A Two-Fer: Children’s Book Review PLUS 5 Ways to “Green” Your Homeschool

These are my own "Little People" from the '70s. They got a "second life" with Tater.

This month the lovely folks over at Little Pickle Press are celebrating “locavorism” in connection with their lovely, thoughtful, and award-winning children’s book, What Does It Mean to Be Green? by Rana DiOrio with illustrations by Chris Blair. I’ve been invited to review the book and participate in this discussion, hence this post. (Be sure to see the italics at the end for a nifty “limited time only” deal from LPP.)

First up, my review of What Does It Mean to Be Green? Here’s the cover:

As we’ve come here to expect from this author/publisher (DiOrio is both), the text is straight-forward and the illustrations are adorable. What I most appreciated about this book as a parent is how readily it lends itself to discussion. It is oh-so important to engage children in this particular topic in lasting ways. Because in a world full of “green-washing” and other pseudo-environmentalism, it’s essential that children learn what is truly eco-savvy.

What Does It  Mean to Be Green? is a means to that end. But it won’t work if the dialogue sparked by the book ends when the back cover is closed.

Now, whether you homeschool or “afterschool” your kids, you know that the experience presents learning opportunities for everyone involved. One of those is the chance to be a little more eco-savvy in your learning environment.

Some suggestions:

1. Use your local resources wisely and regularly. Libraries, cultural institutions like museums (not just the kiddie kind), parks, nature preserves, and other wholesome “field-trip” venues need your support to thrive. We tend to think of our relationship to these community assets solely as destinations. Yet because they employ thoughtful, creative people–who live/work/play nearby, supporting and utilizing these places and spaces helps keep your own local economy robust (and perhaps a little less reliant on manufactured goods).

2. Turn eco-wise household activities into science projects.
Grow a vegetable garden and look into victory garden history. Learn how to compost and teach your kids the importance of nurturing our soil, which in turn helps to fuel our food supply. Invest in a rainwater catchment system and pair the installation with a unit study on water cycles. Buy some red wigglers (“composting worms”) and get the “scoop on poop” in the soil.

3. Be thrifty. Sure, it’s smart to be penny-wise for budgetary reasons and hit the thrift store. But it’s also good for the environment if you choose to cut down on what you purchase–and thereby keep it out of landfills. Goodwill, The Salvation Army, church bazaars, used bookstores, garage sales, your parents’ garage (my mom’s was home to my Little People up top)–these places have got the goods. In fact, a few weeks back I found a fabulous booth at a local flea market selling elementary-age science books and supplies. We scored some nice plastic beakers that we’ll use for years to come!

4. Regard the recycling box as your art supply stash. Although I personally am not a fan of using toilet paper rolls for anything other than their intended purpose (because ICK!), spent paper towel rolls and old boxes are great fodder for tiny Picassos. Exhibit A, from a couple of years ago:

We call it the "EE" period.

5. Look to the apps! Well, not just the apps, but certain Internet websites, too. They take up less space in your house–and use up no trees. For Kindergarten and first grade, we’re partial to PBS Kids (both the website and the apps) and Starfall. We also like the Epic Win app for “adventures in chores.”

What about you? How do you keep your home learning environment “green?”

Here’s the scoop on the cool offer from Little Pickle Press: “For the entire month of March, download What Does It Mean To Be Green? iBook and Nook Book for free! Downloads are usually $4.99 so don’t miss out. All our other award-winning titles will also be available at discounted promotional price.” You can read more details in their March 2012 newsletter, including how to access free lesson plans for the book.


Disclosure: I was provided an electronic review .pdf copy of What Does It Mean to Be Green? No compensation was made to me by LPP for this post.


  1. What a wonderful post, Pamela! Your ideas are common sense, and easy to implement, two important issues for busy families. Seeing the little people Gordon brought back a ton of memories- I had them as a child as well, and my eldest son had them when he was little. Alas, I had to give them up when we moved to Yemen.
    I love “What Does it Mean to be Green” for the same reasons you do. And, more importantly, my children love it!

  2. Wonderful post. We will certainly have to add this book to our collection. What I find most powerful, is when the kids see the messages that I teach them, in other places.
    Thanks so much for the info!

  3. Feature rich post! Enaging children in conversation around all your ideas is perfect. Involving them during the process of implementing your ideas is key. Thank you for posting. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

  4. Thank you for the review of “What It Means To Be Green” by Rana DiOrio. DiOrio’s book is the perfect platform for engaging children in dialogue about being conscientious recyclers. It is one of my favorites! And I always have her book on hand in my gift closet.

  5. Pamela, your review of “What Does it Mean to be Green” has great suggestions to add to our eco-savvy status in our learning and living environments! Especially liked how you expanded ideas about recycling, reusing and reducing across different subject matter. Thank you for a post that is pertinent to both children and adults.

  6. Thank you for this great review of “What Does It Mean To Be Green?” and your tips on how to be eco-savvy!

  7. Thank you for your great review of “What Does It Mean To Be Green?” It is so sweet to see everyone’s comments and to hear that the children are loving it!
    I can remember being in first grade and doing projects with recycled milk cartons and white glue and dry beans and toilet paper rolls… it still amazes me what fun can be had with a box of scraps and a glue stick!
    I couldn’t agree more with Pamela that the book itself is only half the fun. Rana has written this book brilliantly by encouraging us in the end to close the book and talk with our kids about ecology and how we can live with more awareness. I know it sounds cliche, but children are our future. Kids are the best advocates for a cleaner, leaner, greener way of living. Thanks for your great support ! ~ Chris

  8. Thanks to you all for the visits and notes today–from long-time and new readers! I thought I was sort of nutters for smashing up, essentially, two posts into one. It did sort of work out okay, I think.

    Extra special thanks to Chris and Rana for their comments. =)

  9. Thanks for the great review and the helpful suggestions on how to implement the principles introduced in the book at home. We appreciate you, Pamela! Gratefully, Rana

  10. You have yourself pointed out a crucial notion: there truly is a lot of misleading pseudo-environmentalism out there today, making it practically the ‘hip’ thing to do as if it were a fad. It is important to be able to tell the two apart and encouraging and enabling your children to do the same is at least equally important, if not doubly important. Thanks for your thoughts, opinions, and insight!

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