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Frogs and Toads Review by Kendra Fletcher

Cindy West and Melissa Leach
Shining Dawn Books, LLC

Cindy West and Melissa Leach have written some really useful and well-crafted unit study E-Books on subjects such as animal signs, butterflies, clouds, fruits and nuts, deciduous trees, and many more. Both homeschooling moms with a love for nature and nature study, Cindy and Melissa know what is helpful to the homeschooling mom as well as what is captivating for the student.

In Frogs and Toads, the differences between frogs and toads, frog and toad life cycles, and amphibians are presented with plenty of basic information and photographs. If you can't find live specimens where you live, you'll find plenty of illustrations in Frogs and Toads that will help your student observe and understand the differences between the two.

The activities suggested are worthwhile:

"Upon finding a frog or toad, choose to make one or more of the following observations and add the information to your nature journal.

  • Measure its length, height and width.
  • Decide whether it's a frog or toad based on its characteristics.
  • Use a field guide to identify it.
  • Can you tell whether the frog or toad is male or female? Typically you can tell by the size of their eardrums. If the eardrums are smaller than the eye, it is a female. If the eardrums are larger than the eye, it is a male.
  • Measure the height and length of its hop.
  • Determine how far it moves in one minute's time.
  • Observe where it goes.
  • Observe how it hops or walks.
  • Draw the lumps, bumps and/or patterns on the frog or toad's back.
  • Touch its back; describe how it feels.
  • Observe the difference between quietly observing the frog or toad and making a lot of noise or movement around it.

Be sure to not keep a frog out of the water for too long. Frogs need constant re- hydration. Toads, on the other hand, can endure much longer times out of water. If you would like to observe a frog for a longer time, it would be helpful to keep a pail of water (from the body of water you found it in) nearby to re-hydrate the frog when its skin is feeling dry."

And resources! Frogs and Toads is packed with resources; you won't have to pull this study together, because Cindy and Melissa have done it so well for you. Some of what you'll find: inspirational literature, ideas for nature walks and other outside activities, follow-up hands-on activity ideas, writing and research ideas (yes! writing assignments already crafted!), references for Bible study, artist and composer study, and poetry tie-ins, kid-friendly Internet links and book lists for further study, and beautiful notebooking pages. Life cycle mobiles! Dioramas! "Lily Pad" Ice Cream Floats! See? Frogs and Toads is just packed.

If you're a mom with multiple ages in your homeschool, Cindy and Melissa give you ideas for adapting the material for younger and older children. While written with the elementary child in mind, Frogs and Toads is very adaptable for younger and older students. Frogs and Toads would make a great co-op unit study too.

Included is a section for the teacher that presents just a few thoughts to get you interested and excited about teaching and studying the topic. There's a "Literature Launch," which includes one or more children's books recommendations--all are great pieces of living literature or really super non-fiction selections. "A Bit of Background" gives the teacher some background knowledge about the topic before heading outdoors or starting the indoor studies. About this section the authors write: "This section would certainly be okay to share with children, but the intention is to empower the teacher with basic knowledge about the subject so all those spur-of-the-moment questions can be answered with authority during a nature walk. The authors say this section will not be exhaustive by any means, and many of the research activity suggestions will require other books or Internet resources to find in-depth information. You will also find information such as the best places to go and safety precautions regarding the particular topic."

Nature walks, hands-on activities, writing and research ideas, poetry, artist and picture study references, composer and music references, related Internet--are you beginning to see what a fantastic resource Frogs and Toads is?

I have to be honest and say that I have purchased homeschool parent-produced E-Books in the past that haven't lived up to my expectations. Frogs and Toads not only wowed me by both its scope and depth of information, but it also caused me want to pack up my large brood and get outside to see what we could find. I also found my way to the Shining Dawn Books website ( quickly to see what else we could study.

Product review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2010