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Preschool Homeschool Curriculum Comparison

Preschool Homeschool Curriculum Comparison - The Silvan Reverie

To Preschool or Not to Preschool…

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

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

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

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

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

When to Begin Preschool?

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

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

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

How to Choose Curriculum

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

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

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

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

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

Four Favorite Preschool Curriculum Options, Reviewed

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

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

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

The Peaceful Preschool Overview- The Silvan Reverie
The Peaceful Preschool

Overview

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

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

Subjects Covered in a Week

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

Highlights

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

What Comes Next?

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

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

Overview

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

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

Subjects Covered in a Week

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

Highlights

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

What Comes Next?

Blossom & Root Early Years Overview - The Silvan Reverie

Blossom & Root Early Years

Overview

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

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

Subjects Covered in a Week

Early Years Volume 1

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

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

Early Years Volume 2

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

Highlights

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

What Comes Next?

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

Habitat Schoolhouse Preschool Overview - The Silvan Reverie

Habitat Schoolhouse

Overview

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

Subjects Covered in a Week

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

Highlights

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

What Comes Next?

Comparison Charts

Preschool Curriculum Comparison

Preschool Curriculum Overview - Weekly Categories Covered
A Few Other Options

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

A Year of Playing Skillfully (Religious)

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

Before Five In A Row (Religious)

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

My Father’s World (Religious)

The Gentle + Classical Preschool (Religious)

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

Torchlight Pre-K (Secular)

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

Charlotte Mason – A Quiet Growing Time

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

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

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Favorite Tree Books for Children

Favorite Tree Books For Children - The Silvan Reverie

Tree Narratives for Children

A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry

A poetic ode to the beauty of the presence of trees in our everyday lives. The simplicity is perfect and a lovely depiction of childhood.

*Great for preschoolers

Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker

An allegorical depiction of a young girl standing up against deforestation. Based on Greta Thunberg’s life, this is also a testament to the power of community coming together.

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers

I love ALL of The Fan Brothers books, and this one does not disappoint. A man transforms the spirit of a town and the life of an orphan boy by designing whimsical topiaries each night in secret. Charming and sweet. The best kind of story.

Tall, Tall Tree by Anthony Fredericks

A lyrical counting book in a giant redwood ecosystem. Learn about all that lives in this unique habitat — perfect for anyone totally enthralled by these giant trees.

*Great for preschoolers

The Little Fir Tree by Christoper Corr

You can view more of my favorite Holiday evergreen trees on my Conifers Nature Study post. I’m including this one on my “regular” list because the story is a classic one — based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale. Our family loves these illustrations so much!

Seeds and Trees by Brandon Walden

A powerful story about friendship and kind words and the state of our hearts. Emotions are represented as good trees and bad trees, and the visual landscape is stunning. A beautiful story with an important and timeless message.

The Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree by Naoko Stoop

A library built into the nook of a tree in the woods with friendship at the root? Who wouldn’t want such a thing! This book has been a long-time favorite in our family. So sweet.

The Shady Tree by Demi

A Chinese fable about greed versus generosity. This book has the similar unforeseen shift in story like The Empty Pot.

Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins

Is there anything NOT to love about treehouses? This book imagines all the possibilities of treehouses in the spirit of all children. So imaginative and inviting!

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon

Such a charming story with a female protagonists who solves a windy problem by planting trees. This just so happens to be a legitimate environmentally-friendly solution!

The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward

A simple rhyming story about the life of an old oak tree and all of the life it supports. The details are quite lovely and I find this so charming and simple.

*Great for preschoolers

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins

This is the true story of Kate Sessions who was instrumental in bringing trees from around to the world to a little desert town known as San Diego.

This book also appears on my Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies.

Tree by Britta Teckentrup

A peek-through book that depicts a single tree through all four seasons. Lots to enjoy on each page and the story is rhythmical and lovely.

*Great for preschoolers

Redwoods by Jason Chin

A fun depiction of the the power of books and the mystery of the redwood forests. A boy imagines himself into the redwood forests as he learns important facts. This is one of those nonfiction-books-disguised-as-fiction. Unique and fun!

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This classic. I can remember reading this so many times as a kid. The tree is so simply illustrated and yet incredible impactful in the imaginations of many.

Maple by Lori Nichols

There are other books in this series and they are a lot about the sisters Maple & Willow and their relationship. I love the idea that a child can find friendship in a tree, or really anything natural in their yard.

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses by Shira Boss

The title explains the bulk of this story — a true story about Bob Redman, an arborist in New York City, and his passion for trees. Most naturalists do in fact have close ties with nature as children.

A Year Around the Great Oak by Gerda Muller

I love Gerda Muller so much! This book is a wonderful depiction of a tree through the seasons and how the children relate to it. Also the tree in this book is a 300 year old gorgeous oak tree!

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

There are several Fletcher books but I particularly love this one. I adore Fletcher’s desperation to save his tree because he doesn’t understand that the leaves falling is totally natural. Too sweet.

Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves by Annemarie Riley Guertin

A stunningly illustrated tale about kindness, told as a classic story. We learn why Cardinals do not migrate south in the winter AND why evergreens keep their leaves. Thanks to a little generosity from the trees and magic from Jack Frost.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

A hilariously absurd story from Oliver Jeffers that will have everyone giggling. Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree one day and then cycles through increasingly crazy objects to fling up in the tree to free the kite.

The Things That I Love About Trees by Chris Butterworth

I adore the illustrations in this book and the fact that it takes you through all four seasons and describes things to appreciate about trees in each season. A lovely depiction of a childhood spent in nature.

UPCOMING RELEASES:

Peter and the Tree Children by Peter Wohlleben — April 2020

Under My Tree by Muriel Tallandier — April 2020

Holiday Evergreen Tree Books

Favorite Holiday Tree Books - The Silvan Reverie

See this blog post: Conifers Nature Study for a list of favorite holiday books featuring evergreen trees.

Tree Nonfiction Books For Children

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups

This book is a great crossover from a field guide to a nonfiction read. It is not meant to be a field guide but could work that way for you. Each tree gets a 2-page spread and I think it is nicely representative of North American species.

Tell Me, Tree

Gail Gibbons is the Queen of nature books! And this one does not disappoint. Tell Me, Tree is a little different in style than her other books, but she always has a great balance of text and images to keep the reader interested.

The Magic and Mystery of Trees

This is such a fun reference book to learn all about trees. I think pretty much anything you can think of is covered in this book! The illustrations are appealing to kids but I think do a great job of referencing true-to-life imagery.

Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees

If you have followed me for any time on Instagram, you will know how much I love the Crinkleroot books. This is a nonfiction learning book, but a true living book with a wonderful narrative that presents information through story and not just facts.

Trees: A Rooted History

This book is one of those appealing coffee-table type books that I often feel appeal more to adults than children. BUT, I will honestly say that my kids love this book. I think it helps that it is specific to trees and there is a whole world about trees to explore on these oversized pages. It’s beautiful and engaging.

Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them

This book is so fascinating. I personally love learning about trees around the world and going beyond the trees we see everyday.

Favorite Tree Field Guides

The Sibley Guide to Trees

This has to be my favorite field guide (of any category) that we own! I consider this a must-own for any nature-loving family. It is perfect.

Peterson First Guide to Trees

These Peterson “First Guide” series are great for children! They are compact and information is not overwhelming. Obviously this will not be as extensive, but I think it is a great first place to get into field guides.

National Audubon Society: Field Guide to Trees (Eastern Edition)

The National Audubon Society guides use real photos as opposed to illustrations, which I think many find helpful. The photos are often organized in ways that children and non-botanists think about what they are seeing: color and shape. You can peruse a real photo section of yellow fall leaves, or acorns, or berries. So helpful!

Tree Finder

This is a simple booklet in black-and-white that is great for learning botanical terms and working through a decision-tree to get to the answer.

Winter Tree Finder

Similar to above, this is so helpful for identifying winter trees.

Sibley’s Common Trees of Trails and Forest of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest

This is obviously a very specific guide to my region, but I wanted to say that I highly recommend finding a tree guide as specific as you can find to your region. This reduces the sample size in your field guide when trying to identify something you see in your area. Especially for kids, something like this is much less daunting than perusing the Sibley guide I mentioned above.

Other Booklists of Note

You may also be interested in the following booklists on my website:

Favorite Bird Books for Children
Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies
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Favorite Bird Books for Children

Bird Books for Children - The Silvan Reverie.jpg

About This List

*List Updated March 22, 2020

Below I provided separate lists for fiction and nonfiction books about birds for children. Within each of those lists I also created sub-categories and a few favorites based on age level of the child. Nonfiction books are divided up by learning category (e.g. nests & eggs).

There is no book on this list I (and my kids) don’t enjoy. At the end of the post I did list out a few bird books that are out there which I do not care for, and why.

Happy birding!

Bird Narratives for Children

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

A beautiful and simple tale of a young girl who goes “owling” with her father one night in winter. Owl stories always seem to contain a bit of magic and this one does not disappoint. Owl Moon is easily one of my favorite children’s books, not just favorite bird book.

Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Follow Mr. and Mrs. Mallard as they figure out how best to care for their 8 ducklings in the bustling city of Boston. A fun tale containing the best kind of human-animal friendships. The simple line illustrations are perfection.

Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco

A charming story about Babushka, who wants to enter an egg-decorating contest (in traditional Ukrainian style), and an injured goose she cares for named Rechenka, who plays her own part in the contest.

Henny Penny by Paul Galdone

A classic tale about some gullible bird friends (Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurky) that get outsmarted by a Fox. Paul Galdone is a favorite for these types of classic tales — see also The Little Red Hen.

On Bird Hill by Jane Yolen

The author of Owl Moon wrote On Bird Hill, On Duck Pond, and On Gull Beach for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Each of these three books does a wonderful job exploring birds in their natural habitats through a child’s viewpoint.

On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen
On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen
Bird Watch by Christie Matheson

A playful book that introduces a variety of birds and includes counting along with a look-and-find element that is perfect for young preschoolers!

Just Ducks! by Nicola Davies

Nicola Davies has a talent for combining narrative with facts & information. Kids can follow this sweet story of a girl who keeps track of her neighborhood ducks but also learn about Mallards along the way.

There’s a Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willems

You might be surprised I’m including and Elephant & Piggie book in my list, but I love how simple and funny this is and it still manages to introduce even the youngest readers to the lifecycle of birds (though, it happens MUCH quicker in this book, obviously).

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray

A lyrical story follows children as they listen to the calls of a variety of birds they encounter.

Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond

A charming story of a young girl participating in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Readers follow Ava as she learns the logistics and helps keep track of the bird count (readers can follow along the tally in a sidebar–a brilliant added detail!). A wonderful story that brings charm into citizen science, and will invite children to hone their own observation skills and take a closer look at the birds around them.

One Dark Bird by Liz Garton Scanlon

A gorgeously illustrated lyrical story of a starling murmuration. Counting up from 1 to 10 and more, the murmuration builds. This is so much more than a simple counting book and will invite a wide range of ages from around 0 to 8 to enjoy this simple wonder of nature.

Crow Not Crow by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

A fantastic book for learning the very beginnings of bird identification! The little girl in the story goes birding with her father and learns how to be more attune to different sizes, shapes, colors, and markings of birds.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

An absurdly cute story of three baby owls as they discuss where their mother went one night (to hunt for food for them, of course).

Little Bird by Germano Zullo

A sparse text (mostly wordless) picture book depicting a lovely friendship between bird and man. A book that feels like it needs hours to sink in after you read it — and I hardly can get through it without crying!

Mama Built A Little Nest by Jennifer Ward

A fun way to introduce the variety of nesting birds through a rhyming story and inviting illustrations. A nice variety of birds are represented. There is also included on each page a bit of extra facts to go back and learn about.

Bird Builds a Nest by Martin Jenkins

This is a simple tale of a bird building a nest — great for the youngest readers. Cute and fun with illustrations that are not meant to be realistic.

White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies

Another Nicola Davies (see Just Ducks! above) — the wonder of owls is represented so nicely through story, but the book also includes true facts to glean.

The Barn Owls by Tony Johnston

A lovely story that takes us through the lives of Barn Owls that live in a 100+ old barn and repeat the same rituals for their livelihood that their ancestors di.

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel

True to any Arnold Lobel story, these stories of Owl at Home are utterly charming and hilarious. What a fun friend to have through story!

Ivy Bird by Tania McCartney

An imaginative little girl spends her day with a variety of birds, pretending to be like them and their unique characteristics. The illustrations are vivid and Ivy is certainly a fun girl to spend some time with.

Lali’s Feather by Farhana Zia

Lali find a random feather in a field and sets out to find out where it came from and to bring it home. She asks a wide variety of birds if the feather is theirs. I love this book, set in an Indian village, because it shows kindness and treasuring the present.

The Burgess Bird Book for Children

Learn real information about birds through story. Thornton Burgess is just the best — on any “living book” must-read list for sure.

Hawk, I’m Your Brother by Byrd Baylor

For all the kids who have dreamed about flying. The line illustrations are wonderful enough to earn a Caldecott honor, but the story told through prose is equally notable.

Favorites for the Youngest Preschoolers: There’s a Bird on Your Head!, Bird Watch, Mama Built A Little Nest, Owl Babies

Favorites for Preschool & Kindergarten:Make Way For Ducklings, Rechenka’s Eggs, Henny Penny, Owl Moon

Favorites for Early Elementary: The Burgess Bird Book for Children

Bird Nonfiction Books For Children

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General Bird Learning
The Big Book of Birds by Yuval Zommer

A lovely introduction to birds for kids. Provides general information about birds in a fun way and dives deeper in to a range of bird species throughout the world. I think there could be more here, but overall this is fun and engaging! The kids love all of Yuval Zommer’s “Big Book” books.

Nests, Eggs, Birds: An Illustrated Aviary by Kelsey Oseid

This is a gorgeous and engaging educational read that features highlights of birds as well as their nests and eggs. I love the format of this book and how the information is presented in such an interesting way.

Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Birds by Jim Arnosky

I love all the Crinkleroot books but this one is my favorite. It’s just a really fun way to present a learning topic to children–by following a trusted guide (a gnome named Crinkleroot who was born in a tree and raised by bees)

National Wildlife Federation World of Birds

A fantastic resource for bird lovers! The amount of information presented on a given bird species is fun and inviting to read.

Fly With Me: A Celebration of Birds through Pictures, Poems, and Stories

This book has a lot of content — stories, poems, quotes, real facts about specific birds, information to learn about birds as a whole. A great reference to have around. It also uses real photos!

General Bird Learning – Best for Toddlers & Preschoolers
About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill

About the simplest book version of what a bird is out there. The illustrations are lovely and I think this is so great for the youngest readers. Cathryn Sill has a whole series of “About” books for the natural world worthy of checking out as well!

A Bird is a Bird by Lizzy Rockwell

A fun introduction to birds! I love the diversity of birds represented and this is a fun an engaging read.

Beautiful Birds by Jean Roussen

An A to Z book that includes charming and amusing illustrations. Great for preschoolers learning their alphabet!

Biography & True Story
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davis

A lovely account of the life of Audubon and his contribution to the world of ornithology.

Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends by Heidi E.Y. Stemple

Love the illustrations and the way the story is presented here on the citizen science practice of bird counts!

The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist by Margarita Engle

Louis Fuertes was an ornithologist inspired by Audubon to paint his own artwork based on birds. The illustrations in this book are stunning, realistic, and engaging. The text is all written in prose. It’s a beautiful book that pays a nice tribute.

Nests & Eggs
A Nest Is Noisy* by Dianna Hutts Aston

This book is just a must-have for any young naturalist’s library. The illustrations are just beautiful and the poetic language is engaging. Along the journey, real facts are included to learn more.

An Egg Is Quiet* by Dianna Hutts Aston

Similar to above — just a super engaging way to explore the beauty and wonder of eggs!

Even An Ostrich Needs A Nest by Irene Kelly

Explores a wide variety of materials and function of bird nests. There is a decent amount of text here so A Nest Is Noisy would be better for younger readers. One thing I absolutely love about this book is the map provided at the back showing where all the birds represented in this book live.

All Kinds of Nests by Eun-gyu Choi

Another beautiful introduction to a wide variety of bird nests! The style here is a bit more playful than A Nest Is Noisy.

Birds Build Nests by Yvonne Winer

This book is out of print but an excellent read! The narrative  (in prose) takes you through a range of nest types and even include a detailed nest identification guide in the back of the book! The guide specifies which birds are featured in the story and gives more detail about the nests and location.

Take-Along Guide: Birds, Nest, and Eggs by Mel Boring

A reference guide that’s not meant to be thorough — only 15 birds are represented. That said, this is such a great reference for kids if you are learning about any of the species in here.

*Book also depicts animals other than birds.

I also love the book We Build Our Homes by Laura Knowles — this features a number of birds but also mammals and insects.

Fiction stories that fit in with the Nests & Eggs theme: Mama Built A Little Nest, Bird Builds a Nest, and an honorable mention to The Apple Pie Tree (which really is about following an apple tree through the seasons but also features nesting Robins).

Beaks & Feet
Beaks! by Sneed B. Collard III

I love this book so much! The diversity of beak adaptations are well-represented and detailed.

Unbeatable Beaks by Stephen Swinburne

A simpler version of Beaks! by Sneed B. Collard III — just less text overall but still does an excellent job covering the subject matter. It’s out of print and hard to come by!

Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat by Laurie Ellen Angus

Simple text and illustrations — a fun introduction to the diversity of bird feet! Contains a nice summary table in the back of the book.

Wings & Feathers
Wings* by Sneed B. Collard III

Similar format to Beaks! — lots of great detail provided on the topic. Note that other animals with wings are represented.

Feathers Not Just For Flying by Melissa Stewart

This is a fantastic book on feathers! The illustrations are wonderful and I think all the information is presented in a meaningful way. New vocabulary terms are well defined. A nice variety of bird species are represented.

*Books also depicts animals other than birds.

Honorable Mention: The Book of Flight is a fun book about flying but also represents other animals besides birds.

Bird Sounds
The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs

House Wren, American Goldfinch, Red-Winged Blackbird, Killdeer, House Finch, Great Horned Owl, Blue Jay, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove

The Little Book of Woodland Bird Songs

Red Crossbill, Hermit Thrush, Black-Capped Chickadee, Common Loon, Red-Eyed Vireo, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Purple Finch, Barred Owl, Wild Turkey, Downy Woodpecker

Sounds of Nature: World of Birds

Bird sounds are presented by habitat — Rainforest, Mountains, Desert, Prairie, Woods, Ice, Wetlands, City, Ocean, Bush

Love the diversity represented here — so many birds to learn about!

Narrative that fits with the Bird Sounds theme: Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?

Specific Groups of Bird Species
Watching Water Birds by Jim Arnosky

Loons, Grebes, Mergansers, Mallards, Wood Ducks, Canada Geese, Gulls, Herons

Thunder Birds by Jim Arnosky

Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, Owls, Vultures, Herons, Egrets, Pelicans, Loons, Cormorants, Gannets

A few life-size fold-out pages are includes. Excellent life-like illustrations!

All About Owls by Jim Arnosky

For narratives about owls: Owl Moon, Owl Babies, White Owl, Barn Owl, The Barn Owls

Owls by Gail Gibbons

For narratives about owls: Owl Moon, Owl Babies, White Owl, Barn Owl, The Barn Owls

Ducks! by Gail Gibbons

For narratives about ducks: Make Way For Ducklings, On Duck Pond, Just Ducks!

Birds of Prey by Robert Bateman
Soaring With the Wind: The Bald Eagle by Gail Gibbons
Backyard Birds of Summer by Carol Lerner

Grosbeaks, Buntings, Gray catbird, Hummingbirds, Orioles, Tanagers, Wren, Swallows, Eastern Phoebe, Bluebirds

Tips on attracting birds to your yard.

Backyard Birds of Winter by Carol Lerner

Chickadees and Titmice, Cardinal, Blackbirds, Carolina Wren, Thrushes, Sparrows and Juncos, Rufous-sided Towhee, Jays, Crows, and Magpies, Finches

Bird Poetry

Superlative Birds by Leslie Bulion includes poems as well as scientific explorations.

What I Did Not Cover:

PENGUINS

I feel this deserves it’s own category because there are SO MANY penguin books out there. For nonfiction, my favorite is Penguins! by Gail Gibbons.

MIGRATION

Note I have not read all of these but here is my list. Many of these cover not just birds but mammals and insects as well:

Bird Books I Do Not Care For:

The two Britta Teckentrup books both feel more like adult coffee-table books than children’s books. The information, while interesting, is not presented in any meaningful way. Plus, the illustrations are not realistic.

Bird House is a life-the-flap book which I typically do not enjoy — especially in a book like this with so much information. I have trouble determining what age group this book is aimed at.

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Bird Field Guides

Last but not least I’m going to share a list of our favorite field guides:

I also recommend trying to find a state- or region-specific guide. For example, we have this Birds of Indiana field guide and Birds of Indiana book.

Sibley also makes postcards and flashcards which are lovely companions (I use the postcards as flashcards for my 5 and 4 year old because they are simpler than the flashcard design).

I also highly recommend the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds Website as a fantastic learning resource.

Uncategorized

Space Preschool Activities

DETAILS

IMG_8223My son (3 1/2) has shown interest in space lately, and I thought with the solar eclipse happening soon we should spend some time on space learning activities and reading and fun.

We’ve got our eclipse glasses (which are apparently absurdly expensive right now) and will likely travel that day to get a better view.

NASA also has some great resources here and here for ideas.

BOOKS

Note that a few of these have a lot of educational text and are intended for older-than-3-year-olds but we still found value looking at the pictures and exploring!

ACTIVITES

IMG_8155.JPG Solar system play dough fun! Homemade black play dough with black food coloring & black glitter.

I made planets by painting 1.5″ wood craft coins with acrylic paint. I always finish wood crafts with polyurethane to ensure they stand up to rough play. I also made meteors (painted black rocks with black glitter).

My son loved this son much! Our space shuttle was covered in black play dough by the end and glitter was EVERYWHERE, which helped me realize how terrible my dust buster is.

IMG_8167 Matching our craft coin planets to our Space 3-Part Cards [link is to a free PDF file]. I seriously spent 20 minutes painting these planets and didn’t care too much about size/scale (how can you, really?) — I just wanted them to match our cards … and get my hands covered in black paint in the process.
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Memory game with our Space 3-Part Cards. Print two copies on card stock, laminate and cut in to cards. Then play a simple memory game.

You can also use the cards as a traditional 3-Part Card set, but since my son is just starting to learn about this stuff I wanted to keep our learning centered on PLAY. Plus: I can’t even keep the planets straight!

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Solar system busy bag scavenger hunt. Basically I filled a 1 gallon zip loc bag with a little bit of water, dyed it black, added silver glitter. Then, I printed out our Solar System Scavenger hunt sheets [link is to a free PDF file]. The 2nd page has just the planets (plus sun and moon) in circles, so I cut those out, laid them down on the table, and added the black water bag on top. You have to (1) push the water around (some people use hair gel), (2) find and name a planet, then (3) mark it off on the scavenger hunt sheet.

Another option is to laminate the planet circles and place them *in* the bag but I felt this was an unnecessary extra step & waste of a laminating page. It worked fine just placing the circles under the water bag on the table.

IMG_8219.JPG Meteor counting activity.

A tray of black beans and scrunched up tin foil balls: that’s it!!

Counting numeral cards via The Peaceful Preschool curriculum.

IMG_8272.jpg Eclipse + orbit role play game: sun, earth and moon.

There’s 3 of us so we took turns being either the sun or the earth or the moon. Whoever was the sun got to hold a flashlight and shine it at earth. To demonstrate an eclipse, whoever was the moon stood in front of the flashlight beam to block the sun to earth. We also got silly with orbiting each other — running circles and getting dizzy.

IMG_8267.jpg Moon rock transfer activity: adding black marbles on to white golf tees (placed in a foam piece covered in tin foil). My 2 year old LOVED LOVED LOVED this. This easy-to-set-up activity is great for concentration, coordination, and fine motor skills. You could make this more difficult by numbering the golf tees and having the child place them in sequence. I set up the golf tees for my 2 year old but you could also have your child add the golf tees to the foam board themselves!
IMG_8236.JPG SPACE phonics activity + Sensory “space treasure hunt” fine motor activity and play.

First, my 2 year old scratched with a wood pencil on our ALEX Little Hands scratch ABC’s (via Target Dollar Spot which I cannot find online — but you could get these sheets and cut into letters or shapes). We reviewed the letters as we went.

Then, later I added those letters to a cookie tray covered in tin foil with multi-colored marbles (“planets”), black beans and tin foil balls  (“meteors”). I wrapped several marbles in tin foil and they had to hunt for them like treasure. Unwrapping small objects wrapped in tin foil is a GREAT and simple fine motor activity!

IMG_8130.JPG Solar system orbit drawing & play.

I very roughly drew circles around the sun, one at a time, and had my son say which planet went in that orbit and then place it there. After we were done, he played and had his spaceship land on meteors. Things then turned for worse when the sun “went away” and planets started bumping into to each other!

IMG_8187.JPG Space-themed song & movement games:

The Moon Is Round via Games Children Sing & Play

The Sun It Rises via Games Children Sing & Play

Zoom Zoom Zoom We’re Going to the Moon

Letter Unit Activities · Uncategorized

F is for Farm Preschool Activities

DETAILS

IMG_7108.jpgI decided to do multiple weeks of F is for Farm learning activities & play before doing the Letter F Unit from The Peaceful Preschool because it worked out that we could attend the Indiana State Fair during this time frame. Below is a detailed account all of the activities & resources from our F is for Farm unit with referral links. Hope you find something useful!

FARM TOYS

I’m providing a list of farm toys you’ll be seeing in the pictures but please know that I do NOT advocate for spending lots of money on toys! Less is more. Don’t feel like you need the “perfect” item to tell a specific story: kids are so open and creative. Reading books, looking at real-life pictures & interacting with things in person is just as (if not more) meaningful as having the perfect toy or learning resource.

BOOKS

SONGS & GAMES

Singing and Movement games from Games Children Sing and Play. I got this recently but it is now our our list of books we use every week. I love it so much!

  • “Hunt the Cows”
  • “Here We Come On Our Ponies”

Finger Puppet Song: “When Cows Wake Up In the Morning”

  • You can find a video example of this via YouTube. We do this song at our library story time so I got out some farm animals and had the kids pick which animal would wake up next. You could also use farm finger puppets.

Wee Sing Mother Goose Farm themed songs (for in the car):

  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • A Boy in the Barn
  • Hickety, Pickety, My Black Hen
  • Donkey, Donkey
  • To Market, to Market
  • This Little Pig Went to Market
  • Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
  • Little Bo-peep

Of course “Farmer In the Dell” and “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” are other favorites.

PHONICS

IMG_7192 Sensory tray letter formation. I first demonstrated how to write letter F using our Didax Educational Resources sandpaper cards and then I placed oats in a wood tray and had my son form the letters using his finger. Little sister got a tray of oats just to play with.
IMG_7212 Letter F out of grains. I have both my kids spread glue with a Q-tip (holding it like a pencil) on to the letter before adding “grain” materials. They either sprinkle & spread the material with their hands, or place it in the sensory tray and shake the tray of materials over the glue-covered paper.
IMG_7457 A to Z Farm-related items scavenger hunt. Super simple: Lay out A-Z cards and go on a scavenger hunt to find items that begin with each letter. We used this book and this book as guides.
IMG_7961 Farm animal letter match.  The cards are a free printable you can get here. I had my son first match the animal toy to the card and then use our movable alphabet to make the farm animal word.

COUNTING ACTIVITIES

I will also note that the book 1001 Things to Spot on the Farm has SO MANY excellent counting opportunities!

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Kitchen Scale Weighing Grains

Measure & weight out various “grains”: whatever you have around the house (In our case–oats, popcorn kernels, lentils, rice). This is our kitchen scale. I had my son measure out 2 Tbsp of each item into the bowl on the scale. We read the number together & wrote it down. I had my son pour the item into one cavity of a 6-cup muffin tin. Repeat. At the end, we compared the numbers and talked about which one was heaviest, and which was the lightest.

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Red Barn Window Matching Game

Red barn counting and numeral match activity: matching the number of items to the corresponding numeral. I cut up pieces of a cardboard box into the barn shapes, painted them red and then used my Uni-posca medium paint pens to do the white part. The number cards pictured are via The Peaceful Preschool.

SENSORY PLAY & ART

IMG_7160 Farm animal feeding station using hay and various grains
IMG_7371 Little Blue Truck themed farm animal washing station
IMG_7906.jpg Corn print painting. Roll some corn in some paint, and roll it across paper. We did this on the floor. And then painted with our feet!
IMG_7902.jpg Corn husk scarecrow: follow the instructions on making a corn husk doll in Farm Anatomy, except add a stick after you put the arms under the husks and hot glue that stick to a base at the end.

NATURE STUDY & PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES

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Farm animal products sorting activity

Make separate squares on a large sheet of paper (or 4 separate sheets) for cow, pig, sheep, and chicken. Free printable here for the farm animal product cards (print on cardstock & laminate). Book: The Farm by Alain Gree

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Fruits & vegetables sorting activity

Simply sorting activity. Free printable here for the fruits and vegetables (print on cardstock & laminate). Book: The Farm.

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Baby Farm animals matching & naming

Farm families free printable from The Pinay Homeschooler

The book Baby Farm Animals is also helpful

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Food, Animal, Tool sorting activity

I cut in half our The Little Farm vintage Association Dominoes for this activity. Try eBay for the game or you could make your own flashcards.

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Chicken Study: Lifecycle, terms, & egg sampler

Chicken lifecycle free printable from Treehouse Schoolhouse. Toys: Schleich chicken coop. We also cooked eggs for a sampler: fried, scrambled, hard-boiled (I had my son peel & crack the various eggs). Books: Farm Anatomy & Food Anatomy.

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Cow study: Dairy products

We put heavy cream in a small jar & took turns shaking it to make whipped cream, then did it again to make butter. Book: The Farm by Alain Gree

IMG_7443.jpg Practical life: making seasonal-ingredient ice cream

Sweet corn flavored ice cream with a blackberry swirl

Recipe found in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

FIELD TRIPS

The following are some real-world experiences we had during this unit:

IMG_7320 Farmer’s Market

Interact with farmers, observe what produce is in season.

IMG_7321 Orchard

Observe what fruit is in season & see fruit trees.

IMG_7789.JPG Indiana State Fair

Pretend to farm, interact with a wide variety of animals, pretend to drive tractors, visit a Pioneer Village and see farming without modern technology.

IMG_7498.jpg Horse Barn

To see live horses and how they are kept.

The picture is of a 150+ year old corn crib on the camp property where we live.

IMG_7812.JPG Homestead

To pair with our visit to the Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair — witness how farmer’s in the 19th century lived & worked.