In the coming weeks, many eager, excited, and nervous kids will trade firefly nights and swimsuits for squeaky school hallways and backpacks. Back-to-School season is here, but for some, the new school year will start without ever leaving their home. A glimpse of life as part of a homeschool family is illuminated in a heartwarming, autobiographically inspired picture book, This Is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Bean (public library). In a show-and-tell manner, a young, homeschooled boy walks the reader through the dual purpose of his family’s home, his family’s dynamic, and the world around him. Each day is tightly intertwined with hours of love, labor, and learning- His mom and dad are also his teachers, his siblings are his classmates, similar to a school bus, their family van takes them on field trips, read-aloud at bedtime is an English lesson, and when the teacher is having a rough day, she sometimes has to phone in for a substitute.
The family of six’s rhythms and adventures as homeschooling homesteaders is a dreamy, organized chaos. Four kids running around, an energetic dog, chickens, a cat, a bunny, the house is cluttered with projects– A lived in space, full of energy and a representation that learning happens everywhere and at anytime. This is the essence of homeschooling that Jonathan Bean effortlessly captures in this book.
Visit the library or your local bookstore and there are dozens and dozens of “back-to-school” picture books, but there are only a couple of picture books that feature homeschoolers. 2 million families homeschool in the USA, and with homeschooling on the rise, these children now have a book that relates to their own experience. As a homeschool parent, I deeply appreciate the telling from Jonathan Bean’s own viewpoint and especially his author’s note and family photos in the back of the book. You can tell just in the way the story is written and in his note that he looks back fondly at his time home with his family. Our family’s own decision to homeschool our oldest child was a difficult one. We didn’t know the first thing about how the decision to homeschool would change the dynamic of our family and our lives, but the depiction of Jonathan Bean’s own positive experience helped me imagine what life as a homeschooling family could be like. My family doesn’t live on a picturesque homestead like Jonathan Bean’s (which you can read more about in his fantastic picture book, Building Our Home), but the approach is similar.
This Is Our Home, This Is Our School: A Look Inside Our Homeschool Life
In the same fashion of This Is My Home, This Is My School, I thought I’d share our homeschool “classrooms” and daily rhythms. As I mentioned already, this book helped me as a parent to visualize what life as a homeschooler was like before we decided to take the leap into life as a homeschool family. Here’s a peek inside our world.
This is our home, this is our school! We learn about a variety of subjects….
Horticulture & Livestock
Not Pictured: Piles and piles of laundry, piles and piles of library books, playing with neighborhood friends, piles and piles of dirty dishes, extracurricular activities, early morning snuggles, chores, more laundry, and a whole lot of love.
If you homeschool or are thinking about homeschooling, be sure to check out This Is My Home, This Is My School. If you haven any questions about our homeschooling rhythms, I’ll do my best to answer your questions. I’m new to homeschooling myself, so if you have any words of wisdom going into the new academic year, please share!
Good luck to all students and parents going into a new school year!
*Copy of book reviewed provided by the good folks at Farrar, Straus & Grioux
On a rainy day, whether it be after a night of heavy thunderstorms or during a lingering drizzle, it’s the perfect time to spot rain fish at play. In this rhyming adventure of debris that can be spotted on rainy days, RAIN FISH by Lois Elhert (public library) is a lively story meshing art and nature. Illustrated in Ehlert’s trademark collage style, Rain Fish prompts readers to take notice of “rain fish” swimming around their neighborhood, catch them, and repurpose them into something of their own imagination.
With each full page spread, discards and debris found by Ehlert transform into aquatic animal shapes swimming through the book and the playful text and bright colors are stimulating to even the littlest of readers. Now I know I highlight Lois Ehlerts books here on SfCT all the time, but I mean come on– Lois Ehlert! Her books are always inviting, creative, and accessible to kids. I didn’t even have to prompt my own children to go outside after reading Rain Fish. After our first time reading the books, they both turned to me and excitedly said, “Let’s go look for RAIN FISH!”
Looking For + Creating Rain Fish Collages
Inspired by Lois Ehlrt’s new picture book, Rain Fish, debris found in alleyways, sidewalks, or at the park can be transformed into art supplies for fish collages. Help keep your town clean by picking up trash washed away by the rain and give it a new life.
Found “art supplies” (i.e. trash, leaves, feathers, etc. found outside after a rainstorm)
Colorful construction paper or cardstock
After a heavy thunderstorm or even during a light rain shower, take a walk to look for “art supplies”. These art supplies could be discards and debris found in a park, on a beach, or on your neighborhood sidewalk.
We found a ton of trash and objects to work with taking merely one loop around our block. Wash found debris in warm, soapy water before using, get out some glue and paper, and get your art on! I put some glue in small containers with paintbrushes for easy use for my 2-year-old. She has a hard time using the squeeze bottles, and paintbrushes offer more control.
Paper items such as tissue or paper bags can be molded while wet and maintain their shape once dry. Glue items to paper to create colorful, mixed media collages.
We were inspired to make underwater scenes like in the story, but you can turn your newly found art supplies into anything your heart desires. When rain is forecasted, consider playing outside, exercise creativity, and cleaning up your neighborhood by taking a trip rain fishing.
**Source of book reviewed was borrowed from our local library
As quickly as it came, summer is already on the decrescendo. The heat broke the last week of July, the days are shorter, and the wild sunflowers are reaching up to the Kansas blue sky ready to burst. I missed a wild things post in June, so I combined June and July’s nature adventures together. The end of our summer was spent away from our Lawrence home in southern California for my mom’s wedding. It was a busy trip, but we were able to escape for some leisure time on the beach and in the desert. I’ve been on a Mary Oliver binge for several months now. Somedays I write a line of hers down and keep it in my pocket. This one I’ve been keeping by close to me a lot lately: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
JUNE AND JULY GRATITUDES
First light on the prairie
Catalpa trees in full bloom
Fields of firefly twinkling
The fragrant smell of desert evenings
Sea salt smiles
Swooping bats at twilight
The last hurrah of summer nights
Weather is a part of our everyday. It dictates our daily schedules and natural rhythms and continues to be a timeless source of fuel to promote open-ended play in children. Annie Riechmann and Dawn Suzette Smith, the popular nature bloggers of Mud Puddles to Meteors draw from this inspiration to bring us their very first book of weather related fun for kids and their families, Whatever the Weather: Science Experiments and Art Activities That Explore the Wonders of Weather (public library)*.
“Basic discussions of the weather are common in the average elementary classroom, but often the discussions start and stop at the “what” of weather, leaving out the much more interesting “why”.”
Whatever the Weather aims to address the whys of weather with information and prompts that can be modified for preschoolers to middle school age children. This delightful resource is broken up into four categories: Cold weather, rain and the water cycle, sun, and the wind. All highlighted activities in these categories are part science and part art complete with answers about the why’s of the weather around us, like-minded alternative project options to explore, and fun side notes labeled “Wondering About the World” highlighting interesting stories or facts that relate to the activity.
What I enjoy most about this book is how extremely easy it is to follow along– The activities don’t need a long list of supplies or set up, there aren’t pages of prescriptions, or projects with a lengthy step-by-step explanation with a zillion materials required. You can literally look outside at what the day holds, flip to a prompt that fits the weather, and customize that prompt to your child’s age and interests. There are also many modifications to each project that may not need supplies at all, but still delve into investigating and questioning the state of the seasonal changes in the atmosphere. Whatever the Weather promotes scientific, motor, and creative experiences.
Out of the activities we’ve explored in Whatever the Weather, my 2 and 5-year old recently enjoyed leaf painting and leaf vein science. To provide an example of what this wonderful book has to offer, here’s a look at this project prompt from the book!
LEAF PAINTING AND PRINTING
After a morning rain yesterday, using Annie Riechmann and Dawn Suzette Smith’s book as our guide, the girls explored cohesion and followed leaf veins with their paintbrushes. Veins that mimic our own human veins, life force pathways that carry nutrients and water. Instead of doing this project outside while it was raining, we decided to enjoy it during an afternoon when it had rained earlier in the morning. Droplets of water still clung to tree leaves and tips of the grass while the sidewalks were already dry. We collected leaves in our yard including a couple of these enormous, beautiful Catalpa leaves. I set out a variety of liquid watercolors including the girls’ favorite metallic mixing agents, silver and gold, as well as several paintbrushes and they enthusiastically went straight to playing and painting their found leaves.
With each underside of the leaves facing up, my 2-year old rubbed paint freely on her leaf canvas while my oldest carefully followed the branches of lines on her leaf. The metallic watercolors shimmered on the leaves and looked a little like morning dew.
One of the alternate suggestions in Whatever the Weather to further explore this project was to preserve the leaf painting by making leaf prints. By placing a sheet of paper on top of a recently painted leaf, and gently pressing the paper into the leaf, carefully peel the sheet of paper from the leaf, and you’re left with a spectacular expression of art and nature. We had fun holding our prints up to the sunlight, since the light seeps through the places where watercolors made the paper thin to create a stained glass effect. We noticed the same happens when you hold up a leaf to the sun– The light illuminates the green margins between the leaf veins.
Exploring the nature of weather doesn’t have to stop with the end of this book. You can follow along on Annie and Dawn’s adventures through their blog, where you can also sign up for a monthly newsletter and seasonal Nature Labs. Get social about your nature findings by connecting with other nature nuts on the Mud Puddles to Meteors Facebook group for follow along on Dawn’s adventures through the terrain of Nova Scotia.
And if you’re looking for more weather related reads, hop on over to this massive weather themed booklist for kids!
*Source of book reviewed was provided by the good folks at Roost Books.
Warm summer months are filled with lemonade, lazy days, swimming pools, and firefly nights. This booklist celebrates a few of our favorite children’s picture books featuring all things summer!
If you’re heading to the library, I’ve assembled a library list of these titles for easy browsing if your library uses the bibliocommons catalog system. If you’re looking for more seasonal booklists, be sure to check out these autumn, winter, and spring lists.
SUMMER SOLSTICE & MIDSUMMER
Nonfiction and fiction books that are about or take place on the summer solstice or Midsummer:
The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Linda Bleck
Mermaid Dance by Majorie Hakala, illustrated by Mark Jones
The Flowers’ Festival by Elsa Beskow
Summer Story by Jill Barklem
Ella Bella and The Midsummer’s Night’s Dream by James Mayhew
Long days, no school, ice cream, gardens, farmer’s markets, family and friends, free time for imagination and wonder… These picture books highlight the joys of the summer season:
It’s Summer by Linda Glaser
Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee
Summer is Summer by Phillis and David Gershator, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sis
Bluebird Summer by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Bethanne Andersen
Four Friends in Summer by Tomie dePaola
Mama, Is it Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure
Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Judy Stead
It’s Summertime by Elaine Good
A Summertime Song by Irene Haas
Song for A Summer Night: A Lullaby by Robert Heidbreder, illustrated by Qin Leng
Westlandia by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Summer Sun Risin’ by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Don Tate
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague
The Shadow Chasers by Elly Mackay
HOT DAYS, HOT NIGHTS
Summer in the northern hemisphere in many places is typically hot, hot, hot! These stories are about the summer heat during the day and at night:
GOING TO THE BEACH
For families that live close to or vacation to the ocean or a lake, summer and shorelines go hand in hand. These books are all about visiting the seashore:
Magic Beach by Alison Lester
A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams
Wave by Suzy Lee
Beach by Elisha Cooper
Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies
The Sandcastle Contest by Robert Munsch
At the Beach by Huy Voun Lee
Beach Feet by Lynn Reiser
Senses at the Seashore by Shelley Rotner
Beach Day by Karen Roosa, illustrated by Maggie Smith
Flotsam by David Weisner
One White Wishing Stone by Doris Gayzagian
If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, Don’t! by Elise Farsley
Hello, Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella
Can You Hear the Sea? by Judy Cumerbatch
How Will We Get to the Beach? by Brigitte Luciani, illustrated by Eve Tharlet
Beach Party by Harriet Ziefert
All You Need for a Beach by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
Sea, Sand, and Me! by Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst
With kids out of school, some families look to the summer as a time to get out of town. Here are a few books about vacationing in the summertime:
Pictures from Our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins
Mayfly by Marthe Jocelyn
The Summer Visitors by Karel Hayes
See You Next Year by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Todd Stewart
Beach House by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Amy June Bates (public library)
These twinkling insects are an icon of long summer evenings outside:
It’s a Firefly Night by Dianne Orchiltree, illustrated by Betsy Snyder
Fireflies by Julie Brickloe
The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle
Among A Thousand Fireflies by Helen Frost
Ten Flashing Fireflies by Philemon Sturges, illustrated by Anna Vojtech
Sam and the Firefly by P.D. Eastman
A popular activity in the great outdoors or in the comfort of your backyard, camping is a favorite summer getaway:
Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen
Sally Goes to the Mountains by Stephen Huneck
Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Mélanie Watt
Quiet Night by Marilyn Singer
When We Go Camping by Margiet Ruurs, illustrated by Andrew Kiss
Flashlight by Lizzie Boyd
Into the Outdoors by Susan Gal
These stories all take place poolside and/or are about learning to swim:
My Best Friend by Mary Ann Rodman
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
The Whale in My Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan
Maisy Learns to Swim by Lucy Cousins
Splish, Splash, Splat by Rob Scotton
Frog by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Jane Browne
‘Tis the season of parades! Memorial Day, Summer Solstice, Puerto Rican Day, Gay Pride, Fourth of July… These books capture the heart of summer parades:
Mermaids on Parade by Melanie Hope Greenberg
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Hats Off for the Fourth of July by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Gus Miller
Parade by Donald Crews
VINTAGE SUMMERTIME FAVORITES
Old school picture books that still hold the magic of the season:
The Summerfolk by Doris Burn
Peter in Blueberryland by Elsa Beskow
Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey*
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Bayberry Bluff by Blair Lent
Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
*Time of Wonder is a beautiful book to read, BUT there is one page that I’d like to note has cultural insensitivities on page 56. When I read this story with my own kids, I replace the word “Indian” with “Native Americans” and “white man” with “European settlers”. I almost left it off the list, but decided it was a good platform for discussion if you happen to read this title with children.
Poems about lemonade, ice cream, berry picking, camping, flowers, and the highs and lows of summer:
Flower Fairies of the Summer by Cicely Mary Barker
From the Belly Button of the Moon and Other Summer Poems by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Fireflies at Midnight by Marilyn Singer
Lemonade Sun: And Other Summer Poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Jan Gilchrist
Lemonade by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger
Summersaults by Douglas Floiran
Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Kate Kiesler
Ocean Soup: Tide-Pool Poems by Stephen R. Swinburne, illustrated by Mary Peterson
NONFICITON BOOKS FOR SUMMER LEARNING
All about the summer seasons, nature in summer, and seaside ecology.
What Happens in Summer? by Sara L. Latta
Summer by Anna Claybourne, pictures by Stephen Lewis
What Camping Can Teach Us by Willow Creek Press
A Kid’s Summer Ecojournal by Toni Albert and Margaret Brandt
Firelfies in the Night by Judy Hawes, illustrated by Ellen Alexandar
Ferdiand Fox’s First Summer by Mary Holland
Looking Closely Along the Shore by Frank Serafini
In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails, and Salty Tails by Antony D. Fredricks, illustated by Jennifer Dirubbio
The Seaside Switch by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
Seashells, Crabs, and Sea Stars by Christine Kump Tibbitts, illustrate by Linda Garrow
A Pod of Orcas by Sheryl McFarlane
What Lives in a Shell? by Kathleen Weidner Zoefeld, illustrated by Helen K. Davie
SUMMER BOOKS FOR BABIES & TODDLERS
Seasonal books for the littlest readers.
Summer by Gerda Muller
Baby Loves Summer! by Karen Katz
Summer by Roger Priddy
Mouse’s First Summer by Lauren Thomapson
Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Ruth Hearson
I See Summer by Charles Ghigna
Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito
Beach Baby by Laurie Elmquist, illustrated by Elly MacKay
Marshmallow Kisses by Linda Crotta Brennan, Illustrated by Mari Takabayashi
Kitten’s Summer by Eugenie Fernandes
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Baby Lit Fairies Primer by Jennifer Adams
Summer Beach Day by Liesbet Slegers
At the Beach by Salina Yoon
At the Beach by Anne Rockwell
What’s your favorite book about summer for kids? Please share in the comments below!