Shark Unit 2 with Free Printables

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My kiddos love sharks.  And just when I think they're moving on, the countdown to Discovery Channel's Shark Week begins and the craze starts all over again.

This summer, the craze has been bigger than ever, continuing through the beginning of Fall.  We couldn't resist creating our Shark Unit 2 with Free Printables.  The kiddos have loved each and every activity and are still begging for more.
Shark activities and free printables
Here's what we've been up to!


Shark Vocabulary
Shark Vocabulary
The kiddos' knowledge of shark vocabulary continues to grow.  This activity helps develop their knowledge even further.  These cards can be used as 3 part cards or matching cards.  If you're a shark lover, I promise you'll enjoy this activity.  My kiddos can't get enough of it.

Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the Shark Unit Language Printable Pack 2. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.


Shark Tooth Subtraction
Shark tooth subtraction
It's no secret that sharks loose teeth often.  In this activity the kiddos practice subtraction using shark teeth as counters and glass beads as markers.  

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Math Printable Pack 3. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

  Sand Tiger Shark Multiplication
Shark Multiplication
Sand tiger sharks are known for staying in groups.  In this activity the kiddos are multiplying groups that they see.  Sand tiger sharks are being used as counters.  Glass beads are being used as markers.  Bulldozer is loving the chance to practice more multiplication.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Math Printable Pack 3.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Hammerhead Shark Division
Shark Division
Hammerhead sharks also stay in groups.  In this activity the kiddos are dividing sharks into groups that they've seen.  Hammerhead sharks are used as counters.  Glass beads are used as markers.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of the Shark Unit Printable Pack 3.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Shark Word Problems
Shark Word Problems
The kiddos have been working on adding and subtracting large numbers. They've also been working on solving word problems. This activity combines the two skills with a shark theme.  The kiddos are matching up word problems to number problem cards and then solving them.

Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of our Shark Unit Math Printable Pack 3. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Science & Culture

Oceanic Zones Coloring Page
Oceanic Zones Coloring Page
We have learned about the oceanic zones before, but it's always best to review when we have the chance.  I'm excited to have this beautiful coloring page on our shelves.  The kiddos have loved it!

Source:  The free printable for this activity can be found at Natural Beach Living.

Who Am I? Shark Cards
Shark themed Who Am I? cards
Once again the kiddos have requested Who Am I? cards as part of our shark unit.  They have loved them in past units.  I must say, these are some of our best.

Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of our Shark Unit Science & Culture Printable Pack 2.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Are All Sharks Dangerous?
Dinomite and Bulldozer have a deep love and respect for sharks.  They have spent years learning about them.  When they are made aware of others speaking negatively or harming sharks, they become quite upset.  This activity has been created in their behalf to educate others about sharks, because not all are alike.

Source: Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the Shark Unit Science & Culture Printable Pack 2. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Prehistoric Shark Match Up
Prehistori shark match up
Sharks have been around for a very long time, some even before dinosaurs.  The kiddos love learning about prehistoric creatures.  In this activity they match prehistoric shark figures to their corresponding cards.

Source: Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of our Shark Unit Science & Culture Printable Pack 2.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.


Orchestra Instruments in the Jaws Theme
The boys are so into music right now.  Not pop music or anything like that, but classical music, more specifically film scores.  I thought it would be fun to use their new found passion to my advantage. 

 As the kiddos watch and listen to the Jaws theme conducted by John Williams (their favorite composer right now), they will identify instruments they see.  The orchestra instruments cards are provided as a control.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity. For your free copy, click HERE.


Fun with Magnets
Magnet Kit
Sharks are very sensitive to magnetic fields. They detect them in the water, helping them hunt for prey and avoid things that may be dangerous.  The boys thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this during Shark Week 2016.  In honor of all that they learned, we decided to add a magnet kit to our shelves.  

Shark Sensory Bin
Shark Sensory Bin
The kiddos are always up for a fun sensory bin, especially if it includes water and sharks.  This one is quite simple including decorative rocks, blue glass beads, shark figures, random plants we have on hand, and water. They are loving it!

For those interested in the free printables, please click on the links below.

We hope you enjoy learning about sharks as much as we do!

If you're looking for more shark activities, free printables and other resources, be sure to visit the posts below!

Shark Learning Activities

Shark Practical Life Activities

Shark Activities with Free Printables

Shark Activities for Tots

Children's books about sharks
Read More »

1st Grade Reading List

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Bulldozer, age 8, and in second grade, just completed all five levels of the BOB Book Series.  He's been my slowest learner as far as reading and writing are concerned, but is enjoying the process.  In my opinion, that's what matters most.

To ensure he continues reading, we've created a 1st grade reading list for Bulldozer this year.  He is to choose one book per month, or ten books throughout the school year. Bulldozer will then write a book report about each one.

Since Bulldozer's writing skills correspond with his reading skills, I have selected a very simple book report format for him to use.  You can access the free printable at 1st Grade Fantabulous.

Bulldozer's books are not chapter books.  They do not take long to read.  His goal with each book is to learn to read the words fluidly and accurately with expression, while at the same time, understanding the main points of the story.

Here is our 1st grade reading list, aka Bulldozer's personal reading list.
1st Grade Reading List

1. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

This book isn't something that Bulldozer would pick up on his own, but we're hoping since it's on his book list he may give it a try.  We feel he'll definitely relate to the boy in the book as he's always asking questions and trying to understand the world around him.

2. Doctor De Soto by William Steig

We have heard nothing but wonderful things about this book.  Bulldozer always enjoys a good story with humor, so we thought this would be a perfect fit for him.

3. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems

This book is yet another funny read.  Bulldozer is one who wants to make sure people are following rules at all times.  It will be quite entertaining to see his responses as he reads through each new idea the pigeon has to get what he wants.  We're also intrigued to see how Bulldozer responds to the pigeon's behaviors.

4. I Need My Monster by Amanda Noil and Howard McWilliam

Bulldozer's anxieties soar at bedtime.  He's frightened so easily by anything and everything. We thought this book might put a humorous spin on night time anxieties for him, helping him cope with them just a little bit better.

5. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

This book is absolutely adorable, and the first that Bulldozer has chosen from his list.  The personalities given to each color crayon are so entertaining. For a boy who loves colors, the artwork is perfect.  Have I mentioned that Bulldozer is a little obsessed with crayons, especially his purple crayons?

6. Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

Bulldozer has always had the makings for a great engineer.  He builds and creates on a daily basis.  We're hoping that this book inspires him to continue his work.  The message in the book, that one can only truly fail when they quit, is one we hope Bulldozer will be able to absorb and keep with him.

7. A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

Over the summer our family went on our first real camping trip.  Bulldozer thoroughly enjoyed it and has asked to go again and again.  Due to this new found love, we thought he would delight in reading about all of Mr. Magee's mishaps.

8. Moonshot:  The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

One of Bulldozer's passions is astronomy.  He's quite obsessed with it.  It was only appropriate to add an astronomy themed book to his list.  This one in particular will be fun, because it tells the story of Apollo 11, which is something he hasn't learned about yet.

9. Titanic:  Lost and Found by Judy Donnelly

Bulldozer was introduced to the story of the Titanic a couple of years ago. He's even watched some of the movie with me (skipping parts that were inappropriate) and thoroughly enjoyed it.  We're pretty sure he'll be delighted to read about this.  It's also fun knowing it's a nonfiction account.

10. Pompeii:  Buried Alive! by Edith Kunhardt

It's no secret that Bulldozer loves extreme weather, volcano eruptions included.  He is not aware of the story of Pompeii.  This will be a great way to introduce him to yet another event in history about something he loves.

11. The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown

Bulldozer's family on Renae's paternal side, comes from an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River.  We've visited the island and vacationed there many times.  Bulldozer loves everything about our experiences there, including the boats.  We're thinking this book will be a happy reminder of our beloved island experiences.

12. Hill of Fire by Thomas P. Lewis

This is another book about a volcano, with a cultural spin to it.  It may not be Bulldozer's first choice, but we're hoping that because it's on his list, he may decide to try it.

13. Greg's Microscope by Millicent E. Selsam

Bulldozer has shown much interest in his big brother's microscope.  Just how does it work? What can you see?  This book will be a great way to answer some of his questions and enhance his desire to learn more.

14. The Bravest Dog Ever by Natalie Stanford

All book lists must include a book about a dog right?  If the dog doesn't hook Bulldozer, the snow storm should.  We look forward to Bulldozer's excitement as he learns more about the story of Balto.

15. The Big Balloon Race by Eleanor Coerr

Bulldozer has always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon. For that reason, we thought he would thoroughly enjoy this story.

We are so excited to watch him continue to read this year, with so many fabulous stories to enjoy!

If you're looking for more reading list ideas for your child, be sure to visit the posts below.
3rd Grade Reading List

Read Aloud List for Early Elementary Students

Read Aloud List for Early Elementary Students
Read More »

Shark Activities for Tots and Preschoolers with Free Printables

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My kiddos are going crazy for sharks these days.  Discovery Channel's Shark Week seems to do that to them.  What's been fun this year, is that the desire to learn more about sharks has lasted all Summer and into the Fall.  

Today, I'm sharing Sunshine's Shark Activities for Tots and Preschoolers with Free Printables.  She always wants to do what her siblings are doing.  Since their activities are too difficult, we decided to make more age appropriate ones for her.  She is loving them all!

Here's what's on her shelves!

Shark Themed Prewriting Sand Tray
Shark themed prewriting sand tray activity
Sunshine continues to work on prewriting activities, using a sand tray.  Right now we're using blue sand to resemble water.  The prewriting tasks resemble shark fins or waves in the ocean.

Source:  The free printable for this activity can be found at Walking By the Way.

Shark Themed Nomenclature Cards
Shark themed nomenclature cards
Nomenclature cards are great for children when trying to develop vocabulary and letter recognition.  Sunshine uses the control cards provided to help her match up picture and word cards.  She really enjoys these cards and is using new words in conversation on a regular basis.  Yay!

Source:  I create the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Printable Pack 3.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Shark First Letter Sounds 
Shark themed first letter sound cards
This activity is recommended after introducing the shark themed nomenclature cards.  Sunshine uses the control cards provided (if needed) to determine the first letter sound of each shark vocabulary word.  She places a glass bead on the correct answer.  

Note:  Not all cards in the printable are being used.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Printable Pack 3.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Counting Sharks
Counting Sharks Activity
Sunshine practices counting sharks using the cards provided.  She uses the glass beads provided to mark her answers.

Source: I created the printable for the activity as part of my Shark Unit Math Printable Pack 2. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Shark Themed Greater Than/Less Cards
Shark Themed Greater Than/Less Than Cards.
Sunshine is learning to identify greater than, less than, and equal signs.  We're having loads of fun explaining that sharks open their mouths to the bigger bite.  She uses glass beads to mark her answer on each card.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Math Printable Pack 2.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

I Spy Lots of Sharks!
Sunshine completes this activity, marking each shark as she counts them.  She then circles how many of each shark she finds.

Source:  This free printable is available at Simple Fun for Kids.

For those interested in free printables, please click on the links below.

For those interested in more shark activities and printables, be sure to visit the posts below.

Read More »

Montessori-Inspired Children's Books About Camping

The beauty of the great outdoors has been a source of  inspiration for writers and artists for generations. There is something about being in touch with nature that enlivens our creative energy. We have thoroughly enjoyed these children's books about camping.
Montessori-inspired children's books about camping
This post  contains affiliate links.

Here are our favorites!

My Camp-Out Book Review

My Camp-Out is a Level 1 reader for toddlers and preschoolers. It's almost like a social story, sequencing events, and even pointing out things that might be scary for a first-time camper.

Camping for Kids Book Review

Into the Great Outdoors Camping for Kids is a guide for the older child who is ready to go camping beyond the backyard. This book covers camping basics such as gear for different environments, what to do while at the campsite, and how to prepare for emergencies. We love how the book teaches readers to be responsible for themselves and the environment.

S is for S'mores Book Review

S is for S'mores: A Camping Alphabet takes the reader through a wide-ranging tour of the wonders and joys of the great outdoors. We are big fans of this series. The combination of poetic verse and historical background on each page is a winning formula. 

The Campfire Book Review

The Kids Campfire Book is a wonderful resource that is overflowing with good ideas, tips, fun activities, songs, games and more. The book takes the reader through every detail, from deciding on the right campsite all the way through the last ghost story told around the dying embers of the fire. This book will provide value for years and through dozens of camping adventures. 

When We Go Camping Book Review

When We Go Camping does a superb job of putting the sensory experiences of camping into words and pictures. Each page features a few lines of evocative sensory imagery, combined with whimsical yet life-like paintings. Be sure to watch for disguised animals faces in the backgrounds. 

Toasting Marshmallows Book Review

Toasting Marshmallows is a book of simple, fun rhymes accompanied by warm, impressionistic illustrations. Each poem focuses on a particular element of camping, everything from hiking in the woods to mosquitos buzzing in your ear.  This is an easygoing and fun read. 

Fun with Nature Take Along Guide

Fun with Nature: Take Along Guide is one of the most pleasant surprises on our shelf this week. We have enjoyed a few different volumes of the Take-Along Series, but little did we know that there was one book that combined seven of them into one binding. This book is perfect for the young naturalist who plans on exploring nature in search of wildlife.

Book of Nature Poetry

Book of Nature Poetry is a collection of poems inspired by nature, selected and edited by J. Patrick Lewis, the former Children's Poet Laureate of the United States. Some of the poems are beloved classics.  Others are less known but just as valuable and earn their place in this collection. This is a fantastic way to introduce poetry to children, especially nature lovers.
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Am I Going Crazy?


There have been many times, as a parent of special needs children, that I have wondered if I am going crazy.

Not crazy in a funny way, but in a psychiatric way.  The journey is so taxing.

In the beginning, before diagnosis day, going crazy was normal, and sometimes a welcome respite to day to day realities of life.  If there was something wrong with me, then perhaps that meant that there was nothing wrong with my children.  Perhaps so many others were right, and it was all in my head.

Parenting Children with Special Needs:  Am I Going Crazy?

However, I was that crazy parent who read every parenting book and magazine known to man, and followed every bit of advice to the letter.  Were all those experts going crazy while writing their various books and articles?  Was I going crazy because I read them, or was my child different?

The bottom line was I had "support" from doctors, specialists, therapists, extended family, friends, and every other parenting expert on the planet, but it didn't help.  I would still ask myself on a daily basis, "Am I going crazy?"

It wasn't until our first few appointments with our developmental pediatrician for each child, that I was assured I wasn't going crazy.  My children are not typical.   Among the four of them, we have diagnoses for autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety disorders, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mood disorders, and food allergies.

If even one of those diagnoses is enough to cause a parent to wonder if they're going crazy before that first appointment, you don't even know what crazy is yet.

The "typical" parenting books were taken to Salvation Army and replaced with books about parenting children with special needs.  Occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, behavioralists and other specialists were added to our phone list and schedule.  "Support" was everywhere.

So why was I in tears on a daily basis? I was trying to do everything, exactly the way I'd been told, feeling like I was failing 100% of the time.  I must be going crazy.  I should be able to do this.

Meanwhile I was gaining weight. I was neglecting my own medical needs and ended up with chronic lung issues.  It took me years to see a doctor and receive treatment for my own asthma and allergies, because I didn't have time, due to all of the supports that were in place for my children.

Truth be told, there is a hint of craziness in all parents of special needs children after diagnosis.  There's that miserable grieving process we all go through.  Our lives are turned upside down, as we now have answers.

Our bodies respond to the stress and anxiety in crazy ways.  We have to find ways to cope and function day to day.  The process of adjusting to the new normal is long and painful, usually taking about six months.

Once we find that new normal, we realize that even the last six months of craziness was normal, and that we are okay.  We've adjusted and are moving forward.

Except for those moments when we're caught off guard and forget, or those times when things become more difficult than they already are. There are days, weeks, and even months when we still wonder, "Am I going crazy?"  For these times, I've developed a checklist for myself.

And yes, please laugh at this, because it does sound silly.  But, it helps.  In those desperate times when I doubt my feelings and everything going on around me, it keeps me grounded.

Am I Going Crazy?

Parenting Children with Special Needs: Documentation

1.  Documentation
  • Can I document the day's events, my child's behaviors, and my responses honestly and accurately? 
  • Do I feel comfortable with our developmental pediatrician reading what I wrote?  
  • Am I able to see patterns in behavior that may give an explanation as to why I'm feeling the way I do?

If I hesitate while writing, or if I see a new pattern emerging, I know I need help.  I make a call to our developmental pediatrician to discuss what's going on.  She offers options we haven't tried in the form of therapeutic approaches and/or medication.  Then she reassures me once again that I'm not going crazy, it's just my kids.

Parenting Children with Special Needs:  Gratitude Journal

2.  Gratitude Journal
  • At the end of the day, can I write at least one positive thought about each of my children?  
  • Am I able to feel gratitude for circumstances in my life?

If I can't do this, I know I need extra support from my husband or someone else.  My support person needs to temporarily step in where I'm unable to function in ways that are needed.  I need a break.

When feelings don't change after a few days, I pursue more help and support for myself.  Sometimes this may come from friends.  Other times it comes from one of the children's therapists.  At one point it came from my own therapist.

Parenting Children with Special Needs:  Passion

3.  Passion

  • Do I still feel passionate about my interests and hobbies, even if I'm unable to pursue them, due to our family circumstances?

If I'm not feeling it, I know I need to talk to someone.  Most often I always go to my husband or best friend.  If there are still concerns, I know to speak to my doctor or a mental health therapist.

Parenting Children with Special Needs:  Partner Relationships

4.  Partner Relationships

  • How are my spouse's interactions with our special needs children affecting my feelings towards him?  
  • Am I struggling with my feelings towards him because of the interactions with our children, or have my feelings towards him changed all together?
  • Are discussions with my spouse about the children adding more stress to our relationship? 
  • Do we end conversations feeling understood or more confused and upset than before? 
  • Do we feel like we are on the same page?

If I find myself frustrated or angry with my partner or main support person, this is the best way to analyze the situation for hints of triangulation, or other special needs induced stress.  Usually the best medicine is a date night.  It often makes everything better.

Parenting Children with Special Needs:  Perspective

5.   Perspective

  • Are my feelings normal for my circumstances?  
  • When speaking to parents of special needs children with similar diagnoses, can I relate?  
  • Am I able to take perspective?  
  • Most importantly can I laugh and cry with them as we share stories about daily life?

I will always remember the day when I expressed my fear and angst about the police coming to our home, due to the behaviors of one of my children.  My dear friend, a seasoned RAD mother laughed and assured me that I would no longer be mortified after the sixth or seventh time, and then continued with a story about her son.

If I'm unable to take perspective and/or relate to other parents in similar situations, I know that I need help, not only for myself  but for my child as well.  Phone calls are made immediately.

As a rule of thumb, I make sure that I'm functioning on all five levels in order to answer my own question about if I'm going crazy.  So far so good, even though it doesn't feel that way sometimes.  It's all about being aware of myself.

You see, in the end, I'm the parent.  I'm the support.  I'm the expert.  If I'm going crazy, where does that leave my special needs children?

My number one job, is being my best for them.  It's distinguishing support that helps versus support that hinders.  So when I wonder if I am going crazy, I don't have time to mess around.  I use my checklist and get back to work!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.

This post is just one in the Parenting Children with Special Needs Series.  Click the links below to read others.
Am I Going Crazy? | Every Star is Different
| Life Over C’s
| This Outnumbered Mama
| Kori at Home
| Parenting Chaos
Supporting a Family with High Medical Needs  | Grace and Green Pastures
Read More »

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