Birds: Extras

I’ve tried to keep everything for this unit accessible online or from local stores, as we are all still pretty locked down. But there have been a few items I have purchased to get ready for this unit and I wanted to share in case people wanted them as well! I move this post ahead of many others to give people the most time to purchase items.

Bird Cards

As I began researching for this Unit Study, I kept coming across these cards. I just couldn’t resist, and I’m glad I didn’t! For less than $12 it comes with a great amount of information on common birds.

The cards are all two-sided. The front has beautiful drawings of the birds and details about their physical features.

The card size is great, about the size of playing cards. And the back is full of information about the birds.

Plan for Use

I am setting up some card holders on the window sills that we already own. I love these from Super Duper. We are putting bird feeders out back with the hope that we can spot some feathered friends. As we spot them we can pull out the corresponding card and display them. We also plan to read books on birds in this unit study and watch some documentaries. So we will definitely be finding birds from those resources in our deck as well!

Osprey Binoculars

We found these at a local RV show that came through Denver right before the shut down. They are the perfect size for little hands and come with a lifetime replacement guarantee. Running a nature co-op, I have a feeling I may have to cash in on that. They were a bit more expensive than the kid version, but they work fantastic! Reach out to Kyle for a pair of your own.

Plans for Use

I am setting these up right next to the card holders on our window sill. Here’s hoping our little viewing area will bring us many feathered friends! Also, they will be readily available then for our walks around the neighborhood and [hopefully] on hikes in our near future!

Owl Pellets

Updated May 1: In Week Three we will be discussing owls, so we are also planning to dissect owl pellets. What is an owl pellet? Well, after an owl eats it’s meal, it’s stomach cannot digest bones, insect shells, fur, etc. So the owl spits it back up – think of it as an owl fur ball.

Plans for Use

If you dissect an owl pellet, you can find entire small animal skeletons! So we plan to explore and see if we can identify what we find. There is a class on Outschool we will be taking when we get to Week Three. In the meantime I have ordered these off of Amazon – they have great reviews and have heat sterilized the pellets too! Because, germs ya’ll.

Colorful Goose Feathers

We happened to have these on hand, and will be using them a lot in this unit. These feathers are firmer than the usual ones that come in craft kits, which remind me of feathered boas and somehow infiltrate every corner of my home when “let free”.

Plans for Use

Feathers like these will be helpful in many of the STEAM activities we have planned including measuring, math and even spelling. Not a must, you can cut feathers from paper if you would like! But a fun “extra” if you want to add them to your next Amazon order.

The Big Book of Birds

I really had no plans of purchasing any books for this Unit Study. I wanted to use what I had on hand and on-line resources. But I simply couldn’t resist this book after seeing previews in a few different resources. It doesn’t arrive until Thursday, but I’m excited to begin exploring it. The illustrations I’ve seen are beautiful and it has a wide variety of content.

Expect a Facebook Live when it arrives, over on our Facebook Page!
(I’ll link it back here afterwards)

Happy Shopping!


❤ Tara

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: Audiobooks

Reading aloud is crazy important to us. I’ve written about it before and continue to harp on it to whoever will listen.

For us, reading aloud takes place all over. At night as the kids fall asleep, on Wednesday afternoons while they bathe after forest school and under the trees on park days. But it also happens in the car.

Audiobooks

We use a variety of apps available through our area library systems. Our favorite is Hoopla but we also use Axis 360, Libby and RBdigital. We make a reading list at the beginning of the yeae and enjoy documenting what we’re read on our playroom door. We sometimes go on rabbit trails off the list, but it grounds us. I also try to find good narrators who change their voice and speak clearly to reduce the cognitive demand on the kids. They tire easily listening to fast talkers who don’t have a clear differentiation between characters!

Radio Shows

We also have a growing list of radio shows we enjoy. One thing that really engages the kids are shows that utilize “Foley art” – the adding of realistic ambient background noises like shoes squeaking, doors closing, birds, wind and more. Right now we primarily listen to Adventures in Odyssey and GT and the Halo Express. I’ve been slowly building a collection of old radio shows, so suggestions welcome!

Learning in the go isn’t always ideal, but it doesn’t have to be boring!

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

Prep & Hover

We are watching Pip closely, as he has extensive airway swelling from surgery. But I’m going to be honest, there is only so many cartoons I can take before I lose my mind! So, a walk was in order.

I loaded up our handy dandy wagon and gave him a popsicle for the road. We took Chief for a walk around our block, then dropped him off at home before heading over to the library for some DVDs. A mini-rainstorm meant we stayed longer than planned – which let me take advantage of one of my favorite “gifts” from our library. 300 credit points for printing each month!

Some quick prints and I am getting a head start on next school year while Pip watches more cartoons. Win-win!
Tara

Mr. Borderline

Pip has so many strengths. His heart is huge. He loves others fiercely, cries when his friends cry and loves with every part of his being. He’s my thinker, always working on a problem or maze in his head. He’s my watcher, noticing needs before most.

He is also my Mr. Borderline…when it comes to his health. His growth slowed, he woke up tired, complained of severe stomach pains and more. But none of the symptoms were enough to give us a clear direction.

The past year has been a constant string of doctors and tests. First there was the worry that scar tissue had grown over his incision from pyloric stenosis. An endoscopy showed us a gorgeous scar with no blockage. Blood tests showed everything was fine with one odd liver result that righted itself. Heart checks showed a beautiful ticker. When you pull into Children’s and your six year old asks “what are they doing to me today?”… Your heart shatters into a million pieces.

I self referred us to the sleep clinic for a sleep test. With Pip waking up tired, snoring and even holding his breath at times.. This had to be it! Right? Something was off. Pip loved the sleep study and thought it was a ton of fun!

Imagine my surprise when I received a quick nurse call saying “Normal!” Now, my training as a Speech-Language Pathologist tells me that wasn’t possible. Perhaps he didn’t have apnea, but his sleep breathing isn’t normal! So, I again self referred myself. This time to the ENT department. That is when we started getting answers.

Our ENT looked at the sleep study results and confirmed my suspicions. While Pip didn’t have long enough “events” to qualify as apnea, his oxygen levels throughout the night looked like an epic Rollercoaster. He scoped Pip right there in the office and found his airway over 80% blocked by his adenoids. He immediately qualified for surgery. The ENT noted that Pip’s tonsils looked normal, but that he had concerns based on symptoms. I signed permission for the tonsils to be taken only if absolutely needed.

Last Thursday Pip and I went down to Children’s (about an hour away) to meet with one of their Child Life Specialists, Bree. Bree took Pip through what to expect on his surgery day – from where to sign in, a peek at his special “pajamas”, a tour of the surgery floor and even exploring the surgical suite.

He could touch anything he wanted, ask any questions, exploring a social story about surgery day and even try out the breathing masks. Pip loved it and Miss Bree promised to stop by and see him on surgery day so he’d have a familiar face.

Fast-forward to surgery day and Pip walked into the hospital with excitement and confidence. Among the many members of his team to visit, Miss Bree made sure to stop in and check that he was comfortable and ready. Would you believe Pip giggled himself to sleep inside his breathing mask?!

The surgery was incredibly quick and sure enough – his tonsils WERE hiding a secret. What we saw upon oral examination was only 10% of their actually size. 90% was hiding deep into his neck. The pressure was so significant that it was actually changing their shape. They had to go. While adenoids are a 2-3 day recovery, tonsils take us to at least 10 days. Oy!

Now, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I was so nervous and teary handing my baby off. Then there was the wake up. We aren’t strangers to anesthesia with Pip’s previous tests and surgeries. However, they weren’t expecting Pip to wake up quite so quick – it was only 10 minutes from stopping the anesthesia to awake. He woke while they brought us back and I heard the scared pain cries from the hallway. I quickly scooped him into my arms and rocked him back to sleep. However, after the initial panic and pain, he was relaxed and asleep.

We took him home after a long time in recovery and are having a smooth healing process as we stay on top of the pain meds.

Thank you for all the prayers and please keep them coming!

Tara

Disconnected… Kinda

I deleted Facebook off my phone shortly after our vacation started. Anyone who knows me, knows this is a big deal. Not because I particularly love Facebook, but because a bunch of the programs I run work because of Facebook. So deleting it also meant letting go of it all for a short bit of time. Now I did ask friends to let me know if I was needed in those groups, but so far so good!

I also tucked my cell phone into the diaper bag (or the husband’s pocket). I can’t hear the alerts and only specific ones are sent to my smart watch. This was a necessary step for me to truly relax and enjoy a vacation with my kids. It’s amazing what one notices when their phone isn’t buzzing in their pocket constantly. And trust me when I say my phone buzzes All. Day. Long. Such as…

How much Pip observes when he doesn’t seem to be paying attention. Even when it appears he’s lost in his imagination, he still notices people and needs around him in the “real world” and comments on them to me.

How Liv is realizing people comment on her looks, and how it drives her crazy. She wants people to ask her about her age, her favorite color and all the things she knows. And she becomes very frustrated when too many people call her cute.

How they are finally turning the corner on car trips. Instead of needing a dividing line to stop wars, the giggles and songs from the back seat are now almost deafening.

How really really blue the ocean is here. The adorable white terns bobbing in the air when we were out on our whale-less whale watching tour. Olivia, the sea turtle, enjoying the waves splashing into her while she slept in the cove we visited. And so many rainbows.

Now, I’m not saying I’d miss all of this if I had my phone buzzing in my pocket. But I would miss some of it. And to me, some is just too much. Liv turns 3 in a few days, Pip just turned 6. And it’s already going by much too fast.

So, fellow mama, tuck the cell phone away for a while today. Notice what you hadn’t noticed before. And love on those kiddos big and small.

The Weather Outside is… Delightful?

It’s been quite the week of weather here in Colorado. It started in single digits and broke 60°F yesterday. We definitely are experiencing all the seasons this week!

To kick off the New Year, we’ve been paying particular attention to temperature. We enjoy looking over the day’s temperature changes using this site. Then we mark it down! Pip and I are each tracking the weather in our own ways.

I found this chart for Pip. Every night, before I go to bed, I place a line at the day’s high. In the morning, when he wakes up, he colors it in. It has started a lot of really fun conversations and learning experiences!

I have, ambitiously, started a weather blanket. So far I am really enjoying it! I may not make it all 365 days, but right now it’s a great way to unwind at the end of each day. And Pip loves checking in to see what color has been added!
Tara

Porch Swing Views: Bikes and Struggles

Today’s temperature has climbed to a gorgeous 64°F. As we left the co-working space we love, I promised the kids a picnic on the lawn and bike riding. I texted O on the way home to let him know the plan and he sweetly pulled out Pip’s bike.

Only to discover both tires were flat. Ug.

Thankfully we live ridiculously close to the library, where there is a bike fix-it station! We drove the two minutes up there to wait in quite the line for our turn. Apparently everyone had plans to enjoy the beautiful weather!

It struck me as interesting that some people would accuse us of not “doing” school today. But, in addition to music time at our co-working space, my kids were learning all day long. And pumping up the tires was just another learning experience. I showed them the parts of the bike. They helped me located the stem on each tire. We studied each tire to find the recommended PSI and then watched the dial as we pumping in the air to make sure we didn’t over inflate!

We returned home and I worked on some personal projects on the swing while the kids traded off between bikes. That is when the big lesson came. You see, Pip wants to learn to ride a two wheeler. And for any of us who can remember that long ago, that is sometimes a tough lesson. Today he became extremely frustrated with his seemingly minimal progress in this endeavor. He came up, rather defeated, to the porch where I was seated. We discussed frustration. What it feels like, what our brain might tell us and some options. He could stop for today. And that would be just fine. Or he could continue practicing. And that would be fine too. But only he could make the decision.

Hear me loud and clear. Every bone in my mama body wanted to rescue him. I wanted to swoop in, save the day, change the plan and bring back rainbows and butterflies for this sweet boy.

But, as much as my heart wanted that, my brain knew better.

I know, from research and my career, that struggle is important. Crazy important. Struggle teaches really important things. Like confidence, problem solving, “smartS” (IQ), emotional IQ and grit. (read more here)

So, I reminded him of his options. I gave him words for his feelings. And I let him know he was accepted with either decision. But I didn’t save him. I didn’t tell him what to do. I kept my bum firmly planted on that porch swing.

Now, I would love to tell you he ran back to his bike, hopped on and rode off into the sunset. But this is the real world folks. He didn’t master the two-wheeler today. He might not master it tomorrow. But he did choose to get back on that bike and try a few more times. And my heart, silently, bust wide open.

Just my view from the front porch swing.

Tara