Look What the Cat Brought In

This month for science studies we have been learning all about reptiles. Little did I know that the reptiles would decide to make themselves so readily available for evaluation!

We had gotten a bit of a late start on school work for the day, which is really not all that unusual, when Hailey announced that the cat had a dead lizard that he had been playing with. Now our cat is an indoor cat, but loves to spend a quick minute or two out on the back porch first thing in the morning. Apparently he found this poor, unsuspecting lizard and carried him inside to use as a play toy.

Hailey picked up the lizard by the tail and brought it over to me with a terribly sad look on her face. Truthfully, the lizard looked as if it had died a while ago as upon a quick glance it had a dried stiff look to it. I told her to go ahead and throw it out when she suddenly screamed and started crying. While you never can tell what melodramatics she may have in store for the day, I certainly was not expecting that reaction while walking to the trash. I peeped around the corner and Hailey looked up at me with this pitiful face, still holding the lizard by the tail, and screeched, “He bit me!”

lizard hailey

Doesn’t he look dead to you? I suppose that he had either been exhausted by molting or by the fact that a cat had decided to pick him up and take off with him.

lizard close

I mean come on. You can’t blame me for thinking the poor thing was dead. I looked him over carefully, but didn’t see any sign that he had been harmed by the cat. So we laid him a protected area in the garden to complete his molt in peace.


Plans for Inauguration Day


Honestly, I didn’t intend to do much for Inauguration Day. I planned maybe, and that’s a big maybe, watching it on TV with the kids. But then FIAR came out with an Inauguration Day Fold and Learn. Perfect!

It has a short biography of Barack Obama, the inaugural schedule from January 18th through Inauguration Day, some fun facts about the history of inauguration, and Barack Obama’s favorite dessert!

We are going to have a fun time re-reading If I Ran For President, which I purchased during the election. At the same time I also bought the other book by Catherine Stier,  If I Were President. These two books are really perfect at explaining the topic of the Presidency for a child. With eye-catching illustrations and wording that not only accurately explains a difficult topic, but makes it fun and exciting, these books are perfect for early elementary ages.

If you are looking for more ideas, Shauna over at Treasure Seekers has put together a wonderful list of resources to make your Inauguration Day educational and fun!

Owl Moon and Unit Study

This turned mostly into a Unit Study on Owls, but we did use the Five in a Row title Owl Moon as well as HomeschoolShare title Owl Babies to implement our owl study. HSS also has Owl Moon lapbook graphics here. Owls weren’t actually on the schedule to study at all, but the local park was having a ranger talk with a rescued non-releasable barred owl named Merlin. Of course I decided to work it in to the schedule!

Since I don’t actually have the FIAR volume that Owl Moon is covered in I ended up just doing things my own way. Owl Moon is really a beautiful book. We also got the huge library storytelling book for Owl Babies. Charlie loved the life-size pictures! I thought about dissecting owl pellets for a minute, but decided that we would push that somewhat icky discovery off until another year. We used this online owl pellet dissection instead.

The cover page shows a graphic from HSS on the Owl Babies lesson plan page. Hailey wanted it to be a screech owl so she changed the coloration a bit and wrote the sound that a screech owl makes. You can hear owl sounds here.


The inside shows a nocturnal animals flap book on the left with the different animals that the owl babies might have heard during the night. The right flap has a book where Hailey illustrated the materials needed to make a nest using construction paper and crayons. The middle shows a food chain chart the we used from Teacher Created Resources. This was a terrific purchase! While it is geared toward a classroom setting it was chock full of ideas and resources that we easy to work with and put together. It has ideas for interactive plays, story telling, dissecting owl pellets, and more.  The right middle is a flap book that opens to show three of the animals that make up an owl’s diet.


The second side of the folder shows a matchbook with the definition of nocturnal and cursive handwriting copywork on the left flap. The right flap has a layer book with several owl poems and songs from HSS. The middle shows a printout on the preservation of owls from Teacher Created Resources.


The middle flap opens to show a graph with the different heights of several owls, also from Teacher Created Resources. Hailey is the first column.


Inside the flap there is a book with three different types of owls and the sounds that they make as well as a flap book about owls and their habits.


Stellaluna and Bat Unit Study

This was actually a unscheduled study on bats since one of our local parks was having a presentation on bats this past week. I thought it might be fun to squeeze it in!

We read the book Stellaluna which was already in our book collection, and hit the library for some supplemental reading. One book I think is worth mentioning is The Little Lost Bat. It follows the life of a baby Mexican free-tailed bat as it is born in a cave. The book itself was quite sad as the baby loses its mother to an owl and eventually is adopted by another bat mother that has lost its own baby. It does quite a good job of showing the hardships that baby bats face.

Here are some pictures of our lapbook. We got most of the graphics for our lapbook from our favorite site Homeschool Share. The cover has some cutouts that we found at  First-school.ws . I reduced the size by 50% to fit two on the cover. Hailey and Charlie loved playing with the full size versions that they put together.

The inside front cover shows a booklet with different species of bats (bumblebee bat, fox bat, vampire bat, etc). On the first side of the folder we have a book of different diurnal (daytime) and nocturnal animals, a vocabulary pocket of words from Stellaluna, a book with a map of the places that we can find fruit bats (mega bats). The left side shows a three pocket strip that we got from Hands of a Child where we sorted different characteristics of Mega bats and Micro bats. On the right flap is a flap book of Omnivores, Herbivores, and Carnivores. Under each flap Hailey glued pictures of the animals that belong in each category.

The second side of the folder shows the Anatomy of the Bat, the different mammals that use echolocation, and a booklet that uses some word problems pulled from the book for math. The left flap shows a sample of handwriting. Since I am teaching Hailey cursive instead of print first I invested in software called Start Write. I can print out tracers in almost any learning font I wish, which for me is cursive. They also have manuscript, Handwriting without Tears cursive and print, Palmer and more! I love this software. The right flap has some really corny bat jokes on one side and some a poem and song about bats on the back.

The back cover shows Hailey’s art work. She started drawing the little lines for echolocation without any prompting. I asked where she got the idea to do that and she said she had seen it in a book we read. I love that she picks those things up. The insects all have frowny faces because they are about to be eaten!

Bee Unit Study

Continuing on our theme of insects we moved to bees as our next subject for unit study. Since we already had a thorough understanding of butterflies, learning the anatomy of a bee was pretty straightforward. I thought that Wikipedia had a pretty good anatomy of a bee diagram, but we also found one to label yourself at Enchanted Learning, and another great one on the “How Stuff Works” website.

We were fortunate enough to get two different bee downloads for free this summer. One from Hands of a Child that contained all the research information in one handy area and one specifically on honeybees from Notebooking Nook that contained 14 mini-books to use in your lapbook. We used both of these, but I must say that the freebies from Homeschoolshare on bees were wonderful additions!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to locate a beekeeper nearby so we could visit, but we did do some backyard observations. While I haven’t yet gotten around to it I am planning to order some honeycomb for the kids to examine. They usually sell it in 4 inch sections. The great part is that after they are done examining the honeycomb they get to eat the honey. I have read that you can either drain the honey and enjoy it in the usual way or simply take a bite of the honeycomb and chew it kind of like gum until the honey taste is gone.

In addition to the loads of books from the library I was also able to borrow a copy of a PBS NOVA movie called Tales from the Hive. It was an incredible up close look into the hive of a honeybee. It was great to see things like the bee dance, hierarchy of the hive, and how the queen bee is chosen as if you were actually there! I would highly recommend looking for this video if you are planning a bee study of your own.

I thought it would be cute to make the lapbook in bee colors. We took foam paper and cut strips to glue to the outside and made lines with black marker on the inside to match. I found the clipart for the beehive here. Hailey finished it off with some of her own artwork.

The first side of our lapbook includes the types of bees that live in a hive, I copied pictures from a library book to place on each page. The anatomy of a bee diagram was from wikipedia. The bottom of the folder has the lifecycle wheel and bee predators (robber fly, birds, spiders, praying mantis). On the right side is a book that has a list of all of the different jobs that a worker bee has in the hive throughout their lives.

The second side of the lapbook has a book on social bees (honeybees and bumblebees) and solitary bees (mason bees, leafcutter bees, etc) and a flap book on the dances that a worker bee when she has found a source of nectar. I had Hailey draw a picture of the direction that the bees would go after observing the bee dances under each flap. The left flap shows a pocket full of bee vocabulary words and on the right flap is the pocket holding our bee observation charts.

Butterfly Unit Study

Oh boy! This was so much fun. Hailey has recently shown such an interest in bugs that I wanted to integrate it into her schoolwork. We had purchased a bug collection kit for her and she seems to be out everyday looking for new things to examine. She has a butterfly net for catch and release observation, and a insect mounting kit for those bugs that have already expired.

I figured that butterflies would be a great place to start on our insect study. We started out at the library and checked out about 15 different books about butterflies. I found some great pictures on the anatomy of a butterfly here. This really helped us understand the intricacies of how a butterfly works.

We also utilized materials from Homeschool Share and a Hands of a Child Project pack that we downloaded for free this summer.

Once we had learned the anatomy fairly well (and had demonstrated such by drawing pictures on the patio with sidewalk chalk) we decided it was time for a field trip. I found a local butterfly farm here in Florida and we  went and wandered around their gardens for a while and questioned the folks that worked there for a while. We left the proud keepers of 5 newly hatched painted lady butterfly caterpillars. These folks will ship butterflies to surrounding states just check their website to see if there are any restrictions for your area.

While we were at the butterfly farm we also learned that the University of Florida had a huge butterfly exhibit. Of course we had to visit! It was very much worth the drive. They had a bountiful array of dried and mounted moths and butterflies from around the world as well as a huge screened in live butterfly exhibit featuring some butterflies we would probably never have been fortunate enough to see otherwise, such as the blue morpho and the owl butterfly.

I think the highlight of the Butterfly Exhibit was actually the hatching center where there were rows of chrysalises with several breaking open to reveal new butterflies drying their wings. It was a perfect precurser to the metamorphosis of the painted lady caterpillars that we had just brought home a couple of days prior.

This unit study was fun for the whole family!

This front cover show a collage of pictures that we took at the University of Florida Butterfly Exhibit.

Inside show the anatomy of a butterfly and the anatomy of the butterfly proboscis from here. The butterfly cards pocket contains the pictures and names of butterflies from Homeschool Share. The right flap shows a pocket with butterfly anatomy quiz cards – each butterfly has a different part of anatomy colored in and the back shows the name of the part. The flap book show the different butterfly habitats and what makes each unique.

The second side of the folder shows a lifecycle wheel of the butterfly from egg to adult, predators of a butterfly, butterfly defense mechanism, a visual demonstration of how many eggs are likely to survive per 100 layed, picture of monarch butterfly emerging from chrysalis, and a pocket containing the metamorphosis stages of a butterfly. The right flap contains a flower book with different plants that butterflies use as nectar plants.