Find It Series – Tot Resource Review

I received the Highlights Find It series from Timberdoodle in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My kids are 2, 3, and 5 now, so this year, I’ll be adding some totschool preschool activities into our routine. I’ll write more about what I’m using for that soon, but first, I wanted to share this fun series of board books with you.

There are four books in the Highlights “find it” series: Things that Go, Animals, Bedtime, and Farm. Each of the books has three items on the left page to find and an image on the right where toddlers can search for the images. This makes the books a good resource for math concepts, pre-reading, vocabulary-building, and fun.

Pages from Bedtime

Vivid Images Hold Interest

The books have bright images, which engage children. I tested this resource with both my 2 and 3 year old children. They both really loved the books. My 2 year old enjoyed looking at the photos, finding the animals, and matching toys to the animals in the photos.

My three year old wanted to make sure that he was saying the words correctly when we ere looking at the books. His favorite was the Things That Go volume. He’s a big fan of backhoes and excavators and fire trucks, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that he really enjoyed this book.

I was actually surprised by how much my 3 1/2 year old got out of the books. I was thinking of them as solely being resources for my toddler, but it turned out that he really got a lot out of them as well, and that they kept his interest.

Using Find-It Books in Lessons

In addition to reading the books and finding the items, there are some activities you can do with your young student to maximize the value of these resources. Here are some ideas:

  • Match toy animals or vehicles to images
  • Talk about the animal sounds
  • Challenge your student to find a word that rhymes with the item
  • Ask your student to search for other items (i.e. where is the owl?)
  • Ask student to describe an item to you without naming it for you to find it.

What other activities can you think of to use these books for?

Purchase the set of Find It books here, or find it as part of the whole Tiny Tots curriculum at Timberdoodle.

Secular note: Timberdoodle’s curriculum packs are primarily religious-based, but they offer a variety of secular resources – and many critical thinking toys and curriculum options.

What I’m Using to Homeschool My Kindergartener

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on a link and making a purchase will result in me receiving a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. 

My 5-year-old is doing kindergarten, and has been since August, since she was 4 when I started, we wrapped up some of the unfinished preschool curriculum. After a long winter break, we’re looking forward to getting back to it. Here’s what we’re using right now (note: we don’t do all subjects all days, and the total time sitting – not counting science experiments, reading books together, art projects, music stuff, etc. is only about an hour and a half. The majority of her days are still spent playing.):

Reading:

We were using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington. However, the curriculum really didn’t suit my gal, and I’d been really curious about what All About Reading had to offer. So, I switched it up. We’re now using level 1, and we love it. It’s hands-on, has reinforcing activities, and most importantly really works well with my gal’s learning style. They just came out with a color version, and it’s gorgeous. I’ll be talking more about that next week.

Penmanship/Writing:

For writing, we’re doing a lot of tracing of words and letters, but we’re also reinforcing proper letter formation using Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Grade K. We do a page or two each day. She loves this.

Spelling: MCP Spelling Workout A

I started with MCP Spelling Workout A before I switched to All About Reading. I’m on the fence about continuing with it or changing to All About Spelling Level 1 once we finish All About Reading Level 1 and begin Level 2 as recommended.

Literature:

For literature, I’m working on making sure she’s familiar with classics and contemporary picture books. We’re using a variety of resources as well as the book, fairy tales, poetry, nursery rhymes, etc. lists from What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know.

Math:

We’re using Singapore Math Essential Math Kindergarten A and B. We’re about halfway through book B, so we’ll be starting the “first grade” book probably in March if we keep moving at the pace she’s setting. She loves math.

Thinking Skills:

I’m using Kumon’s Kindergarten Thinking Skills Workbooks. We’ve almost finished the Logic book.

Science:

Science is kind of a hodge-podge, like literature. It’s partially interest-based, partially driven by what’s in What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, and partially based on various science kits we have and fun experiment ideas I come across that fit the season/interests. I just got 180 Days of Science to add to the mix just to make sure we’re hitting all the standards and building a solid foundation for 1st grade. Science is another favorite subject, so we also read a lot of books on topics and watch YouTube videos.

Social Studies:

We’re reading a variety of picture books about historical events and biographies of great figures. We also read selections from What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know and discuss what we read. For geography, we’re using DK Geography, KindergartenWe also have a daily calendar we do, and we’re using My Book of Easy Telling Time. We also do a lot of talking about community roles and safety and other things.

Art:

We do a lot of art projects, drawing, coloring, etc. around here. She also has a class she does with her grandparents and loves.

Music:

We’re taking a break from violin at the moment. We listen to a variety of music, and I point out the different styles and talk about instruments and famous musicians.

Misc./Social Activities/P.E.

We’re doing Girl Scouts this year, and a dance class. She wants to do a running group for kids this spring. We also go to the local zoo’s classes as we can.

Resource Review: National Geographic’s Field Guide to Birds

One of my favorite activities to undertake with my kids is heading out into nature and taking a look at what different forms of flora and fauna we see. I’ve been meaning to build a collection of field guides so I can help my kids to identify the different things we see. When I was offered the chance to review National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America, I was happy to do so.

This volume is a really great reference to have on hand – both for any nature studies and just for watching outside of your windows. I wish I’d had it on hand months ago when we had a large bird of some sort hanging out on one of our trees (I think it was a hawk). There are greatly detailed illustrations of the different birds, depicting adult birds and their young. Each entry has a map showing where the bird is commonly found – to help with identification – and a little summary of the bird. I’m sure it will come in useful many times in the coming years, and I would argue that good field guides are must-haves for anyone teaching biology and ecology at home.

About Field Guide To The Birds Of North America

• Paperback: 592 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 7 edition (September 12, 2017)

This fully revised and updated edition of the best-selling North American bird field guide is the most up-to-date guide on the market.

Perfect for beginning to advanced birders, it is the only book organized to match the latest American Ornithologists’ Union taxonomy. With more than 2.75 million copies in print, this perennial bestseller is the most frequently updated of all North American bird field guides. Filled with hand-painted illustrations from top nature artists, this latest edition is poised to become an instant must-have for every serious birder in the United States and Canada.

The 7th edition includes 37 new species for a total of 1,023 species. Sixteen new pages allow for 250 fresh illustrations, 80 new maps, and 350 map revisions. With taxonomy updated to recent significant scientific rearrangement, the addition of standardized banding codes, and text completely vetted by birding experts, this new edition will stand at the top of the list of birding field guides for years to come.

Social Media

Please use the hashtag #fieldguidetothebirdsofnorthamerica and tag @tlcbooktours.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Penmanship Practice

How strict are you when it comes to sitting properly for penmanship practice? Princess Boogie, 4, is just learning how to write, so I haven’t been a stickler about having to be 100% about her posture (In fact, I’m not sure I was strict about it with College Boy, 19, either). Right now, it’s student-initiated. She wants to learn to write, but she’s also a wiggle worm. (The book is Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Level K – I’ll write more of a review of their products soon). So: Sit down feet firmly on the floor or kneel at the coffee table/wherever else she happens to be when working on her letters?

Hello From a Secular Homeschooler in Wichita!

I figured that before I start writing about all sorts of homeschooling topics – finding secular curriculum, educational philosophy, etc. It would be best to start the journey here by introducing myself and talking a bit about my own personal homeschooling journey. First of all, I live in Kansas (I actually come from California), and I have 4 children – a 19 year old boy – “College Boy,” a 4 year old girl – “Princess Boogie,” a 2 year old boy – “Bubster 5000,” and an almost 1 year old girl – “Princess Ladybug.”

I never planned on being a homeschooling mom. I was homeschooled for part of my education and my younger brother was also homeschooled. Let’s just say that I knew very well what the pitfalls of homeschooling – even secular homeschooling – could be. So when I had my oldest, I had all kinds of visions for him of studying and first-day-of-school pictures, and birthday parties.

Then things changed.

Pretty quickly, it was clear that the public school environment wasn’t going to work. My breaking point was being told my kid was making himself a target for bullying. He didn’t return after that. I didn’t care that i was a grad student and I didn’t care that I was a single mom. I was going to make homeschooling work. Coincidentally, I’d also recently happened across The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. I did what any parent would do – I read every book about homeschooling I could get my hands on, but I kept coming back to the outline in The Well Trained Mind and the classical method.

When we started out, College Boy was barely reading – he was at a kindergarten level. By the time 3 months had passed, he was reading at an 8th grade level, and no longer was he sullen. He’d returned to his normal happy-go-lucky self and had an insatiable zest for learning.

Homeschooling Works; Secular Materials are Hard to Find

I taught College Boy at home from 2nd-7th grades. Then, I got sick. So, back to public school he went. Whereas he was “at risk” and behind when I pulled him out, he went back in and tested ahead. He went into the honors program, and kicked butt and took names and awards throughout the rest of his schooling career. He is now finishing his freshman year at his dream college.

The frustrating part of homeschooling for me wasn’t getting him to do his work. It was trying to find secular materials and/or materials that were easy to adapt to a secular context while still being academically rigorous. This was particularly the case with science and history materials. I will admit, though, that I did use Story of the World for our history curriculum, and I prefaced parts that were Christian mythology being treated as historical fact with that disclosure.

Latin presented another challenge, but we worked through it.

There were a few other places where I had a hard time – I bought an English curriculum once that made me really raise my eyebrows at it – even though the quality was great, the content was less than stellar.

The Younger Set

Now that College Boy is off at college, my husband and I have decided that the younger three kids will be homeschooled through high school. While College Boy did great when he went back, there were many things – academic and social – that we were not thrilled with about his experiences. For one, because he was in advanced classes, he had no time for socialization outside of class. For another, education in Kansas leaves a lot to be desired.

The other consideration has to do with the fact that before they turned 2, both Princess Boogie and Bubster 5000 had picked up their alphabet, counting to 10, and shapes, and for both counting to 20 and colors came shortly after their 2nd birthdays. In addition, Princess Boogie seems to have some neuro-differences that just would not be accommodated well in a traditional classroom environment. Princess Ladybug was born on the earlier side of things, and she’s hit developmental milestones a little later than the others.

Why I Started This Blog

As I move into more academics with Princess Boogie and try to find activities to occupy Bubster 5000 while she’s learning, I’m running into some walls where many things – from lesson planning spreadsheet templates to early childhood activity ideas are colored with Christianity, Christian themes, and suggestions for bible study. I wanted to create a place where parents from all backgrounds can find resources for educating their children – free from religious bias.

A Little Bit About Me

I’ve been working as an editorial consultant for 10 years. Prior to that, I was studying to get a Ph.D. in philosophy (I decided not to finish that degree for a variety of reasons). I am married to a librarian, and we’re quite the bibliophiles. I am a progressive Methodist and he is agnostic. I spent most of my adult life and all of my teen years as an agnostic person while exploring a variety of religions – paganism, Judaism, Buddhism, and settling on Christianity. I believe that children should be allowed the freedom to explore their own spiritual path, and that ethics are independent of religion.

Hello! Welcome! Stay a While. If you’re so inclined, please introduce yourself in the comments and say “hi” and what challenges you’ve faced.