“Fox Talk” Review & Giveaway

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Over the years, I feel foxes have acquired a negative reputation for being cunning, sneaky, and tricky, but all that is about to change with the new book “Fox Talk.”  If you are looking for a nonfiction book that will enlighten both you and your children, don’t rely on fables…check out L.E. Carmichael’s new book!

When you talk to a dog, does the dog talk back? Many people think so. But for a long time, scientists didn’t know how our furry friends learned to communicate with people. Luckily, Russian scientist Dmitri Belyaev had a plan. If he could tame wild red foxes, he could learn how dogs first came from wolves. By studying the way these foxes changed during domestication, the mystery of communication would be solved at a last. More than 50 years after the experiment began, Belyaev’s foxes have become so tame, you can have one as a pet! Packed with eye-popping photos and first-hand research, FOX TALK reveals the story of these amazing animals… and everything they’ve taught us about wolves, dogs, and communication.

Our Thoughts

After reading “Fox Talk,” both of my girls (4 and 7) desperately want a pet fox because they are “so adorable!”  Incredibly, they aren’t simply adorable to see, but my girls now understand that domesticated foxes are amazing communicators with humans, making them seem far more “adorable” to my girls than looks alone.

The book goes way beyond simply demonstrating the difference between domesticated and wild animals.  Throughout the text readers are taken on a journey from our current canine pets (dogs), as far back as 12,000 years ago when foxes appear to have been a special friend of humans.  Readers will discover how researchers have studied foxes to learn more about our current pets, while discovering new information and participating in simple experiments to learn about behaviors.  Pictures, charts, and graphs help engage younger readers as they listen to how scientific discoveries have been made.

My girls were particularly impressed with all the different sounds foxes make, from coughing to mooing and from whining to panting, depending on the fox’s feelings.  As a teacher, I believe the book provided great exposure to how researchers test their theories and form conclusions, making this book a perfect tie-in to learning about the Scientific Method.

We all know the saying that dogs are “man’s best friend,” but throughout the book, we learn that foxes play a special part in this relationship.   Between the interesting facts, research studies, at-home experiments, and engaging photography, learning about foxes was enjoyable and effortless.   My girls and I highly recommend “Fox Talk” to others interested in learning about these incredible furry creatures.Fox Talk Blog Tour Button

Title: Fox Talk

Author: L.E. Carmichael, PhD

Book Designer: Michael Penman

Illustrator: Jody Bronson

Photography: Brian Dust

Publication Date: August 8, 2013

Publisher: Ashby-BP Publishing

Pages: 62

Recommended Age: 8+

About The Author: L.E. Carmichael

L.E. Carmichael Author Lindsey Carmichael never outgrew that stage of childhood when nothing’s more fun than amazing your friends (and correcting your teachers!) with your stockpile of weird and wonderful facts. Her sense of wonder came in handy during her career as a scientist, and in 2006, she received the Governor General’s Medal for her PhD thesis, Ecological Genetics of Northern Wolves and Arctic Foxes. Lindsey finds talking about science more fun than doing it, however, and now writes for kids, teens, and occasionally adults (a sense of wonder is essential for this, too). Lindsey publishes under the name L. E. Carmichael, and her work has appeared in Dig, Highlights for Children, Kiki, and Canadian Tales of the Fantastic. Her published science books cover everything from animal migration to hybrid cars. When not digging up obscure or wacky details for her next nonfiction project, Lindsey’s probably working on her young adult fantasy novel.

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* Blog Tour Giveaway *

Prize: One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card (or PayPal cash) + a Skype visit to a school or library of the winner’s choice ($250 value).

Contest runs: January 27th to February 21, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Worldwide

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. The winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the publisher, Ashby-BP Publishing and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

*Click here to enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!*

 Would you prefer to purchase this book? Find it available in hardcover, paperback, or digital editions:

Fox Talk by L.E. Carmichael

 Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Chapter/Indigo (Canada)

To find out what other people are saying about the book, visit the Fox Talk Blog Tour schedule by clicking the image below:

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Disclosure: I received a copy of the book above to aid in the writing of an honest review.  A positive review was not required and all opinions are mine alone.

Contributing to “The ABC’s of Homeschooling” with N is for Nature

Have you been following the series The ABC’s of Homeschooling on My Joy Filled Life?  Each week there is a different letter of focus related to homeschooling from A to Z.  This week’s letter is N and you will find my guest post on ways to integrate nature into your homeschooling subject areas.  I hope you’ll click on the picture below to visit my post and check out all the other alphabet postings!

Birding in Your Own Backyard

It’s amazing what you can find in your own backyard.  We’ve seen everything from quails to vultures…and you too can easily entertain your own little ornithologists!

backyard birding

From the comfort of your own home, you can explore birds with your children.  You will be surprised how many birds visit your yard, once you are aware of these masters of flight!

  1. First, find an observation area in your house or yard where you can quietly watch the yard.  Your can easily use a back slider, large window, or a quiet place on the back patio.  You want it to be somewhere comfortable with easy access.
  2. Invite the birds into your yard.  Place some birdseed in the yard, or even some bread crumbs.  It might take a few days, but your gift is sure to be discovered.
  3. If you feed them, they will come.  Check on the birdseed to determine if birds seem to come in the morning or afternoon.  We tend to have the most visitors as we are eating breakfast each morning.
  4. Offer a space for your children to record what they see through drawings.  We use nature notebooks, but Buggy and Buddy offers a great Birding with Kids printable record book.
  5. Research more about your visitors.  Check out books from the library, use field guides, or apps such as Audubon Guides or iBird.  We love having the the app because not only can you identify birds by the way they appear, but you can also listen to bird calls.  We’ve been able to identify quite a few birds through this feature!
  6. Experiment with your birds!  My daughter created a science experiment to test seed preference of our birds.  Your birds might enjoy a variety of other foods!

Above all, have fun.  Birding in your own backyard is an on-going and *free* activity!  It always seems to stir up excitement in my kids and I bet yours will enjoy taking notice of your backyard visitors too.

What kinds of birds has your family noticed in your backyard?

It’s Time to Camp Out!

Tonight is the night – It’s the 2013 Great American Backyard Campout!  Join us, and thousands of other families across the nation, instill a love of the outdoors by camping out!  Whether you are staying at a campground or setting the tent up in your own backyard, I hope you’ll join the celebration!


Don’t forget the games and activities!  We’ll be playing a little baseball, tons of card games, and of course, roasting s’mores in our backyard fire pit.

If you have little ones, check out the free camping memory game I posted last year.  Not only would it be fun for preschoolers, but if you decided to have a camping theme for the year, you can always use them for workbox tags.

Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy getting the kids out into the great outdoors!

Wait – Doesn’t Everyone Have Pet Worms?

I have pet worms and I have had them since last fall.  I’d like to call them our worms, but my girls call them “Mommy’s worms.”

 worms 007

I feed them coffee grounds and filters as well as a random assortment of leftovers from the kitchen, but I’ve learned – no banana peels (please learn from my mistake – avoid fruit flies!).  Their house is a bin I made last summer and they are so {ahem} “loved” that they’ve survived a move, moving truck and all.  Really, I couldn’t see all my hard work go down the drain before I was able to use them in my garden!  My husband was not pleased, but he loves me anyways.


Last month some of them were planted in our garden and I’ve been diluting their worm juice (worm tea anyone?) with water to use in our garden.

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Please tell me I’m  not the only one with pet worms!

Check out the extensive kindergarten unit on worms I put together with Darci from STEMmom and Erin from The Usual Mayhem.  Click the button below for a wealth of teaching resources!


Stay tuned because the three of us are back at it!  On the 14th, we will be bringing you a K-1 unit on Germs and Microbes….I can’t wait!!

Germs and Microbes Button

Geology Enrichment K-2: Rock Collecting (Lesson 3 of 4)

Rocks Change!  That was the mantra of our last rock collecting lesson.

Geology K2 pol

We began with one of my favorite stories, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig.  In this story, Sylvester finds a pebble that answers his every wish…even to turn into a rock, when danger approaches. 

Even though animals don’t turn into rocks, it was a great springboard into learning how rocks really do change by force of wind, water, and pressure.

To demonstrate pressure, we used sugar cubes and shook them up in a milk carton at different timed intervals.  The “rocks” changed from having flat surfaces to smooth, round surfaces.

plate tectonics 023

We then saturated chalk (made from limestone) in water and learned that rocks can break apart.  Our chalk “rock” we were able to use as a paint.



This led to a discussion of river rocks.  River rocks are nice and smooth because they’ve been carried down rivers, bumping into one another, and they’ve been shaped by the flow of water.  If you don’t have river rocks available near you, the Dollar Store has a variety to choose from in the craft area.

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We then changed our river rocks into Pet Rocks…or Rock People using googley eyes, foam shapes, and a glue gun.  If I had known how much imaginative play would come from this project, I would have brought more supplies! 


We followed that by showing how rocks can change over hundreds of thousands of years of pressure….as animals and plants decompose.  After our discussions, we created our own “fossil.”  The kids creatively pressed shells and plastic animals into their air-drying dough.


Next week we’ll be doing a review of the concepts we’ve learned and I’ll include a Google Doc of resources.  I hope you’ve been able to get some ideas for teaching your own Rock Collecting unit!

Geology Enrichment Middle School: Plate Tectonics (Lesson 2 of 4)

Geology Middle

Did you check out last week’s middle school enrichment post on introducing students to the layers of the Earth and the different types of plates?  This week, we’re taking it a step further to investigate the different geology created from plate movement.

We began the lesson by reviewing the different types of plates. I used the collection of plate movement drawings in the “Plate Tectonics Guidebook” with the kids so they could have their own comic book for reference.  This also served as a recap of what we had learned last week when we made the plate models with the graham crackers (so much fun!).

Then, we focused a bit on how plates push together to form mountains, similar to the ones we can see from our city.  Because many kids haven’t been exposed to topographical maps, each child was given a jar of play dough and encouraged to make their own mountain, using the “Play Dough Mountain” activity.  Using dental floss, they traced layers, piece by piece until they had created a topographical map for their mountain.  We found elevation to be a whole new way of looking at the world!

play dough mountain 043

To extend the challenge each student passed their map to another kid in the class to be recreated, with only the map as a guide!  At first this was difficult, but then the kids problem-solved and were able to put the mountains together.

We talked about how plate movement can create volcanoes, both on land and in the ocean.  Many islands in the ocean waters are actually volcanoes that are peeking above water level!  Each pair of students was given a gelatin mountain that I had prepared the previous night (according to this website) and placed it in either a  Styrofoam take out container, or a paper plate containing holes in the bottom.


Above a roasting pan, partners took turns injecting the gelatin volcano with dyed water, meant to represent magma beneath the volcano.  This allowed everyone to see the fissures beneath the surface.  Volcanoes don’t always explode from the top, there is a lot of activity going on beneath the surface!


Cutting cross-sections provided the opportunity to examine the fissures underneath the surface and helped us realize that not all fissures led to the surface.

We also did a second volcano representation, showing the pressure that builds up under the surface of a volcano: we shook a soda can and watched it spurt and foam!  Using this activity was a great example because it did not involve a chemical reaction, as many volcano simulations do.

Volcanoes tied into a short study of Igneous rocks.  We took a look at some different rocks that came from magma: basalt, granite, obsidian, and pumice. 

We compared the types of rocks to melted candle wax, based on how fast they had cooled and did a sink/float test with the obsidian and pumice.   It was really interesting how the pumice looked like it was going to sink and then floated right back up to the top of the water.

Come back Wednesday when we’ll be simulating earthquakes!  And, if you have children at the early or upper elementary levels, click the button below to view related posts.

Geology Unit Graphic 2

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Geology Enrichment K-2: Rock Collecting (Lesson 2 of 4)

Geology K2 pol

My kids were so exited to show me all the “just right” rocks they had found after last week’s lesson!  This week we delved more into depth into the different types of rocks the kids may have found.

We began by reading the book Let’s Go Rock Collecting.  This book is a great introduction to what rocks are and where they might be found.  Illustrations help children “see” what the different rocks look like, if they don’t have rocks immediately on hand.


Second, we used homemade play dough to create examples of each rock type.  I provided pre-labeled stickers for kids to place under their rock samples.


I used a simple play dough recipe and tinted three quarters of it.

First, the Igneous rock.  This rock comes from deep inside the earth and is the rock that comes out of volcanoes.   The first type of igneous rock we made was Pumice and we simply balled up dough and poked holes in it with a toothpick to represent the air pockets that were created when it spewed from the volcano.  The other type we made was granite by rolling a ball of dough mixed together with Rice Krispy “crystals” to represent Granite, a type of igneous rock we find often in our area.


Second we created Sedimentary rock.  We decided to make Sandstone and made three flat layered “pancakes” on top of each other to represent dust, silt, and stone layering up over time.  We then used a small round cup like a cookie cutter to get a circle shape and cut the circle in half to view the layers.


Third, we made Metamorphic rock, a rock that changes over time from heat and pressure.  I used this exercise as a starting point.  To our beginning play dough balls, we added noodles and Rice Krispy’s to the inside to represent crystals.  We then applied various forms of heat and pressure to see what happened to the “rock” over time.003 My poor kids were devastated (at first) that their noodle crystals broke, but once they broke, were very interested in adding even more heat and pressure.

To summarize the three types of rocks, I created the Three Types of Rock Song with the tune from London Bridges.  I fell in love with the rock clip art from Melonheadz Illustrating and was so excited to be able to use the collection for this unit!  Feel free to click the images to download a copy to use with your own kids.

Rock song 1rock song 2


After learning the types of rocks, we played an observation game called “Which Rock is Missing?”  The kids helped me fill an old Dollar Store cookie sheet (our science tray) with interesting rocks.  We all observed the rocks and then when one person turned their back, we took a rock away from the tray.  The person turned back around and tried to guess which rock was gone.  We had many giggles during this game as everyone took a few turns guessing.

plate tectonics 015

We summed up the day by reading the book Rocks! Rocks! Rocks!  The book follows a bear cub and his mama on a hike near a nature center.  At each stop along their way, they learn a new fact about rocks.  The best part (aside from the obvious educational connection) was that the book contains rock-related humor.  The kids were able to go home with a joke to tell their parents… “How did the rock get to the moon?”  Well, I can’t really give away the punch-line, can I ?

Overall, it was a fun way to spend some rock-related time together.  Stay tune for next Monday’s post where we’ll be focusing on what happens to rocks as they meet the forces of nature!

Or, if you have children of various ages, check out my initial post on our Geology unit, where you’ll find lesson ideas for kids in upper elementary and middle school as well.

Geology Unit Graphic 2

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 STEM Mom Linky

Geology Enrichment K-2: Rock Collecting (Lesson 1 of 4)

Do you have young kids excited about rocks? Why not try some simple activities with young children to help them learn about geology the same time?  This lesson involve a lot of discussion and hands-on games and activities.  The focus of this lesson is purely to have fun with rocks, and will be followed by three other lessons that build on this general introduction to rocks.

Geology K2 pol

Day 1 of 4: General Introduction to Rocks

Supplies to Gather:

  • Rocks to Sort – you can get bags of polished river rocks from the dollar store. I think I had about 7 bags for 7 kids. It’s also great to have a variety of rocks (igneous, sedimentary & metamorphic mixed in)
  • Geologist Tools placed hidden in a backpack: hardhat, safety goggles ($1 at the Dollar Store), pick-hammer, bandana, rock field guide, topographical map, large rock (or even better, a core sample from a rock if available so you can discuss various drills the geologists may use!)
  • Guessing Jars (I used canning jars and filled each: one with colored water, one with nothing but air, one with beans)
  • Hand-lenses/Magnifying Glasses
  • A penny
  • A small nail
  • Three solid, heavy weighted cups that cannot be seen-through
  • Rock samples of iron ore, igneous rock (granite, basalt), sedimentary rocks (sandstone, limestone, chert), metamorphic rocks (marble, quartzite)
  • Books: Dave’s Down-to-Earth Rock Shop & Everybody Needs a Rock
  • Examples of how to make hand-made Rock Collections (put these together beforehand just to show that kids can collect in an egg carton, fishing tackle box, treasure box, labeled jars, etc.)

Lesson Outline:

  1. Warm Up Activity: Provide children with a bunch of rocks in front of them on the floor.  Challenge them to stack them, make shapes, and/or letters out of the rocks.  Can they sort them by color, by size, or by shape?
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  2. What is a Geologist?  Dress your children up as a geologist.  You can choose to dress one child up, or give each child an item to hold or put on.  During dressing, discuss each tool you had your child to put on.  Why does a geologist need a hardhat, safety goggles, a bandana, a pick-hammer, rock field guide, topographical map, large rock/core sample?
  3. States of Matter Guessing Jars: Remind children that everything on Earth can be classified as either a solid, liquid, or gas.  Present the guessing jars and have kids guess what is inside each jar and which state of matter it represents.  During this activity, have students brainstorm other items that would fit into the categories (ie. orange juice would be a liquid, helium in balloons would include a gas, and hopefully they make the connection that rocks are a solid!)
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  4. Describe a Rock: Give each child a rock to hold.  Remind children that an adjective describes an object.  Have the kids describe their rocks using their senses: sight, smell, touch (even weight!)  Then, provide them with a hand-lens to observe their rock even closer.  Are there any other adjectives they can use to describe their rock? Next, have children scratch the rock with their fingernail, a penny, and/or a nail.  Are there any other adjectives they can think of to describe their rock?
  5. Hidden Rock: Demonstrate the fun guessing game where you hide one rock beneath one of three cups.  Mix the cups around and have students guess which cup the rock is hiding beneath.  Let each child have a chance at “hiding” their rock and mixing up the cups for the other kids to guess.
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  6. Where do we find rocks?  Go outside and explore the area looking for rocks.  Sit outside and brainstorm where else rocks might be found (beach, hikes, camping, backyard, landscaping, etc.)  Show the children a piece of iron ore and discuss how the earth is made of rocks with iron ore in the core and igneous rocks in the middle of the earth (such as granite and basalt, if you have examples to show).    Then explain that geologist classify rocks into 3 groups: igneous (coming from the earth), sedimentary (rocks made of dusty layers of sediments over time), metamorphic (rocks that change over time with heat and pressure). Share with children a few examples of each type.
  7. Read Dave’s Down-to-Earth Rock Shop and relate the book to how the kids sorted the rocks earlier, the feel of their rocks, and the three classifications of rocks.
  8. Rock, Rock, Who’s Got the Rock? Guessing Game: Select one person to be “It.”  This person stands with his or her back to the circle of children.  Children sit in a circle with left hands placed on top of their left  neighbor’s right hand, palms up.  Practice secretly moving their right hand into their neighbor’s right, as if ‘sneaking’ a rock into the hand of their left neighbor.  As everyone does this at the same time, they chant, “Rock, rock, whose got the rock?” over and over.  One rock is put in motion secretly being passed around the circle, while everyone who does not have the rock is “pretending” to move the rock from their right palm to their neighbor’s palm.  When ready, the “It” person returns to the circle and has 3 chance to guess who has the rock.  Give each child a chance to be the “It” person.
  9. Brainstorm how children can begin to create a rock collection using empty egg cartons, fishing tackle boxes, labeled jars, a treasure box, etc.  Have kids share how they collect their rocks at home or what they might try this coming week.
  10. Closing: Read Everybody Needs a Rock and see if the children have any other rules to add to the book.  Challenge the children to find a perfect rock to bring in to the next class.  Remind them, it has to look good in the bathtub!

I hope this has given you an easy to follow format for teaching your kids about the basics of rocks.  Check in with me next week Monday for the second Rock Collecting K-2 lesson, where we will be making model rocks out of play dough.

If you have kids at other ages, feel free to check out my original rocks post to see which lessons will be best for your own kids!  Feel free to click the image below to be redirected to my introductory post!

Geology Unit Graphic 2

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