Read Aloud Thursday – May 2015

So hard to believe that May is almost over! Time to refill the basket with some new read alouds, I think. We have been reading, reading, and reading.

I posted about a few of the picture books we have read earlier this month. But I have a few more to share that we really enjoyed.

Hurry Up and Slow Down (Layn Marlow) is about two very different friends: Hare and Tortoise. As you might imagine Hare does everything fast and Tortoise does everything slowly. Tortoise likes to wake up slowly, eat his lunch slowly, and even plays games slowly. Hare is always telling Tortoise to “Hurry Up!” Until bedtime, that is. Tortoise just wants a nice cup of chamomile tea in a bit of peace and quiet. Hare wants a story. Just one. Because you’re so good at reading, Tortoise. Before Hare knows it, the book is over. “Hurry up and slow down!” Hare, busy Hare, thinks you need to take time to read a book and look at all the pictures. My book loving kiddos loved this one. I think they might have related a bit with the character of Hare.

Sidewalk Flowers (Jon Arno Lawson * Sydney Smith) is a wordless book. I am stretching myself by bringing home a wordless book now and then. They are not my favorites but I must admit that I enjoyed this one. A young girl is walking through the city, apparently returning home after a bit of shopping with her dad. As she walks she is collecting flowers. A few growing beside a post or in a crack in the sidewalk. After she has a lovely collection, she begins to share her colorful bouquet. A few placed on a dead bird, a few shared with a gentleman asleep on a park bench, and finally at home she shares with her mom and siblings.

The illustrations begin mostly black and white with just the girl’s red jacket and flowers being the splashes of color. But by the end of the book, the pages are full of color as the girl has shared her flower treasure. A very simple but lovely tale told in picture. My nine year old looked at this often and told my younger ones various stories. This is one wordless picture book that I could see us enjoying again.

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes (Nicola Davies * Emily Sutton) was not what I normally put in the book basket. But as I am stretching myself by reading non-fiction, I wanted to do the same for my younger ones. Science can be a beautiful thing and I did not appreciate that until recent years. Tiny Creatures shares and teaches about microbes in an engaging and understandable way for young learners.  Comparing the number of microbes in a drop of seawater to the number of people in New York City help to visualize how small these interesting microbes are. One of mine was not impressed to learn that these tiny creatures lived inside her! Another found that fascinating. Colorful illustrations that help children see the role of microbes was excellent. This was a favorite of my 5 year old son and 9 year old daughter. I definitely recommend this if you need a few books on your science shelf.

And there were more but I can’t blog them all, right?

For our Family Read Aloud, we finished reading Rascal by Sterling North earlier this month. It is one that my children will probably list as a favorite.

We are reading Boys of Blur by N. D. Wilson..I had planned to read it on my own and then pass it around. One evening, I was caught without a read aloud!  I grabbed it and there was no turning back. More thoughts to come when we finish it.

Tomorrow we have plans to relax at the library. I wonder what we will find?

Nature Study – When and Where to Make it Happen

I have already shared a bit on why I think Nature Study is important and what I needed to get started. The next hurdle? When and where were we going to make this beautiful thing called nature study happen?

At first, I had planned on selecting an afternoon that would be set aside each week. Fridays is often selected to be a day of Enrichment Studies so perhaps Friday afternoons? Hmm, why not?  I felt that I would really need to schedule it or it wouldn’t ever actually take place. Friday afternoons make sense, right? The week of work is done. We have checked off all the boxes, the books have been read and discussed, tests have been taken so now for the fun outing.

Well, not exactly. I don’t believe that it is even feasible to think that I will have two days exactly the same with nine children in the house. A little one might not feel well, an older child needs a bit of help with math, or the laundry mountain has gotten out of hand and calls for extreme measures. Or the weather for Friday afternoon turns ugly.

Flexing was the key. I decided that we would plan on Monday being our nature study day. If the weather or just life took an unexpected turn then we could flex and bump to a different day. I can easily do this because we don’t have extra activities to interfere with other days. Monday does not work out? No problem. Hello, Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

But where would we go? We also have only one vehicle so we have to work around dad’s schedule. Thankfully we live in a small town and in a bit of a set back area. We have a  small wood next door that even has a small creek. Not only is it a favorite place for the children to imagine in, we can also study the beauty of nature there.

We happen to live in a neighborhood that was established before clear cutting was a common practice. A simple walk around the neighborhood can be full of many nature encounters. Flowers and trees blooming, birds, grasses offer much to study.   Bats have even been spotted while walking.

Our walks in the neighborhood almost always end up at the park which is right down the road from our home. While it isn’t always ideal for nature study, we can make it work.

I am also researching greenways in our area that we can plan trips to a couple of times a month. A drive up the road about ten miles or so will open up a wealth of possibilities. I am looking forward to our next outing!

When and where do you do Nature Study? I’d love to hear and be inspired. Next time I’ll talk about how we do nature study.

Nature Study – What Did I Need to Make It Happen?

Last week, I shared about Nature Study and why I have made it a priority in our week. By far, the biggest stumbling block to making it happen was my concept of what I needed to make Nature Study happen.

I would read how others were implementing Nature Study and would instantly feel overwhelmed. The supply list they had for a child or two was not feasible for our family size and budget. Here is what I had to remind myself: There is not a mandatory supply list for nature study. There is not a mandatory name brand for sketch books or watercolors. There is not even a mandatory method for Nature Study. All I needed was to decide what *our family* needed and to go outside to explore, see, and learn!

Here is how I made it happen:

On a weekly trip to the store, I purchased seven small sketchbooks. This allowed six of my children and myself to have our own nature study journals. I didn’t want to leave out my five year old and my three year old so they use a clipboard with a piece of sketch paper. I would eventually love to invest in a higher quality sketch book, but what we have is working out beautifully.

For Christmas, we were given a set of Prismacolor coloring pencils. We are absolutely loving these! While we do use them for other sketching, I try to keep these with our nature study items. I also keep a set of Crayola coloring pencils that they younger ones use. With eight children sketching, color availability can be tough! I hope to dabble in watercolors at some point. Again, my goal was to get the basics and to get started!

I grabbed a pencil pouch I had on hand and used that to hold a pencil sharpener, erasers, and a few pencils for sketching.

Since we are sharing sketching supplies, I am keeping sketch books, coloring pencils, etc all in a nice sturdy canvas bag. This allows us to “grab and go” at any time without having to hunt down supplies. Later I would love to get everyone a small nature study bag for individual items but for now this is working well. A few of the children do have their own art supplies and sometimes choose to bring them.

I always grab the camera so we take pictures in case we need to finish sketching indoors. We also happen to be a picture loving family so someone always wants the camera.

There are some items I want to add to our Nature Study Bag: binoculars, field guides, magnifying glass, bags for collecting items. I’ll simply add those as I can. No excuses for not getting out for Nature Study! With just a few basic supplies we are doing Nature Study and having a blast!

Up next – When and Where does Nature Study Happen?