Category: Everyday Life

Unit Study: Birds!

Unit Study: Birds - overview | www.oliverandtara.com

Ask and ye shall received! I offered to share information on our unit study in May and people loved the idea. So here we go! I’ll be putting it all here so I can send people to one spot for all the information.

I have planned out 4 weeks of learning, pulling from a variety of resources. I am using some left over materials from when we used Mother Goose Time in the co-op, Pinterest, Charlotte Mason inspired materials and more.

We will continue to do our “core” learning topics – handwriting, math, bible, reading. These take about 1 hour to complete. Then we will fill our time with learning and activities all related to our topic.

Why Birds?

Spring is here in Colorado, and birds are everywhere. We have bald eagles, blue jays, magpies, hummingbirds, robins and cormorants – and that is just a small sampling. Birding is very popular here and we often see folks with binoculars out at our nature school spot. This spring we find ourselves spending more time at home with COVID in our world. I wanted to set up a way to explore the world in our own backyard, and birds felt right.

I have been spending much of our quarantine cleaning out and setting up what will now be our “learning space”. A former co-op room, I have lined walls with bookshelves, found a screen for casting music and information, a round work table to spread out projects and a comfy chair to curl up and read in. I’ll post pictures when it is complete! But, while digging through and cleaning out, I found pieces from an old curriculum all about birds. So this really kicked my bum into gear on pulling together information.

My creativity is being stretched as we still don’t know when craft stores and libraries will open. And we never know how long Amazon packages will take. It’s been fun to work around these restraints and still find great quality ideas and resources thanks to the internet.

The Structure

All of the materials I present will be broken up into 3 key areas: monthly, weekly and additional.

Monthly

This week and into early next week I will be posting the key parts of the unit study we do all month long. This will include things like setting up our learning shelf, prepping our yard, our “riches” and more. These are things we return to and explore over and over for deep learning and appreciation.

Weekly

Each week I will post about the plan for the week. This will include crafts, games, books we will read and videos we plan to watch. These can be melded into your week however you see fit! As the week progresses I will share stories and pictures here and on my instagram account – so follow along and share your own photos too!

Additional

I’ve found so many resources about birds, I have whole spreadsheets dedicated to my findings. So these posts will be about other fun resources in case you are interested in doing more or swapping in something else. These may be purchases I’ve made on Amazon, downloads I have bought, outside activities if you are free to explores the great outdoors and more.

I truly help this resource helps you, it’s been a small labor of love on my part during a stressful time in our world. So follow along, and let’s learn about birds!


❤ Tara

Learning on the Road: Signs

I posted last week about how much time the kids and I spend in the car. In addition to our playlists, road signs are another favorite way we learn on the go.

Colors

Assign each kid a different color for the day and have them try to find it on the signs you pass. Green is typically the easiest in our area, while blue and red are a bit more difficult!

Shapes

We call out shapes we see on different signs as we drive. We add them up and see what we see more of – hint: it’s always the rectangle! Sometimes we even make a game of “I Spy” if we are on foot.

Letters & Numbers

Pip loves identifying numbers and letters on signs as we drive down the road. He’ll call them out and I have to try and find the sign. This has really helped him learn how to identify larger numbers!

Symbols

As well all know, different signs mean different things. Road names vs. speed limits, highways vs. toll roads, etc. Combining the colors, shapes, letters and numbers helps us understand the overall meaning of a sign. It even helps us use clues from signs we know to help us figure out new signs we’ve never seen before! Pip and Liv love to identify different signs and figure out where we are going base on the road clues!

Foreign Languages

Pip and Liv are fascinated with Mandarin Chinese and are learning from a friend twice a month. We recently covered shapes and have loved practicing our Chinese by naming the shapes of signs (and other objects) as we drive down the road!

♥ Tara

Learning on the Road: Playlists

The kids and I spend a lot of time on the road. We love to go on adventures. We have museum memberships, a grew t botanical garden, a lovely zoo, hiking galore and friends all over the state. We could easily waste that time in the car. Or we could make that time count!

One way we learn on the go is by using Spotify Playlists. Our curriculum has the children learning folk songs, singing hymns and completing composer studies.

Making playlists means it’s a quick click to start our “school” as soon as we get in the car in the morning!

Some of our playlists have become favorites and are asked for all day long – especially our folk songs! And I just love hearing them humming a song we’ve learned.

We follow Ambleside Online for our composer studies while picking some of our own music selections for Folk Songs and Hymns.

Click here to read about my Folk Song dilemma.

Feel free to take a peek at some of our playlists!

What do you listen to in the car?

♥ Tara

A Folksong Dilemma

Pip and Liv’s curriculum has them learning a new hymn and folksong every month. I make a Spotify playlist out of their songs and we keep building it over the year. We’ve learned “Cockles and Mussels” and “Green Grass Grows All Around” before switching to Christmas music for November and December.

But I continue to run into a dilemma. The amount of folksongs around the topic of death. “Cockles and Mussels” caught me off guard. It was recommended by their curriculum so, in a complete mom fail moment, I didn’t pre-listen.

Trust me.

I have not made that mistake again. But every month I am having to search for our own songs, as the curriculum list continues to discuss death! For example…

October: Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotten (1905)

When I’m dead and in my grave,
No more good times here I crave,
Place the stones at my head and feet,
Tell them all that I’ve gone to sleep.
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Please don’t tell what train I’m on,
So they won’t know what route I’ve gone.

When I die, Lord, bury me deep,
Way down on old Chestnut street
Then I can hear old Number Nine
As she comes rolling by.
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Freight train, freight train, run so fast,
Please don’t tell what train I’m on,
So they won’t know what route I’ve gone.

Err… ummm… Pass.

January: Minstrel Boy

The minstrel boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you’ll find him
His father’s sword he hath girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him
“Land of Song!” cried the warrior bard
“Tho’ all the world betrays thee
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chains
Could not bring that proud soul under
The harp he lov’d ne’er spoke again
For he tore its chords asunder
And said “No chains shall sully thee
Thou soul of love and brav’ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!

Seriously. No. Let’s skip ahead to February?

February: Walk That Lonesome Valley by Mississippi John Hurt (1924)

You got to walk, that lonesome valley.
Well, you got to walk it for yourself.
Ain’t nobody here, can walk it for you.
You got to walk that valley for yourself.

My mother had to walk that lonesome valley.
Well, she had to walk it for herself.
Cause nobody here could walk it for her.
Yeah she had to walk that valley for herself.

Oh yes, you got to walk that lonesome valley.
Well, you got to walk it for yourself.
Cause nobody here can walk it for you.
You got walk that valley for yourself.

My father had to walk that lonesome valley.
He had to walk it for his-self.
Cause nobody here could walk it for him.
He had to walk it for his-self.

Oh, Jesus had to walk that lonesome valley.
He had to walk it for his-self.
Cause nobody here could walk it for him.
He had to walk that valley for his-self.

Oh yes you got to walk that lonesome valley.
Well, you got to walk it for yourself.
Yes nobody here can walk it for you.
You got to walk that valley for yourself.

Oh my word. I. Just. Can’t.

So we’ll be learning An Acre of Land for January. I can explain that one clearly!

I am totally open to Folksong recommendations… without macabre themes, please!

 Tara

Reading Together: Why, What and What is Next?

Reading aloud is important in our home. I have vivid memories of my mom reading aloud to me as a child. She would come into my room in the evening and we’d curl up together reading Madeline L’Engle books such as A Wrinkle in Time. I have read to my own children since they were babies and in the past 2 years we’ve made the switch to chapter books. Pip and Liv love listening to chapter books, whether audiobooks in the car or physical books I’ve found on family member’s shelves or in lovely used bookstores. I recently posted our first audiobook series for 2019 on my social media and was flooded with questions. So I’ve decided to answer some of them below!

Why Do You Read Aloud?

Research has shown us, time and time again, that reading is vital to child development. Reading aloud to a child exposes them to diverse vocabulary, develops imagination and teaches listening skills. And it helps develop lifelong readers! Even once your child has begun to read, it is important to keep reading aloud with them by selecting books beyond their reading level but tied to their interests. By reading to Pip and Liv, we are modeling reading for enjoyment while demonstrating how to read. Left to right, top to bottom, inflection, character voices and emotions like suspense, surprise and sadness!

What Books Do You Pick?

There are so many book lists out there. Some put out by libraries, authors, bloggers and more. The Read Aloud Revival has recently received a lot of press and I very much appreciate her exposing parents to the idea of reading to their children. While I have some hesitations with her book list, it is a fantastic place to start for many families.

There are some specific things I look for when selecting chapter books to read with our children. While it is hard to simplify it, here are the first three things I look into…

  1. Not Twaddle: Twaddle is “trivial or foolish speech or writings”. We look for books that teach character, written with “literary power” and expect intelligence from our children. A great explanation of this can be found here.
  2. Simple Drawings: Ask my poor husband, I will spend hours in a used book store flipping through multiple copies of the same book. I’ll request different versions of the same book through the library system and return most of them to the cart without ever checking them out. I don’t want a book that provides brightly colored pictures to my children. This takes away from their imagination’s job! I love a book with simple pen drawings in black and white. Enough to help them if they’ve never seen the story’s topic, but which leaves out most of the image for their minds to fill in.
  3. Engaging: There is a good chance that, if the story bores me, it will also bore my children. I look for books that we all find interesting. Not only does this keep my children loving our read aloud times, but it makes me more prone to pick the book up and excitedly start the next chapter.

What Did You Read in 2018?

We had so much fun reading chapter books in 2018. Many we were gifted by my husband’s aunts and some came from his grandma. They were older book with that wonderful “book smell” and simple line drawings. Here is a list of the ones we completed before the stroke of midnight last night:

2018 Reading List for Pip and Liv

  1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  2. Stuart Little by E.B. White
  3. The Francis Collection by Russell Hoban
  4. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
  5. Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  6. The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
  7. Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus
  8. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  9. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

What Are You Reading in 2019?

Pip and I talked about a new reading goal for 2019. We had set our goal for 10 in 2018 and just missed it. Failure is ok in our house, we actually celebrate it! We love learning from our failures and talking about them openly. Despite our shortcoming this year, we decided to aim a little higher for 2019. We are going to try for 12 books this coming year! We are wrapping up a few from last year still while making a “wish list” for 2019. There are more than 12 books on the list because, well.. we like options!

2019 Reading List for Pip and Liv

  1. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (started in 2018!)
  2. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
    1. Mary Poppins Comes Back
    2. Mary Poppins Opens the Door
    3. Mary Poppins in the Park
    4. Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane
    5. Mary Poppins and the House Next Door
  3. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  4. Burgess Animal Stories by Thornton Burgess (started 2018, a huge series!)
  5. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  6. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  7. Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  8. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
    1. We plan to continue through this series – there are 14 Oz stories by Baum, another 26 put out by other authors and even more “related works”
  9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S, Lewis

Let us know if you are reading these too – my children love to talk books with their friends!

Tara

Forest School 2017: Day 3

As we pulled into the parking lot this week, Pip spotted his “guide” and shouted greetings to her as soon as he was free of his car seat. He was greeted with smiles and friendly greetings. As a mom, that means a lot! The teachers for our forest program prefer to be known as guides. They aren’t sitting them down with a lesson plan of what each child will learn. Instead, they are guiding them through developing their own interests, learning lessons from their own curiosity and being safe while pushing them from their “safe zone”.

It always fascinates me to see what each child gravitates towards when they first arrive. Pip has newfound confidence in climbing EVERYTHING, so he is usually racing to the top of the closest boulder or trying to find a tree ascend. Liv, ever the adventurer, noticed the paints this week and painted a beautiful piece of artwork. On herself.

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.com

This week’s science experiment was painting with glue, salt and paints. The older children tested different mixtures to see how they differed and made observations to the group! Pip was proud to bring his home. It may never dry…

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

Liv took advantage of the older children climbing and enjoyed the class tarp all to herself!

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

Her hiking skills continue to improve weekly – and she gets more adventurous each week. She’s learning to steady herself and navigate the uneven paths. Never the helicopter parent, the thought of a helmet crosses my mind regularly.


Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

This week I was flying solo, as O had some meetings and couldn’t attend. Can we all say a ‘thank you’ for baby carriers?! Liv does GREAT for the first half, but wears herself out quickly. When daddy is along he takes her down the path and back to the car for a nap. Just mommy and we have to keep trucking!

Forest School Day 3 | www.oliverandtara.come

The children had a particularly exciting tool to try this week… and a very detailed lesson along with it!

As soon as Pip arrived home he told daddy “I used a BOW SAW!!! WE CUT WOOD! A DEAD TREE!!! … not a live one.” Haha!

❤ Tara

Gameschooling: Do you?

Gameschooling | www.oliverandtara.com

So ,what is Gameschooling?

Gameschooling is teaching school subjects through game play – board games, card games, etc. So teaching geography through Ticket to Ride, colors through Candyland… you get the idea!

Why would one Gameschool?

Games teach so many fantastic skills and, if selected carefully, can teach great educational subjects at the same time! In addition to the obvious skills of turn taking, sharing, cooperation, learning to win/lose… there are some additional developmental skills games can help! My favorite executive functioning skills of self-regulation, perspective taking, problem solving, working memory and planning are involved in almost every game out there. Games can also grow creativity, social skills and both verbal and non-verbal communication abilities! Plus, let’s be frank. As parents, we can often lose sight of having FUN with our kids. Life demands are no joke! Intentionally planning game play into your day can be a welcomed respite and time of connection.

Do you Gameschool?

There are some people who only gameschool, which fascinates me! While we aren’t 100% gameschoolers, it is an intricate part of our homeschooling. We’ve played games with Pip since he was very young, and Liv is already wanting to play Pip’s games with us during the school day!

Current Favorites…

Because I know the question would be asked… here are some of our current favorite games!

  • Robot Turtles (Pip)
    Early introduction to coding, but no technology involved! I’ve seen Pip’s ability to plan, problem solve and navigate increase exponentially since we began playing this game!
  • Cariboo Island (Pip) – discontinued
    Really, any of the cariboo versions are great, but all are discontinued. So check with local moms, thrift store and consignment sales! This fun “hidden treasure” game let’s you work on letters, numbers and shapes! It’s quick with a built in reward system.
  • Koala Capers (Pip)
    My mom found this one on Zuliliy, but even on Amazon it’s really decently priced! This one allows for a lot of adaptations to make it easier and harder. You are trying to find the most outfits for your koala by rolling the dice and matching the pattern and clothing item to one of the many combinations out! What is also fun is that all the outfits are from different areas of the world. So we get a lot of geography and occupation talk in too!
  • Shelby’s Snack Shack (Pip)
    Think of this as the modern day Hi Ho Cherry-O…. just with a dog and bones! Spin to try and dig up bones, then spin to see how many you can get. Watch out – you might lose a turn, lost your bones, or steal some from a neighbor. MOM NOTE: Don’t put all the bones out if only two of you are playing. It will NEVER END. We typically only put out 20!
  • Hidden items activities (Liv)
    Not a purchase-able game, but just the game she’s into currently. Hiding anything (even family members) gets her excited! And it’s doing a great job of teaching her waiting, turns, and stamina! Plus her giggles are infectious!
  • Hungry Pelican (Liv)
    Pip actually picked this game out as a Christmas present for his sister! It’s a lot of fun to drop the food into the pelican’s mouth and it appears in the stomach! We put all different things in the mouth, not just what came with the toy! It offers a lot of funny vocabulary, wh questions and surprises. Plus, it’s a game even Pip gets in on, so they are learning to play together too!

Want to read more?

Some great blog posts out there on gameschooling include…

❤ Tara

Another day in nature

Today was day two of Forest School/Nature School (we use the terms interchangably). Some cute photos and takeaways.

Liv is always so excited to arrive at Forest School! Especially when she also gets to wear brother’s hat.

For science, they learned about butterflies and then disolved sugar into water to make sugar plates.
We didn’t see any butterflies, but we did catch a praying mantis who stopped for a drink!

From being hesitant to climb anything week one, to trying everything week two!
He knows the rules to call out “climbing” and wait for an adult to respond “climb on!”

This increased confidence translated to the first tree he attempted to scale independently!
(He did need some help, but his height was a slight disadvantage!)

He wasn’t the only one scaling everything – though she be little….

Today we painted in our journals. For brushes, the children had to search nature!
Liv loved the flowers, her brother preferred his fingers! Haha!

She’s become fascinated with birds lately, and today we “dressed up” as one!

After observing a chipmunk eating these seeds, Pip decided to try some too!
I just love his curiosity… “I do not think they are very good!”

Always the little helper…

I just love how much growth I’ve seen in both kids after just two weeks. This is just a small snapshot of our three hours today! Each week their teacher adds a few more structured activities for them to “opt in or out”. This week we started journaling, next week we begin Yoga. Pip always opts in, Liv usually does as well. We are also soaking up the warm weather. Forest school is all weather, so we will be out here in the rain and snow soon!

  • Tara

A year ago

OliviaJane-24 (1)-ANIMATION

A year ago your heart rate dropped a few times and scared everyone…

A year ago I’d been worrying about you for 6 days straight, in labor 4.5.

A year ago I pushed for over 3 hours. And saw your beautiful dark hair….

A year ago I was wheeled back into surgery.

A year ago I watched you “be born” – what an amazing sight!

A year ago your daddy turned to me and said “She’s an Olivia… Olivia Jane!”

A year ago I “met” you. And it was true love.

Happy Birthday to our tenacious and sweet baby girl.

You are so so so loved.

IMG_20170301_161017-ANIMATION08

I’ve got you, babe… 

I've Got You, Babe... | originally posted on www.oliverandtara.com

Pip was born in the main OR of a hospital in San Jose, California. It was sterile. It was cold. It was terrifying.

I remember reading up on c-sections when we learned we had no other choice. One thing I read stuck with me – Pay attention to the details. Remember the little things.

As they prepped me for surgery, before O was let in, there was music playing over the speakers. “Put the lime in the coconut. ” I remember thinking “they wouldn’t be playing this on the maternity floor.”And that made me even more sad.

When I finally could hold Pip, I insisted on pulling back his cap. I wanted to see the details.  Did he have hair? [yes.]  How long were his fingers? [they looked so long on the ultrasound!].

Then, I spoke to him. And he stopped screaming. He turned and looked at me. Eyes wide open. And over the speakers I heard “I’ve got you babe…”

And all I could think was “well, that was perfect.”

❤️ Tara