Happy Thursday friends! I’m wrapping up these guides (only two left to go!) and my own Christmas shopping. Here are a few ideas for the budding scientists and engineers out there.
I’m not a huge fan of toys that talk or make noise, but a few of my friends have purchased this microscope for their eager little scientists (ages 3-6) and raved about it, so I thought I’d link it here. We never purchased one since we received a Brock Magiscope as a gift and that was a good scope to grow up with and even keep for the grandkids, but I did snap one of these up for my 3 y.o. nephew along with these binoculars.
The Squishy Human Body from Smart Lab was brought in by a family in our Classical Conversations Co-op and it was such a hit! My youngest was absolutely fascinated and loved that the pieces were flexible instead of hard plastic. (At time of posting it’s nearly 50% off!)
This organ apron is crazy cool and perfect for a little one interested in health and the human body.
We have loved using Snap Circuits for many years. They are currently on sale at time of posting but they usually have a good deal on these a few times leading up to Christmas. Snap Circuits is a wonderful stepping stone to more advanced kinds of kit.
Magformers have been our go to for many years. (I’ve linked one kit, but be sure to check out the others!) The larger kits are pricey but every holiday season they go on sale, often up to 40% off. Its a good one to keep an eye on. We have a large basket of these in the classroom just for play during study hours. They’ve been a great tool for us and very helpful during geometry lessons too.
My boys love LEGO. My favorite LEGO lines is the Lego Technic series. With kits starting at $15, these sets are all about engineering gears and mechanical pieces. The boys are always thrilled to build their little working machines. The Power Functions Motor Kit is a wonderful option for kids that want to tinker and create their own machines.
The Keva brand is another excellent option for creative building. This set is designed for building all sorts of contraptions and lends itself easily to free play.
-A trip to Home Depot for PVC Pipes or wood or whatever it is they need to create things. Let them make a big mess in your backyard. If you’re blessed with a Grandpa, ask him to come over and build a trebuchet or a trellis with your child. Let them get their hands dirty and full of blisters and cuts. Those with tinkering minds need time and room to fiddle and practice.
A corkboard to use as a story board for laying out the direction of a story.
And now for the Bookworms…
This rechargeableLED booklight (with eye care light setting) gives us 60 hours of reading per charge.
My boys inhaled the fabulous Wilderking series by Jonathan Rogers. I’m planning on posting more about them soon. For now, I’ll simply say that they read through these books in just a couple of weeks. Then they listened to the audible recordings (perfomed by the author) and were absolutely enthralled. These stories sparked hours of outdoor play, adventure, drawings, reenactments, weapon making and reasearch on animal tracks, bogs and swamps.
Here are a few other books and series I’m heartily recommending….
Now you might be tempted to think of these shorter books by SD Smith as just something to tide kids over till the next installment of the Green Ember series releases, but make no mistake, the adventures of Jo Shanks are highly anticipated stories here in our home and receive just as much fanfare as the central stories produce. A few weeks ago at co-op, I overheard my boys and their friends in heated discussion about The First Fowler and Ember’s End (releasing in 2020) and the anticipation is high for both stories! First Fowler releases on the 16th of December and we are counting down the days!
For kids that love stories like Homer Price or Andrew Henry’s Meadow, check out the delightful Mad Scientists Club series by Bertrand Brinley (brought back into print by Purple House Press). Oh, how much laughter these stories have brought into our home. Its ushered in some pretty rascally ideas too!
Lastly, one of our favorite stories from earlier this spring, Sir Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton. My boys connected with the wildly imaginative Henry and were thrilled by all the shout outs to other greta books in the story.
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Time for our next Christmas Guide— Chefs, Gardeners & Artists
***Please remember that I do not buy all of these things for my children. Nope. Not even close.***
–Opinel Kids Set: we’ve had these tools for several years and they have held up beautifully. Most of the boys have graduated to bigger knives now when they cook, but the younger ones still use and love these (ages 7 & 9). If you want an extra layer of safety, these cut resistant gloves work well!
–Raddish kids: We have greatly enjoyed this cooking subscription kit for the last three years. They’re running a Black Friday Subscription deal right now that looks wonderful!
-Books about cooking and/or foraging. One of my boys will find this one under the tree this year since he’s been asking for more foraging recipe books. We’re hoping to get him plugged in with a local forager that can help provide guidance, further instruction, and help us forage safely. One of our favorite cookbooks for kids is Honest Pretzels by Mollie Katzen
-A gift card to your local grocery store for ingredients!
– Apple Peeler– This little tool is useful, fun to use and fascinating to watch!
Gummy Bear molds– If you make your own elderberry syrup at home you can use a recipe to make elderberry gummies! These also make adorable chocolate toppings to put on ice cream.
Real gardening tools go a long way in fostering a love of gardening. The plastic sets never last long, are cumbersome to use, and often make the work even more difficult. Check into finding a set of real tools that are child size and easy to wield.
Gardening gloves that fit well! We love leather ones like this pair. Make sure to pay attention to sizing.
Sturdy hand tools. At the time of posting, these were 56% off.
A beautiful Garden Journal from my friend, Alice Cantrell over at Twig and Moth.
Its about that time of year again!!! We’re kicking off our annual Christmas Guides with one for the Nature Nerds & Wild Explorers out there.
***Please remember that I do not buy all of these things for my children. Nope. Not even close.***
1. KANKEN: We are big fans of these Kanken backpacks. Each of the boys has one and they have survived numerous road trips, plane trips and nature hikes. They’ve been fully submerged in ocean water, caught in torrential downpours and hoisted up trees and probably even a few rooftops. These little packs are scrappy and easy to clean. We haven’t had to buy new backpacks since investing in these.
If you go for the nature pack, here are some useful items to place inside…
– Rite in the Rain: These little waterproof notebooks are the best. Yes, they really are waterproof. I’ve accidentally sent them through the laundry a time or two and they came out looking perfect! The boys have used them for a few years now and they come in handy on nature hikes. They also use them for all their rascally boy plans and carry them on all out outings.
This may sound terribly obvious, but just in case….
You can also gift them climate appropriate adventure gear for your area. We bought wet suits this year and the boys loved getting to snorkel in the colder channels near the mangroves in early spring. Rain boots or jackets, thicker coats, wet suits, breathable shirts, wherever you life, consider getting one solid set of adventure gear for the kids.
6. Already in a nature group? Consider making a Shutterfly book or other scrapbook for your children, filled with photos of all your adventures. Decorate with stickers or have the group sign each other’s books. Children love these kinds of mementos.
We are weeks away from the midpoint of our Cycle 2 study. The boys have worked hard and we are all hungry for rest. The last few months our homeschool life has been turned upside down with the introduction of multiple therapies, intakes, etc. Some weeks we find ourselves sitting in waiting rooms dreaming of this….
and grappling with the reality of this…
But the flexibility of homeschooling has been a gift to us and we certainly made the most of it this year. The boys learned what kind of work to pack while their little brother has his appointments. They trained themselves to get the base work done so that when we return home we can get cozy and read or have conversations or do the other things that just can’t be done in a waiting room. I recently wrote an article for Wild + Free called “Wild + Free in the Waiting Room.” You can find it in their newly released HAVEN bundle.
I’m getting a little misty-eyed realizing that this boy has a mere two quarters left in Foundations and Essentials. He’ll be off to Challenge A next year. I’ll be sharing a post soon about how we are preparing ourselves (and prepping our toolbox of Dyslexia tools) for next year. But first, we need to tackle quarter 3 of Cycle 2! I usually don’t plan for this quarter until the first week of January, but I could use a little book list cheer right about now, so here we go!
When I first sat down to compile this list it was quite dark outside. The crickets were still busy with their evening symphonies and the bravest birds were just beginning to rouse. My favorite part of the day. The small stretch of minutes when night and day mingle a bit. I sit at my desk and look out the window at the large bougainvillea, elephant ear palms and gorgeous patch of ripening beauty berry just in front of me. Within an hour of the sun’s rising I have been visited by several small cuban tree frogs, roused from their amphibious dreams by a frolicking dog, and a wide array of birds. Our resident Mockingbird came bouncing past at a quarter before 7, trilling as loudly and obnoxiously as possible. A pair of cardinals came to check on the ripening beauty berry and brought a smile to my face when I beheld their mischievous flirtations and listened to their calls, which have always reminded me of a car alarm. The ibis will soon fly by over the water and within minutes the dragonflies will all appear as if from nowhere and begin their day long hovering over the farm in search of mosquitos. Now everything within the window frame is tipped in that radiant morning gold and there is an abundance of noises in the form of chirps, calls, buzzings, croaks, and the tell tale rustling of leaves from the black racers darting out to find a patch of warm sunshine. Nature study, even just by peering out the window, has such a miraculous power to refresh and restore, simply by being itself and pointing to the Creator.
Sometimes we venture out doors and enjoy the incredibly rich and varied nature study opportunities here in South Florida. Some days (mostly unbearably hot summer days), we open a book and enjoy nature in other part of the world that way.
These are some of the books, mostly non fiction, that we have enjoyed during our Nature Study time over the years. I know this list is quite large and it may seem alarming that I said “some.” Keep in mind, you don’t need all these books. Remember: 1) I rescue books and have a large collection of out of print books from the golden age of children’s literature. I have not included out of print books in this list. (See ** at the end of the post) 2) I have a child that is passionate about nature study and has procured quite an extensive collection of his own over the last half decade of birthdays, Christmas and end of year gifts.
ON THE SPOT SUPPLIES I know I’ve blogged before about what we keep in our nature packs and even made a Christmas Guide for outfitting an Explorer pack, but these are a few Nature Study basics we keep in our packs to help us study things we find. Small plastic Container Boxes for keeping nature finds intact. (Those cicada moldings will crumble to bits without these! ha!)
Plastic gloves for handling bones
Plastic bags for storing said bones
Tweezers Rite in the Rain Journals (Small field journals for quick note taking, totally water proof!)
***There are many fantastic living nature books out there that are sadly out of print. You might be able to find a few in the $30-$40 but most have shot much higher in the last few years. If you are yearning to find some great living books from that golden age of children’s literature, check here to see if you have a living library near you.
Here is our booklist for Quarter 2 of Cycle 2! Full disclosure: This is one cycle where we definitely go at our own pace. We do not make every subject match where we are in the CC schedule, especially with History! We are taking our time and going slowly through the Middle Ages. If you are looking for a CM friendly curriculum that goes through the Middle Ages for younger kiddos, check out The King Kingdom from Peaceful Press.
To give you an idea of where we are right now, the boys and I have enjoyed a rich summer of study together that began with a close look at the Fall of Rome back in May. We are currently on week 2 of CC and at home we have just wrapped up our study of the Crusades. We are keeping apace with CC’s science schedule and are choosing one or two items from the Timeline to highlight each week during Morning Time. The rest we use as memory work review during Morning Time. I pull from the list below depending on what we need that particular week. There is no way we would read all of these books every week. There is a difference between feasting and gorging. 🙂 We hope this list is useful to you and your family.