should” do?! I’m happy to share my truth and experience and if that helps you in your unique process, great!

For those who don’t have time to read all this, here are the highlights:

  • A homeschooler doesn’t love their child more than a public schooler. 
  • Our family loves the connection to our community public schooling brings.
  • Just because my kids are in public school doesn’t mean I’m not a part of their education.
  • I love having boundaries to my work day now and that I get to just be mom when the kids are not at school.
  • Interest-led learning isn’t exclusive to homeschooling.
  • We are still the same family and value the same things, it’s just *how* we go about prioritizing those things has shifted.

Homeschool vs. Public School: Which is Definitively Better?

I’m going to answer that question!

Ha, clearly joking. What a jerk would I be to sit here and write: “Oh, homeschooling is an absolutely terrible idea” or whatever?! Like I just said above, we all make our own choices.

As an early education homeschooler (preschool through 2nd grade), I will admit that to some degree bought in to the idea that educating my children at home was “better than” public school. I read John Holt and lots of other homeschool books, I listened to podcasts and followed all the “famous” homeschoolers on Instagram — all celebrating the homeschool experience. But, (1) I’ve also read Educated and understand that homeschooling (rightfully) also has a terrible dark underbelly. Some of the fears non-homeschoolers have about homeschoolers is legit. We have to be able to say that and still celebrate homeschooling. And, (2) I actually always felt like at some point my children would be public schoolers. As much as I leaned into the homeschooling world, I knew it was never forever for us.

I think it’s become popular for homeschoolers to really “sell” the homeschool experience by sharing beautiful images and words and only the best things, as if to prove to the non-homeschooling world that this is in fact a better life. And I get that homeschooling is not what it was 30 years ago. There are a lot more options to make it a fantastic experience for all! But, just because homeschooling is great and worthy of celebrating for a particular family does not mean that the alternative, public schooling or something else, is less worthy and less great.

Here are a bunch of super fun black & white statements:

  • Homeschooling is amazing. Homeschooling is terrible.
  • Homeschooling is the right choice. Homeschooling is the wrong choice.
  • Homeschooling is great for the kids. Homeschooling is awful for the kids.
  • Homeschooling will gift a child a rich education. Homeschooling will limit a child’s education.
  • Public school is amazing. Public school is terrible.
  • Public school is the right choice. Public school is the wrong choice.
  • Public school is great for the kids. Public school is awful for the kids.
  • Public school will gift a child a rich education. Public school will limit a child’s education.

But — does it have to be one or the other? I think when we look at those statements it’s easy to see how much gray area there truly is.

If there was indeed one perfect way to educate ALL our children, one that is amazing and right and great … wouldn’t we all be doing it?

Further, that question presumes there is even an option, that people have the ability to choose.

It important to acknowledge that MOST (yes, most) people do not have the privilege to even choose. If you are able to choose between more than one option of education for your child: you are privileged. I’m not sure where along the way privilege because such a bad word that we feel like we have to avoid be labeled as such and defend ourselves against it. It’s not a bad word. It’s a truth of every human: depending on circumstances we all have some form of privilege. Maybe it’s that you speak the dominant language of where you live, maybe it’s your health, maybe it’s your skin color, maybe it’s your mobility, maybe it’s the house you live in, maybe it’s your height. There are so many ways we can be privileged. What matters is that we aren’t evaluating the character of a person based on the existence of their privilege … but rather, how we as people use our privilege to help and benefit others.

In summary: no one way of education gets to gift itself the gold medal. Let’s find ways to celebrate the good in all circumstances and help our communities along the way face the challenges.

Q&A: Homeschool vs. Public School

Throughout this post I’ll be answering specific Q&A questions I received on Instagram. I’ve organized them by thematic topic.

What do you hope public school will do for your family that homeschool wasn’t doing?

I love this question because it really makes me think. I don’t think that this question really entered my mind when we were making the choice to send our kids to public school, so I like thinking of it in retrospect.

One aspect of having our kids in public school is that it brings about a direct and tangible connection to our local community. My husband and I both particularly wanted this. We have been able to find new friends for the kids and get to know families that live in our neighborhood with such ease. Almost any time we go to kid-friendly places or events, the kids spot friends from class! I enjoy getting to know the families of the students in my children’s classrooms. I am volunteering with the Parent-Teacher Organization and can meet other parents and caregivers and feel that “we’re all in this together feeling.” Homeschooling felt more isolationist to me with a greater focus on our kids and our home and our family. With the kids in public school the care and love has extended out beyond our own home.

We feel that the scope of our “world” as a family in this community has only ever increased since the kids started going to public school. And we really value that.

Other than that, there isn’t anything where I felt like homeschooling was failing us. The kids were both doing great with it. I was able to find curriculum that worked for them and for me. In terms of education there were a few insecurities I had about where my kids were at but I also trusted the process and that they would learn things in their own time. Spelling was one thing my second grader struggled with and I struggled to teach him, but he has been doing amazing with that in public school and his interest in spelling has increased greatly just in a couple of months. His ability to spell has exploded in just a few months of public school. It could be because he’s being taught by someone not his mom … or it could simply be that he was ready to advance in that area at this time.

How do you cope with the homeschool bashing of public school?

Here we go…

It’s part eye roll, part empathy.

This is something even as a homeschooler I really cared a lot about and said as much in a number of my Instagram posts: to celebrate one way of education NEED NOT come at the expense of the other! If you are a homeschooler and want to celebrate that, great! Please do. It’s a wonderful thing and for so many children it’s giving them a rich education in a loving home. That does not give you license to say that children in public school are worse off.

If you are a homeschooler: your children are not better off. Your children are not more loved. Your children are not better educated. Your life is not better. Your choices are not better. You are not a better parent. You are not a better person.

Yes, there are valid criticisms of the way we do public school but please do not suggest that your child is more loved than mine. Stop celebrating homeschooling by way of comparison! I see loads of homeschoolers celebrating their lives and children but in a generous and expansive way — it really is possible.

I acknowledge that adults and their kids have been hurt in public school and choose to avoid public school (if they can) for those reasons. I feel, again, it is valid and okay to have your own reasons for your family as to why you choose to homeschool … but that need not come by way of bashing those who choose what you did not or making blanket statements about “all public schools…” or saying things like “at least my kid isn’t ____.”

Back to privilege — please also consider that there are families who would love the opportunity to homeschool but are unable.

I do feel, however, it is important for communities to support and celebrate homeschooling and allow families the freedom and ability to choose that lifestyle if they want to! I do understand that it does go both ways, that homeschooling can be judged unfairly.

Why the Heck Would We Choose to NOT Homeschool If We Have the Means To?

I suppose there are a few who will think “I bet she couldn’t hack it” about me. I can appreciate this because homeschooling is indeed a challenging thing to commit to.

Overall the decision came down to a number of factors:

  • I never wanted to homeschool their entire education. I always envisioned at some point our kids would be in public school, it was just a matter of when.
  • I was increasingly burnt out by trying to do two full time jobs at the same time: homeschool and run my Etsy shop. We felt that structuring our days where someone else could be in charge of the education part would allow me to do my job while they are at school, then then JUST BE MOM when they are home. This is huge! Both for our relationship and for my mental health. More on this below.
  • The kids wanted to go! I’ve told them if they ever want to homeschool again we can talk about it, but they both were a part of the decision to go and both are enjoying it right now.
  • I think my oldest in particular was reaching a phase where he could really benefit from someone not his mom being his educator.
  • We felt that with our kids in public school we could be more integrated into our local community.
  • Both my husband and I were public school kids and had positive experiences. I’m not going to pretend it can’t be terrible or won’t be at some point for my children, but I think acknowledging that it can be wonderful is an important first step for a homeschooler considering a transition to public school. Also: to some degree it is what you make of it! There is a lot I cannot control but there are a lot of tools we can empower our children with.
  • We have a number of public school educators on both sides of our family and understand there are challenges but we have always supported it. I like being a part of the system and supporting educators in their amazing work.
Q&A: Why Choose Public School?
Was it the kids’ decision? If so, why did they want to start school?

Yes! A part of what went into our decision as a family is that our kids were interested in public school. Since we moved into a neighborhood and they gained so many non-homeschooling neighbor friends, it was clear that they were interested. I talked with them about what public school looks like (and how their days would be very different), and around October 2021 we started thinking that the NEXT school year would be a good time to transition (Fall 2022). Well, the more we talked about it the more excited the kids got. They asked if they could go … immediately. I said we could go meet the principal and tour the school and then make a decision. Again, the excitement only ever increased and so we made the decision to allow them to transition mid-school-year in January 2022. Both their teachers were more than happy to integrate them at that time, and actually in my 1st graders’ room there was another child starting at the same time as her!

My kids were excited about being around a lot of other kids their age. As a homeschooler, I honestly bought into the idea that with homeschool my kids could interact with children not just their own age and this would be really positive for them. I still feel this is important, but I see now that (a) there is value in them being in a classroom environment around lots of kids their own age and (b) there are lots of ways to get experiences playing with older and younger children outside of the public school hours. We have close family with lots of cousins with a range of ages from my kids and our neighbor group of kids is actually wide range as well – from Kindergarten to 6th grade. It’s really neat!

My kids were also excited to have their own independent experiences — independent of me and independent of their sibling. They didn’t explicitly say this but I do think this was something they were contemplating. I personally love that we homeschooled our children during their preschool and kindergarten years especially because it allowed them to spend so much time together. They are truly best friends and continue to look out for each other at school and on the bus ride. And, they still play together so well when they are home.

Oh, and of course the kids were excited about school lunch and gym class and riding a bus — those things you can’t quite recreate for a homeschooled child. It’s one of those “grass is always greener” things, though. It’s clearly not essential for a child’s development but certainly a fun perk!

How Is Mom Doing?

Well, I still love my kids. I’m still a good mom. That hasn’t changed!

Overall I’m feeling super positive about our decision. I think a part of what goes into that feeling is how well the kids are doing. I think, honestly, if they were having a hard time, then I would feel differently. I had so much anxiety about those first few days of school and friends: my kids were TOTALLY fine! I cannot even describe to you how fine they were and I didn’t need to worry at all.

I said before I really loved homeschooling. That is true, but I also was finding less joy in the whole homeschooling thing. A part of that was the stress of doing two full time jobs and realizing I didn’t have to be homeschooling. I had another option! I think it’s popular among homeschooling moms to be martyrs for their kids and there’s a philosophy and culture upholding that at the expense of the mother’s health. I’m not here to convince anyone of seeing the dark truth of that (because you won’t see it if you’re in it), but just to say that I LOVE MY KIDS but that I wholeheartedly believe that my health and needs and wants matter too. No one wins if a mom just digs in and does something she doesn’t want to be doing “for the sake of her kids.” That’s awful for her and awful for the kids. Truthfully, I wasn’t personally in that dire or extreme of a mental state, but I did feel a little pull towards “Hey, I don’t think I really enjoy this as much and wish things were different.” Now that they are, I do indeed feel better about our relationships.

I feel like I’m a better mom when I’m not a homeschooling mom.

Q&A: Mom First, Former Home Educator
How do you feel your relationship with the kids is now? Do you like just being mom?

Friends, this is huge for me. HUGE.

I was trying to homeschool and run a small business at the same time. This meant that often when my husband got home from work AND on weekends I would be spending time alone painting peg dolls while my husband and kids were off having adventures. Adventures without me. I got to have my own time with the kids during the days but a lot of that was in this mode of homeschooling or trying to multitask. My kids literally started saying to me “Mom, you don’t play with us anymore.” And they were right.

Now, I get to get my work done while they are at school and when they get home I can just spend time with them as Mom. And I get my weekends back!! I can spend an entire weekend ignoring my business and just enjoy whatever it is that is going on. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t do things for myself still and that I’m always on the kids’ clock … but this shift really is a wonderful change for me.

What do you miss about homeschooling?

I miss being able to go to busy places with my kids any day I want and avoid crowds — like the zoo or children’s museum.

I miss us being able to take a family vacation or randomly go visit family whenever the heck we wanted. Now our vacation time is relegated to the time period when everyone around us is also taking vacation. Not cool.

I do miss being able to see and witness all the things my children are learning firsthand. This was really hard at first and I felt like I overly-grilled my kids when they got home to tell me about their days. Now I don’t need to know as much. Their teachers do a great job communicating with us and we see their work when they bring it home.

That said, I have realized that even with public schooling I am still so much a part of my children’s education! I knew this intuitively because I watched my husband for years have a full time job and yet still be a part of so much of the kids’ learning. I know in the homeschooling world there is often (not always) an emphasis on child-led learning or interest-based learning. Friends, that is not exclusive to homeschooling! That happens even with public schooling, and especially in the home depending on the environment. Whatever the situation may be (and there are infinite), a family can still be a part of educating their children. For us this means that we do follow interest-based learning through books. We might go to events or museums. We might pursue a specific sport or extracurricular activity. We have a particular family interest in nature so we are often spending uninterrupted time in nature learning new things every time we do so! Learning knows no boundaries and is not confined within four walls. I still get to be a part of this even though I don’t homeschool anymore.

How Are the Kids Doing?

I think when it comes down to it, most of a homeschooling parents’ questions and fears surround around the child, right? Is my child going to be okay at public school? Can they hack it academically? What if we don’t like their teacher? Are they going to get bullied? What if something terrible happens to them and I’m not there?

When we homeschool we get to see almost everything and there are certain risks that can be avoided. When they are at public school there is so much of their day that we will not know about. There is so much a part of their day we cannot control.

I personally tried to make sure that our family’s reasons for homeschooling was never fear-based. I did not want to be homeschooling simply because I was afraid of what the public school experience might be for them. And so, when we did switch and send our kids to public school I tried to be realistic but also still child-focused. Yes, there is much I cannot control, but my children are full persons and capable of knowing, doing, and being so much in their own way in this world. I want them to feel empowered to face a variety of circumstances rather than spend my efforts controlling and limiting their experiences. Also, as I said before, just because a child is homeschooled does not mean they are free from negative experiences.

We talk to our kids every day about what they experienced at school (the good and the bad) but of course there are things that don’t come up and a lot we will not know about. One time my daughter told us three days later: “Oh, I went to the nurse on Monday.” Ummmm… WHAT? What happened? Why was this not important to tell me that day? Why did the school not call me? Turns out it was just a fall at recess and she was fine, but it is interesting to learn about what your child thinks is relevant to tell you.

It is a huge adjustment to make when you are used to witnessing so much of their lives. That’s just a note for any homeschoolers out there considering public school.

Q&A: All the Kid-Based ANXIETIES!!!
Was the full day at school a shock to the kids systems at first? How long to adapt?

Totally! They were exhausted the first week for sure but I do think by that second full week they started getting used to the new normal. The kids took a couple weeks to learn how to read day-by-day what they need after school. Sometimes they are full of energy and want to just run and play with neighbors. Sometimes they need some quiet LEGO play. We try to help them gauge that each day.

One thing I will talk about more with the next question is the social-emotional coping skills and how that in a way was more exhausting than just the actual amount of time spent in the school environment.

They stay busy and engaged in what they are doing in school and enjoy it, so I think that helps the time pass and not feel so much like a long drudgery of a day.

Obviously public school requires a decent amount of sitting as compared to homeschool. That kind of thing is an adjustment for kids who are used to being active or, in our case, having short lessons. We strove to not do long table-based lessons while homeschooling, but I just talked to my kids about this in advance so they were not shocked by the public school experience.

That said, I appreciate our kids’ school and teachers. It seems they really do what they can to get the kids moving and give them brain breaks. Both my kids’ teachers give their classes “extra recess” on nice days and get outside to do a variety of activities when they can. They play and dance and do things to move their bodies. They are not just sitting and doing worksheets all day. I realize that won’t be true of every public school situation.

What non-academic skills were most needed once they started public school?

On one level: nothing special was required of the kids to be “prepared” for public school! Really. I didn’t do any major sort of prep or training or whatever to get my kids ready. I got their supplies ready and told them to listen to their teachers, be kind, do their best, and ask for help when they need it. Oh, and drink water!

A good friend said something super helpful to me when I was thinking about this transition from homeschool to public school. She had already done the same thing, and she reminded me that the most important preparation is that my kids are loved. The love and stability we provide for them as a family is monumental in affecting their ability to thrive in any circumstance. They are capable and they do not need me to coach every tiny bit of their lives.

I really was blown away at how well my kids did with this transition! They’re thriving with their individual experiences and it’s wonderful to hear all their stories when they get home.

One practical non-academic skill that we later discovered was important for my youngest (first grade) to learn: keeping track of her things! This was something she didn’t have to worry about as much while at home. The first couple of weeks she’d come home with a different thing missing or forgotten at school. She figured it out eventually, but it was an adjustment.

There are indeed a lot of important non-academic skills we can talk about, but I think some of these things are behavioral norms that some children will not be able to match due to a variety of reasons and I want to be careful not to resort to labeling those things as “good” skills and the alternative as “bad.”

One thing that I think is important which we worked on as homeschoolers and still value now is coping skills. Mindfulness exercises, breathing exercises, visualizations, positive affirmations to name a few.

A family member with public schoolers warned me that my kids might come home with nothing left. Meaning, during the school day they’ve done their best and really honed in on those coping skills when necessary BUT then they’re done. They’ve got no coping skills left and so when they get home they might be more irritable or impatient or just plain mad or sad. We noticed this with my youngest — during the week she might have a good cry during the evening about something small that happens. The crying might seem overblown for what the situation is, but it’s good to realize that she is not just crying about that one little thing. She’s releasing so much of what she has been holding on to.

Adults are like that too! Right? We’re just done at the end of a hard day. It’s been important for me to not expect my kids to be totally at their best and happy from the moment they get home until bed time.

How do you deal with bullying?

This is, I’m sure, one of the major fears of parents sending their kids to school. I think what often doesn’t get said in these conversations, though, is that we should be equally afraid that our child might be the one who bullies as we are that they would get bullied.

There’s a lot of parental responsibility there and I’m not a parenting expert so I don’t want to dive too deep in to that.

My kids have had occasional disagreements with classmates but nothing on the scale of bullying. If that were something I was concerned about I would obviously be talking to their school about it.

To me it’s important that my kids feel like they can communicate with me.

I also think we aim to parent towards kindness and we expect our kids to keep an eye out for when others are being treated unfairly or harshly.

How do you feel about the kids being away from home for a lot more time?

I love that they are gaining their own independent experiences!

Even with the kids in public school there is still so much time I get to spend with them. Several hours every day, weekends, holidays, breaks, and summers. I think many homeschoolers value time together with their children and families as a whole, but I don’t see this as a huge loss to have my kids out of the house for public school. There is still so much time in our lives and in a way I value it more now.

The Constants Regardless of Circumstance: On Family Values

Homeschoolers. Public schoolers. We are still the same family. We love being outdoors. We love LEGOs. We love IndyCar. We love games and puzzles. We love soccer and basketball. We love exploring our town. None of that has changed.

We have certain family values that have stayed the same as well.

Q&A: Family Values
What values you had as a homeschooler have shifted with the transition?

For the most part this has stayed the same. We have had to be more mindful how we spend our time outside of school a bit more. So, it’s not so much that our values have shifted but rather HOW we need to fight for those things has shifted. We are the same people, just in a new context.

How do you use after school time?

My kids adore Minecraft but we have a rule that they don’t do screen time on school nights. This was the same rule when they were homeschooling but I feel it’s all the more important now since they have less hours at home. Neither of my kids has homework yet but we thought setting a standard now would be helpful in the future. It’s not that we do no screen time every school night, but it is the exception rather than the rule. We do occasionally watch a show together or I let them use their school iPads for a bit, depending on the day. As I write this we are in to spring now with lots of gorgeous days so getting outside time after school is pretty easy!

We are currently doing piano lessons and soccer with both my kids. That takes up one hour on three days a week. It is important for us that they have exposure to new activities but we also do not want to overwhelm them or our schedules right now. There is a time where they will get busier with that stuff but ages 6 and 8 is not that time. We do want to still protect their after school time as a mostly unscheduled time. They can play with neighbors or we might do something together as a family.

Our family dinner time is important; this is something I personally grew up with. My parents had four kids and a set family dinner time was so valuable and protected. I feel that way to. Meals are a great way to be together in conversation and care.

Things About Public School That Took Me By Surprise

  1. All the germs. We haven’t even been affected by the pandemic, but of course we get exposed to all the other illnesses traveling around. It is what it is.
  2. Screen time. I think because we started in winter and there were also still some stricter protocols in place (e.g. classes ate lunch in individual classrooms) there was a greater reliance on technology and shows during the school day. Instead of outdoor recess on an inclement weather day, my kids play on their school iPads. For some time in January they would watch a TV show during lunch time instead of socializing with classmates. Initially this did rub me the wrong way but at the same time I’m not the one making those choices so I trust they are doing what works best. With improved weather and loosening of pandemic-based restrictions, the screen time has definitely reduced.
  3. I was first taken aback about how much I cared about the kids’ “success.” I honestly did feel anxiety at the beginning that my kids would be behind or something. Homeschooler insecurity for sure. I worried that if they didn’t “do well” then that ultimately came back on me and meant I was a terrible educator for them. Obviously these fears were not legit and eventually I came to see that they both are thriving in their own way in the classroom environment.
  4. They are exposed to SO MUCH in the course of a week! I know there’s always criticism about how much time is wasted in public school but MAN, I am blown away at all they get to learn and experience in a week. Taken as a whole, I do feel it was more than I was doing with them or able to provide for them at home — in a good way. I know more does not necessarily mean better quality but I do feel that my children are taking it in and are not information-overwhelmed. I just mean that even beyond their core lessons and beyond the extra stuff of music and Spanish and art and gym, there is the exposure to lots of life lessons and interactions with others that overall provide for a rich learning environment. We also live in a university town and have access to amazing cross-cultural learning opportunities. The kids have had some incredible guests recently.
  5. There’s not as much science as I would have hoped. I feel like we probably over-emphasized science in our home because it’s my favorite. I’m sure every homeschool family has their “thing” and if you switch to public school you’ll probably notice the gap in that specific thing first. For me it was science. They do science every week but I was basically doing it maybe 3-4 days a week with my kids plus our regular nature explorations meant bonus science. Actually, on the kids’ snow days I found myself doing science experiments with them because we all missed that.
  6. My kids’ bus driver is AMAZING! I hadn’t calculated this initially but it’s so cool to see how she and even the crossing guards and janitorial staff spend their time caring for each and every child that crosses their path. The staff at school do so much. I’m grateful for the people that choose these careers. I wasn’t expecting how emotional I would get feeling the gratitude for all the other adults besides my family that care for my two children. It’s beautiful.

Practical Tips

For those of you who are seriously planning to transition your homeschool children to public school, I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Find a local friend or neighbor to ask lots of questions! This helped me immensely to have a parent friend at our same school where I could ask all the questions. I had SO MANY QUESTIONS about the schedule and what to put in their backpack and what kind of lunch container to buy. It really helps to have someone walk you through it, if possible.
  2. Get to know your child’s teacher. Open communication is great. I’ve found that our teachers are wonderful humans and so gifted at their jobs. I love trusting them and letting them do their job and have no interest in being a helicopter parent. That said, I do feel it’s important to not be afraid to ask questions and check in if needed.
  3. Find ways to volunteer at your child’s school. This will help you still feel like you are a part of their lives in that way. In January our school was doing no parent volunteers due to the pandamic but now there are lots of things going on and opportunities for me to serve and help.
  4. Recognize your children are people and the initial transition will be a unique experience to that specific child. Be open to the possibility it will not go according to your plan or expectations.
  5. If possible, try and spend meaningful time in the mornings before school with your children. If it means setting alarms even 20 minutes earlier so you can have some unhurried time in the mornings, do it. It will help you all to have a bonded morning before the long day apart.

It also goes without saying you need to know your State’s homeschooling laws and requirements. In Indiana, I did not have to show any records nor did my children need to do any assessment or testing in order for us to send them to public school.

Thanks for Reading!

Feel free to comment or ask further questions below.

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Climate Change and Earth Advocate Books for Children

There’s no way around it: This is a hard topic for kids. It’s a hard topic for all of us.

I think it’s important to understand the readiness of your child, not just by age, when discussing big issues like this. In my personal opinion, often climate change books aimed at children are either (a) very depressing, anxiety-inducing, and without hope, or (b) burdensome for children, meaning we tell them 50 things they should be doing to fix the problem.

It seems that adults are often more interested in transferring our anxieties and failures onto our children than taking action ourselves to provide remedies. It’s classic tell vs. show. We tell our kids: “The planet is on fire and here’s a hose, little 4 year old, to stop it. Be brave!” There is a difference between inspiring kids who are inclined to care and impact our world for good versus burdening kids by way of guilt or fear. In addition, how can we burden children with the responsibility if we are unwilling to participate in the solutions ourselves?

Now, don’t hear me wrong: the climate crisis is indeed a harsh reality that directly impacts children’s lives. They are aware. They are capable. They are full persons who can learn much and accomplish much. Many awesome teens are out there doing amazing and brave advocacy work in spite of uncaring adults. I do not want to sound like I’m interested in shielding my children from reality (as if I could) or that I do not believe children can change our world! I just think we do need to pay attention to the content we are sharing with what ages/readiness. There is a responsibility we have as adults as to how we communicate with children. It’s worth reading this article for more on this topic: What is the Point of Children’s Books About the Climate Crisis?

This is also a guide I’ve found helpful: Beginning the Climate Conversation: A Family’s Guide (The Climate Reality Project)

It’s also worth noting that learning the actual science of climate change can be quite complex and young children in early education will not be ready to digest this kind of information. So, if you see an in-depth book about climate science aimed at 5 year olds … maybe leave it on the shelf for now.

Below I am sharing some fiction and nonfiction books that share Earth advocacy themes (with a special focus on climate change), both through narrative and engaging factual information. For the younger children, I personally feel it is more effective to reach them on these hard topics through narrative as opposed to nonfiction books. Why? Because narrative appeals to the child’s imagination and meets them where they are at. It’s less about adults telling kids “interesting facts” and more about immersing the child in Earth care through their full selves. Ideally this is paired with actual time spent in nature. No amount of reading books will instill in a child a desire to care for the Earth if they never encounter it in its wildness. Last Child in the Woods is a great read for this particular point!

I fully acknowledge that this is an overwhelming topic and you might disagree with me about which of these books are valuable for a particular age range. My aim here is to provide a starting point to those who are interested in exploring these topics with their children. Like I said, many children are aware. They pick up on this stuff and it’s so good as parents to be equipped to handle these conversations. Many of us actually need to spend time educating *ourselves* before speaking with our children. There is no shame in picking up a book aimed at an 8 year old or a 12 year old to learn about this for yourself! Several of these nonfiction picture books are quite effective at distilling the information into accessible content.

View the full list of Earth Advocate Books here

Below are just a few selected favorites from the above list, curated by age range.

Ages 3-5

Picture Book Narratives:

Nonfiction:

My preference is to mostly not worry about nonfiction at this age. Note that the above narratives featured are not even directly about climate change, just generally focused on Earth care. I do think The Big Book of Belonging is a good nonfiction option for this age because it is playful and gentle in content, but even so this could feel like an overwhelming amount of information. I have a lot of theme-based lists on my Amazon Favorites that can work well for this age as well to inspire an appreciation of this Earth. I think celebrating the goodness and wonder of the Earth at this age is more valuable than discussing the degradation.

Ages 5-7

Picture Book Narratives:

Wangari’s Trees of Peace
Harlem Grown

Nonfiction:

Ages 7-9

Picture Book Narratives:

We Are Water Protectors

Nonfiction:

Ages 10-12

Nonfiction:

Ages 12 +

Nonfiction:

Climate Change Novels for Middle Grade

I haven’t read any of these but have found some good suggestions!

The Last Wild by Piers Torday

One Small Hop by Madelyn Rosenberg

Melt by Ele Fountain

Rumble Star by Abi Elphinstone

More generally, here are helpful book lists for more environmentally-conscious Middle Grade books:

Middle Grade Fiction About the Environment (Book Riot)

27 Middle Grade Books About the Environment

Thanks for Reading!

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This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Note that I have received review copies via the publisher of the following books. Opinions are my own: My Friend Earth, Greta and the Giants, The Story of Climate Change, Waking the Mountain, Planet Power, It’s A Wonderful World, It’s Up to Us, Old Enough to Save the Planet, We Have a Dream, Climate Emergency Atlas, Our World Out of Balance, Zero Waste Kids, Fresh Air Clean Water, Palm Trees at the North Pole, Urgent Message From A Hot Planet, Plasticus Maritimus.

Uncategorized

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Nature Poetry for Kids

April is National Poetry Month and I am excited to share a number of favorite children’s books that celebrate poetry inspired by nature.

There are so many benefits in reading poetry with children or in children reading (and writing) poetry on their own: building literacy skills, gaining a fresh perspective on life, celebrating creativity, and so much more!

The natural world has been the subject of a great many poems through the years and thanks to recent publications there is a wealth of opportunity for children to experience nature-based poetry, new and old. I hope you enjoy checking out the books below!

For the Full List of Nature Poetry for Kids CLICK HERE

Sing a Song of Seasons and Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! are both edited by Fiona Waters (Nosy Crow) and contain one poem for every day of the year. These are large volumes with over 300 pages of inspiring poems and are beautifully illustrated. Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! has a special focus on animal poems. Both volumes are nicely indexed and of course you do not have to read through these poems one per day; they serve as nice volumes for any home library.

Nicola Davies (Candlewick) has three volumes of nature-based poetry that are all wonderful for young children (ages 3-7). Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature, A First Book of the Sea, Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals are beautiful collections of poems and a wonderful was to introduce young children to the wonders of the natural world. Each of these volumes are about 100 pages with lots to enjoy and explore!

Both When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons and A Year of Nature Poems take a seasonal/cyclical approach to poetry. When Green Becomes Tomatoes is charming and aimed at a slightly younger audience (6-10) than A Year of Nature Poems (9-12). A Year of Nature Poems contains one poem for each month of the year. Both are wonderful celebrations of the natural world and childhood.

The following poetry picture books take a thematic approach: poetry about the air, nocturnal animals, biomes, city animals, color, birds in flight, underground, winter, camping, gardening, and more! These are all wonderful in their own ways and worth checking out.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold
HMH Books for Young Readers
Ages 6-9
Thunder Underground
Wordsong
Ages 5-9
Wild World
Wide Eyed Editions
Ages 4-7

The following poetry collections are not necessarily centered around a specific nature theme and are not year-long compilations. These are indeed wonderful celebrations of the natural world through poetry.

This Poem is a Nest
Wordsong
Ages 7-11
Forest Has a Song
Clarion Books
Ages 6-9

Video Inside Look

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Note I was given review copies of the following books via the publishers. Opinions are my own: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, A Year of Nature Poems, Catch the Sky, Thunder Underground, After Dark, Behold Our Magical Garden, This Poem is a Nest, Marshmallow Clouds, If This Bird Had Pockets.

Books · Uncategorized

Nature Nonfiction Author Spotlight: Gail Gibbons

About Gail Gibbons’ Books

Gail Gibbons’ nonfiction picture books are likely already familiar to you. She has written close to 200 books, after all! Her books span a wide range of topics, from transportation to sharks, clocks to tornadoes, and holidays to apples. Her nonfiction picture books are aimed at children ages 4-8 years old but I think hold appeal for children well older than 8 years old.

There is so much to love about her books:

  1. Focusing in on one topic per book allows the child to learn in depth about a particular interesting topic.
  2. The text included is age-appropriate in length and complexity. The books make for a nice read aloud but can also be accessible to children who can read on their own. The narrative can hold the attention span of a preschooler and the information is interesting enough to engage an elementary aged student (and adults!)
  3. The illustrations are always beautiful, well-researched, detailed, and coordinate nicely with the text.
  4. She is thoughtful about balancing the information as a whole throughout each book, interspersing pages with one main illustration and a little bit of text with page spreads containing multiple illustrations and more detailed text.
  5. All of the books promote active learning whereby the child is drawn into the experience of learning and invited to broaden their world.

Recent Publications Highlight

I want to hone in on the most recent nature-based publications from the last year or two. Many titles are old favorites that have been updated. After introducing the new books, I will take a minute to discuss what the differences are in a “New and Updated” version of her existing title. You can also watch a detailed video, linked below!

You can view my entire list of nature nonfiction favorites from Gail Gibbons here:

Gail Gibbons Nature Nonfiction Favorites

***Note: The books featured below were provided as review copies by Holiday House. Opinions are my own.

Ladybugs (April 2022)

Volcanoes (January 2022)

Elephants of Africa (September 2021)

Marshes and Swamps (May 2021)

Gorillas (May 2021)

Monarch Butterfly (January 2021)

Spiders (October 2020)

Sharks (January 2020)

Migration was also published in 2020, which is a brand new title and definitely worth checking out! It’s one of my favorites.

What “New and Updated” Means

Several recent publications are actually updates from originals published years ago. The Monarch Butterfly book, for example, was originally published in 1991. It’s honestly wonderful that these books do still stand the test of time, though I completely understand the updates.

In all of the updated versions the illustrations have been saturated and been given a little bit of a facelift. In a few instances, details on illustrations have been changed. Overall the text is mostly the same but with changes here and there to provide a bit more clarity and detail. I hesitate to call these changes improvements because I do not really see any major faults with the originals. They do serve as nice updates. Overall, with the cover art and font changes, the alterations make the book feel more modern.

This is an example where text from Monarch Butterfly has been updated to provide clarity and more specific definitions (**the bottom book is the New and Updated version):

This is an example where illustrations from Monarch Butterfly have been updated (**the bottom book is the New and Updated version):

Overall I do not think you can go wrong if you purchase an original version — I know I have found a number of books in our collection as used copies for less than $5. It’s a great way to build a nonfiction library for curious children. That said, I do think the updates are an improvement and certainly will be the ones we start to see in circulation more.

BRAND NEW: STEAM Powered Workbooks!

Both the From Seed to Plant Workbook and the Monarch Butterfly Workbook were published in January 2022. These workbooks are specially designed for children in Grades K-1 but I think would work well for preschooler. The activities nicely pair with the books From Seed to Plant and Monarch Butterfly to help enhance the learning experience.

Each of these Workbooks is consumable. Children are asked to read along with the text of the book, then complete illustrations or fun games and even do some copywork to learn terminology. I can see these workbooks being useful in a number of educational environments! For an inside look at these, please see the video below.

Video Inside Look

More About Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons’ website

Gail Gibbons books at Holiday House

This website also provides lots of Educator resources!

Read Aloud Revival podcast: Excellent Nonfiction (with Gail Gibbons)

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**Note that I use Amazon online here but do encourage you to purchase books from your local bookstore.

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Uncategorized

Engaging STEM Activity Books for Children

The popularity of STEM-based activity books for children has increased over the last few years. Today I am excited to share The Kitchen Pantry Scientist books that I think really hit the mark in this genre of books.

The Kitchen Pantry Scientist series, from Quarto Kids, contains the following three books:

Physics for Kids (published February 2022)
Biology for Kids (published May 2021)
Chemistry for Kids (published May 2020)

Each book contains 25 different labs utilizing (mostly) items that can be found around the house. Each lab contains nicely detailed instructions paired with real photographs and a summary paragraph explaining what is going on with each lab experiment. In addition to all of these engaging activities, each experiment is actually paired with a specific scientist from that field of study. A short one-page biography and illustration of the scientist is included in the book before each experiment. So, not only are your children able to participate in some fun hands-on science activities, they get to learn a little history and context using a real scientist as an example. Many of the scientists featured will likely be unfamiliar to the children (and adults).

These activity books work for a number of educational scenarios and I think parents and educators alike will find value in them. The intended age range of these books is ages 6-12, which is a decent age span. Note that the younger children will need assistance in reading through the activities and completing the experiments. I think a number of the concepts and labs would be fun and appropriate for 6 and 7 year olds. Children on the older end of that age spectrum will be able to read through the book and complete the experiments on their own, mostly using materials found already in their home.

I love how engaging these books are and the experiments are nicely detailed. The scientific explanations are just the right length for children this age. The photographs and illustrations paired with each lab are spot on. There is much to love!

For an inside look, take a peek at this video I put together:

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***Note: I was given review copies of these books via Quarto Kids. Opinions are my own.

Books · Uncategorized

Favorite Nature Writing from BIPOC Authors

Over the past few years I have made it a goal to seek out nature writing by BIPOC authors. When I entered a public university studying Environmental Science 20 years ago, I was introduced to the field through the writings of the great American naturalists like John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, John James Audubon, and later Rachel Carson. I am not interested in ignoring these writings or removing my appreciation for their work and thoughts of their times. But…. the year is 2022. Our environmental concerns are not the same now that they were 200 years ago or even 60 years ago. Culturally we are continuing to move beyond the limited scope that says only the privileged white man is worthy of holding the megaphone. Further, I think the questions that need asking today cannot even be answered by the transcendentalists.

What does the Earth ask of us? What are the connections between culture and conscience? How does collective memory shape the nature-based experiences of marginalized peoples? What value does the non-human living world hold and who speaks for these beings?

Why is there so little nature writing by people of color?

And: what exactly is “nature writing” anyway? This last question is particularly important because my own ideas of this have been challenged as I have read through the books below.

I am not simply following a fad, but rather seeking to hear from the naturalists of our time. Now. What voices should we be listening to in order to move us forward as we also look back and live in the present day? What I have found are a number of writers who have so much insight, beauty, depth, and courage to share with us today. Robin Wall Kimmerer, Lauret Savory, J. Drew Lanham, to name a few. My hope is to point you in the direction of others that I think are worth engaging with. I continue to search for more and am happy to hear if you have suggestions for me!

Note that there are many BIPOC environmental activist groups and websites out there that I do not feel is necessary for me to compile here. However, I do want to share one site that I have appreciated for the value of continued reading. There are multiple journals, books, videos and more from The Center from Humans and Nature that highlight a diverse range of voices and contributors. I think you will enjoy their content and the movement!

I have read all of the above and enjoyed each for different reasons. Books are wonderful like that — they can strike you in different ways depending on the season of life you are in when you read them.

Note that What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? is from The Center from Humans and Nature and includes a range of voices, not exclusively BIPOC. I particularly love the format of this book which includes poetry, essays and transcribed interviews.

Colors of Nature is an excellent compilation of essays by a variety of authors, edited by Lauret Savoy, who also wrote Trace. Both Trace and The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham are essential for understanding why the stories and experiences of black persons with nature & land contain so much more value today than the writings of the white male colonists from centuries ago. These are books to read carefully.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is probably my favorite author in this field today. Her books Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering Moss have been so impactful. I am particularly drawn to the intersection of science and indigenous wisdom. She has a lot of essays and other material at The Center from Humans and Nature — if you are looking for a great journal article to get the feel of her writing, I recommend: Returning the Gift (2014).

As Long As Grass Grows is essential reading for understanding the modern indigenous-led activist movements. This book was wonderful for sending me down a bunch of rabbit holes to read and discover more!

The following books are on my to-read list. I just picked up The Unlikely Thru-Hiker from my library. I cannot express enough how much I have been enjoying reading books in this genre. I hope you do as well!

**UPDATE 1/27 — Someone recommended the following new release to me and I wanted to add it to the list.

Thanks for checking out this post!

You might also be interested in:

Diverse Nature-Based Picture Books for Children
Indigenous Nature-Based Picture Books for Children
Earth Advocate Books for Children

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FOR MORE BOOK REVIEWS: See my Goodreads page.
FOR CURATED BOOK LISTS: See my Amazon page.
Nature Study · Uncategorized

Becoming a Naturalist with Clare Walker Leslie

Clare Walker Leslie: An Introduction

I have shared about Clare Walker Leslie‘s books before in my post about Nature Journaling, but I thought I would take some time and explore in more detail some of Leslie’s thoughts on nature journaling and connection with nature as well as provide some information about her published works that I so enjoy.

Leslie’s work introduces people of all ages to studying nature and nature journaling. At its core, it is important to see that this act of studying nature is not about becoming an expert artist and producing nature journals that are works of art. Instead, this is about learning how to notice, how to pay attention, how to observe, and how to connect with nature.

Leslie guides children and adults on an adventure. She invites us to step outside and ask questions and open our eyes and hearts the appreciate the natural world. This is never burdensome! Being a naturalist is something anyone can do: simply spend some time outdoors and engage with it using all your senses.

About Clare Walker Leslie’s Books

I wanted to take some time to share about each of Clare Walker Leslie’s books, to give you idea of the scope of focus, that way if you are interested you can think about which one you would like to explore. One of my favorite aspects of Clare Walker Leslie’s approach to teaching is how accessible she makes it — I find that books like The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling can be stunning and detailed, but do not work as well as an entry point into the practice.

***Note: A review copy of Keeping a Nature Journal was provided to me by Storey Publishing and A Year In Nature: A Memoir of Solace was provided to me by Clare Walker Leslie. Reviews and opinions are my own.

Keeping a Nature Journal is an all-around excellent book for beginners as well as experts at nature journaling! Leslie is detailed and encouraging, and reminds us that literally everyone is capable of nature journaling: “You don’t need to know anything about nature, anything about drawing, anyting about writing, anything about what to use or how to draw to start nature journaling. You can be living anywhere–city, suburbs, countryside–and even be indoors…. All you need is the curiosity to say to yourself ‘What is happening out in nature right now, right here, right where I live?‘”

This book does the work of relieving your of any burden you might feel that nature journaling is or should be. Nature journaling is fun and a pleasurable practice, after all! Connecting with nature is an opportunity to slow down and be mindful. It’s also a wonderful way to truly connect with the place you live, recording and noting changes over time.

The book is divided into two main parts: Part 1 is “Getting Started” and takes you through the practical steps of setting up your nature journal and learning some basic practices and procedures. There are lots of example pages taken from the journals of Leslie incorporated throughout the text. In addition, Part 1 includes a detailed Introduction to Drawing section that is excellent for beginners. I find that Leslie’s style is accessible to all. She also encourages you to start with drawing skills and not worry about the use of watercolor and techniques if you are new to the process. Drawing is about observing, paying attention, and using perspective; and, as with any skill, you will get better the more you practice!

Part 2 of the book includes “Journaling Explorations” where Leslie takes you through some guided observations and practices, like learning to draw a flower, how to draw birds and understand their anatomy, or the complex skill of drawing landscapes. This section includes lots of guided examples and an incredible wealth of knowledge!

I’ll end the discussion here with a note from Clare Walker Leslie: “The main points I make when teaching are always to have fun; don’t stress about being a good artist; and realize this is more about seeing what you’re looking at than drawing it well.”

The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms is an excellent nature guide for kids. This book would work well as a Nature Study curriculum book for homeschool families. Intended for children ages 6-10.

Note that this book includes pages to record observations directly in to the book, but if you have multiple children I recommend downloading the FREE pages from the Storey Publishing website: The Nature Connection Worksheets.

The book guides you month-by-month through a range of nature-based learning activities. It involves teaching children how to observe the natural world. Note that the month-by-month approach does assume the changing seasons and so this would not work as a monthly guide for some areas of residence. For example, January invites you to learn about winter survival (warm-blooded versus cold-blooded adaptations) and snow. In October you will learn about why leaves change color, fungi, and the harvest.

Note that this book is divided into three parts: Part One is How to Be a Naturalist — how to find nature wherever you are. The themes and instructions here are similar to notes found in other of Clare Walker Leslie’s books, but these notes are particularly aimed at elementary-aged children. Children learn very simple and doable methods of observing and recording what they encounter in nature. They are even taught drawing methods. Part Two of the book is all about Learning the Sky — it includes specific lessons on weather, clouds, seasons, daylight, the moon, etc. Part Three includes the Month-by-Month Guide I described above.

A Year In Nature: A Memoir of Solace provides a wonderful in-depth view into the nature journals of Clare Walker Leslie. She selected 122 pages from her own illustrated/hand written journals over a four year period. We see a picture of her journals day by day, month by month, for a full year. This volume is incredibly inspirational. I think, again, this is a wonderful opportunity to see how Leslie teaches from her own experience. The point, of course, is not to replicate exactly what she does; but rather to take the inspiration of a woman documenting what she observes and transform the process in to something of your own on a blank paper. I think you will find encouragement through this book if you are hesitant to begin a nature journal. Incorporated throughout the text is also little bits of wisdom and life which add to the experience. I could even see this as an excellent tourism publicity for the Northeast! It’s beautiful.

Drawn to Nature: Through the Journals of Clare Walker Leslie is a compilation of pieces from Leslie’s actual journals. This is a great book to wander through. “This book is intended to be a companion, giving you permission and encouragement to take five minutes to stop and notice all the nature living right beside you. Breathe out and in, and bring it into your life.” There are wonderful page examples in this book I find personally inspiring: colors of the seasons, “beech nut essay,” local meadow grasses, “the colors out my desk window,” to name a few. I love that this provides a nice example of how to record what you observe, and how pairing text with illustrations might vary depending on what you are recording. It’s a beautiful, inspirational, and charming little book.

The Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around You is a fascinating invitation to explore and connect with the natural world where you are. I would say that this is a great starter guide if the idea of nature journaling at all feels overwhelming to you and committing to the in-depth self-education in Keeping a Nature Journal feels like too much. The Curious Nature Guide is a true guide on how to be curious!! What might you be interested in taking a closer look at? How do you open your senses to the world around you? How might you want to share your experiences with others? This book is really a lovely jumping off point. I would recommend this for anyone who feels like they need a quiet, calm voice to tell them how and why to slow down and connect with nature.

Nature All Year Long is a rich and intriguing picture book for children, which features the changes of the natural world through the seasons. Aimed at children 6-10 years old, Nature All Year Long would serve as a nice companion to a yearly nature study or nature education program, such as The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms. Again, this highlights seasonal changes in the eastern United States so I understand this will not fit for everyone as a yearly nature study companion. However, it would work well for a biome study if you do not live in this area of the world.

The Art of Field Sketching is a nice highly detailed guide into nature illustration. This volume goes into further depth and provides more examples than provided in the Drawing section of Keeping a Nature Journal. This is great for those who want a bit more drawing instruction but also it provides a more detailed insight into Leslie’s style which I find to be so accessible. She says, “The art of field sketching is the art of learning to observe and draw nature quickly without worrying about the result.” If you think you can’t draw or don’t have the time and wish you did, this is the book for you!

My Favorites For Where to Start

Keeping a Nature Journal is my number one recommendation for where to start if you are interested in Clare Walker Leslie’s teaching style and incorporating nature observations into your routine.

For educators, I highly recommend The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms for ideas on incorporating nature learning with children.

You Might Also Enjoy…

Favorite Nature Journal Supplies and Resources

Phenology Made Easy

How to Create a Nature Cabinet

Favorite Nature-Based Books

My own personal nature journal

Curriculum · Uncategorized

Our Second Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

ABOUT OUR HOMESCHOOL

I’ve been blogging about our Homeschool curriculum choices for awhile now and have used a variety of things over the course of Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade. I’ve settled in to a few favorites and you will see some continuations from last year. At this point I prefer secular curriculum, but I do not mind sourcing a few things from religious-based companies as long as the curriculum can be adapted. I’ve landed on Blossom & Root as my go-to curriculum and we will be using almost all of their Second Grade year materials.

I’m choosing curriculum that makes sense for my second grader and our family values. The beauty and freedom of homeschooling is that there is not one perfect formula or expectation for every single child at the same level. So if you have a second grader, you might find there are some things that are more advanced for where your child is at and some things that your child mastered last year. That’s not something we should stress about or feel shame over. That is the gift of homeschooling! We get to choose and then make adjustments when things aren’t working or we feel like totally changing up the methodology.

A few curriculum options I will be sharing are currently in process. We are already working through a certain curriculum level because those items are mastery-based and it’s not like there is a clear line of NOW it’s second grade. It’s just what we are working through. So, you might see me share two different levels of a curriculum, just to say we will work through those as the year goes on.

Note that I have a second grader and a first grader for the 2021-2022 school year, so because my kids are so close together, there are a few things we do together – things like science and literature and history. So, in a way, a number of things I’m sharing are a hybrid first-second grade year. Again, with homeschool, I do not think it really matters what “grade” we call it.

I also understand that beyond curriculum people often want to know how the function of our actual school day works and how all the components come together in a sane and manageable way. I am always a bit overwhelmed when I read about other people’s curriculum choices because I’m like HOW are you doing all of that?!? So, I get it.

The HOW is just as important as the WHAT. But, for this post, we’re just going to discuss the WHAT. So, take a deep breath and let’s begin!

SECOND GRADE SUBJECTS

  • Language Arts:
    • Literature
    • Reading
    • Spelling
    • Writing
    • Grammar
  • Math
  • Science
  • Nature Study
  • History
  • Art Appreciation
  • Music Appreciation

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

Also: it’s important to know your state’s legal requirements when it comes to homeschool. I am in a state with very little requirements or regulation, so I have quite a bit of freedom with my curriculum choices.

LANGUAGE ARTS: LITERATURE

For this coming school year I am combining Blossom & Root Level 1 Language Arts and Level 2 Language Arts. The Level 1 Language Arts has recently been updated and the entire selection of literature is different from the Level 1 that I used for First Grade. I was really excited to see all these changes and since I have a Second Grader and First Grader this year I thought it would work well to pull from both language arts curriculum pieces. So, I am using 16 weeks from Year 1 and 19 weeks from Year 2.

We will be reading from the following books:

What I am leaving out from Level 1 (Weeks 1-19 and Week 36):

  • Classic tales and fairy stories
  • Ananse stories

We already have read a lot of the stories used in the first half of the Level 1 Language Arts, so instead I wanted to incorporate the folktales from around the world from the second part. We also just finished a special unit on Africa and read a bunch of Ananse stories so I am leaving that out too.

What I am leaving out from Level 2 (Weeks 13-29)

We have already read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz twice together so I do not want to repeat that again. I’ve tried The Wind in the Willows before with my children and did not care for it. And — The Hobbit is a book both my husband and I have been excited to read with our children since before they were born! My husband *really* wants to read this with them, and so of course that’s what we will do! Therefore, I didn’t see the point in including it as a “school” focus where the kids would also do some narration and copywork. They’ll just read it for reading’s sake with their Dad.

I am also using a condensed version of this curriculum, focusing in on:

  • Literature
  • Narration
  • Copywork

In addition, we may (or may not) incorporate some of the:

  • Fun projects, play, and storytelling
  • Journal prompts

***I’m skipping all the reading lists and poetry activities from the curriculum because we use a separate curriculum for reading and spelling (see below).

I printed out and bound an abbreviated student notebook using just the relevant narration and copywork pages for the corresponding weeks in Year 1 and Year 2.

Note that I do not expect ANYONE will be following exactly what I’m choosing to do for this year! I thought it would be helpful to share, though, to see how easy it is to adapt curriculum to suit your family for any number of reasons. For me, it came down to: (1) not repeating stories we have already read and (2) meeting my two children in the middle. I really love the style and literature choices Blossom & Root makes for their language arts program, so that’s why at the core I wanted to stick with that rather than just do a different curriculum.

READING AND SPELLING

We will continue using All About Learning for reading and spelling in our homeschool.

Right now, my 2nd Grade son is working through All About Reading Level 3 and we will begin All About Reading Level 4 at some point this school year. And what happens after Level 4? We’re in the “Read to Learn” phase, hooray!

I also wanted to mention that we do a lot of independent reading separate from the actual curriculum. My son can read a lot but we still stick with this reading curriculum because I believe in the effectiveness of giving a child a strong foundation for reading fluency.

You might be interested in this post: My Favorite Early Readers

My son also listens to audiobooks during his quiet time and throughout the learn-to-read phase we’ve enjoyed using ABC, See, Hear, Do products.

For All About Spelling my son is on Level 2 and we will continue on with other levels as he completes them. I will be purchasing Level 3 next! I also use this Primary Spelling Notebook from schoolnest — they work perfectly with All About Spelling because they have the same number of lines as the word lists in the curriculum.

If you are interested in getting a closer look at All About Reading Level 1 see this blog post.

I really love this curriculum BECAUSE it separates out reading and spelling into two separate tracks. We have tried a one-size-fits-all style curriculum (The Good & the Beautiful), and it did not work for us. Read about why All About Learning is customizable and why that might be a good fit for you here.

Note that we use the Letter Tiles app which is perfect for switching between the two curricula as well as switching between two different children at different levels.

WRITING AND GRAMMAR

Building Writers from Learning Without Tears

For this curriculum you can also download the Teacher’s Resources for free which have extra printable writing pages in this program’s format — these are SO great because you can write well beyond what the notebook provides!!

In terms of other writing programs, I have heard good things about Brave Writer (we’ve actually used some of Jot it Down), Once Upon a Pancake, and Writer’s Toolbox.

Handwriting Notebooks from The Good and the Beautiful

Note that these notebooks are not secular and include Bible verses.

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

Grammar and Punctuation from Evan Moore

I like the simplicity of the lessons in these notebooks. I have also looked at Easy Grammar and may give that a shot as well this year.

We will work on other types of writing activities through our language arts and history programs as well. And I have these fun resources to help inspire creative writing (which we will use with the Building Writers format:

Overall I still try to take a really gentle approach here and do a lot of writing WITH my kids, transcribing their words in little books they create or we verbally create stories through play. I also still write or type out for them their narrations when it comes to science and history.

MATH

For math we will be using Dimensions Math Level 2 from Singapore Math. I buy the Teacher’s guides, Textbook, and Workbook for each level.

You can read about our experience with Dimensions Math Level 1 on this blog post and why I love it so much!

Note that the curriculum rollout for the Home Instructor teacher guides for Dimensions Math has begun. As of this blog post, the Year 1 guides are available. The original Teacher’s Guides (like those pictured above) are designed for classroom use. Many activities assume several children can work together, which doesn’t always fit for a home experience. The Home Instructor guides are tailored for homeschoolers and eventually there will be a guide for the later elementary years. As soon as the Year 2 ones come out, I think I will purchase them. Though — I will say that using the Teacher’s Guides is working out just fine for me.

SCIENCE AND NATURE STUDY

Blossom & Root Wonders of the Plant & Fungi Kingdom

One of my kids’ favorite parts of our school year last year was the Blossom & Root Science Unit – Wonders of the Earth & Sky. The format and style of this science curriculum worked well for our family.

The recommended books to pair with this curriculum are as follows:

I also really like the DK Trees, Leaves, Flowers, and Seeds book and I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast — I am using these instead of the recommended Botanicum book to pair with the curriculum.

I’ve also pulled out the following books to explore with our year of plants & fungi

We will also incorporate fun things to extend all the learning:

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

A NOTE ABOUT NATURE STUDY

I like to say this a lot: nature is the curriculum. I mostly consider nature study to be simply: immersive nature experiences. Any kind of “nature study curriculum” to me should involve being outdoors and very little to no expense, printouts, resources, etc.

There is a Nature Study companion to the above-mentioned science unit, and I do have this printed and ready to use. The nice thing about this curriculum is there’s no particular order or schedule to it. The projects are all something we can fit in throughout the school year without it being overwhelming for me to prep. The big project ideas to coordinate with Plants & Fungi are things like creating your own leaf book with pressed leaves or seasonal wreaths out of plant material. Overall there are about 32 prompts and 4 bigger projects, all of which can be completed in whatever schedule makes sense to you.

I like the overall approach of the Blossom & Root curriculum when it comes to nature-based lessons. The idea is that it’s great and fine to have a prompt or guide, but the topics are never intended to be a fixed agenda that you hold fast to at the expense of letting your child’s interests and curiosity be the guide. Therefore, we will use this in ways that are fun and assist in learning our science concepts, but I won’t let this be something I feel we have to do.

HISTORY

This year for history we will be using History Quest: Middle Times. Last year we so enjoyed History Quest: The Early Times — the format and depth and richness of this curriculum was so lovely and I can’t wait to continue with it! The curriculum uses the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History to pair with lessons.

The Study Guide provides learning summaries, guided prompts, curated reading lists, suggested ways to plan out your week, examples for copywork, and additional crafts or engaging projects. You can just read the chapter-book style book of History Quest, but I highly recommend purchasing the Study Guide as well.

I created a unique student notebook for each of my children using some of the student pages provided by History Quest (in the Study Guide) but also included pages for copywork with ruled lines for my kids to write on, and then pages for illustrations and narration to summarize what they learned each week. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see the details of how I created this notebook in my “History Quest” stories highlight.

We will also be using this awesome History Timeline notebook from schoolnest to document our learning.

ART APPRECIATION

For art appreciation we will be using Blossom & Root Exploring the Math in Art (Year 2) which is such a unique and interesting way to approach art! We enjoyed the Year 1 version of this curriculum. In includes a simple picture study of a famous work of art (sourced from a wide range of artists and styles), then exploration of a math concept. There are also simple guided prompts to crate an art piece based on that week’s artwork and math concept.

I recently came across Drawing Workshop for Kids and hope to find ways to incorporate this with my kids this year!

My kids also take a weekly art class that they both enjoy attending — the teacher usually has different themes each month like ancient art or color theory. My kids also spend a lot of time with independent drawing and creating. I purchase drawing notebooks for them to fill up to their heart’s content.

OTHER SUBJECTS

We build in music appreciation to school as well and poetry. My kids have a few other activities they participate in but overall I try to keep lots of room for freedom and play and exploration in their days. I know all the above seems like a lot, but I want to be clear that we also do a whole lot of nothing in particular. It’s glorious sometimes and boring sometimes.

VIDEO INSIDE LOOK

WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE ALL SCHEDULED OUT

I’m not going to give a fully detailed weekly schedule here, but just wanted to share a few quick thoughts about how all of this fits in to a week of lessons.

We work on our core academics Monday through Thursday. Every day I make sure we do (1) math, and (2) some form of language arts (reading, narration, literature project, copywork, writing, spelling are all options — we might do a couple of these but I would never do all those in one day!)

I then rotate and switch around history and science lessons, typically spending maybe 2-3 days on each of those topics, depending on that week’s topic and/or my childrens’ interest level. Some weeks I’m sure we could do science in one day. I’m pretty flexible with how we spend time on these subjects. I just try to make sure I’ve done a library grab of topical books in advance (based on curriculum suggestions), and we go from there!

Fridays are for nature time, poetry and art appreciation.

And of course we take breaks here and there just because. I don’t keep a planner or anything. I might look one month or two in advance just to get a general idea of where we are headed with the topics and how we might need to work around holidays and celebrations, but I would never strictly plan out our weeks far in advance!

FOR FURTHER READING

You can find more details about our curriculum choices for Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade here. I also have lots of general homeschool related resources on that page!

Thanks for following along with us. I know some of you have been with me since the very beginning of our homeschool journey and I can’t believe we’re on to 2nd grade now! It’s so fun and crazy.


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Nature Study · Uncategorized

How to Create a Nature Cabinet

Why a Nature Cabinet?

If you spend any time in nature with your children, you will know what it’s like to have them come home with pockets and hands full of treasures. So, what do you do with all those rocks and sticks and shells? Perhaps your child has a little tin or box where they keep their favorites, or maybe these things end up on your kitchen counter only to be forgotten about a day later. The good news is: if you make time in nature a priority, you likely already have a collection going … AND, it really is not to difficult or costly to work on curating a simple Nature Cabinet in your own home.

A curated Nature Cabinet is a nice way to organize and display your own family’s personalized collection of nature treasures and curiosities. The idea is that this cabinet and collection fits with your specific family and space, and is organized in a way that appeals to you. It’s your very own mini museum! There are many ways to go about creating such a space in your home, and I’m here to share ours as just one example. There are no specific requirements on the size of the collection or what you keep in it. Think about what makes sense to you.

Let’s discuss how exactly to go about collecting and curating your family’s nature cabinet…

Know What Is Legal

Protected properties have specific rules on taking from the land. Most collecting and foraging is illegal on federal or state owned lands. That said, I’m not going to pretend like I’ve never walked out of a protected area with a few rocks.⁣⁣ Generally speaking, we have collected most of our items from private property. Even then, there are laws in place. It would be helpful to read up on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and similar regulations. You may have localized rules to follow that people in other areas do not. It’s worth a little reading up because these rules are in place for a reason.

I know there is debate on this idea when it comes to parenting — letting kids be kids versus raising responsible citizens. Personally I do not feel the two are in opposition. For me it is generally important that I communicate in advance to my kids what the rules are of a specific place we are in and they can follow my lead. If they see me hunting for fossils to take home, they know it’s fine. If I say in advance: this is a special area and we will not be picking flowers or collecting anything of any kind, then we might take extra care to take photos along the way of things we find that are special and we keep those in our memories.

I do take time to explain to my kids WHY we don’t just pick whatever flower we want and why protected areas have the rules they have. This happened recently when we were in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spotted a morel mushroom. My kids were so trained to absolutely freak out with excitement and pick a morel should we spot one on our property, that it took a nice teaching moment to say, “We aren’t going to pick that one. It’s for everyone.” Obviously I’m not collecting a morel mushroom to put in my nature cabinet, but you get the point!

I don’t want the idea of a building a nature collection to seem like I am in support of a free-for-all where we just take and grab whatever we want. With that in mind, I’ll introduce my second point…

Be Honorable

In her incredible book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer presents the following ideas behind an “honorable harvest,” which is intended for harvesting plants or nature’s bounty to use for food, shelter, home remedies, etc. but I think these concepts also still apply to collecting nature items for an at-home nature cabinet:

  • Ask permission of the ones whose lives you seek. Abide by the answer.⁣⁣
  • Never take the first. Never take the last.⁣⁣
  • Harvest in a way that minimizes harm. ⁣⁣
  • Take only what you need and leave some for others.⁣⁣
  • Use everything that you take. ⁣⁣
  • Take only that which is given to you. ⁣⁣
  • Share it, as the Earth has shared with you. ⁣⁣
  • Be grateful. ⁣⁣
  • Reciprocate the gift.⁣⁣
  • Sustain the ones who sustain you, and the Earth will last forever.⁣⁣

I also live with a Leave No Trace educator so generally we follow those principles. There are great educational materials for kids on that site if you are interested.

Be Safe, Sanitize, Debug

WARNING: Skip this section if you’re squeamish.

Okay, so let’s talk about the nitty-gritty of bring nature INDOORS.

There’s nothing charming about bringing indoors a collection of pine cones and acorns only to find they’ve been run over by spiders and maggots in a day or two. ⁣⁣Someone once mailed us some large acorns from their yard in a zip-loc bag and it was full of maggots by the time it reached us!
⁣⁣
If you are wanting to keep small nature items like acorns or pinecones regularly indoors for play, math manipulatives, or crafts/decorations, then make sure you take the necessary steps to debug them. But also remember the honorable harvest. The spiders in those pine cones have a right to live too. ⁣⁣I often will give items like that a week or so “buffer” time in my screened-in porch or let them sit in the sun for awhile. Then, depending on the material and its purpose, I might put them in my oven at its lowest temp for an hour or so (cover your cookie sheets with foil!). For pine cones, this also helps solidify the sap so you don’t have that stickiness to deal with anymore.

The oven also works to sanitize things from animals that might carry diseases like birds nests or turtle shells. Cover a cookie sheet with foil, then place items in the 325 degree oven for anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

Hand sanitizer is a helpful thing to bring on hikes in case you or your kids end up handling a nature item that might carry some bad germs. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that it is safe to handle feathers, as long as you are not in an area where there have been cases of the avian flu virus. That said, it’s really always a good idea to wash hands with soap and water after being out in nature.

Sanitizing Bones


For collecting bones, I generally do not let my young kids touch those things while out on the trail. If you are really prepared and have gloves and/or tweezers, then that’s an option for safe handling. Once we have collected bones home we figure out various ways to sanitize them. How we sanitize and clean bones depends on the state of the specimen. We had found a Heron skull that needed quite a bit of work, so we put it in our compost bin for awhile and let the beetles do their work. Then, we boiled the skull in a pot of water over an outdoor fire (don’t bring that stink indoors!), then I put some gloves on to de-meat the bones by hand. Yes, by hand. Then I did a rotation of (1) a overnight soak of dish soap + peroxide plus a gentle scrub, then (2) some time in the sun. Finally, I gave it about an hour bake in the oven at a low temp. This ensured it was clean and free of germs, plus there was nothing left on it that would invite anything else to grow on it.

I know that seems like a lot of work and it’s honestly not pretty. If you are interested in having some animal skulls or bones in your collection but don’t want to go through that process you can always find sellers (who have proper licenses!!) that sell that sort of thing and they have done all the dirty work for you! We actually bought a beaver skull from someone on Etsy because I really wanted one in our collection and after years of searching never found one. Beavers hold a special place in our hearts and the skull is a treasured nature curiosity in our collection even though we did not specifically find it.

Preserve Items in Resin

Preserving items in resin works well for live insects but there are lots of options. Here are the supplies I use:

I recommend reading all of the instructions of whatever resin kit you purchase and follow it. There are lots of safety precautions to take and it is important to follow them. I would not consider this a kid-friendly project.

Curate What Actually Enters Your Home

Nature items like rocks and shells don’t generally need extra effort to clean, but maybe you need to manage the AMOUNT of these things coming into your house.⁣⁣ One of my kids in particular seems to have no limit to the amount of little rocks she likes to bring home.

My kids each have their own nature treasure box to manage. If they run out of room then they need to make decisions on what to get rid of. I also tend to use our screened in porch as a buffer zone for nature collections. The kids are often convinced that the stick or rock they found is the best thing EVER. But let it sit for a few days on the porch and they usually forget about it. The real treasures are usually the ones that are tied to specific memories.

I also limit my kids’ take-home selections in person because obviously I don’t want a ton of random rocks on my porch that I have to then turn around and get rid of! I might say “pick one of your favorites” or ask them if they would like to take photos of the items they really love that way we can leave the item but not feel like we need to bring it all home.

Choose Which Items Are Hands-Off

I imagine in every nature collection there are some pretty special items that you have discovered along the way. It is always good to be clear about what is off-limits in terms of handling by the kids on their own, that way they are clear about what they can just explore as they wish. Obviously if you have toddlers and younger children, you are going to have to set up some actual physical limitations with your collection.

My main goal for our nature collection, now that my kids are old enough to be careful, is that they feel freedom to explore the items as they wish. That said, I do still communicate which items I would like them to be extra careful with.

It is also okay to put things up high or displayed on the wall where they can’t reach it!

Create an Inviting and Beautiful Display

I specifically use the words “inviting” and “beautiful” because building a nature collection at home does not have to be a specific size or type or look like someone else’s. Decide what looks beautiful to you and what makes sense both for your space and family culture. I chose to go with a larger sideboard for our cabinet because I feel like this is a core part of our family culture and wanted to celebrate it as much as possible. We needed lots of space, but your nature collection need not be this sizeable!

The nature cabinet display should be inviting–meaning, that the kids are interested and want to explore the items. This is special and valuable, but it’s a hands-on kind of museum where we are including the children. I like to always have a magnifying glass available. If you have a microscope or field guides it might be nice to keep those things nearby. Again, do what makes sense to you. I know many people like putting up nature identification posters or prints alongside their nature cabinet. You might even include your own nature photography or illustrations your children create to make it special.

Also, when I say “beautiful” I mean beautiful to you. Do not get hung up on all the items needing to be a certain aesthetic or style, though! Budgets matter. Plastic bins work just fine! Not everything needs to be vintage or wood or even look like a museum.

Your nature display might also have a bookshelf nearby. I do think having nature field guides nearby or storage in the cabinet is a great way to invite exploration, but even some kid-friendly nature nonfiction books work. You can view a lot of my favorite nature-based children’s books here.

You might also try rotating items regularly and changing the theme based on seasons or what is happening in the natural world around you. Or, maybe the theme could fit your child’s particular interests! There are lots of possibilities.

Try to Stay Organized

One main goal I have is to make sure the collection is not out of control. Here are a couple of storage solution ideas I have come up with:

  • ANYTHING works in terms of actual display and storage! Thrift shops are a great place to start. You do not need to spend a lot of money. Hunt for baskets or small wood bins in a variety of sizes. Try to even look around your house and make do with what you already have.
  • Divided trays or divided storage boxes work well for children’s personal collections or for separating similar items in a themed collection. This wood tray pictured below is actually a utensil divider that came with a cutlery set we got as a wedding gift.
  • Jars in a variety of sizes work well as “vases” for taller items like feathers or interesting sticks or dried plants. Glass jars also make a nice way to store small items but you can also see and appreciate them. You can use simple Ball jars found everywhere, hunt in thrift shops, or sometimes there are interesting shaped ones at places like the Target Dollar Spot. We found some mini glass jars with wood lids that way. I also use small vials with cork lids for collecting sand or dirt or making a little apothecary set of dried flowers/plants.
  • Vintage printer’s trays are also great for a unique wall display. These can be hard to find, though, so please don’t get too hung up on having something like this immediately! If you really want one, be patient and search online and in nearby antique shops.
  • Have fun with a simple label maker! I personally don’t feel I need to have absolutely everything catalogued and labeled but there are times when it’s both helpful and fun.

For more longer-term storage, I keep items separate in zip-loc bags and in a plastic storage bin. Sometimes we use items like acorns for crafts so I might have a bag of excess in a separate bin like that.

Having a separate bin helps me rotate some display items as well, just to change it up occasionally.

I also wanted to share this separate coffee table we have that was made from a printer’s tray (the same display I have hung on the wall above our cabinet). This coffee table was a lovely heirloom from my grandparents but I know there are lots of you with skilled woodworker family members and friends that could totally make something like this! It has a glass on top you can simply slide off to add items. My grandparents had every rock neatly labeled when they had it, but I’m not that detailed.

A Video Tour of our Nature Cabinet

Below is a video tour of the nature cabinet the kids and I put together in our home. Enjoy!

For Additional Exploration

Thank you for reading. I hope you have fun in your nature-collecting endeavors! And, feel free to ask my any questions below.

If you are a homeschooler interested in adding nature studies to your learning, I recommend any of the following resources:

You might also be interested in this post:

Natural Backyard Play Supplies


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Curriculum · Uncategorized

Human Body Science Unit (Early Elementary)

Curriculum & Project Book Used

The Human Body, Part 1 (The Good & the Beautiful Science Curriculum)

Note that The Good & the Beautiful is religious and includes Christian-based ideas in its lessons. That said, I do think their science units can be adapted for a secular family or family of a different religion! Note: I had an older version of this science unit and can’t full speak to the most recent updated version.

My First Book of My Body

This book is fantastic! It honestly could work as a unit study curriculum on its own. There are different topics covered in detail and then lots of hands-on project ideas, all nicely detailed with real photographs and illustrations to help you work through the projects. We used a lot of ideas in this book.

If you have older elementary kids, the Blossom & Root Fourth Grade Science Unit covers the human body, among other topics in Wonders of the Physical World

Reference Books for Entire Unit

DK Human Body! Knowledge Encyclopedia*

Inside Out Human Body

Big Book of the Body

*Note this book does contain information on the Reproductive System

I will detail additional books used below for each week/theme.

I created simple spiral-bound notebooks for my kids to document our learning through the lessons, but note that The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum does provide one page of notebooking per week/theme.

Our main structure for each week/theme was as follows:

  1. Learn basic concepts
  2. Explore in depth information through books
  3. Explore videos
  4. Do at least one hands-on project
  5. Complete notebooking

Extra Materials – For Fun!

None of the following items are required for the curriculum I used, but are just fun elements to add on to the learning for the early elementary ages.

Kiwi Crate My Body and Me

Safari TOOB Organs

Smart Labs Human Body

Magnetic Human Body Play Set

Videos for Visual Learners

One thing I learned this last school year using the Blossom & Root science curriculum is that both of my kids learn well from videos. Obviously searching on YouTube can be risky, so I fully appreciate when videos are vetted by a curriculum in advance. I didn’t have any for this Human Body unit, but used the following channels/sites that had LOTS of fantastic video options for each week/theme:

Typically for each unit I could find one or two videos to help drive home the lesson.

Week 1: On Being Human…

Week 1 of The Good & the Beautiful Human Body, Part 1 curriculum covers identity in terms of “God made my body” and includes a Bible verse. I wanted to share how I adapted this portion of the curriculum to instead take a secular approach. I did a library haul of several books that celebrate our identity (you can see the list below). We also covered human evolution at the start of the unit, as well as an age-appropriate understanding of the “where do babies come from?” question. I’m not here to say you should or should not cover these things, but rather these are some options. Obviously how you cover the reproductive system will depend on your family’s values and children’s ages. Note that The Good & the Beautiful does not cover the reproductive system in the curriculum I used.

Humans: Affirming Our Identity
Human Evolution

See this blog post for favorite books on evolution.

We also watched these videos:

*Week 1 of The Good & the Beautiful curriculum does cover the cell in addition to the “God made me” stuff.

Reproductive System

*I adore this little book because it covers all sorts of family structures: adoptive, foster, multi-parent, etc. and is LGBTQ+-inclusive.

Week 2: The Skeletal System

For the Skeletal System we used resources from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum, and also did a super cool project from My First Book of My Body to create a robotic hand from cardboard, string, and paper straws. I also used human skeleton 3-part cards from Montessori Factory. The Good & the Beautiful curriculum does contain lots of handy printouts for every week/lesson, so honestly you do not NEED to purchase any extra printables if you go with this curriculum.

Videos:

Week 3: The Muscular System

For the Muscular System we mainly used resources from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum. I also loved this helpful poster printout of the Muscular System from Art Design Collection. The extra books pictured for the muscular system here we just explored by browsing. Most books like this I grab from the library.

Videos:

Week 4: The Respiratory System

The main project we did for the Respiratory System was found both in The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum and in My First Book of My Body to create a lung simulation. The extra books pictured for the respiratory system here we just explored by browsing.

Videos:

Week 5: The Circulatory System

We created “blood” using mini marshmallows, oats, and red hots based on an idea found in My First Book of My Body. So fun! I also loved the Human Heart Anatomy 3-part cards from Montessori Factory. We also enjoyed the simple artery and vein “lacing” heart project from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum. The extra books pictured for the circulatory system here we just explored by browsing.

Videos:

Week 6: The Nervous System

We had a lot of fun playing with ideas to learn about The Five Senses from My First Book of My Body. The five senses posters from Wild Feather Edu were nice to pair with this unit.

I combined ideas to have the kids create a play dough model of the brain and label parts, with the main idea coming from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum. I also really liked the book Why I Sneeze, Shiver, Hiccup & Yawn.

Nervous System Videos:

Five Senses Videos:

Pictured above shows the hands-on lesson idea from The Good & the Beautiful science curriculum.

Week 7: The Digestive System

What Happens to a Hamburger is a great book to learn about the digestive system. We also created a fun model to get an idea of the length of the intestines, which of course blew the kids’ minds! There are some other fun (and super gross) ideas in My First Book of My Body to learn about the digestive system.

Videos:

Week 8: The Urinary System

Well, not sure which unit was more silly to my kids — this or the digestive system. I will say that the fun hands-on experiment from My First Book of My Body (pictured below) helped the kids see the “wow” factor and understand the function of kidneys. But, of course their notebooking illustration involved lots of use of the yellow crayon.

Videos:

Week 9: The Immune System

Lots to learn about the immune system, and certainly this topic is quite relevant to the kids right now. We made some model germs out of play dough to try and have some fun with it, and there was a great little board game from The Human Body, Part 1 curriculum. For books, we enjoyed The Good Germ Hotel and Tiny Creatures which I think were both helpful to not only think of microbes as bad. We are all a bit germ-intensive lately so it was nice to gain some understanding and have fun with it. I could see this being an anxiety-inducing topic for some children, but I think The Good & the Beautiful approach helps focus on the science and makes it fascinating to explore.

Videos:

Week 10: The Integumentary System

The last unit we covered was all about skin, hair and nails. There were LOTS of fun projects in My First Book of My Body. My kids especially enjoyed investigating their fingerprints and doing some hot/cold tests with their skin.

Videos:

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for following along our little homeschool adventures.


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