Resource Review: Backyard Guide to the Night Sky

I love astronomy, and Miss 5 is a budding astronomer herself. While my lesson plans have us doing astronomy in 2nd, 6th, and 10th grades in a more methodical way, it’s nice to have resources to answer questions & provide information to her now. So, when I was asked if I’d like to review National Geographic’s Backyard Guide to the Night Sky, I jumped at the chance.

Like other National Geographic publications, like National Geographic’s Space Atlas, this guide is beautifully illustrated. It’s a nice size to throw in a purse or bag for taking to your local observatory or up into the treehouse. Learn about the different planets, stars, and space features. Perhaps the biggest use of this book for now will be the constellations guide, particularly as we move into warmer weather and spend more time outside. This book makes an outstanding addition to any homeschooler’s library of reference materials. There’s even a section on stargazing with your children.

About Backyard Guide to the Night Sky

• Paperback: 288 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 2 edition (March 19, 2019)

Explore the star-studded cosmos with this fully updated, user-friendly skywatcher’s guide, filled with charts, graphics, photographs, and expert tips for viewing — and understanding — the wonders of space.

Stargazing’s too much fun to leave to astronomers. In these inviting pages, “Night Sky Guy” Andrew Fazekas takes an expert but easygoing approach that will delight would-be astronomers of all levels. Essential information, organized logically, brings the solar system, stars, and planets to life in your own backyard. Start with the easiest constellations and then “star-hop” across the night sky to find others nearby. Learn about the dark side of the moon, how to pick Mars out of a planetary lineup, and which kinds of stars twinkle in your favorite constellations. Hands-on tips and techniques for observing with the naked eye, binoculars, or a telescope help make the most out of sightings and astronomical phenomena such as eclipses and meteor showers. Photographs and graphics present key facts in an easy-to-understand format, explaining heavenly phenomena such as black holes, solar flares, and supernovas. Revised to make skywatching even easier for the whole family, this indispensable guide shines light on the night sky–truly one of the greatest shows on Earth!

Social Media

Please use the hashtag #backyardguidetothenightsky and tag @tlcbooktours.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Review: How to Know the Birds by Ted Floyd

We have a pesky cardinal that likes to say “hello” twice a day by attacking our windows. Every day I think, “I really should put some stickers on these windows,” and every day I forget about that thought. Mr. 3 likes to sit and watch said cardinal, and he’s filled with lots of questions about birds. In fact, everywhere we go, my budding ornithologist spots birds and asks about them. So when I was asked if I’d like to review How to Know the Birds by Ted Floyd, I said “yes” with him in mind.

While this book isn’t an identification guide (see this other post for a North American Birds identification guide), it is a good resource for families incorporating nature studies into their homeschooling routines to have on hand. How to Know the Birds will help you to delve deeper into the intricacies of birds and birdwatching and answer a lot of the questions kids come up with when observing birds. For example, the chapter using cardinals as a primary example is titled, “Sex and Gender,” and uses the male cardinal’s bright red color to discuss sexual dimorphism – where the male and female of a species appear different and then cautions against assuming that it’s always the male in a bird species that exhibits the more fanciful markings.

About How to Know the Birds

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (March 12, 2019)

Become a better birder with brief portraits of 200 top North American birds. This friendly, relatable book is a celebration of the art, science, and delights of bird-watching.

How to Know the Birds introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching, by noting how behaviors, settings, and seasonal cycles connect with shape, song, color, gender, age distinctions, and other features traditionally used to identify species. With short essays on 200 observable species, expert author Ted Floyd guides us through a year of becoming a better birder, each species representing another useful lesson: from explaining scientific nomenclature to noting how plumage changes with age, from chronicling migration patterns to noting hatchling habits. Dozens of endearing pencil sketches accompany Floyd’s charming prose, making this book a unique blend of narrative and field guide. A pleasure for birders of all ages, this witty book promises solid lessons for the beginner and smiles of recognition for the seasoned nature lover.

Social Media

Please use the hashtag #howtoknowthebirds and tag @tlcbooktours.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

How I’m Teaching My Preschooler

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. 

I don’t know about your kids, but my 3 year old has to do whatever his sister is doing, so we’ve been at this homeschooling thing for a bit. I was using just a hodge-podge of Dollar Tree workbooks and coloring books with him (after all, $1 is a very reasonable price for things when he goes through these books as fast as he does), but this month, we’re starting some more formal lessons. He already knows his letters, shapes, numbers, and colors, so my goal is to work with him on his fine motor skills and solidify what he already knows. I don’t want to do a lot with him, but just enough since he insists. Here’s what we do, it takes less than an hour a day (with the 20 minutes of reading books factored in.

Pre-Reading: All About Reading’s Pre-Reading Program

I liked the level one books so much, I made the decision to order the pre-reading program for him as well. He loves that his “learning activities” look like his big sister’s, and I like having things laid out in a lesson plan. We’re still also doing various things we’ve picked up from the dollar store as the extra practice.

Mathematics:

I’m using a couple of things – Critical Thinking Company’s Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 1 and Kumon Numbers 1-30 are the two main resources I’m using. I have other things that I pull out from time to time, but these are quick and simple.

Art & Music:

Mr. 3 is taking an art class that meets once a month, and he’s always coloring or painting something. We listen to a variety of music and talk about the composers and artists.

Literature, History, Science, STEM etc.

We’re members of the Amazon STEM toy of the month club. We also use What Your Preschooler Needs to KnowWe read a large variety of books in addition to what we do for reading. Mr. 3 also does a basketball class, zoo class, and a dance class.

Mostly, he plays, as well he should at this age. The only reason we do anything formal is he’ll be all up in my face begging me to do something when his sister is learning if I don’t give him his “work” first.

What do you do for preschool?

 

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.

Happy New Year!

2018 was kind of an odd year around here. I’d hoped to have the blog more populated than it currently is, but life happens. That said, happy new year! It’s 2019 now, and we’re finishing out our winter break (It’s futile to attempt to homeschool while my 20-year-old is home visiting from college. It’s just too much excitement for my kindergartener and preschooler.) That said, I think they are as ready as I am to get back into our routine.

We have some new activities for the new year – Girl Scouts, basketball, hip hop dancing, and even Little Miss Ladybug will be taking a tot dance class. I’m really looking forward to all the fun opportunities this year. We managed to catch Paw Patrol Live over this past weekend, and the kids got a big kick out of it. I was impressed with it, I’d never seen a kids show live before, and was quite taken with the detail on the props and storyline.

What are your goals for 2019? For me, I want to make sure I’m adding in fun science and art projects. I’ll need to put them on the calendar to make sure that they get done. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing them – I really do, and the kids love them. It’s just that when things get busy, those are often the first things that get set aside in the name of “saving time” and I’m tired of doing that.

I also have a personal goal of reading at least 12 books this year. I’m going to be started with Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. I know, I know, I’m a little late to the game, but I binge-watched the show on Hulu while I was sick (I really don’t suggest doing that unless you’re a glutton for punishment), and now I feel the need to read the book.

I also want to make better use of our local secular homeschooling group and try to make meetings at least once a month. It can be hard when running a business from home and with no car, but I think it’s necessary to make a stronger effort.

What are your 2019 goals? Feel free to share them in the comments!

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

Resource Review: The Splendor of Birds

I have a confession: I don’t like birds. I mean, I think they’re absolutely beautiful creatures, but for some reason, they terrify me. That said, every one of my kids has been fascinated with birds – and with good reason. They fly, they’re beautiful, and they’re covered in feathers. National Geographic’s The Splendor of Birds is the first of two resources on learning about birds that I had the opportunity to review  (the second resource will be reviewed later this week).

This volume goes through the history of art and photographs depicting birds in National Geographic. This is a visually stunning volume. In addition to the imagery in the book, there are excerpts from National Geographic covering birds. My kids enjoyed looking through the book and seeing the vast variety of birds that there are in the world. This is a great volume ot have in your homeschool library for artistic reference (for kids wanting to draw birds), biology reference, and just for kids who are curious about birds to look through.

About The Splendor of Birds

• Hardcover: 512 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (October 23, 2018)

An elegant collection of the best artwork and photography from the National Geographic archives depicting the magnificence of birds.

Bird, nature, and art lovers alike will treasure this sumptuous visual celebration of the colors, forms, and behaviors of the winged wonders who share our world as they have been explored, displayed, and revealed throughout the years by National Geographic. The book moves chronologically so readers witness the tremendous growth in our knowledge of birds over the last 130 years, as well as the new frontiers in technology and observation–from luminous vintage paintings and classic black and white photographs to state-of-the art high-speed and telephoto camera shots that reveal moments rarely seen and sights invisible to the human eye. The wide diversity of pictures captures beloved songbirds outside the kitchen window, theatrical courtship dance of birds of paradise, tender moments inside a tern’s nest, or the vivid flash of a hummingbird’s flight. Readers will delight in seeing iconic species from around the world through the eyes of acclaimed National Geographic wildlife photographers such as Chris Johns, Frans Lanting, Joel Sartore, and Tim Laman and reading excerpted passages from Arthur A. Allen, Roger Tory Peterson, Douglas Chadwick, Jane Goodall, and other great explorers. Exquisitely produced and expertly curated, this visual treasury displays as never before the irresistible beauty, grace, and intelligence of our feathered friends.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble