phd mama

from diapers to deconstruction

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When Irish Eyes Are Reading










For our study of Ireland, we listened to a lot of toe-tapping tunes and fancied finding wee folk all over. As with all of our place-based units, there’s a mixture here of folklore and history. We made connections to our own family background and our region’s Irish influences, not to mention finding a new bread recipe we love. I got to share one of my favorite childhood movies with my girls and found a new and enchanting film for us all. Our exploration of The Emerald Isle was filled with wonder, but the real magic, as always, is in the journey-by-book.

  1. Brigid’s Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story by Bryce Milligan and Helen Cann
  2. Watch Darby O’Gill and the Little People
  3. Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco
  4. Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman and Kelly Murphy
  5. Great Irish Legends for Children by Yvonne Carroll and Robin Lawrie
  6. “Ireland” by CIA World Factbook
  7. Color the flags of Ireland and Northern Ireland by Crayola
  8. The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo and Loretta Krupinski
  9. Irish Fairy Tales edited by Philip Smith
  10. Bake Irish Soda Bread
  11. Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato: An Irish Folktale by Tomie dePaola
  12. Leprechaun in Late Winter by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  13. Leprechauns and Irish Folklore by Mary Pope Osborne, Natalie Pope Bryce, and Sal Murdocca
  14. The Leprechaun’s Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards and Henry Cole
  15. Leprechauns on the Loose: An Adventure in Ireland by Disney’s Small World Library
  16. The Long March: The Choctaw’s Gift to Irish Famine Relief by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
  17. O’Sullivan Stew by Hudson Talbott
  18. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola
  19. The Prince of Ireland and the Three Magic Stallions by Bryce Milligan and Preston McDaniels
  20. Listen to Putumayo Presents: Celtic Crossroads
  21. Listen to Putumayo Presents: Women of the World, Celtic
  22. S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet by Eve Bunting and Matt Faulkner
  23. Watch The Secret of Kells
  24. This is Ireland by Miroslav Sasek
  25. Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk: An Irish Tale by Gerald McDermott
  26. Viking Ships at Sunrise by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca

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The Beauty of the Body










For this unit study, we explored the human body and its many systems. We looked at lots of pictures of the amazing internal workings of our bodies and learned how each system does its job to keep us healthy and strong. Technically speaking, the books on this list fall under health and science, but it’s hard not to classify them as art as well given the beauty of the human body. We gained new appreciation for each word read, each heartbeat, each breath as we learned about our brains and our hearts and our lungs, and everything in between.

  1. Body Sense, Body Nonsense by Seymour Simon and Dennis Kendrick
  2. Bones: Our Skeletal System by Seymour Simon
  3. Boy, Were We Wrong about the Human Body! by Kathleen Kudlinski and Debbie Tilley
  4. The Brain: Our Nervous System by Seymour Simon
  5. A Drop of Blood by Paul Showers and Don Madden
  6. Ears are for Hearing by Paul Showers and Holly Keller
  7. The Everything Kids’ Human Body Book by Sheri Amsel
  8. Eyes and Ears by Seymour Simon
  9. Germs Make Me Sick! by Melvin Berger and Marylin Hafner
  10. The Heart: Our Circulatory System by Seymour Simon
  11. The Human Body by Seymour Simon
  12. Watch DK’s Human Machine
  13. Infographics: Human Body by Peter Grundy
  14. Inside Your Outside: All about the Human Body by Tish Rabe and Aristides Ruiz
  15. It’s Not the Stork: A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley *Note that this book is particularly graphic*
  16. Lungs: Your Respiratory System by Seymour Simon
  17. The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
  18. The Magic School Bus Presents: The Human Body by Tom Jackson and Carolyn Bracken
  19. Me and My Amazing Body by Joan Sweeney and Annette Cable
  20. Muscles: Our Muscular System by Seymour Simon
  21. My Amazing Body: A First Look at Health and Fitness by Pat Thomas
  22. My Body Is Private by Linda Walvoord Girand and Rodney Pate
  23. Watch Cat in the Hat Knows a lot about that: Oh, the Skin We Are In!
  24. Oh, the Things You Can Do that Are Good for You! All about Staying Healthy by Tish Rabe and Aristides Ruiz
  25. Professor I.Q. Explores the Brain by Seymour Simon and Dennis Kendrick
  26. See Inside Your Body by Katie Daynes and Colin King
  27. The Skeleton and Muscular System by Carol Ballard and Steve Parker
  28. The Skeleton Inside You by Philip Balestrino and True Kelley
  29. What Happens to a Hamburger by Paul Showers and Anne Rockwell
  30. Your Skin and Mine by Paul Showers and Kathleen Kuchera

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A List for the Lady with the Lamp










My girls first learned about Florence Nightingale from a Doc McStuffins episode (listed below), and were delighted to learn that she was a real person. While a lot of the materials below cover the same basic information, it was interesting for us to see each new perspective on an amazing woman’s story. We learned about her life as well as about conditions for nurses, women, doctors, patients, soldiers, and citizens of the nineteenth century. We came away with appreciation and understanding for her dedicated service and sense of vocation, and we’re glad to know that, to this day, the lady with the lamp still shines brightly.

  1. Watch The Animated Hero Classics: Florence Nightingale
  2. Watch The Best of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Volume 1
  3. Watch Doc McStuffins’ Let the Nightingale Sing
  4. Florence Nightingale by Carol Alexander
  5. Florence Nightingale by Demi
  6. Florence Nightingale by Lucy Lethbridge and Karen Donnelly
  7. Florence Nightingale by Shannon Zemlicka and Nicolas Debon
  8. Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelie Welden
  9. Heart and Soul: The Story of Florence Nightingale by Gena K. Gorrell
  10. High Time for Heroes by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  11. A Picture Book of Florence Nightingale by David A. Adler, John Wallner, and Alexandra Wallner

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Here Be Dragons

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Both of my children adore stories about mythical creatures; it’s part of their inheritance, right along with their dimples. Few such beasts are as impressive and breathtaking as dragons, and the list here showcases those creatures’ cunning as well as their sillier sides. These stories cross cultures to show different perspectives on dragons, who don’t always breathe fire and sometimes intertwine with saints’ tales. I will note that, despite my four-year-old’s love of dragons, I put few films on this list because of the intense images that so many of those movies contain. We stuck mostly to text, instead, where we relied on our imaginations, aided by timeless tales and exquisite illustrations, to bring these beasts to life.

  1. Day of the Dragon King by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  2. Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  3. The Dragons Are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis
  4. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri
  5. The Dragon Snatcher by M. P. Robertson
  6. The Egg by M. P. Robertson
  7. Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
  8. How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head by Bill Peet
  9. Watch How to Train Your Dragon
  10. Hush, Little Dragon by Boni Ashburn and Kelly Murphy
  11. Jin Jin the Dragon by Grace Chang and Chong Chang
  12. King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley and Helen Oxenbury
  13. The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola
  14. Me and My Dragon by David Biedrzycki
  15. Merlin and the Dragons by Jane Yolen and Li Ming
  16. No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) by Jean Pendziwol and Martine Gourbault
  17. Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el and Tim Bowers
  18. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko
  19. The Popcorn Dragon by Jane Thayer and Lisa McGue
  20. Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman
  21. The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash and Lynn Munsinger
  22. There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent
  23. Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen and Derek Anderson
  24. Where’s the Dragon? by Richard Hook and Jason Hook

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The Bees’ Reads








While a severe bee allergy in our family prevented us from visiting a hive, we wanted to learn more about these amazing pollinators. From the sources below, we learned about their jobs and habits, as well as how their roles change throughout their lives. We studied bees dancing and took more notice of these essential creatures as they fly across our yard and garden. With National Pollinator Week approaching, I’m grateful for the knowledge we’ve gained about bees, the important role they play in our ecosystem, and the chance to spread the word!

  1. Are You a Bee? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
  2. Bee Dance by Rick Churstowski
  3. Bee & Me by Elle J. McGuiness and Heather Brown
  4. Bees! By Elizabeth Winchester
  5. The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco
  6. Watch The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot about That: Things with Wings
  7. Watch Insect by DK Eyewitness
  8. Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber and Brian Velock
  9. The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons
  10. In the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori Mortensen and Cris Arbo
  11. The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci
  12. The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
  13. National Geographic’s Little Kids First Big Book of Bugs by Catherine D. Hughes
  14. Investigate Pollinator Partnership
  15. Investigate Pollinators from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  16. Show Me the Honey By Tish Rabe and Christopher Moroney
  17. These Bees Count! by Alison Formento and Sarah Snow
  18. What If There Were No Bees? A Book About the Grassland Ecosystem by Suzanne Slade and Carol Schwartz


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Plant Reads, No Green Thumb Required









By now the bunnies have eaten most of our kale; clearly, we do not have a rabbit-proof fence. But even the process of failing to garden teaches us a lot about gardening. In addition to reading and watching the items on this list, we’ve spent a lot of time in the dirt, befriending the worms and dropping in seeds with a hope and a prayer. It’s clear to my children that my father has a green thumb and I do not, yet we’re persevering with patience. We made terrariums to observe the water cycle and started some of our seedlings safely indoors. These resources helped us appreciate the process of gardening and understand the earth as the source of our food. And, hey, there’s still hope for the squash….

  1. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
  2. Watch DK Eyewitness Plant
  3. From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
  4. How a Seed Grows by Helene Jordan and Loretta Krupinski
  5. Jack and the Beanstalk by Paul Galdone
  6. The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A Book about How Living Things Grow by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
  7. Oh Say Can You Seed? All About Flowering Plants by Bonnie Worth and Aristides Ruiz
  8. The Plant Hunters by Anita Silvey
  9. Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
  10. A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
  11. Seed to Plant by Kristin Baird Rattini
  12. Watch Dinosaur Train’s Tiny’s Garden
  13. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
  14. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal

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A Sap for a Story










After years of trying to coordinate a trip to one of our local maple syrup houses, my family finally made it this year to an event for NY’s Maple Weekend. I expected an afternoon of tromping through snow and tapping trees, but our experience was much sleeker and more sophisticated than that (you can read about that visit here). We decided to extend our field trip with large bottles of maple syrup and lots of library books about the history and process of sugaring. This list reflects the old-fashioned methods I’d imagined as well as more modern processes, and, of course, some stories that are just about sticky fun. These books aren’t quite as delicious as syrup-soaked pancakes, but they’re all good reads.

  1. From Maple Tree to Syrup by Melanie Mitchell
  2. At Grandpa’s Sugar Bush by Margaret Carney and Janet Wilson
  3. If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond
  4. Maple Moon by Connie Brummel Crook
  5. The Maple Syrup Book by Marilyn Linton
  6. Maple Syrup Season by Ann Purmell
  7. From Maple Trees to Maple Syrup by Kristin Thoennes Keller
  8. The Missing Maple Syrup Sap Mystery: Or, How Maple Syrup Is Made by Gail Gibbons
  9. Sugar on Snow by Nan Parson Rossiter
  10. Sugar Snow by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Doris Ettlinger
  11. Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall and Jim Daly
  12. Sugaring by Jessie Haas
  13. The Sugaring-Off Party by Jonathan London and Gilles Pelletier
  14. Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky and Chrisopher Knight
  15. A Tree for All Seasons by Robin Bernard