30 March 2009

Food & Nutrition Week Plans

Here are the plans for our next unit on food and nutrition. After posting day-by-day plans for the bird unit, I found myself referring to them a lot. So I don't think I'll be writing about books, activities, and Bible lessons in separate posts. Hopefully this format will be more helpful to me and maybe even for you!

Monday: Food groups/ food pyramid
Read Eating the Alphabet
Sort foods into food groups.
Start food diary.
Introduce putting words in ABC order.

Tuesday: Healthy vs. unhealthy foods
Read Gregory, the Terrible Eater
Do a food sort of healthy/unhealthy foods.
Learn about nutrition labels/vitamins & nutrients.

Wednesday: Cooking and meal planning
Plan a healthy, balanced meal
Cook recipes from Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up

Thursday: Food around the World
Read Bread, Bread, Bread (Foods of the World)
Find the countries named in the book.
Make pretzels.

Friday: Bible lesson
Read the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 found in Matthew 14:13-21
Eat sardines and pita bread.
Make a representative model of 5000. Use 50 counters that each represent 100.
Memorize John 6:35.

Monday: Food sources
Read Growing Vegetable Soup
Read At the Supermarket
Plant a seed.
Visit a farmer's market.
Scavenger Hunt at the grocery store.

Tuesday: Food Math
Read One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale
Act out first part of the story.
Take a survey of favorite foods.
Color rice for tomorrow's art.

Wednesday: Food Art
Read How Are You Peeling?
Make vegetable prints.
Create a bean/colored rice mosaic.
Make a food friend.

Thursday: Trying new foods
Read I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato (Charlie & Lola)
Have a "new" food buffet.

Friday: Meal preparation
Read Stone Soup.
Make the meal planned earlier in the week.
Learn table manners and table setting.
Enjoy the "fruits" of your labor and have a nice "formal" dinner!

Other books:
Strega Nona (Caldecott Honor Books)
Peanut Butter and Jelly
The Tortilla Factory
Food and Nutrition Thematic Unit

28 March 2009

ABC book: Y and Z

Y is for yarn.
Z is for zoo.

See the rest of our ABC book here.

27 March 2009

Bird Beak Activity

This activity demonstrates that different bird beaks are better adapted to eating different types of food. I took several activities I had found online and modified them to match what I had on hand in my home and came up with this.


Five cups (representing stomachs) labeled with hummingbird, duck, robin, nuthatch, and woodpecker.

Five "beaks": straw, slotted spoon, clothespin, tweezers, toothpick or skewer.Five foods: marshmallows (grubs), cheerios (beetles), rubber bands (worms), water in a narrow-mouthed container (nectar), and rice krispies in water (water plants). Challenge ths student to fill each stomach with the appropriate food and the appropriate beak. No using hands except to manipulate the beak! After all, birds don't have hands!

Here are the correct matches.

Hummingbird: Straw beak with water in a narrow container. Use the thumb plug method to transfer the water rather than sipping the water and spitting it into the cup, especially if doing with a group of students.

Ducks: Slotted spoon beak with rice krispie water plants.

Robin: Clothespin beak with rubber band worms.

Nuthatch: Tweezer beak with cheerio beetles.

Woodpecker: Toothpick/skewer beak with marshmallow grubs. Put the marshmallows under a box lid with holes cut out just large enough for the marshmallows to fit through. This will represent the wood that the grubs like to live in.

Adapt this activity to what you have on hand and it will be great fun!

26 March 2009

Kindergarten Themes

Here is a list of all the themes we are covering in kindergarten this year. I will link it to the more detailed page on that theme once it is up. Hopefully I will be backtracking a bit over the summer and posting about themes we did in the fall before this blog was up and running!

I began the year by taking only a week for most themes, but soon realized that we wanted to go deeper. This semester the units have been 2 weeks, which seems to be a good amount of time for us.

Kindergarten Themes 2008-09




Community Helpers


Christopher Columbus



American Icons





Martin Luther King Jr.

Chinese New Year

Abraham Lincoln

Dr. Seuss

The Five Senses


Food and Nutrition

Earth Day

Native Americans


Bird Week in Review

Here's how we finished our second week studying birds. It was a good one!

Monday: We took a field trip to a local bird farm and had fun watching and even talking to some more tropical bird varieties. They don't allow pictures, but Gracie did a great job sketching a canary that she saw. We worked on having her draw what she actually saw, rather than what she thought she should see. For example, she gave the bird two eyes at first, even though the bird was sitting in profile to us. The leg behind the tail is an example of that. All that said, I thought it was pretty good for a kindergartener!We also saw some turkeys there who were nice enough to give us one of their feathers!


We watched a video called How Birds Eat by Ron Goor that we checked out from the local library. It looks kind of homemade and cheesy, but I was really impressed by the quality. There was saome impressive footage and the content covered a wide variety of bird species and their beak adaptations. The link on the DVD case didn't work, but if you can find this movie, grab it. Ron Goor did another movie on insects that is available from our local library that I plan on using during our insect theme.


I modified a Bird Beak Activity showing how different beaks are better adapted to get certain kinds of food. So amazing how God planned out all those little details! I wrote about the activity in more detail here.


We invited some fellow homeschoolers over to dissect owl pellets. How many of you can say you've received an invitation like that! How many of you really want to?! My friend Becky was very brave and eventually even touched the bones with her bare hands. Good job, Becky! And here is the nest Gracie made last week that used up all of our glue. You can find directions here. Golf ball egg not included.


Oops! We were supposed to do school today? Would I have my kids skip school? Well, we did have a little bit of drama because Greg left to go on a weekend mission trip to Mexico. That has put everyone a bit over the edge and prone to tears. While we were at the park I did have Gracie make a map of the playground . Our themes this month have been a little science heavy and I need to turn in some social studies work next week when we meet with Gracie's teacher. Is that cheating? Well kind of. But I'm okay with that!

Check out how other weekly wrap-ups at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

24 March 2009

Artist Study: Picasso

This was our first real artist study, and it turned out to be fun. We spread it out over a month, reading a book here, painting a picture there. I started by printing out some pictures by Picasso and displayed them in prominent place so they would become familiar. These are on the door to our office/school room/laundry room.
Masterpiece of the Month gave us the direction for our first art project. It was a torn paper project inspired by "Mains aux Fleurs" (on the bottom right corner). Gracie had her own ideas as to how her art should look, so it was a good opportunity for me to bite my tongue and let her do her own thing. (She wanted to make sure I posted the picture in landscape fashion, the way she intended, rather than portrait fashion).

Art Projects for Kids shows how to create your own "blue period" (or yellow or red or green) portrait. A great way to teach basic facial feature placement and creating variations of colors by mixing with black and white paint. Picasso and Minou talks about Picasso's blue period and went nicely with our art project. Here's what Gracie's version, although she's in her "rose" period.

Another great children's book about Picasso is Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail which is written from the perspective of a girl that ended up modeling for several of Picasso's works.

Pablo Picasso (Artists of the 20th Century) We got this from Netflix. Not so exciting for a kindergartener.

Hopefully we'll get another artist study in before June!

21 March 2009

ABC book: VWX

We're almost done!
V is for Valentine.

W is for weaving.

X is for X-ray.

See the rest of our ABC book here.

18 March 2009

Bird Week in Action

Bird week has shaped up to be a lot of fun. We were a bit distracted by several social opportunities because everyone else seems to be on spring break. But we plugged on as best we could with regular lessons, field trips, and even a day of "carschooling"!

The highlight for Gracie was a trip on Wednesday to the San Bernardino County Museum with her good friend who was on spring break. I gave Gracie a scavenger hunt to work on in the Bird Hall, and they both took on the challenge with gusto! The girls are definitely on their way to becoming ornithologists! They raced back and forth looking for penguins, hummingbirds, eagles, and the most colorful bird they could find.

Looks like they found a water bird!Amaryllis discovered a burrowing owl!

There were several school field trips at the museum that day, but we managed to avoid the crowds for the most part. We were however able to take advantage of some special hands-on displays of bird "skins" (formerly alive but now stuffed bird specimens) complete with docents to explain to us different bird features. Did you know owls have feathers on their legs which help them fly silently? I didn't!

All that bird exploration left the girls hungry, so we were inspired to make our own nests of the edible variety. I just adapted this recipe to fit with what we had on hand and added robin's egg candies.Yum!

Today in the exploration of the topic of eggs we cracked one open and Gracie drew and labeled what she saw in her science journal. We also learned about candling, which is how you can tell if an egg is fertilized or not. We watched some eggs being candled on our favorite learning tool, youtube! We also watched some baby chicks hatch, and then some snakes hatch! I know, I know, it's not snake week, but it sure was cool!

Gracie asked a really good question tonight. "Do all baby animals come out of eggs?" That led us into a discussion of mammals. But other than mammals do all baby animals came from eggs? I know we define mammal as an animal that gives birth to live young, but I couldn't think of a non-mammal giving birth to live young, nor another birth option besides an egg or live birth. It seems like a simple question, but I've been mulling it over for a while. There's probably some very obvious examples and I'm sure I'll feel silly for asking, but can you think of any other possibilities?

16 March 2009

The Creation of a Theme Unit

For the next two weeks, we'll be doing a unit on birds and I thought I would document the process of what I do to put together a unit study.

1. Choose a topic

I chose all my topics at the beginning of the year which allows me plenty of time to collect ideas. I wrote more about choosing a topic here.

2. Make a concept map

I have a spiral notebook that I use to keep track of ideas for theme units. At the beginning of the year I gave each topic a page and as I think of things or come across ideas, I write it down. I do take some time at the beginning of the year and go through all the topics I plan to cover and just write down as many things as I can come up with. They may or may not be relevant, but I'd rather write it down and not use the idea than wonder, "What was that great idea I had last night?" (which happens quite a bit, too!)

The concept map is not complete ideas, but really just a page of word associations with that topic. Although if I do have a specific idea, I'll jot it down as well, so I won't forget. Here's on that I made for this unit:

3. Find good literature

I start with any relevant titles that I can think of, especially from our own book collection. I plan on using these books from our collection:

  • Make Way for Ducklings (McCloskey)

  • The Ugly Duckling (Andersen)

  • Stellaluna (Cannen) (Mostly about bats, but also about birds)

The California Department of Education (CDE) website has a helpful list of recommended literature. This list is obviously not comprehensive, but it is a good starting point. The list does have a search category, but I prefer to go through the entire list for the appropriate grade level and look for books for all my themes all at once. I will keep my list of themes next to me (because I will forget some!) and refer to it as I look at the literature list. Additional information, including a summary of the book, is available by clicking on the title if I am not sure of its subject.

Here's what I wrote down from the CDE list (grades K-2):

  • The Ugly Duckling(Anderson)

  • Baby Bird's First Nest(Asch)

  • Beautiful Blackbird(Ashley)

  • Urban Roosts(Bash)

  • Chick and Duckling(Gingsburg)

  • Ducks Don't Get Wet(Goldin)

  • Bluebird Summer(Hopkinson)

  • Song of the Swallows(Politi)

  • Dancers in the Garden(Ryder)

  • Birdsong(Wood)
My final stop is a search of our local library's online catalog. I'll start by searching for the books I found on CDE's website. Then I'll do a general search for my topic. When I find a book I want, or even think I want, I'll put a hold on the book. this is the key for me. By putting a hold on the book, the library will find it, even it's at another branch, bring it to my library, and put it on a shelf for me with my name on it. This way, I can walk in, pick up my personalized pile of books (and sometimes movies), check them out, and be done in 5 minutes in the most calm and peaceful manner, no matter what kind of mood my kids are in.

When I look at the library website I can see from reviews and summaries that some books are more fitting than others, and some books are just not available. Here are the books I ended up taking home with me:

  • Urban Roosts(Bash)

  • Birdsong(Wood)

  • Ducks Don't Get Wet(Goldin)
  • Song of the Swallows(Politi)
  • Dancers in the Garden(Ryder)

  • A Poet's Bird Garden(Montenegro)

  • Bird, Bird, Bird! (A Chirping Chant) (Sayre)

  • Feathers for Lunch (Ehlert)

  • Bird (Eyewitness Book)

  • Bird(Eyewitness DVD)

4. Find other resources

As I go about the Internet I often run across a good idea or activity on a topic I'll be covering, so I'll save it to my Favorites file. I organize my Favorites by theme , so when it comes time for that unit, I can go to my favorites list and have several ideas ready and waiting for me.

I also use Netflix for appropriate movies. Instead of searching my theme topic (i.e. birds) I seem to find more relevant movies by going through the entire educational section. I use a method similar to how I use the CDE's list of recommended literature. This does take time, but I only do it once or twice a year. At the beginning of the year or semester I go through the list of educational movies and add the ones I want for all my themes to my queue. When the appropriate theme comes up, I'll bump it to the top of my list. All that to say, I didn't really find any relevant movies on birds through Netflix.

Lastly, don't forget to check for resources you may have at home. We have binoculars, an owl pellet dissection kit and the book Birds, Nests, and Eggs from our charter school curriculum. We may or may not be able to check out a box of bird resources from the local library, so I have not included any of those resources in my plans.

5. Choose activities, lessons, field trips, learning opportunities

On of the reasons I chose this theme was our amazing local resources. The San Bernardino County Museum has on of the largest collection of bird eggs in the world, as well an extensive collections of birds. We also have a local bird farm which we'll be visiting for the first time.

I also wanted to get out do some real birdwatching in our National Forest, so I saved this for the spring, when the weather would be a little more cooperative for us.

6. Create main learning topics

I do this last because I want to prevent being disappointed if a certain book or resource is unavailable. I don't want to plan two days dissecting owl pellets if the owl pellets haven't arrived yet!

First I wrote out a rough schedule with the main topic or activity to be covered each day of our two week unit:

1 day eggs
1 day field trip to museum
1 day field trip to Bracken bird farm
1 day habitats
1 day bird beak adaptations
1 day predator/prey & owl pellets
1 day nests
1 day migration
1 day field trip to birdwatching
1 day Bible story

7. Create a schedule

Next I'll put days in order, putting things in logical order and working around set field trip days.

Monday: habitats
Tuesday: eggs
Wednesday: field trip to the museum
Thursday: nests
Friday: Bible story
Monday: field trip to Bracken bird farm
Tuesday: migration
Wednesday: bird beak adaptations
Thursday: predator/prey and owl pellets
Friday: bird watching

Finally I'll list the books and activities that go along with the topic of each day.

Monday: habitats

  • Read Birdsong and begin Urban Roosts.
  • Make categories of different bird habitats and list a few that belong in each category. For example flamingos and pelicans are water birds, penguins are arctic birds, and macaws and parrots are tropical birds.

Tuesday: eggs

  • Finish Urban Roosts and refer to Birds Nests, Eggs.
  • Make the egg book and talk about differences in eggs from various birds.
  • Break open and egg and discuss the parts of the egg. Draw a picture and label the parts in science journal.

Wednesday: field trip to the museum

  • scavenger hunt for certain birds, eggs, and nests at the museum.
  • Draw picture of student's favorite nest in science journal.

Thursday: nests

  • Read more Birds, Nests, and Eggs.
  • Discuss bird nests seen at the museum and nest drawing in science journal.
  • Make a nest.

Friday: Bible story

Monday: field trip to Bracken bird farm and feathers (I added feathers as an afterthought on this day because I didn't have a better place for it.)

  • Collect feathers on the ground at the Bird Farm.
  • Read Ducks Don't Get Wet.
  • Feather & oil experiment
  • Feather painting. Use a feather as a paint brush for interesting patterns.

Tuesday: migration

  • Read Song of the Swallows or Make Way for Ducklings.
  • Look at the migration route of different birds on a map. Find routes here.
  • Have student write or dictate a simple story about a migrating bird and what he saw. You can follow this pattern or create your own.
A swallow was flying to his summer home. First, he
saw__________. Then, he saw _________. Next, he saw
___________. Then he was home.

Wednesday: bird beak adaptations

  • Birds (Eyewitness).
  • Do one of the bird beak activities listed above.

Thursday: predator/prey and owl pellets

  • Read Feathers for Lunch.
  • Define predator and prey and examples of bird predators (owls, hawks, eagles) and their prey (mice, small birds, snakes).
  • Dissect owl pellets and glue recreated skeleton with the bones onto construction paper.

Friday: bird watching

Finally I'll check to see if anything is lacking. Are we doing something from each subject (reading, writing, math, social studies, science, PE?) I don't always have lessons for each subject, but I try to be fairly balanced. In this case I added the story frame to migration day. We really don't have PE, but we'll be doing some walking when we go birdwatching. This theme is obviously very heavy on science, which is just fine.

There's a few books that I didn't find a specific place for during our lessons, but I'll leave them out, and they'll probably get read. If not, that's okay, too. I like to over plan and have an abundance of books on a subject so that my kids are immersed in a topic. I don't want them to close the books when we're done with school and forget about until the next day.

This plan is NOT set in stone. I definitely like to capitalize upon teachable moments, but having a plan is a good way to keep me on track. It does take some work to make your own theme unit, but it's also a lot of fun and a great way to personalize your child's education!

14 March 2009


S is for sequins.
T is for tape. Clear tape. That doesn't show up in this picture. But it's there. Promise.

U is for umbrellas.

See the rest of our ABC book here.

13 March 2009

5 Senses: Nature Walk

This is a great theme to get out and do some outdoor learning. It was fun to do some of my old outdoor education activities again! We went to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens which are beautiful and more importantly, very stroller-friendly! It was a bit chilly and cloudy for us, but we didn't get rained on and it felt as if we had the place almost to ourselves!

Here's what we did:

  • Read My Five Senses (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) to set the tone and remind us of our focus.
  • Touch activity: Blindfold student(s) and lead them to a tree. Have them get to know their tree by using their sense of touch. After a minute or so. Lead student(s) back to the starting point, unblindfold them and have them identify their tree.
  • Smell activity: While student is blindfolded, dab a tree with a scent (vanilla or mint extract work well). have the student remove blindfold and find the tree by using their sense of smell.
  • Sound activity: Blinfold the student (again!) and throw small rocks or sticks. Have the student identify the direction from which they heard the sound. If you have quiet children have them listen for 1 minute and list all the sounds they heard. (I do not have quiet children.)
  • Taste activity: If you know your plants, taste an edible one. White fir, dandelion greens, and lamb's quarters are all edible. And your kids will think it's hilarious that they are eating weeds! (Seriously, this is the best way I know to get kids to eat their vegetables!)
  • Sight activity: Bring a nature journal or some sort of paper. Have your child pick out a tree. Have them draw it, challenging them to look closely at the way the trunk and branches are shaped. A partner (or you) have to guess which tree they were drawing.
  • Another sight activity: Find two leaves from different plants or trees. Look very closely at each and find similarities and differences. Draw or paste the leaves in the journal.

To do all these activities I put these items in a clean peanut butter jar:

  • blindfold(s)
  • extract
  • cotton balls (to apply the extract)
  • journal/paper
  • pencil/crayons

Other things you might want to bring:

  • magnifying glass
  • binoculars
  • field guides

12 March 2009

I am one happy camper!


Even though we had some difficulties getting our curriculum, this afternoon was like Christmas! This is why I enrolled Gracie in a public charter school...all the free stuff! Can you see all the yummy educational goodness? And not just boring workbooks (although there are a few of those), but fun, hands-on, getting outside and learning kind of stuff!

Here's what we got:
  • Art supplies (tempera paints, brushes, large paper and a small journal which will be Gracie's nature journal for more nature walks.
  • Saxon math grade 1 (I though we might start this early, but so far both K and 1st grade books are very much tied to the calendar so it's a bit difficult to go at a pace different than that. Not impossible, but I decided we really don't need to be in a rush).
  • Explode the Code Book 2 (Basic phonics workbook)
  • Several theme unit guides
  • A Native American box from Lakeshore
  • Insect box from Lakeshore
  • Insect and bird field and activity guides
  • Bug magnifier
  • Binoculars
  • Owl pellet dissection kit
  • And my favorite...a butterfly pavilion. We'll be sending away for our caterpillars tomorrow!

Can you tell I plan on doing a lot of nature studies? So fun! And just in time for bird week next week! Woo hoo!

5 Senses: Activities


  • Identify a variety of different foods while blindfolded.
  • Introduce the four main tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Using a representative from each category (we used salt water, sugar water, lemon juice, and vanilla(surprisingly bitter!)) and a q-tip, find the place on your tongue that is most sensitive to each taste. Mark it on a tongue diagram and you've got a personalized tongue map! Here's Gracie's:


  • Identify various scents without using sight. We put different scents (vanilla, vinegar, coffee, mint extract, orange extract, maple extract) onto cotton balls and had Gracie identify them.
  • Discover the strong connection between smell and taste by chewing on a few coffee grounds with your nose pinched shut. When you let go of your nose, the coffee taste should become immediately apparent. (We didn't try this one, but it sounds pretty cool!)


  • Put together a collection of "touchable" objects (Some examples: sandpaper, cotton balls, fabric, orange peel, lotion, duct tape, ice, marbles, wood). Have a blindfolded student touch objects one at a time and guess what each one is.


  • Learn that sound is caused by vibration by touching a radio, television, or a drum.
  • Experiment in making sound change with a paper towel roll. Does it make it louder or go a certain direction?
  • Create a water marimba with several glasses filled to different levels with water. Observe the vibrations in the water as the glass is struck.


  • We have been doing an artist study on Pablo Picasso, so on "Sight" day we looked at some of his paintings, and Gracie worked on her own art project.
  • Go on a color scavenger hunt. Make a booklet with half sheets of construction paper in different colors. Try to find something that matches each page. Write down the name of the object or glue the actual object or cut-out magazine picture to the page.
  • Some topics to explore with sight: camouflage, sketching of objects, colors/color mixing. i am in art mode right now so that's all I am thinking of! Pretty much any lesson here or here would be great!

11 March 2009

5 Senses: The Books

My Five Senses (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1)
Reading level: 2.0
A very simple straight forward book about the five senses that would be great to use to introduce a 5 senses unit.

Reading level: 2.0
Another great introductory book about the five senses. It would be really easy to create some hand motions to go along with the text that would serve as a memory device.

Hello Ocean
Reading level 3.9
A good one to read aloud. A girl describes the ocean by using her 5 senses. Very beautifully illustrated!

Flicker Flash
Reading level: 4.4
A book of very visually appealing and cleverly written poems. The poems are about light, so this book would go well with the topic of sight. It could also be used with a unit on poetry or light, and several poems would work with a unit on space.
I Wonder Why Lemons Taste Sour: and Other Questions About the Senses