Unit Study Inspiration: Birds

Love this roundup of books and resources for the Great Backyard Bird Hunt (in Feb.). This could be a stand-alone homeschool unit study on birds, too.

The Great Backyard Bird Count starts on Friday. Gear up to flex your citizen scientist muscle with these birding resources.

Read This

By Carl Hiaasen

The Burgess Bird Book For Children by Thornton W. Burgess introduces kids to birds through Peter Rabbit stories, making it as fun to read as it is informative.

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, tells the story of a boy’s efforts to save the habitat of a family of burrowing owls from an encroaching pancake restaurant.

Bright Wings, edited by Billy Collins, is a collection of poetry about birds.


Birds, Nests, and Eggs by Mel Boring, is just the thing for beginning birders. The book covers fifteen common birds, including their appearance, nesting habits, and ideas for bird-themed nature activities.

The Complete Birder: A Guide to Better Birding by Jack Connor is the perfect next step when you’ve mastered the basics of birding and want to sharpen your skills.


Watch This

Winged Migration
Starring Philippe Labro, Jacques Perrin

The Life of Birds, from the BBC collection and narrated by David Attenborough, is a seven-part documentary just packed with avian information.

Winged Migration uses fabulous cinematography to capture birds in flight.


Do This

Dissect an owl pellet. If you’re not up for the real thing, use the KidWings Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection.

Play birdsong bingo. Practice identifying bird sounds by playing a bingo style identification game with a birdsong CD. (We like Know Your Bird Sounds, Volume 1: Yard, Garden, and City Birds andKnow Your Bird Sounds, Volume 2: Birds of the Countryside.)

Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book, part of the excellent Dover coloring book series, lets your student birders put their observation skills to the test coloring in copies of Audubon’s bird illustrations.


This article was originally published in the spring 2015 issue of home/school/life.

Stuff We Like :: 6.5.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

At Home

Perhaps the best part of this time of year is seeing all the critters around our house make homes and raise families of their own.

Right now we have a cardinal mama sitting in a nest right outside our living room window! When my eight-year-old discovered her making the nest, we got all giddy! I'm going to post whatever pictures I can on our Facebook page, so be sure to follow us there for updates.


Around the Web

My husband is always finding cool music videos for us to watch, and this week the boys especially liked this Star Wars spoof by the Piano Guys. After all, they are Star Wars geeks.

Speaking of music, my husband has been talking up the Songza app, and I think it's pretty cool too. It has some ready-made playlists for all your listening preferences! I only wish I had more time to listen.

My five-year-old loves dinosaurs. Does that surprise you? My husband has been telling him stories about Dig Dig the Dinosaur every night for about two years, but lately he has found some relief by showing my son these funny dino comics instead. (Only one year and 360 days of reading these every night to go!)



As I've written before, everyone in my family is a documentary junkie. These past few weeks we have been enjoying watching a wonderful set of documentaries on Netflix that are produced by Off The Fence Distribution. We have enjoyed Wildest India, Wildest Indochina, Wildest Middle East, and Wildest Islands, just to name a few! They focus on the wildlife of each region, but the shows also touch on history and the intersection where humans and animals meet. They are very unique and have shown us places that we have never seen before!

Also on Netflix, we've been loving Modern Marvels. Who would have thought that learning about food trucks could be so interesting?!



For a long time, I was wanting to find a way to introduce current events to my eight-year-old in a way that he would find engaging. Luckily, I found News-O-Matic in Apple's app store (it's also available in Google Play and on the Kindle). We have been experimenting with the free trial version, and it took awhile for it to become habit, but finally I found it worth it to purchase the unlimited version. ($19.99) The best part of News-O-Matic is that kids have the choice of reading articles or having it read to them. There are also slideshows and videos attached to some stories, and plenty of other ways to interact! The articles are kid-friendly while also covering important topics of the day.



A friend of mine loaned me I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and this book captured my heart! (You are probably familiar with Dodie Smith's 101 Dalmatians.)

I just finished reading The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash to my eight-year-old, and he and I loved it. It does have some issues, though, so be sure to read my (forthcoming) book review before you buy it for your children .

Stuff We Like: Spring Edition

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Shelli and I have been hard at work planning the summer issue (lots of good stuff coming up!) and some exciting changes to the website, but we’ve also been enjoying the pleasures of springtime life. Here are some of the things making us smile this spring.

:: I have been reading so much for our summer reading report in the next issue that I feel like I haven’t cracked a book for my personal reading list in ages. (Though I did reread The Boarded-Up House mystery with my daughter.) My 1st grader is reading (with lots of help) The Burgess Bird Book for Children and listening to Will in Scarlet as an audiobook. My 7th grader is reading nothing but manga and listening to the Beatles' Hard Day’s Night pretty much on repeat in her room. I think we may have a case of spring fever. (But I do have Station Eleven on my night table based on Suzanne’s recommendation!) —Amy

:: Am I the only person obsessed with Foyle’s War? I am a sucker for a period mystery, and it’s the perfect background for knitting. —Amy

:: I got sucked into the Pinterest vortex last year and made a quilt out of pillows, but oh, wow, am I glad I did. We have been dragging it into the backyard every day for school time, hang out time, and (not infrequently) dinner. It’s actually very easy to make but not so easy to store. And making it did help me stick to my personal Pinterest rule of one pin in, one pin done. —Amy

:: We have been having so much fun playing with The Kids’ Book of Weather Forecasting: Build a Weather Station, Read the Sky, and Make Predictions (one of the books from our spring issue’s nature resources roundup). There’s nothing like making your own barometer to appreciate the changeable nature of our springtime weather. —Amy

:: With spring’s arrival, we have been enjoying watching many songbirds move into our wooded yard to make nests and find food. My boys frequently refer to the iBird South app on our family's iPad to identify the birds and hear what sounds they make. (There’s an app for each region, so click on the link.) My boys have also enjoyed the Audubon Plush Birds they received at Easter, and I love them because they play real bird sounds, which are provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Seriously, I have yet to separate my 5-year-old from his wood duck, which he had been asking for for a long time! —Shelli

:: Since my boys (including the adult one) are total Star Wars geeks (and, frustratingly, two dvds checked out from two different libraries had too many scratches on them for us to watch), my husband recently purchased all the Star Wars episodes on iTunes. (It’s the first time they have been released in digital format — get all the details here.) Not only are we watching all six episodes, we are also watching all the “extras” that comes with it, and for us, that’s what makes this purchase worth it. The “making of” documentaries, deleted scenes, and other interviews with people who have worked behind the scenes are making this a fun, educational experience. Since we are watching only about 30 minutes a day, this is going to stretch out for weeks too! —Shelli

We picked it up at a library book sale thinking it looked fun, and sure enough my 8-year-old loved The Mad Scientists Club. Though this collection of stories is pretty old — it was written in the 1960s — it was still a fun, clever read. It’s about a group of boys who call themselves the Mad Scientists and get in all kinds of mischief as they outsmart the adults in their small town. My son is eager for me to get the next book in the series. —Shelli

What's your family loving this spring?

3 Fun Ways to Welcome Spring to Your Homeschool

3 fun ways to welcome spring to your homeschool


All you need are the three essential elements for wildlife to flourish:

1. FOOD :: Natural food like berries, nectar, acorns and other nuts.  You can also provide birdseed.

2. WATER :: If you don’t have a natural water source on your property, you can provide water in dishes, a birdbath, or fountain.

3. SHELTER :: Dense shrubs, vine masses, dead trees, underbrush, wood piles, bird houses, gourds, or shelves.

If you want to get very serious about your wildlife habitat, you can follow the directions and register your habitat with the National Wildlife Federation.

Caution: If you add a feeder or water to your yard, you can also attract unwanted critters into your house. So take care to put keep your feeders away from the house.



This is easy peasy and great for young kids.

  • Buy some dried pinto beans at the grocery store.
  • Find a clean, clear jar and put a moist paper towel at the bottom of the jar.
  • Put 2-3 beans in the jar and cover with a lid.
  • Put in a sunny windowsill and watch them grow!
  • When they are too big for the jar, you can uncover it.
  • When the threat of a frost is gone, plant in your garden.



We have started to see a few hummingbirds in our yard, and that reminded me to put our hummingbird feeders back out. (We can actually leave our feeders out all year long in Georgia, but I like to take a break from making the nectar and cleaning the feeders in the winter months.)

It’s easy and healthier for the hummingbirds to make your own nectar. Just boil 1 part sugar to 4 parts water until the sugar dissolves. I usually do 1 cup of sugar and four cups of water, and I store the excess in my refrigerator.

Tip: Make sure your hummingbird feeder is red, especially the tip where your hummingbird will be feeding from. We have tried feeders that weren’t red, and no hummingbird went to them! There is no need to add red food coloring to the nectar.

Also, be sure to clean the feeders often in order to prevent mold or bacteria from forming inside, which could make the hummingbirds ill.