Friday, November 3, 2017

Learn all about ballet

My friend Jenny from Tranquila Mama asked me to make a unit study for her budding ballerinas. My little ones love ballet too (even though they've never taken a class), so I thought it would be a great thing to study.

Listen to this history of ballet from NPR's Fresh Air:

There's also a good history of ballet here on the Encyclopedia Britannica page.

Another great  place to start is the Classics for kids show on ballet which focuses on Tchaikovsky.

This book has the stories of a lot of popular ballets and is a great introduction.

This nonfiction reader shows what it is like to be a ballerina working for a big company.

I couldn't decide which of these books I wanted to feature, so I decided to show both. The biography is wonderful, and Misty Copeland's own book Firebird is excellent

Music in our Homeschool has a neat 15 minute music lesson on Aaron Copeland with links to videos of some of his songs.

There's also a Classic for Kids podcast on Aaron Copeland's Cowboy ballets.

Particularly interested in the Nutcracker?

Try these Montessori themed Nutcracker printables.
Listen to the story of A Christmas Nutcracker from Story Nory (also available on itunes and Google Play Music).
Listen to the show on Classics for Kids on the Nutcracker.

This one isn't free, but Erica from Enrichment Studies has a beautiful collection of Fine art pages on ballet for $9.99. You can print these on cardstock and display them for years to come. (This is my affiliate link. Thanks)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere

It's that time of year again where minds go to one thing: pumpkins.

Give me a minute to finish my latte.

Okay! Anyway, there are so many good books, videos, and printables about pumpkins that I almost don't know where to start.

Okay, I'll start with Spookley. I love Spookley the square pumpkin. It's a book about being different and being accepted for just who you are, so of course I adore it.

Five little pumpkins is a classic rhyme and one of our favorites. This little board book is lovely, but make sure you also learn the ginger play for which there were So many developmental benefits.

Becky from This Reading Mama, who is one of my favorites, had two great freebies: a Pumpkin poetry pack and a Pumpkin literacy activity pack which includes nonfiction reading, comprehension, and vocabulary activities.

But what about math?
I found two amazing resources for hands on math activities using pumpkins. Math cats and Math wire.

AND these two free printable math resources Pumpkin bump math center game and for older kids Pumpkin order of operations puzzles

Did you think I forgot science? Check out this great Pumpkin life cycle packet.

And what might be my new favorite, this pumpkin chunking physics video:

Monday, October 16, 2017


This unit is another one on request, this time on the nation of Cuba. I didn't know a lot about Cuba before I started this, so it was really cool to learn.

This 8 minute video from the Geography Now channel on Youtube gives a good overview and background presented in a fun way.

For a good, complete description, I recommend the National Geographic Kids page on Cuba, which includes the flag, statistics, and great images.

For a more thorough look at Cuba's full history, the site History of Cuba has great timelines and articles about various periods in history.

Since I love incorporating the arts, I thought this great video on Cuban music from All Around this World music was a great addition.

For older kids, this complete lesson focused on Immigrant journeys uses the PBS documentary 90 miles and seems very thorough. I haven't been able to find the full documentary online but there are clips on the website, or you can buy it from Amazon:

The 90 miles website also includes a great reading list. Some books that stood out to me are below:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Into the ocean

A few nights ago, my first grader was drawing a picture of the coral reef and she looked up at me and said "Hey, mom, can we do one of your learning things on the ocean?


So I set right to work putting together stuff about the ocean, and man I have been having so much fun and learning a lot!

Ms. Frizzle is my favorite. In this book, she takes the kids to the ocean floor and they learn about all kinds of life there.

This is a basic counting book, but it also has lots of beautiful illustrations of life in the coral reef.

This is a nice book that has lots of great content about the ocean. Like with most nonfiction books, my girls got bored pretty quickly and just flipped through picking out what was interesting to them - but I think that's okay!

Crash Course Kids is one of my favoritest youtube channels for learning about science. This video has basic information about the different ocean zones, and there are plenty of other videos in their channel about oceans and their challenges.

Sci Show kids made a playlist for World Ocean Week which has lots of neat videos about different ocean animals and aspects of the ocean. My favorite (although not the most educational) is the seal riding on a turtle. :)

National Geographic has an entire Ocean portal with links to lots of cool videos, photos, and articles where you and your kids can dig deeper into any area of ocean life you want.

And I absolutely recommend you take a second with your kids every day that they care to and click on the Rescue Ocean Wildlife click to give page through Care2.

And as a quick bonus, because you know how I love the arts, Handel's water music.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

For kids with big feelings

My first grader has always been a girl with big feelings. When she is happy or excited, it's the best thing in the world, but when things aren't going well, watch out. We've learned through patience and practice that this isn't a fault, it's beautiful.   But.

But. Sometimes it's too much. Sometimes it's too much for me, and sometimes it's too much for her. And I do believe that one of the most important things I can teach this sweet, gifted, anxious, emotional girl is how to feel her feelings without letting them control her. And since I've only just been learning this myself, it's been a journey we've taken together.

We got this book as a gift a few years ago, and it's a great introduction to mindfulness for kids. Simply being aware of and present with their experience is such  a crucial skill, particularly in this  modern age.

I absolutely love this book because I can see myself and my little girl in it so clearly. In the book, Sophie gets angry and she runs to a favorite tree where she finds comfort. There are lots of great lessons to learn here about grounding oneself and how to deal with feelings that seem overwhelming.

This series, aimed at kids about 6-12, teaches the basic lessons of cognitive behavioral therapy in age appropriate ways. In What to do when you worry too much, kids (and parents) learn that worries grow when you pay attention to them and some strategies for putting those worries away. I also recommend What do do when you grumble too much which opens with one of my favorite images - that of a kid kicking a hurdle instead of jumping it.

I love love love Jaime from Cosmic Kids yoga, and her series of Zen Den mindfulness lessons is totally on point. In this one, she talks about the concepts of owl brain and guard dog brain, which relate to the neuroscience concepts of wise brain and primitive brain, and how to get into your wise brain more often. She also has great videos on paying attention, on disruptive thoughts, and on jealousy.  Her series of guided relaxations is helpful as well.

This series on Growth Mindset from Classroom Dojo, based on the research of Carol Dweck, teaches kids how to change their mindset towards success and failure. In my house, this was key for overcoming challenges. Kids with a fixed mindset tend to believe they are either good at something or not, but by teaching them to shift to a growth mindset we can help them see mistakes as learning experiences, which greatly reduces meltdowns.

My big girl and I still have a lot of feelings, and we still have a lot of work to do, but I think that the  more we talk about this stuff, the better it will get as she gets older. I truly believe that social emotional learning needs to be at the core of all instruction

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Easy and Cheap preschool at home

I have been blessed with a wonderful preschool for my kids, but not everyone has the means, time, or ability to send their kids to preschool. Many of you are working parents who already are stretched paying for preschool and adding a layer of schooling would be prohibitive. You want to make sure your kids aren't behind, but you don't have the time or money for an elaborate homeschool plan between work, your other kids' school schedule, and all the running around you have to do just as a mom. I hear you. You are doing fine. Here are a few easy ways that you can get your kids a little extra background knowledge before they start school without stretching your budget or your very limited mom time and energy.

First, youtube, which you can watch at night, over breakfast, or while you are out running errands.

One of my kids' favorite youtube channels is Olive and the Rhyme Rescue Crew. Each video focuses on a letter as Olive visits a land where everything starts with that letter and tries to fix a nursery rhyme that one of her well meaning friends has messed up by changing the words to ones with that letter. It's a great fun way to practice alphabet sounds.

I love going to the library, but when we can't, I often put on this Rhyme Time video from the main library here in Pittsburgh.

My kids have been playing on the website Learn with Homer for a while. There's a web version and an ipad app. It teaches a variety of valuable preschool skills and has cute sections for story time and brain games. Within the next few weeks, a new version will come out with even more capabilities to customize it. I signed up to be a Homer ambassador and got a code for a Learn with Homer 3 month trial to share with all of you.

If you're looking for a more structured curriculum, my absolute favorites are from This Reading Mama. Becky has completely free curricula on Learning the alphabet and early reading with Reading the alphabet. For each week, she has a variety of printables that can be done in just a few minutes each and that address a variety of skills. You can just print them all and do them as you have time (while big brother is at baseball practice?) or you can pick and choose ones you like as you go through.

Some great examples of free printable packets that you can just print and go and that practice a wide variety of school skills like identifying letters, one to one correspondence and counting, matching, and fine motor skills like tracing and cutting. (Some of these may change throughout the year, and I'll try to post lists of new good ones when I can):

Fall leaves early learning printable

Color the alphabet packet

Romping roaring ABCs

ABC, 1-2-3, and shape busy bags (These may take a little longer to put together but should be reusable and can be toted around for car rides or waiting for sibling time)

Alphabet Do a dot pages

That's it for now, but I almost certainly have more to come on this topic!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Exploring Ancient Greece

My first grader this year is really interested in Greek mythology, particularly as it is written in the middle grades chapter book series Goddess Girls, Heroes in Training, and Myth-O-Mania. From here, it was pretty easy and natural to transition into teaching her a little about Ancient Greek history. She doesn't do well with a lot of dry nonfiction, though, so I looked for some creative ways to keep it exciting and appealing to her.

This book is part of a series which I've only just discovered about three kids who go to a travel agency that specializes in time travel. They are given a guidebook which, when they start reading, transports them to a different time. In order to get home, they need to finish the guidebook. So, while this is a fictional narrative about time travel, each page has excerpts from the guidebook which give lots of facts and information about ancient Greek society.

My daughter has read all the Magic Tree House books, but I thought we'd re-read this one as a read aloud and include my four year old this time. This is a highly engaging series for kids that introduces and builds interest in different historical moments. In this one, Jack and Annie travel to the Ancient Olympics. What I like best about it is that for each book, there is also a non fiction fact tracker that includes non fiction information on the topic of the book. You can also find games and quizzes related to both the novels and the fact trackers at Magic Treehouse.

This video series, which is available on Amazon Prime is really cute and engaging. There are two separate videos for Classical Greece in the first season.

For researching the history of Ancient Greece, younger kids will probably enjoy this site on Growing up in Greece from the BBC. For older kids, there are great videos about Ancient Greek history here.

I found some great sites with games too to keep the learning fun for kids. Winged sandals has four adorable games that deal with Greek mythology, as well as a story time section and some historical research material.

Scholastic also has some cute Ancient Greece games, which deal with subjects like the Greek influence on the English language.