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Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 18 + President’s Day and Black History Month

Activities

Types of ocean floor cut and paste worksheet
A great way to visualize the types of ocean floor!

Ocean floor sand and water sensory play
My high-sensory-needs little one especially enjoyed this one! We used a simple storage container, Kinetic sand (this stuff is amazing!!!), some seashells and mini ocean animals to set the scene. I asked my bigger boy to try and create a continental shelf, abyssal plain, mid-ocean ridge and trench by molding the sand different ways.

Ocean floor playdough invitation
Another great sensory play activity.

Crafts

Mound builders and pizza dough
I gave the boys a chunk of pizza dough and we tried to replicate the structures of the early mound-building civilizations. Afterwards, we stuffed our mounds with cheese and pepperoni and ate them! #calzonesforlife

Picture Books

This week, our picture books focused on Black History Month and President’s Day.

*Make sure you read through these first before reading to your children, if they are very young. There were some heavy topics in these, so I’d encourage you make sure they are age appropriate first.

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!

Martin’s Big Words, by Brian Collier

(This one is our favorite!)

Songs of Freedom, by Bryan Marshall and David Marshall

Two Friends, by Dean Robbins

Be a King, by Carole Boston Weatherford

Those Rebels, John and Tom, by Barbara Kerley

Lincoln Tells a Joke, How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country), by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer

Nature Study this Week

We follow the Exploring Nature with Children nature study curriculum and this week is field trip week! Our nature study day is Friday, so I’ve got nothing to show yet. 😉

But we will be taking a little trip up to Table Mountain, about 20 minutes away, to do some exploring of animal tracks, birds and plants. We will bring along our nature journals to record what we see, and of course bring back some “treasures” for our nature box.

Tell me what fun activities you are doing with your tribe this week!

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Tips for Nature Walks with Young Children

nature walk with children

Before you think I’ve got this whole thing figured out, let me just paint a picture for you.

About a year ago, we set out with a friend on one of our very first nature walks at a local trail.

“It’ll be fun!” we said.

Three minutes into our walk, my littlest one (who was two at the time) started clinging to my leg and asking for “uppie.”

“Uppie, mommy. Uppie! I want uppie! UPPIEEEEEEE!”

I didn’t have a hiking pack, my back was sore and I was not about to carry my two year old the entire time, so I said no. He cried and fussed for the remainder of the walk. The rest of the kids were hungry and thirsty. It was so windy, it was hard for the little ones to stand up straight.

It was basically a disaster.

I say all this to say – our nature walks are not perfect and wonderful every time. Some days, there’s a lot of fussing. Some days there are self-inflicted injuries every five minutes. Some days mom forgets to pack snacks and water and sunscreen.

You win some, you lose some.

That being said, here’s what I’ve learned over the past year to increase the likelihood of having a successful nature walk with little ones, and make sweet memories.

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Set Expectations

This is probably the most important thing you can do to set you and your kids up for success. Tell them what the general plan is, what they are likely to encounter and what you expect from them – BEFORE you even get out of the car.

Are there hazards off the trail? Make sure they understand to stay on the trail at all times. Is it going to be muddy? Tell them beforehand whether they’re aloud to play in it or if they need to keep out. Is there going to be water? Can they play in it? How far can they wander from you? Are we going with friends who are a little slower-paced? When is lunch or snack time going to happen? Are we going to be observing a particular tree species, bird, reptile, etc.?

I find if children know the boundaries ahead of time things go more smoothly and there is much more freedom to play and explore.

Be “Just Prepared Enough”

I’m so helpful, aren’t I? 😉

Here’s my problem with adventuring with little ones – they need a lot of stuff but don’t want to carry any of it. So my job is to figure out the essentials and leave the rest.

For our family, essentials include food – either snacks or a light lunch – (because hungry kids are grumpy kids), water (we often share a big water bottle), sun hats or winter hats/gloves, small buckets for them to carry for collecting “treasures,” (I got tired of stuffing my pockets with acorns, rocks, etc.), a portable magnifying glass and our nature study supplies if we are going to study our curriculum on the trail.

One backpack for mama and that’s it.

When J Bear was really small, I brought my hiking carrier, which had a little pouch for other items. That way when he was tired of walking, I could stick him in the pack and still have my hands free. The hiking carrier was SO much easier than trying to navigate a stroller, or carry him on my hip.

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Don’t Try to Set a “Destination”

Take some time right now to go ahead and lower your expectations. Lower. Lower…. keep going. 😉

Maybe it’s just my kids, but walking a quarter of a mile can take an hour.

Stop to pick up a rock. Stop to splash in a mud puddle. Sit down and draw in the dirt for a bit. Lean over the bridge and throw leaves in the river for 47 minutes.

For little ones, nature walks are about experiencing nature. Seeing all of the little bits and pieces. Hearing the sounds. Smelling all the smells. Watching the bubbles in the creek. Chasing the ants around with a stick. They want to fully immerse themselves in every. little. thing.

I think they might be on to something…

So try and choose a spot that has room for them to roam and explore without needing to actually “arrive” somewhere. There will be a season for accomplishing things, like hiking to the summit, but don’t hold high expectations when they are little.

To them, the little things ARE the destination. You may spend two hours on a trail and not really get anywhere. Embrace it. Learn from their curiosity and wonder.

Don’t Force Learning, But Make Space For It

We started following a wonderful nature study curriculum (Exploring Nature With Children), which is pretty easy to incorporate into our Friday nature outings. I’ll usually bring a printout of the lesson (it’s typically a page or two), our little nature journals , a few colored pencils and another resource when appropriate – like a field guide or our bird identification guide, something like that.

Sometimes we’ll see something along our journey that sparks interest and leads into the nature study for the day. I’ll read the lesson while they are exploring and maybe later we’ll find a spot to draw in our journals about what we’ve found. (Nature journaling post coming soon!)

Just having these things handy allows us to seize the learning opportunity when it arrives. Sometimes, it never arrives. Sometimes we are all too busy splashing in the river and building a dam to do a lesson on bees. And that’s okay. At least for us, following the spark of interest, rather than trying to force learning when they are engaged in something else, sets us up for a much better experience.

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Try to Loosen Up a Bit

I’m preaching to the choir here.

I tend to cringe when my kids slosh through the mud, spread sap in their hair, pick up spiders, etc. etc. (Ahem, boys.)

Recovering helicopter parent, here.

I try to let them explore as much as possible without saying things like, “be careful!” or “don’t climb on that!” or “don’t touch that!”

It’s really hard to walk that tension between keeping them safe and letting them be wild and free. I mean, how can you really, fully enjoy playing in nature when your mom is firing off warnings every five minutes? I know I wouldn’t enjoy it.

So take a deep breath. Try to really, fully consider what the consequences might be. If they fall and get a scrape? Not the end of the world. Most kids tend to be more careful and aware of danger when they are playing outside, in natural surroundings. Try to let go and let them be little.

Nature Walk with Children

Lastly, Just Do It.

There are a lot of really important things us homeschooling mamas have to fit into the school week. It’s easy to push things like nature walks and nature study to the bottom of the list because they are so NOT measurable.

I totally get it.

(Sort of. I have a kindergartner and a preschooler so our actual “school” time is pretty short.)

But can I just say this? When our kids are little, what do they really need? I’m talking three, four, five, even six years old.

Do they really need to be spending hours on math worksheets? Do they really need to have perfect handwriting? Spell all the words?

I know all of us mamas have differing opinions on this – but here’s mine.

One of the major reasons we are homeschooling is so that our boys can have more TIME. We are fiercely protective of their childhood. We want homeschooling to give them more time to run and play outside, climb trees, collect bugs, play in the dirt – all of the things that they were designed, as children, to do.

Yes, they need to learn how to read and write and count. But these little years – they will never get them back. Childhood is fleeting.

So, for us that means playing outside is a priority, right up there with math and reading. It is an essential part of their development. Even if we didn’t finish the lesson plan for the week; even if the house is a pit; even if the weather isn’t great or we’re all feeling a little grumpy…

We try to make it happen.

For the most part, we make nature day a non-negotiable. It’s an appointment on our weekly calendar. If we don’t make it a priority, it’s too easy to let it go.

Do you make it a habit to regularly explore nature with your kids? What have you found helpful?

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Snow Science Activities for Kids

I have a little scientist. He’s only 5 years old and 4 feet tall, but don’t even try to tell him he’s not a real live scientist. Since I took physics for fun in college (I was an advertising major), I can only guess where he gets it from.

Ever since January arrived, we’ve basically been wearing snow pants. I guess the last few winters in Colorado have spoiled us because we’re all like… WHY isn’t the snow melting?!?! (Me, not the boys so much.)

Which brings us to snow science. 

Here are some simple science lessons and activities that the boys were wildly excited about, and ended in building snow forts. Win-win.

Snow Science Experiments

What’s In Snow?

I got the idea for this from our town’s newspaper and it’s pretty cool. (And super easy.) If your kids eat snow ALL THE TIME like mine, be prepared to be grossed out. Sorry.

snow science for kids

  • Grab three clear cups or jars, fill one halfway with water, one halfway with snow and one with ice cubes.
  • Put them on your counter side by side and note the time. See how long it takes for the ice and snow to melt.
  • Questions to Spark Discussion:
    • What does the ice look like while it’s melting? How about the snow?
    • Which one melted faster? Why?
    • How do the melted ice/snow levels compare to each other? Which one is higher and why do you think that is?
  • Now, take the jar of melted snow and look closely. You should see lots of little particles. We couldn’t identify them but read that they are most likely bits of dirt, grass, and even ash and animal waste. See, I told you – gross. (Upside – one of my children has not tried to eat snow since this experiment.)
  • If your kiddos are interested, they can get out their science journals and take notes and draw pictures.

snow science for kids

Examining Snow Crystals

Did you know that what we typically think of as a “snowflake” – 5 sides, looks like a star – is actually a snow crystal? A snowflake is a cluster of snow crystals all joined together.

See, I bet you just learned something.

(Note: This one has to be done while it’s actually snowing.)

  • First, get a piece of black construction paper and put it outside for a bit to get cold. While you’re at it, grab a magnifying glass and put it outside with your paper.
  • Now spend the next 40 minutes getting your children bundled up in their 37 layers. I’ll wait.
  • Go outside and hold the black paper up toward the sky to catch some snow. You should get a mix of snowflakes (the larger clumps) and individual snow crystals which have broken off from their groups.
  • Have your kids examine the snow crystals (not the clumps) with the magnifying glass. What shapes do you see? Are there some with broken sides? Do all of them have 5 sides or do some have more? Are they all different? And so on.
  • When you’re done, go play in the snow since you’re all bundled up anyway!

snow science for kids

My kids took the magnifying glasses and observed other interesting things around the yard – icycles, blocks of ice, tracks in the snow, etc. I *may* have watched from inside the comfort of my warm home.

snow science for kids

Make Snow

Shout out to all my FL and AZ people! I’ve lived in both places and I might be a teeny bit jealous of you right now. 😉

If you live in an area where you don’t get actual snow – make some! I like this fake snow recipe because it’s easy and doesn’t stick to your hands.

  • Pour a 2 lb. box of baking soda into a large plastic container. Add one can of shaving cream, a little at a time, mixing it into the baking soda as you go.
  • Keep mixing with your hands until it is the consistency of snow. It’ll feel soft and cool to the touch.
  • Alternatively, you could make crushed ice by blending ice cubes a little at a time in a blender. This will look a lot like snow but will melt quickly if your kids want to play with it.

Snow Science Resources

I’m not big on buying/filling our house with all the things, but there were a couple of resources we used that really made the lessons come to life.

The Story of Snow, by Mark Cassino is fascinating and beautiful. I usually prefer to get books from the library but, in my opinion, this one is good enough to add to our collection. I think it would be fun to paint the different types of snowflakes and label them as an art activity.

If you’re looking to go really deep, this is a fun website that delves more into snow crystals, with lots of information on how they form.

And finally, our favorite read-aloud picture books to go with our activities:

Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton. We really love this one, but all of her books are amazing.

Winter Story, by Jill Barklem. We read this almost every day in the winter. Just do yourself a favor and get the whole Brambly Hedge series right now.

The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader. This one tells a story to teach about which animals hibernate during the winter and which ones stick around.

What snow activities or experiments have you enjoyed this winter?

snow science for kids

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**