Books for Bird Study

We are wrapping up what has been my favorite study to date…BIRDS! I had no idea how much there is to know about birds. I’m constantly staring out the windows to see what the birds are up to. I’m so intrigued by their behaviors and sounds. Dirk now lovingly calls me a bird nerd. I just can’t stop.

So in our study of birds we’ve used quite a few different resources but, as always, books have offered us such a rich study. There are some great non-fiction books out there but I really prefer fiction books. While non-fiction books provide a lot of facts, I have found that when the facts are applied to a story we remember them so much better and it’s so much more fun! We found some really great books, both fiction and non-fiction, and I thought I’d share our favorites with you.

Books for Bird Study | Motherhood in the Trenches

First up we like the DK First Animal Encyclopedia. This is a newly released edition. It has some really great facts and has fun seek and find pictures at the beginning of each chapter. Both of my girls love it.

Now lets talk about two chapter books that we loved.

The Burgess Bird Book for Children is so fun and FULL of facts, in fact so many facts that you’ll never remember them all in just one reading. If you are an Epic! member you can read the full book on the app as well, if you aren’t a member of Epic you totally should be! Check out my blog post about it here, we LOVE it and use it almost every day. I read this book to Big Sis a bit but she mostly enjoyed listening to the audio on Librivox. If after reading a chapter, she was especially intrigued by a specific bird we would look up more info about the bird and maybe even make a nature journal page to go with it. It’s times like these that I think, “How did people homeschool without the internet?!” I mean seriously, we can let our curiosities lead us wherever we want and learn more than we could ever remember about a single bird. It seriously blows my mind.

Another read aloud that we have SO enjoyed is The Trumpet of the Swan. I just love E. B. White. This is a sweet story of Louis the trumpeter swan who is born without the ability to make a sound. With the help of a boy named Sam he figures out several clever ways to communicate. The vocabulary in this is perfect for a real aloud for young kiddos. Big Sis and I are absolutely loving it.

Edward the Emu was my girls’ favorite fiction bird book.

This is a fun light-hearted story about an emu who tries to take on the role of several different animals in the zoo in effort of trying to be the best animal at the zoo. Of course, Edward ends up learning that Emus are great and he should just be himself. The illustrations are fun and while there aren’t many bird facts it’s just an overall fun book.

My favorite story that we read was Albert.

I wasn’t expecting much from this book but it really was a sweet story and a great reminder that we should be getting out there even when it’s not easy. Basically Albert is a man who looks out his window each day and finds a reason not to go outside, it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, etc. But then a family of cardinals builds their nest in his hand and he is stuck there for months holding this nest. This would be an especially good book for kids who struggle with anxiety. One of our girls does and it was a great springboard for talking about all he was missing out on by making excuses not to go outside.

Hello My Name is Ruby is another fun book that will introduce your kids to whimsical images of different birds but the story is just a fun light-hearted story.

Feathers for Lunch is a fun, short little story, probably best for the youngest readers but Big Sis still liked to look at the various birds and feathers, which are labeled on each page. E really enjoyed the story though.

Pale Male was interesting true story of a hawk who takes up residence in New York City. The book is pretty long but Big Sis was interested in the story and wanted me to read it all in one sitting.

Mama Built a Little Nest is a cute story about different types of nests that birds build. There are also facts about each birds’ nest throughout the book.

An Egg is Quiet is about all different types of eggs, not just bird eggs. The illustrations are beautiful. There’s also a book, which we didn’t read, called A Nest is Noisy which is about different type of animal nests.

Feathers: Not Just for Flying is another beautifully illustrated book that talks about the various uses of feathers.

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? was Big Sis’ favorite book. There are various birds’ calls within the book and Big Sis and E loved repeating after me.

There are also some really great bird books on Epic! that we enjoyed reading.

Adopted By An Owl on Epic! Books

Adopted by an Owl: The True Story of Jackson the Owl is a really cool story about a man who helps rehabilitate an owl and after releasing the owl, the owl decides to stay on the family farm for his whole life. It’s a really sweet story and a great way to open up the conversation about respecting nature.


I really loved Is This Panama?: A Migration Story. It’s a super cute story of Sammy, a Wilson’s warbler, who is going to make his first migration from the Arctic Circle to Panama. He makes various friends along his way and finally makes it to Panama although he took the long way. At the end of the book you can see the normal path a Wilson warbler takes and the path that Sammy took.

We read a few other books as well but these were our favorites. Do you have a favorite bird book we haven’t mentioned? We’d love to check it out!


EPIC! Books – Netflix for Books

Happy New Year friends! It’s been awhile, I know. I miss blogging but life just hasn’t allowed for much of it these past few months. I wanted to come on and say Happy New Year and to let you in on a gem of a resource that we’ve been using.

I never click ads on Facebook, typically they’re pretty irrelevant but a few months ago a Facebook ad caught my attention:

The Netflix of Children's Books

Whaaaaat???? I LOVE children’s literature, like a lot, so I knew I had to check it out. As I looked into it I thought it sounded too good to be true. When I found out that I could try it out free for 30 days, I was hooked. I immediately downloaded it and set up a profile for Big Sis. We’ve used it for a few months now and I knew I just had to share.

Here are some great things about Epic! Books:

  1. You can read the books on iPhone, iPad or computer
  2. Each book shows it’s lexile level, AR level, age level and approximate reading time.
  3. There are new books added each week (and now educational videos too!)
  4. There’s a good selection of good quality educational books from Time magazine, National Geographic, and others.
  5. There’s something for all kids and each kid gets their own customized profile to match their interests and ages. Little E loves it just as much as Big Sis does. Some of the books at Little E’s age level even sing the words in the book. So fun!
  6. For my teacher friends, you get to use the app for FREE!!!!

Here are just some of the great selection of books you’ll find in the Epic! app.

Fancy Nancy “I Can Read” in Read to Me format – These books have the option to be read aloud to your kiddos. So perfect for those emergent readers.

Epic! Books - Netflix for Kids Books

Nancy Clancy

Epic! Books - Netflix for Kids Books

I was particularly excited to see “Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine” as I have been trying to find a kid friendly book on her life.

Epic! Books - Netflix for Kids Books

Famous Children Series which tells stories from the early years of great composers and artists. These are also in “Read to Me” format.

Epic! Books - Netflix for Kids Books

Star Wars

Epic! Books - Netflix for Kids Books


Perhaps one of the most exciting for kids are the new activity books they just released. They have the “Lego Adventure” books, a Lego build-it-book, iSpy, recipe books, “Easy Magic Tricks”, “Cool Knitting”, “Science Around the House” and more!

Epic! Books - Netflix for Kids Books


Epic! Books - Netflix for Kids Books

Dover Classics like “Wind in the Willows” “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” “Jungle Book” “Anne of Green Gables” “The Secret Garden” and more

Epic! Books - Netflix for Kids Books

Berenstein Bears (including the “Big Book of Science and Nature”

Epic! Books - Netflix for Kids Books

There are also helpful resources like books on how to write a letter, or a research paper.


There are so many other books on so many more topics. I could share all of the great ones with you but you really need to check it out for yourself. They have a 30 day free trial that I totally suggest you check out.

Back To School: 7 Products That Give Back

It’s already time for back to school shopping. I know some of you are anxious for school to start and others are dreading it. We are really looking forward to it over here, especially Big Sis. Whenever I know that I need to make a purchase I do two things, first I look for the sales and second, I look for ways to buy products that give back. Today I’m here to share with you 7 back to school shops that give back and a few deals on them as well.

7 Awesome School Supplies That Give Back | Motherhood in the Trenches

1. TOMS – This one almost goes without saying. I LOVE their shoes for the whole family but especially for my girls. They last a long time and are excellent quality. Little E has worn several pairs of Big Sis’ old shoes and I’ve even saved a few of those pairs for new baby too. A pair of shoes that can last through three kiddos has a big thumbs up from this mama. They also sell backpacks and other accessories. If you are a  new online customer, use this link to get $20 off $75 (disclaimer: this is a referral link).

2. dot – I recently stumbled upon this shop through another Instagram account I follow. Their school supplies look super cool and the best part is that with every purchase you make you are paying for a child in a developing country to attend school for half a day, including uniforms, supplies, and school fees.

3. Tink & Key - This shop sells the CUTEST tees for kids and mamas and they give back 10% of their sales to a different organization each month.

4. STATE Bags – These are super cute backpacks for boys and girls. “For every STATE bag purchased, STATE hand-delivers a backpack – packed with essential tools for success – to an American child in need.” They go even further in their mission. Check it all out here. The Kane backpacks are so cute and I love all of the pockets they have!

5. Yoobi - You may have seen these products at Target. They are a big line of colorful office and school supply products. For every Yoobi item you purchase a Yoobi item is donated to a US school to provide school supplies to all children.

6. Camplight Apparel - Another site with super cute tees for kids and adults. Although not publicly announced on their shop site, I found them through Instagram and saw that every shirt purchased helps provide school uniforms to children in need. The “They Call Me Brave” shirt specifically helps support a family who is adopting two kiddos from Uganda. You can read an interview with them and get a 20% off code here.

7. Mitscoots - This is a sock company with some super cute socks, especially for men and women. While on the streets of Austin, TX the founders discovered that the one thing the people on the streets wanted after food and water was socks. So if you buy a pair of socks and they will give socks of equal quality to a person in need. They also employ people who are transitioning out of homelessness to pack their boxes. Cute socks for you, warm toes for a person in need. Get 20% off for signing up for Mitscoots Mail. If you don’t get a pop up to do this, go to the very bottom of the homepage and it’s on the right hand side.

Surviving the First Year of Homeschooling : 5 Things I Learned Along the Way

What a wild ride this first homeschool year was. One thing I’m learning in this homeschooling world is that definitions and labels rarely apply. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the different homeschooling methods and trying to decide where my own educational philosophy fits. We aren’t really a unit studies family, we’re not unschoolers, we’re definitely not into traditional schooling, we did quite a bit of Montessori methods in the beginning but are starting to shy away from that as Big Sis gets older. (If you want to take a fun quiz to see what homeschooling methods you are most like check out this quiz) Both Charlotte Mason and Classical Education have pieces that are very appealing to me but still didn’t meet exactly what I felt was right for our family. One night I sat on the couch feeling totally defeated and torn between the Classical and Charlotte Mason methods. I poured out my frustrations to Dirk and he said, “You studied teaching methods for years, you have an elementary teaching credential, you are passionate about teaching and your teaching philosophy. Just do what you think is best for our family and for Big Sis.” DUH! Sometimes the things he says can seem so simple but feel so profound. And so from there I guess we would now be classified as an eclectic homeschool family. Every time I say that I can’t help but chuckle. If you know me, you know I am anything BUT eclectic.

Why did I just tell you this? Because it’s just a brief look into the struggles of the first year of homeschooling. I have talked to a lot of new homeschool moms and we all have the same issues plaguing our minds. We are constantly questioning ourselves, wondering if we are screwing up our kids, wondering if they are where they “need” to be. We are struggling to find where the rest of our lives fit in amongst this new homeschooling thing. How do we still pay attention to the little ones who are not being homeschooled? The first year is hard!

Surviving the First Year of Homeschooling | Motherhood in the Trenches

After talking to a few of my wisest and most seasoned homeschool friends this is what I learned and I thought I’d share it with you. Hopefully this will be just as encouraging for you as it was for me…

#1 Come up with a homeschooling mission statement.

Why are you homeschooling? You need to know this because there will be days, maybe even weeks when you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” You need to have something written on paper to refer back to and to remember why you are doing this. Why are you giving up coffee dates and play dates and some “me” time when you could be sending your kiddo to school and regaining some of those fun days. Some days sending Big Sis to school full time sounds freeing. Please do not misread this, sending your kid to school for 8 hours a day is NOT a bad thing but if you are called to homeschool this year you need to know why. Which brings me to another point…

#2 Know When It’s Time to Quit

I know I’m going to ruffle some homeschooling mama feathers out there but I do not believe that homeschooling is for every kid, for every family, or for every season of life. What might work for one kid doesn’t work for another. What has worked for two years may not work this coming year. Have a list of parameters in place to know when it’s time to quit and even if you think, “I would never stop homeschooling” know that there may be a time when you do have to call it quits. One of my very best friends recently ended, or at least suspended, her homeschool journey with her kiddos. This is a family who has been such an encouragement to me and in years past I know that she never would have thought she wouldn’t homeschool. I have so much respect for their family because despite what they always thought they would do, they had their list of reasons to stop homeschooling and when it was evident that God was calling them away from this method of schooling, they moved on to where God wanted them. It wasn’t easy for her but in the end God was of course faithful and has met the needs of every member of their family.

#3 Have a Support System

If you don’t know other moms who are homeschooling find some! I can’t tell you how many times I texted my homeschooling mom friends asking questions from what curriculum do you use for this? to did your kiddo ever experience this issue? So many questions and so much help and so much support. If you don’t have people around you who homeschool find people! Search Facebook to see if there’s a local homeschool Facebook group. Search the #wildandfree hashtag on Instagram. There are lots of homeschooling mamas on there who are so encouraging and many are willing to answer your questions. They even have periodic homeschool meetups all over the country. I’ll post the next time they have one to keep you in the loop. Ask around your church or play groups to see if people know homeschool families. To know that you are not alone in this is so helpful!

#4 Prioritize

When you homeschool, homeschooling is a priority and you need to be stubborn about this priority. Be ready to refer back to your mission statement. You will get invites from friends to do things, you will be tempted to commit to Bible Studies, weekly playgroups, etc. You have to decide what’s right for you and what you can handle while still keeping homeschooling a priority. One of the hardest things for me was that people who don’t homeschool, just don’t get it. At times I felt judged and was questioning whether it really was okay to be quitting this Bible Study or saying no to certain outings. In the end remember you can’t do it all!

#5 Be Prepared to Be Flexible

Be prepared for things to not go according to your plan. Your curriculum may not be the right fit or may need some tweaking. It’s going to take awhile, maybe a whole school year to figure out your schedule. And just when you figure it out, it’ll be time to figure out the following the year. Then there’s the issue of where you’re going to homeschool. You may think that homeschooling on your dining room table is going to work and then like us you realize that somedays you want to just leave school stuff out which leaves no where to eat dinner. Or maybe you have an empty space in your hallway, I know random right?, and so you set up your homeschool area there and realize that you all feel boxed in. Finally you decide that the extra sitting room in your master bedroom is actually the best fit and you move there and it mostly works but even after a full school year you haven’t found something that REALLY works so you brainstorm for the next year. Things aren’t always going to go your way. Your homeschooling is not going to and shouldn’t look like a traditional classroom setting. Things will need to be tweaked. Be prepare to be flexible.

There’s a long list of other things I’ve learned but I felt like these four things were the main things I learned this year. If you are a homeschool family, I’d love to hear things you’ve learned along the way. I know there are many of us who would benefit from your experience. Would you like to share? Leave a comment below!

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten

Shortly after Big Sis was born, I was in the hospital looking at her sweet face, still in shock at what had just happened. I was sleep deprived, beyond exhausted and so emotional. I was excited for the new chapter in our lives but in all honesty, I just wanted to sleep! I remember looking at her sweet self as she was screaming and screaming and screaming and thinking, “Before I know it, she’s going to be walking off to Kindergarten with an oversized backpack on her back, Dirk and I holding each other, shedding tears for our baby who has headed off to Kindergarten.” Over the years I have thought about what her first day of Kindergarten will be like both with anticipation and sadness.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

As the years have gone by, and God has pressed on both Dirk and I to homeschool, I knew that her first day of school was slowly morphing into something that I hadn’t dreamed of, but something that God knew all along. In some ways, it’s been hard to let go of those dreams. Going off to Kindergarten is a rite of passage, it marks the beginning of an era. I still vividly remember bits and pieces of my Kindergarten year, they are fond memories. In fact look at this picture…

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

That’s Dirk and I in the SAME Kindergarten class, what?! The fact that we spent an entire school year together in the same Kindergarten class, ten years before we would meet again, blows my mind. We didn’t find this out until we “met again” when we were 16 & 17 and then 18 years later and we were married. Crazy right?!

Dirk had said for many years that he didn’t want his kids to be homeschooled. I wasn’t as adamant but as a former public school elementary teacher I figured I’d continue teaching and my kids would go to the school where I taught. We never really discussed homeschooling before we had kids. When God called me to be a stay-at-home mom He also slowly started showing us that homeschooling is what we are supposed to do, at least for now. I’ve never been of the mindset that any schooling is the “right” decision. I firmly believe that God calls each family to different choices for each child and for each school year. My parents were a great example of this. All of us kids had times in our lives when we went to public school, private school and were homeschooled. They prayed for us each year and did what was best for us, although us kids didn’t always agree with them, I know in my life it was such a blessing. Following their example we will be praying each year about what God wants for Big Sis (and for Little E when her time comes) but for now, this is where we’re at and I’m really so excited!

I initially thought that homeschooling would be a breeze. If I can handle teaching a classroom of sometimes up to thirty-seven 5th graders, then surely one Kindergartener would be a breeze! Well, that wasn’t the case. We’ve only been at this for three weeks now, and it hasn’t been a breeze but every day it’s getting easier and we are all learning.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

I’m so thankful to have a few friends who are also homeschooling their Kindergarteners this year. It’s been so encouraging to check in with them and share my struggles and hear their’s. This is a learning process for our family, but I’m so excited to see all that Big Sis will learn this year, all that we will learn as a family, and to share some fun projects and units with you guys. It’s been so exciting to be back in the lesson planning phase, coming up with new units and activities. I love being home with my girls but there are still parts of me that really miss teaching. I have so enjoyed being able to be back in the planning and creating.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

And no beginning of the school year homeschool post is complete without sharing the curriculum we’re using, so here it is:

  • We’re continuing with the All About Reading curriculum. Big Sis completed the Pre-Reading curriculum last year and is now on AAR1. We really loved the Pre-Reading curriculum and are looking forward to this next level.
  • We’re also continuing with Handwriting Without Tears. We completed the “Get Set for School” book last year and she’s now working on the Kindergarten curriculum.
  • For Math we chose Right Start Math. So far, we LOVE this. I am so impressed by many aspects and I LOVE that it’s so hands-on.
  • For Social Studies, History and Science, I’m creating my own, standards-based units, which I will be sharing on here

So here’s to our first year of homeschooling. If you’re homeschooling I’d love to hear what curriculum you’re using and how your first few weeks are going.