MEL Science Review!

Last year a few readers started asking what we thought of MEL Science, a UK-based company that puts together subscription chemistry kits.

IMG_6471

My eldest child is now 11 and since we began his education we have primarily focused on Nature Study at home using Exploring Nature with Children. (During the 24 weeks of the year that we are in Classical Conversations, we enjoy an experiment or project each week on community day and do some further reading about the topic at home).  Those early years spent heavily immersed in nature study have led my older children to the point where they are now ready and asking questions about the higher sciences, specifically chemistry. This is largely because of last year’s Cycle 3 study of chemistry and our reading of this wonderful book: The Mystery of the Periodic Table.

I am an extremely intentional person. I love to imagine things for our homeschool and then find practical ways to bring them into being. I am usually successful with most subjects but I must be honest and say that these last two years the higher sciences have taken a back seat. This is because in order to do science, you must gather materials and the gathering of materials for science experiments keeps falling off my very full plate. I am already busy material gathering for HGP, CC and ASD therapies and other homeschool projects, and gathering materials for extra science (when we already do experiments at CC) did not feel crucial or necessary.

But my boys were curious and excited and are still unable to drive anywhere to gather their own materials. They wanted science projects ready to go on a reliable schedule. They didn’t want to have to wait for an adult to gather everything before they could do a chemistry experiment. They also wanted REAL CHEMISTRY and not a plastic kit for children to pretend with. Real chemistry means real danger and real possibility and real responsibility. They wanted the real deal. As my eldest said, “Mom, I want to find something more dangerous than a potato battery or an egg in a glass of coke.” A brief look at the MEL Science site told me this was the real deal.


UNBOXING!
Our first Mel Science kit was organized into several boxes. The first was the starter kit which contained all of the equipment needed for future experiments. A VR cardboard set, glass instruments, phone stand, safety goggles and more were included. There were also two separate small kits that housed experiements grouped by topic. Each kit came with enough material to do (and repeat) several experiements on that topic. The kits were all marked with warning labels and safety instructions which pleased the boys immensely. We downloaded the MEL Science app and were excited to find a new tool for conducting further research beyond the experiements themselves.
unnamed-2

Our favorite of the two themes was the TIN bundle. We opened the box and were relieved to find such clear and concise instructions, coupled with very thorough safety warnings. The kit included gloves for us to use and we were able to transfer all of our chemicals safely.

The first experiment “Tin Dendrites” packed quite a punch. We used VR to gain a different look at the components and followed along on our Mel Science App as we conducted the experiment. We also used the special camera lenses included in the starter kit to watch the dendrites stretch across the petri dish. (THRILLING!) While I did remain at his side, my son was able to do almost the entire experiment on his own- which thrilled him! Our first run through was full of questions and stops and starts. A few days later he repeated the experiment and this time he was full of explanations.

 

unnamed-1

The second experiment in the kit “Tin Hedgehog” was beautiful! Never thought I would say that about a chemistry project, but there you have it. It was truly lovely. The boys (all ages) were fascinated by the end result and so sad to find out they couldn’t keep it forever. But of course, they learned even more about the properties of Tin when they found out why they could not keep it forever.
IMG_0959.jpg

When I read the warning labels on the experiments I was a bit concerned about how to safely dispose of everything, but when we reached the end of the experiment on the app we found a guide for safe disposal of those specific materials. We were also able to do further reading and research on the app which was an unexpected bonus!

unnamed.jpg

We are really looking forward to this next year with MEL Science and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on how its going!

Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Q3

IMG_0902

Happy New Year sweet friends!
I can’t believe we are halfway through Cycle 1! I am soaking up all these beautiful Florida winter days full of sunshine, boys playing outdoors all day and long times of tea and read aloud time.

Below you will find our new schedule for the up and coming quarter. I’ve tried to leave it a bit more detailed than usual. If you only want our book list, scroll further down. Please remember that we DO NOT read all the books on the list, it is simply a log of ideas to draw from once we reach that week.  I hope you all have a rest filled advent season and a sweet time of planning leading into the New Year!

Let’s dive in!

Next week I plan on spending time with each child one on one to work through these Discipleship pages from Sally Clarkson’s site. There are planning pages for me in there too and the questions are so wonderful for refining vision for the coming year. Once I have a better idea of where the boys are, I can plan more specifically which read alouds we will be enjoying and what their final schedule, in terms of responsibilities, will be for the quarter. We are making a big push for more accountability this year!
In the morning our boys have a TOP 5 list of things they do before Morning Time Starts. These include: Hygiene, Making Bed, Independent Quiet Time, Exercise and a small chore (feed animals, make breakfast or unload dishwasher etc). I have my own Top 5 that I take care of: Hygiene, Brief Quiet Time, Vitamins, Drink Two Glasses of Water and Listen to a poem from The Daily Poem podcast!  I wish my Top 5 always went off without a hitch but more often than not I have to pause often to direct traffic or settle a fight or give a gentle reminder. Once we’re all done its about 8AM and we gather around the table for breakfast and Morning Time!

Morning Time (8-10AM)
We will still open with our Daily Collect:

Doxology or Creed
Devotional (This quarter we are going through “Our 24 Family Ways” again!)
Catechism
Scripture Memory
CC Memory Work (10 minutes)

Next we’ll move on to whatever is on our daily schedule. Whenever we have community day we do the morning time list in the evening.

Morning Time Spring Schedule 19’

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Biography:
various
x x
Poetry:
Longfellow
x x
Haliburton’s
CBM
x
Composer:
Handel
x
Artist: Michel-angelo x
Logic:
Thinking Toolbox
x x
Poetry Recitation x x
Shakespeare x
Plutarch: x
Singing:

Folk Songs

x x x
Nature Study:
Exploring Nature with Children
x x x

It usually only takes the boys a few minutes to gobble their breakfast and the rest of the time we just sit together and go through the rest of whatever is slotted for that day. The 6 year old drifts in and out, often going to his rack of toys to play with something or he’ll cuddle with the dog under the table. The 8 year old never stays for Plutarch, thats just for the older boys. We have notebooks that we keep for a few of these topics and we get very creative with our narrations so its not stationary/just sitting for two hours. We dance, we run around, we paint, we make entries in our Book of Centuries.
T-Th we clean the table together and then go outside for our nature study time. On Fridays we have a longer Nature Hike together, so the T-Th nature walks are brief and a great way to close out our time together.
IMG_6911

Math/Latin/Music 10-11AM
We will continue on with our use of Right Start Math. I am immensely pleased with it and with the boys’ progress. I am so thankful that I found it! The older boys use the same level and I always start with them while the younger two play for a bit. Once the older boys have had their lesson, they begin their work while I teach the third boy his lesson. Once the older boys finish the math they open their Memoria Press Latina Cristiana books. If they need a new lesson then I teach the lesson at that time. If they are doing drills and review they finish on their own. While they complete their Latin the third born leaves to practice his instrument. I will go and do a simple math lesson with the 6 year old. Once the older boys finish Latin, they go and practice their instruments. I end this time helping my youngest practice his instrument and listening to whatever the older three worked on.  My youngest typically gets 40 minutes of play (sometimes he will watch an episode of Mr Roger’s Neighborhood) during this block, the third born gets 20 minutes and the older boys work straight through since they’ve decided that math and music are the same as playing.

History/Narrations/Geography 11AM-12PM

I begin with our smaller history books (typically from the book list I have shared below) or one of our main history spines for the year. I stop every so often to have my eight year old narrate orally. Once we finish with the passage my older boys compose a written narration of appropriate length for their individual age and skill level. I review their work and pull out any spelling words to work on and make corrections where needed. Next we spend time reviewing geography. We used to do this during morning time and only recently moved it at the boys’ request. At the end I will read a handful of smaller books or a fairy tale and while everyone loves to listen, it is primarily for my six year to give his brief narration.  My youngest plays for about 40 minutes during this time, third born gets about 20 minutes and the older boys usually get ten or fifteen minutes or even twenty depending on how quickly they got through their work.
IMG_3367

Lit Lunch 12-1PM

We light a candle, we eat, we read aloud. This year we are enjoying Jack’s Insects, Tanglewood Tales, the Beatrix Potter books and we listen to a poem from the Daily Poem Podcast Together.

Language Arts: 1-3:30pm

This is a HUGE block of time and there is not a single child that works from start to finish.  My two Essentials students usually go straight to the table and go through their charts and sentence diagramming (15 minutes TOPS) and then they work on IEW (30 minutes). We spend just a few minutes on vocabulary and spelling and then they are OFF! Third born goes to the table and does his handwriting and spelling list and then reads aloud to me for 20 minutes and then he is OFF! The youngest plays for awhile after lunch or lays down and listens to an audiobook while his brother’s do their work. At about 2:15 I call him over and he does his Kindergarten work. We work on reading, a simple bible story, art, cooking, whatever is on the list! While he works the 8 year old returns for his time with Around the World with Picture Books. He looks forward to this time every single day!
IMG_6931

Afternoon Read Aloud/Blessing Hour 3:30PM
Time for tea and books! Some days the boys beg for this to stretch longer and longer. Usually if its boiling hot outside or if its raining. But if its a fine day we read for twenty minutes only and proceed to Blessing Hour. Each boy takes their two or three duties and discharges them well so that they can run outdoors or curl up with a book and relax.  At this point the school day is done!

Quick Notes:

**The older kids do have quiet reading time for themselves. They usually get in about an hour each day either first thing in the morning when they wake up or in the afternoon or before bed.

**On days when we have music lessons in the morning, we bring as much independent work as we can for the boys to complete while they wait for whoever is in lesson. We are there for two hours so we get a good deal done during that time!

**On Fridays we have far less work to do with Essentials so after we have our spelling quiz, vocabulary quiz and Friday Exam, we usually go on a Nature Walk. We also save time in the afternoon to work on and practice our Presentations for Community Day.

** Our Winter Break is essentially our summer vacation. We do not do any work from the week of Thanksgiving until two weeks into January with the exception of a brief daily math lesson and read alouds. We also have a few kids working on Memory Master but that is on their own time.

Ready for the Quarter 3 Book List? Here we go!

IMG_3150

Week 13

Timeline
Prince Henry the Navigator by Leonard Everrett Fischer
Around the World in 100 Years by Jean Fritz
A Book of Discovery by MB Synge
The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz
Henry the Navigator by Charnan Simon
The Kidnapped Prince: The Story of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano
African Beginnings by James Haskins
Ink on His Fingers by Louise A Vernon
The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster
The Royal Diaries: Isabel: Jewel of Castilla by Carolyn Meyer
Blood Secret by Kathryn Lansky

History
African Beginnings by James Haskins
God King by Joanne Williamson

Science
How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty
Planet Earth Inside Out by Gail Gibbons
Birth of an Island by Millicent Selsam
How Mountains are Made by Katherine Zoehfeld
Magic School Bus Inside the Earth by Joanna Cole

Geography
Henry the Navigator by Charnan Simon
The Kidnapped Prince: The Story of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano
African Beginnings by James Haskins

Math
Pastry School in Paris: An Adventure in Capacity by Cindy Neuschwender

Art
Giotto
Unfortunately, these are ALL tricky to find. Check your local library!
Giotto by Mike Venezia
Giotto Tended the Sheep by Sybil Deucher
A Boy Named Giotto by Paolo Guarnieri
The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L’Engle

Week 14

Timeline
Columbus by D’Aulaire
Courage and Conviction by Mindy and Brandon Withrow
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
-Chp 19-26 The Reformation
Peter the Great by Diane Stanley
The World of William Penn by Genevieve Foster (Absolute Monarchs)
The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell
Johann Sebastian Bach by Mike Venezia
Sebastian Bach by Opal Wheeler
Becoming Bach by Tom Leonard

History
Sundaita: Lion King of Mali by David
Mansa Musa by Khephra Burns
Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali by P James Oliver

Geography
From Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions by Margaret Musgrove
Finding out about Deserts by Angela Wilkes

Science
Rocks, Minerals and Gems by Scholastic
If you Find a Rock by Peggy Christian
Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth and Rough by Natalie Rosinsky
Let’s Go Rock Collecting by Roma Gans
Rock Factory by Jacqui Bailey
Rocks in His Head by Carol Hurst

Art
Ghiberti “Gates of Paradise

 

Week 15

Timeline
The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster
Jamestown, New World Adventure by James E Knight
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
Sara Morton’s Day by Kate Waters
Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
-Chp 31 Jonathan Edwards
-Chp 32 George Whitfield
-Chp 33 John Wesley
-Chp 34 John Newton
Adventures from the Bay by Clifford Wilson
Hearts and Minds: Chronicles of the Awakening Church by  Mindy and Brandon Withrow
The Arts by Hendrick Vanloon

History
Prince Henry the Navigator by Leonard Everrett Fischer
Around the World in 100 Years by Jean Fritz
The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz
Henry the Navigator by Charnan Simon
Carry on Mr Bowditch by Jean Latham

Geography
Stories from the Nations by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 4 Sailing Through the Sand
-Chp24 The Creation of Israel

Science
Stories from the Nations by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 27 The Top of the World
Seven Natural Wonders of Africa by Michael Wood
Up on Denali by Shelley Gill (Old Earth)
My Denali by Kimberly Corral

Art
Fra Angelico
Fra Angelio by Laurence Kanter

Week 16

Timeline
George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster
Story of the Nations Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 14 James Cook
George Washington by Cheryl Harness
George Washington’s Breakfast by Jean Fritz
The Winter of Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory
Stories of America Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
–Chp 16-22 Revolutionary War
–Chp 23 Voyage of Our Ship of State (Constitution)
–Chp 25 America Grows (Lewis and Clark)

History
The Corn Grows Ripe by Dorothy Rhoads
The Ancient Maya by Jackie Maloy
The Aztec Empire by Sunita Apte
Aztec, Inca, Maya by DK

Science
Hill of Fire by Thomas Lewis
Pompeii- Buried Alive! by Edith Kunhardt
Volcanoes by Franklyn Branley
Magic School Bus Blows Its Top!
Volcano by Patricia Laubar
101 Questions about Volcanoes by John Calderazzo

Art
Albrecht Durer by Ernest Raboff

Week 17

Timeline
The Story of Napoleon by HE Marshall
The Year of the Horseless Carriage by Genevieve Foster
Story of the Nations Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 16-19 Napoleon
-Chp 20 Bolivar the Liberator
Stories of America Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 27 How the English and the Americans Fought Again
The Town that Fooled the British by Lisa Papp

History
The Aztec Empire by Sunita Apte
Aztec, Inca, Maya by DK
Exploration and Conquest by Betsy Maestro

Geography
Yatandou by Gloria Whelan
The Best Beekeper of Lalibela
The Day Gogo went to Vote by Elinor Sisulu
Beatrice’s Goat by Paige McBeire
Africa is Not a Country by Margie Knight

Science
Hill of Fire by Thomas Lewis
Pompeii- Buried Alive! by Edith Kunhardt
Volcanoes by Franklyn Branley
Magic School Bus Blows Its Top!
Volcano by Patricia Laubar
101 Questions about Volcanoes by John Calderazzo

Art
Michelangelo by Mike Venezia
Michelangelo by Diane Stanley
Stone Giant by Jane Sutclife

Week 18
Timeline
Stories of the Nations Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 25 Commodore Perry Opens the Door to Japan
Stories of America Volume 2 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 1 Heading West on the Oregon Trail
-Chp 3 The Sad Story of Slavery
Soft Rain by Cornelia Cornelian
Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac
Charles Darwin by Jennifer Thermes
Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shoguns by Rhoda Blumberg

History
Star Mounds by Ross Hamilton
The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose

Science
Magic School Bus Ocean Floor
See Through the Sea by Millicent Selsam

 

 

 

Homeschool Mama Christmas Guide

It’s Mama’s turn! Here are a few fun ideas I put together for that special Homeschool Mama in your life that probably emailed you this list since you don’t follow my blog. J/k…kind of.  Half way through composing this I realized that this could also be titled “Homeschool Mama Book Nerd Christmas Guide” but considering how most of my friends have a built in Book budget every year, I am thinking we’ll survive the abundance of book related suggestions here.  Here we go!

 

Homeschool Mama Stocking Stuffers:

Literary Postcards
51a7pu5qRAL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

or these if she is an Essentials/Grammar loving Mama….
71MEiw0GKsL.jpg

A Book Lover’s Cup of Tea
Its a tea infuser shaped like a book (Squeak!) and a small book of favorite tea mixes and tea time recipes.

41MLkLxlCYL._SY355_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Wild + Free Ts
These sweet cozy Tshirts rock a powerful message. “Saving Childhood” is my favorite.

unnamed-1.jpg

Moisturizing Socks
Guys, I have four pairs of these socks and I love them. I know its silly and probably unnecessary, but there is just something so sweet and comforting about the fact that I can slip on moisturizing socks and feel a bit pampered in the midst of raising four boys. Especially on a day when someone leaves a trail of blood down the hallway after getting punched in the nose or when coffee has spilled on our timeline book (again) or when someone’s science project accidentally starts a small(ish) fire. Silly frivolous things, like a pair of moisturizing socks, can inexplicably save a mama’s sanity on a day like that!
51pNnSGrPHL._SL1000_.jpg

A Powerful Read-
Here are a few of my personal favorites
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
Death by Living by ND Wilson
Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins
The Original Home School Series by Charlotte Mason (This set is on sale again!!!)
Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
The Life Giving Home by Sally Clarkson
Different by Sally Clarkson

51T5MT0B48L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

A subscription to a beautiful magazine!
Here are three wonderful options:
Wild + Free  I am admittedly biased here since I have been writing for them these past two years, but I will say that this is a wonderful group of homeschool mamas putting out a great deal of beauty and goodness each and every month. Subscribers receive a print magazine each month along with a large digital content bundle full of book club ideas, nature journal tutorials, stories, encouragement, craft tutorials, etc. Once you subscribe you also have access to the full archive of conference talks!
Common Place Quarterly  This brand new quarterly magazine is put together by a band of dear hearts with a desire to encourage CM educators. Each magazine will be a whopping 80 pages long! Check out the link to pre-order.
FORMA Magazine:
Another quarterly magazine with a great deal to offer! Once you subscribe you will have access to their entire digital archive and receive an additional compilation edition each year. Whenever FORMA arrives in the mail it takes up residence next to my reading chair and every afternoon for about two weeks, I sit with my cup of tea and spend time reading and rereading it. The poems in the latest edition were so beautiful, I read them every day for a week.

header_forma_2.jpg

Book Darts
81ogRnpgFkL._SL1500_.jpg

A ‘Novel’ Journal

This journal is THE BEST EVER because you can write your own story between the lines of your favorite story. Yes, you read that right. I have the Louisa May Alcott journal and Little Women is printed in an ultra fine print which act as the lines of the journal. I write about our homeschool days within those lines. Oh my heart! So sappy! So wonderful! I love it. They have Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Emma, Sherlock Holmes, The Wizard of Oz and more!

81gS4YdWbwL.jpg

CHOCOLATE
Fair Trade, Dark, Milk, filled with caramel or hazelnuts or salted, pick your poison! Just CHOCOLATE.

A Dorky Mug
Like this Shakespearean Insults Mug to sip your thrice reheated cup of coffee from whilst contemplating why thine children have chosen this day to behave as though light of brain.
81MjzgFQQkL._SL1500_.jpg

Encouragement & Love
Have the kids write some letters about their favorite things they’ve learned this year and what they appreciate about their Mama. This will probably be greater than anything you wrap.

Under The Tree

A Gift Card for a Family Photo Session
Find a local photographer and book a session for your family.
542866_657803900428_1476535806_n.jpg

A Big Box of Tea and a Weekly Time Slot
Amazon happens to sell a box of 500 organic tea bags that often goes on sale for around $20.  This would be a lovely gift to give along with a protected time slot each week that Mama can use for lesson planning, mother culture, or a nap!
71qZxdKgCaL._SY679SX453_SY679_CR,0,0,453,679_PIbundle-5,TopRight,0,0_SX453_SY679_CR,0,0,453,679_SH20_.jpg

A beautiful edition for the weary…
Hinds’ Feet on High Places
61oV1Ae16GL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

A Membership

Here is something truly special to bless a homeschool Mother’s socks off. I have spent the past few days soaking up Sally Clarkson’s “Life With Sally” site enjoying podcasts, bible studies, recipes, resources, reviews, articles, author studies, artist studies, the list goes on and on. This place is jam packed with goodness and underscored by a heart for mentoring.
clws+banner+1920+x+1080.jpg

A Weekend Away They’ll Never Forget!
The upcoming Wild+Free Conference in Frisco Texas is shaping up to be an incredible weekend! I am excited to be speaking again but I am even MORE excited to listen to Susan Wise Bauer, Leah Boden, Sally Clarkson, Julie Bogart, Jodi Mockabee, Jennifer Pepito and many more, share their hearts with us all. This is definitely #notyourmamashomeschoolconference! I am so excited to hang out with my friends, listen to great bands, dance like no one is watching and fill my heart with inspiration in the DEAD OF FEBRUARY which is historically one of the most difficult months of homeschooling because tanks start running LOW.
ebfa3ba793f74bfcaa74e8ad9a3beea2-pitch2.jpg

Carrot Top Paper Shop Swag
Pretty much ANYTHING from the world’s cutest shop

il_570xN.1655991785_7zv5.jpg

Speaking of adorable Etsy shops… I drool over this shop, SWEET SEQUELS, all the time. I am eyeing their 21 Baker Street Shirt and this Narnia Map T.
il_570xN.1464748916_ecq5.jpg

A Laminator
Chances are she already has one, but just in case…get thee laminated. We always say its “for the kids” but kids typically don’t care if something is laminated.
61U7WnACqnL._SL1500_.jpg

TICKETS OUT
For the Mama with a heart for Mother Culture, get some tickets to help feed her soul.
A Shakespeare play, a night with the symphony, tickets to an art gallery or poetry reading.

cso_class2015_1200x440.jpg

Homeschool Uniform
I LOVE ME some JCrew PJS. Make sure you check back often for sales and to peek over at JCrewFactory for even bigger discounts.
H4364_BL7133.jpg

THE GREATEST BOARD GAME OF ALL TIME. DELUXE!
Ok, so this might just be on MY wish list but good golly, that rotating scrabble game. Be still my heart!

91TWhlO80oL._SL1500_.jpg

A Bath Caddy

Just file this under, things we would gush over if we found them in a hotel but would probably never think to purchase for ourselves.

719loxZLMiL._SL1495_.jpg

Merry Christmas Mamas!

 

Small Business Christmas Guide

unnamed

Christmas is a wonderful time to support those small business families around us. Here is a list of our favorites! It is our JOY to support them and cheer on in their good work!

  1.  You’ve heard me go on and on about them a thousand times, but just in case you are one of our new readers, check out The Green Ember series by SD Smith. Not only are these books a childhood favorite for my boys, but in reading them they feel like they are part of a bigger movement of kids being inspired to create and make and remember. SD Smith and his whole crew work hard to publish these books and ship them out to families. They were just working in the warehouse this week, packing up the latest book “The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner” for families across the country.IMG_4988
  2.  Treasures from Jennifer
    I first met Jennifer on a small facebook group years ago that sold Montessori Materials. I remember saving up for months to buy her old set of wooden geometry cards for my boys ( It was right around the time I first started this blog!) Since then we have invested in her work over and over again! Every piece I have ever purchased from Jennifer and her family has held up beautifully and is used by my children and children that come to visit our home. Her tracing boards, geometry boards, maps, shape boards, calendar, early writing boards, multiplication boards, etc are such a big part of our classroom set up that there is not a single day that goes by where we don’t use SOMETHING from Jennifer and her family. Purchasing from this wonderful family business also helped me buy way less in general for our classroom. I bypassed buying dozens of flimsy or cheaper materials throughout the year and saved my money so I could buy just ONE long lasting tool from them. Its been wonderful to have less clutter and tools that don’t need replacing at the end of every year.

IMG_6448

3. Raddish Kids
These monthly culinary kits have brought so much growth and learning and self sufficiency to our home. We have enjoyed learning new recipes from around the world, connecting with families across the country and letting our kids take over certain meals during the week. Their cooking skills have greatly increased and their appreciation for the things I  make has also increased! We love the Sam, the wonderful woman behind Raddish cooking and her mission.
20882773_10100127090059178_8711394999518120649_n

4. Twig and Moth and Tanglewood Hollow
Everyone always asks where we get our cards and posters for our science table and nature table. Well, these are the two talented artists we choose to support! Both of these lovely ladies have poured their hearts out into making beautiful, practical, affordable and educational aids accessible in our homes. Their little touches have added so much beauty to our learning! We love Alice Cantrell’s lovely lichen series and plant series. We love Allyson’s exquisite anatomy charts and life of a snowflake series. Check out their shops!

13669108_923695177178_6113562561518678494_n

5. Read Aloud Revival 
I’m sure you just did a double take on that one. Small business? Yes! I know Read Aloud Revival has grown tremendously over the years but this is definitely still a family business! Membership over at Read Aloud Revival has been a great gift to us over the years. Its always on my personal Christmas list. We love the work Sarah Mackenzie is doing and we believe that it is important both in our home and in the world. A membership to RAR is a gift you can enjoy all year long through Author Access Events, master classes, drawing classes and so much more.
images.jpg

6.  Letters From Afar
One of the biggest days of the month over on our farm is the day the mailman drops off a letter from our friend Isabelle. “ANOTHER LETTER FROM AFAR!” someone shouts and everyone comes running to the library so we can read it together. Then we pull out our map and find where she is and we listen as someone reads it aloud. Inevitably we hear about something that catches our imagination and the boys are off opening books and looking into another atlas and asking questions. I’m amazed at how much they have learned from Isabelle this year. I love all the curiosity these letters have stirred.  $6 a month and a portion of the proceeds go to Pencils of Promise. When we finish with a letter we pin it on the wall so we can keep enjoying the beautiful illustrations.

IMG_5984

7. Hortus Wild
We’ve been using a few pieces from the Hortus Wild Shop this past year. We have tried natural bean bags from a few different makers and they inevitably fall apart within the space of a month. (My sensory seeks is pretty rough with bean bags!) The beautiful plant dyed  bean bags from Hortus Wild have held up all year. They are beautifully soft and he loves holding these while he works, when he sleeps and when we go on car trips. We’ve also really enjoyed their leather tangram pieces! My second born has one of their journals and it has become very special to him. He always calls it “my grown up journal” and he loves to write stories in it.  Justine, your work is just lovely!

unnamed.jpg

8. Story Weaver Mercantile
Read her story here. Read her partner stories here.  Shop all the beauty and goodness here. She says it so well, there is little left for me to say other than thank you, Calli! We love you and the great work you are doing. Readers, one of my all time favorite purchases is this shopping bag from Bangladesh. We take it everywhere!
IMG_6242_1024x1024.jpg

9. Mirus Toys
Suba has been working hard this year making maps, life cycle models, and other wooden science materials. One piece we have used constantly in the last few months is her fractions and music notes board, what beautiful bridge between music theory study and mathematics. We love it!  The boys are currently learning how to use the Bohr Atomic Model.  Keep an eye on her shop for new maps posting soon. The workmanship is lovely!

il_570xN.1456463023_breb.jpg

10.  YOUR LOCAL BUSINESSES AT HOME!
Friends, drive out to your local farms, craft fairs, markets, ma and pa shops, family restaurants, etc. and show them some love and support!

Merry Christmas!

Wild Explorers Christmas Guide

This post turned out differently than I expected. Our favorite adventure store JM Cremps is no longer selling online. If you live anywhere near Mall of America, congratulations! JM Cremps will still be there for you. You should probably just visit that store and support them instead of purchasing anything off this list. For the rest of us JM Crempsless souls, here is our list of favorite gift for Wild Explorers + Mad Scientists.

1. Stocking Stuffers for Wild Explorers

Our Uno set is about 30 cards short so its time to get a new one. This Wilderness set is a perfect stocking stuffer!
91gUu911USL._SL1500_.jpg
This camping logbook for the whole family to use!
A18CvuDNL+L.jpg

Individual water proof  field notebooks. These have survived the washer dryer cycles at our house and come out the other side like champions!
91FLtXPTK+L._SL1500_.jpg

2) National Parks Goodness
First and foremost, BECOME a Junior Ranger! You can sign your kiddo up and get together a few of the badge activities off the website and box them up for your explorer on Christmas Day!

National Parks Monopoly

91OBZXWZpAL._SL1500_.jpg

 

3) Camping Books

One of our favorite Camp books. All the kids adore it.
61wBc4jZZGL._SX445_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

3) A sturdy backpack
I always thought these were over hyped and way too pricey, but after tossing out 4th cheap back pack at the end of another year, I decided it might be wiser to just invest in backpacks they can use for years and years to come. These beauties are used for hikes, road trips, airplane rides, co-op days, and random backyard adventures. They’ve held spilled liquids, squashed bugs, old sandwich crusts, bloody kleenex, sticky clementine residue and an assortment of crumbs, bits of string,  random pieces, odds and ends that children always seem to gather, and they are a snap to clean and still look wonderful and function beautifully. These backpacks have a surprising amount of resilience and fortitude to the abuses of the average male child. I am a fan. I even bought one for myself.  They come in a hundred different colors and styles.
714iMyw945L._SL1500_.jpg

 

 

4) A REAL Compass. 6126NSRnlSL._SL1000_.jpg

5)  The Acme Thunderer
We never ever hike without this whistle. We usually take two. It can be heard up to a mile away. We wear it on a lanyard. One for me and one for my child who tends to stray.
11af5bbb-6379-46d7-a019-9a8146d6cc7f_1.fe03e8d22dc7bbdac702189e288fa947.jpg

6 A membership to your local Nature Center or Science Museum. The gift that keeps on giving!|

 

7. A set of travel watercolors for the Wild Explorer that loves to sit out in nature and capture what they see.
51BlL03gLdL._SL1000_.jpg

8.  A new water bottle 
61JfEe1VBZL._SL1500_.jpg

9.  A Sturdy Pocket Knife  and keep it safe in a belt pouch.
61HNZwOYAaL._SL1200_.jpg

10.  STILL one of my favorite gifts for kids. These Emergency Paracord Bracelets are wonderful!

916vqj2N0-L._SL1500_.jpg

 

 

Tinkerers & Crafters Christmas Guide Volume 2

13346998_909906654488_951417145024876609_n.jpg

This one goes out to all the Tinkerers & Crafters!

Let’s start with the Tinkerers…..

1. Electronic Playground
Hands down, the favorite gift of the year last year! This one packs an incredible amount of experiments and the hours of learning and play are rich! We also love Snap Circuits.

A14ET9aO8WL._SL1500_.jpg

2. Electronics for Kids

91PKOuYPu4L.jpg

3. MAGFORMERS
We love magnetic blacks. Magformers, magnatiles, we love them all. These basic sets go a long way. The big boxes are pricey but if you are limiting toys in your home and only want to buy one great toy, these are a great set to own. This is the main toy my little guy plays with when I am teaching his older brothers!
613XujaxcPL._SL1000_.jpg

4. Lego Technic RC Racer
This was another gift we received from grandparents last year and it was a huge hit. A step up from regular Legos, the technic sets (which you can find for as cheap as $15 or upwards of $200) give the kids a chance to build with more moving parts.
71eVmMVSAqL._SL1000_.jpg

5. K’Nex Rollercoaster
This will be our first year delving into these bigger K’Nex projects!

91sh+p90lWL._SL1500_.jpg

6. The Way Things Work NOW by Dave MacCaulay
We love the classic “The Way Things Work” and this updated edition is fascinating! We love seeing the new pages on touch screens and digital cameras and much more.

51np6LAzbXL.jpg

7. Kuman Uno Smart Robot Car Kit
We are jumping up to some bigger building sets for my Tinkerer this year.
91Pz4uxJOLL._SL1500_.jpg

8. Mousetrap
91zpYBwMRVL._SL1500_.jpg

9. Hape Quadrilles
Any of the Hape Quadrille marble runs are so engaging and well made. We had a plastic one that broke very quickly. This one is still going strong!
71JqIR6h2mL._SL1500_.jpg

10. Erector 25 in 1 Building Sets
These sets are wonderful! I love that they can choose from so many options and build and rebuild several times.
81dTl128b7L._SL1500_.jpg

 

And now for the crafters!

1. Candle Making Kits
Amazon says that these yield 10 candles, but we divide the sheets and make 20 nice sturdy tapers.
71YLnaVejtL._SL1500_.jpg
2. Chapstick Tubes
This one might sound crazy at first, but making your own chapstick is so much fun (and incredibly economic!) These are a great gift to give an entrepreneurial kid that loves to sell homemade items at craft fairs. Here is our favorite recipe.
71HwEjZrx7L._SL1500_.jpg

3. Handicrafts Made Simple
These wonderful DVDs are from Simply Charlotte Mason. They taight my boys and I how to crochet, knit, hand sew and more. We love them and highly recommend them!

Handicrafts-Crochet-DVD-case.jpg

4. A Crochet Kit
This is the one my boys each start out with!
71JSoWVEG1L._SL1200_.jpg

5. Needle Felting Kit 
81yEI1oLRTL._SL1500_.jpg
I also love these simple kits….
71g7KUSiTUL._SL1200_.jpg

6. Sewing Patterns from Clemetine Patterns
We are finishing up our first projects and they’ve been such a delight!

il_fullxfull.1621995353_4css.jpg

7. Craft Boards From Jennifer
These beautiful crafts boards are sturdy and easy to clean. I’m picking up a few for Christmas this year to save my dining room table from further abuse!
il_fullxfull.1257350606_tq38.jpg

8. Weaving Loom
81G8KNsNiNL._SL1500_.jpg

9. Personalized Stamps
Perfect for a little someone who churns out a lot of creative work and wants to put their stamp on it! 🙂
il_fullxfull.869692708_ano7.jpg

10. Space of their own!

Even if its just a small space
71WUZ9djlhL._SL1500_.jpg

Or a bigger space for older kids….
81VUE4CqWpL._SL1500_.jpg

Its great to give them a gift that acknowledges their gifts and provides them a stepping stone for the next step!

We’ll be back in a few days with more guides!

 

Bird Nerds + Book Worms Christmas Guide Volume 2

15401172_961237217628_8128133256405076778_n

Its that time of year again! We’re sharing our favorite picks for Christmas in our Christmas Guide series. (You can find Volume 1 of the Bird Nerds + Book Worms Guide HERE) This will be the first of five lists coming out during the course of the next few weeks.  Enjoy!

Bird Nerds

  1. BESPIN Bird Map
    They had me at tear resistant and water proof. This is a two sided guide that features 583 birds. You can display it or fold it up and take it with you on the trail or to co-op. 
    91kzKcT1YgL._SL1500_.jpg
    2. Bird Calls 

    I know there are all kinds of fancy on the go bird call gadgets, but we love this one. Its beautiful and it never needs batteries. 
    51ms-uElEUL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

3. The BEST Bird Feeder
When my youngest was 3 we stopped seeing birds up close on our nature walks. This was because he was constantly hollering and everything within a 200 yard radius would take flight before we could get a good look.  This window bird feeder was a game changer! We had so many lovely feathered friends visit our school room window that year,  it made a bird nerd of him for life!
81Cl6dKM4hL._SL1500_.jpg

 

4. The Sibley Birder’s Life List and Field Diary 
This is a journal to keep for life! Room for field notes and a check list of all bird species so that you can keep track of what you have seen and what you have yet to see.

719SEx1GBML.jpg

 

5. BIRD BINGO 
One of our favorite games and a beautiful gift for children.

51COXO0DRrL.jpg

 

6. Bird Puzzle 

I heard about this little puzzle from a fellow bird lover. She recommended it just in time for Christmas last year and it ended up being my youngest son’s favorite puzzle this year! At only 35 pieces, its perfect for the youngest bird lover

61YLhkKGtVL.jpg

For older kids, this 1000 piece puzzle is beautiful and so much fun to put together!
616W0TM1EBL.jpg

7.  Binoculars
Upgrade to a nicer pair that won’t break the bank but that give your bird nerd a better view of their finds. These are light weight and water proof!
61ndbuCaLnL._SL1000_.jpg

8. The SWEETEST Song Bird Tea Set
I’d consider this a splurge. Full disclosure: Never seen it in person, never used it, just about DIED when I saw it online. Eeep.

731484-HSSP17-AF1736-2.jpg

BOOKWORMS

Last year’s list had a great book list of ideas! Rather than repeat all the same books, I’ll just let you visit last year’s list. You can find two other great book lists here and here. This year I’ll be adding a two new books to the list, plus a few extra items that make me smile!

1. Sir Henry and the Chalk Dragon
Quite possibly our favorite new book of the last few months. I cannot fully express just how much my kids enjoyed this story. I won’t give any of it away but I will say that this is a story that constantly tips its hat to other great stories and it was so much fun to hear my kids belly laughing and calling out references to other stories they love. I can’t recommend it enough!

51uPcMQYbvL._SX378_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

2. The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner 
The boys know I read this book last month and they are dying for it to release so they can read it too. I’m just as eager as they are. Its a wonderful story and I am so thrilled that it will be out in time for Christmas!

41AgL0OyudL._SX299_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

3. A Weighted Lap Pad
We bought this small weighted lap blanket for my youngest son to use while at co-op. I didn’t foresee him using it much at home but it turns out that he LOVES to use it while reading. The other kids love it too. It comes in a variety of colors and styles and its washable. HOORAY! This would be a great gift for anyone on the spectrum that loves to read!
91-MCum3xlL._SL1500_.jpg

4.  Library Socks
There are so many different pairs! I love the Count of Monte Cristo Socks and the Mo Willem’s Pigeon socks best.
51OaPGnWmUL._AC_US200_.jpg

5. Book Light
Our favorite LED (RECHARGEABLE!) book light for the kids. It has three light settings including orange light which is so helpful in making sure they can rest once the lights are off!
51g1KRvT3XL._SL1280_.jpg

 

6. An ACTUAL BOOK WORM!

41drX2RdmAL.jpg