Friday, December 30, 2011

Memory Tray Game

My daughter absolutely loved this activity. And the best part is, you can do it at any time, with next to nothing prep and zero expense! Find 10 random, unrelated items and arrange on a tray. Have your child look at the objects for 5 minutes, then have them close their eyes. Remove one object, have them open their eyes and ask them what is missing. Repeat as desired. Then, remove the entire tray and have your child draw the tray and the objects from memory. Play again with 10 more objects, even keeping a couple of the same items and changing the rest. It's not as simple as it looks to remember. :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Paper Pants, Shirts and Socks: A mix, match, pair, sort and color game

Grab several colors of construction paper and cut out multiple shapes of shirts, pants and socks. Have your preschool and/or kindergartner mix, match and pair them. This is great for color practice and for following simple instructions in Twister style: "Yellow shirt, blue pants, black socks." "Blue shirt, yellow pants, purple socks." "All black." etc. Your kids can play it together and challenge, one makes up the arrangement and the other dresses it and vice versa. Store them in a ziplock bag for easy re-use.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A week's worth of Homeschool Lunches

Here are some simple at-home lunch combos to throw together besides mac and cheese or chicken nuggets (not that hot dogs are all that creative or different, but you can pair them with something other than fries or chips!) :) Nothing out of the ordinary here, but homeschool lunches do save on the pocket book AND allow for more nutrition and leftover options. We didn't have a lot of fruit for lunch last week, but that's because we got all our fresh fruit in heavy with breakfast and snacks. I find we take up much less time in our school day when mom already has lunch planned or made! For more simple lunch ideas at home, click the lunch tab below.

Venison Tacos & Cheesy Rice

Turkey Burgers, Homemade pickles and cheese perogies

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie leftovers

Tuna Fish sandwiches with cottage cheese & pretzels

Hot Dogs & Ants on a log

Saturday, December 10, 2011

No-Bake Granola Bars

This is super simple to make, plus my kids and my husband LOVE it.

1 cup honey
1 cup peanut butter
2-1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup shredded chocolate (or choc. chips)

Melt honey and pb in saucepan. Remove from heat. Add oats, nuts, coconut & chocolate, mix well to coat. Spread evenly in an 8 x 8 square pan. Cool. Cut into squares or bars. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Michigan to Indiana: Learning through Travel

The kids took their first trip out of state back in October, and it inspired our geography lessons prior and throughout the journey. We studied the region on a map and made a Travel Journal where we pasted coloring pages from Michigan and Indiana, and learned the state flags, state birds and state flowers. We also compared similarities and differences both culturally and geographically (both speak same language and in Midwest region of the same country, both touch Ohio and Lake Michigan, etc.)

We even used it as an opportunity to get ourselves our very own Homeschool Mascot!! Midge, our Homeschool Hedgehog, is a welcome new addition to the family and we took various travel photos of her along the way. She'll be a great companion as we continue to travel on our road of home education.

We made a point of stopping at both of the state's visitor centers for pictures and time to stretch our legs and picnic. It was a wonderful trip. Granted, it was "only" to Indiana, but for the ages of our kids it was a big trip and the first of many as time goes on. I'm excited that our kids are getting to a point that we can venture further and further, as we plan to travel more as they get older, just as my mother and her parents did across the country with us growing up. The world is our classroom!

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." -St. Augustine

Friday, December 2, 2011

For The Wizard of Oz, There's no place like home(school)

The Wizard of Oz has always been a childhood favorite of mine. My mom and I watched it every year. I cannot listen to Judy Garland's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" without feeling the rush of nostalgia that seems to carry me like a wave right back to the vulnerable, cherished time of being a little girl. Seeing as how OZ is any unattainable place, as an adult it may just as well be the innocent center of childhood you're wishing to be sent away to, beyond the rainbow.
While I surely cannot return to my childhood, I have been blessed to re-experience and share in it through the wondrous eyes of my children.
Our most recent literature read-aloud for our homeschooling was L. Frank Baum's classic Wizard of Oz, which was already a favorite movie for my kids. We were blessed to be given the Sonlight curriculum's accompanying study guide from a friend, and also blessed to receive a gorgeous Dorothy dress from another friend earlier in the year which my daughter wore for Halloween. The blessings kept trickling in, we found a local opportunity to enjoy the Wizard of Oz musical at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre.

It was an amazing show, my daughter and I went together, she dressed in full costume. What a magical experience, the performance and special effects (stage flight, smoke, fire, etc.) were very impressive and watching it with my daughter was priceless. Her eyes danced and her face filled with joy throughout. Everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed her attire during intermission and after the show we even got to meet Dorothy, who graciously gushed with excitement to my daughter for looking just like her.

On the way home, my daughter initiated the conversation in which we compared and contrasted the similarities and differences between all three: the book, the movie and the musical.

Along with assorted wizard of oz coloring pages and a homemade lapbook, here are a few more related activities we've done which were not mentioned in the study guide but were fun ways to expand our studies.
Science experiments:
Water melts the Wicked Witch of the West: In Baum's book, Dorothy says the witch melts like brown sugar. Make small brown-sugar witches in shallow bowls and melt them by slowly pouring a cup of water on top. Explore what else is water soluble by attempting to dissolve different solids in water.
Exploring Emeralds and Rubies: Gemstones are common in Oz. Dig into geology lessons as you discuss what gems are, how are they made, and why are they so valuable. Could you really make a city of emeralds, or wear a pair of ruby shoes?
Weather: Make a Tornado in a jar, and experiment with rainbows and bending light.
Math Connection:
Make a Yellow Brick Road of paper for your floor. Count how many bricks it takes to make your road cross the house? Outside? Down the street? What about if the individual bricks were smaller or larger? Measure and make your way through the room, and your kids will also love skipping along their own homemade yellow brick road to continue imaginative play.
Story Retelling sheets: Follow the Yellow Brick Road
And most of all, remember, when it comes to loving and learning, there truly is no place like home.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Compound Word Puzzle

My daughter is loving this old-school puzzle where you piece together compound words. We even added some silly fun by me mixing them up wrong on purpose, ie: "Bee-brush, Tooth-hive" for her to unscramble. It would be easy enough to make your own homemade version of this game with any variety of compound words. Have fun!

As simple as adding a puppet...

We love borrowing puppets from the library and often we'll get books that accompany whichever animal we're getting.
Puppets can make stories come to life. Recently we read an adorable book called, "Emma's Turtle" by Eve Bunting, with a turtle puppet. In the story, the pet turtle gets out of his pen and imagines he is traveling to all sorts of strange countries, when in reality, he has never left the backyard. It's an adorable tale, and we used it to review and explore our geography afterward. We were able to take our turtle puppet from the page to the map, to the globe, to our backyard.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ahoy! Mermaid Pirate Party Extravaganza

For my daughter's 5th birthday, we threw a Mermaid Pirate party. It was a day to be treasured! For the invitations, my daughter put pirate invites into sandwich ziplock bags that she filled with sand and shells. We asked her friends to swim or sail to Mermaid Cove for the big day. For the decorations, we used aqua colored plastic tablecloths that I stripped into seaweed to hang in the doorway and hung on the windows to give the room a blue 'under the sea' tint.

We used pirate and mermaid plates, and for favors the boys got telescopes, eye patches and pirate pencils, the girls got colored hair braids to clip on, mermaid dolls, pencils and bubbles.

The cake was a hilarious disaster. It completely fell apart. So the kids just shook a bunch of stuff all over it and had fun. (Horrible cakes seems to be a 'thing' for me, see my son's Cowboy Birthday Hoedown from last year, lol!)

For the food, we did SHELLS and cheese with OCTOPUS hot dogs! We also served goldfish and whale crackers.

For games, of course we had a TREASURE HUNT! My husband dressed up as a pirate and led the kids on a backyard adventure... he read each clue as they found it and made the kids yell their loudest "RRRRRR"'s first. They all loved it! It was awesome.

For the treasure I filled a box we got for free with plastic gold coins, beaded necklaces and confetti. The kids got to divide it up and take it home.

For a second game we made up our own version of 'pin the tail on the donkey' and had the kids pin a jellyfish on the octopus.

Everyone, pirates & mermaids alike, had a wonderful time at Mermaid Cove!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Thankful List, Thanksgiving 2011

1. Our Heavenly Father, who blesses me beyond my imagination, who makes time for me whenever I make time for Him, which I make sure to do, every single day.

2. My beautiful family: My hard working husband and 2 amazing kids, who I am blessed to serve and know.

3. My mother, the woman who has taught me all I know and who I am lucky to call my best friend and neighbor, and her husband, Kelly, who has unexpectedly been the answer to many prayers.

4. Our humble and blessed home, I am thankful every day for this roof over our heads. I truly love this house, it is our forever home and it is all that we could ever need and more. It is God's house and He graciously allows us to live here and open our home to others. How blessed we are!

5. Clean drinking water. Honestly. There are so many in this world who don't have it, especially in such abundance.

6. The means to make ends meet.

7. The path of home education. It is a road I never saw, and what a blessed road it is! I feel so privileged to be able to enjoy so much precious time with the children God has blessed us with and watch them grow, see them learn and experience their potential, their imagination, their childhood! I wouldn't trade it for the world. Every moment I get to witness their growing process, and it's already going by so fast. After we decided it was the educational option that would work best for them, which was not an easy decision to make, it still took me a while to feel comfortable embracing the amazing fact that I get to be there to see them experience life! What a blessed role! They only grow up once, and what an honor not to miss it. I wasn't expecting the experience of parenthood to include educator, but now that I'm here--wow, I am blessed. I don't have to trade out those moments. When they learn something new, when they ask thoughtful, curious questions, as we explore the world together, it's all worth it.

8. The world of home education. Oh how God has blessed me with some of the most amazing people I've ever known through the world of homeschooling. These women are amazing and I am blessed to call them friends, I am blessed to know them and their families---not only have I been blessed by friendship but my kids have been blessed by knowing and loving their kids. I am assured time and again, whether it's a good day of the co-op, a fun field trip, a packed roller skating rink, or a number of families finding use of the free books I help to distribute, that this is truly, my Calling.

9. The gift of the written word, both by my hand and by those who move or inform me with what they write.

10. My camera. So many moments captured that I am grateful for. I feel a warm appreciation that comes in focus as I focus on what I am capturing. Mental pictures are of value, too, but I appreciate the ability to make those cherishable moments last even longer.

11. The ability to appreciate my blessings. I may lose sight of them at tense moments of stress or frustration, but I am grateful those moments are few and far between and never last long---the perspective of gratitude is something to be cherished. I am grateful to feel and live and truly believe in Psalm 23 in the depths of my heart and soul.

Monday, November 21, 2011

There was an old lady... delighting in the classics

We recently borrowed a few cute titles from the library that we stretched a little further into more activities. For "There was an Old Lady who swallowed a Fly," the kids used some cheap plastic spider rings to wriggle on their finger every time the line, "that wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her" came along. We also did this cute craft where the kids pulled the animals through the old lady as we sang the song. I KNOW AN OLD LADY CRAFT.

The second book was, "There was an Old Lady who swallowed some Leaves" which was really cute, and featured, "perhaps she'll sneeze." At the end she sneezes out a scarecrow, which the kids of course thought was hilarious, and afterward we built our own little mini scarecrows using paper bags, leaves and fresh hay... which they had so much fun pretending to sneeze out that they had fallen apart by the end of the afternoon! ;) What a fun adventure for fall!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Frog and Toad Literature Unit

My daughter is reading the Frog and Toad books by Aronold Lobel. We have The Frog and Toad Thinking Book which gives various activities and creative thinking ideas to accompany the books. They are perfect for her reading level, and the library even had some as books-on-tape which my kids love also. In the past we've compared how frogs and toads are different and similar, but here we are comparing and contrasting how the characters Frog and Toad are different, but still friends.
Here are some related literature activity ideas for this series: E-Theme Frog and Toad.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Place Values: Tens and Ones with Craft Sticks!

This super simple math activity from Everyday Mathematics was the game that finally got the concept of place values to "click" for my five-year-old.

Bundle up some craft sticks in groups of 10 (I did 3 bundles) and leave 9 sticks loose. Make up some quick number cards or tags and mix into a pile to pick from, then have them display the chosen number with the sticks, through place values- the first number being how many tens they need, the second number how many ones.

Hooray for hands-on ideas, and for seeing the "Aha!" light trigger on. She was a pro after just a few minutes, when prior to this, explaining place values on paper was getting us nowhere. Even using the manipulatives before in a similar way with toothpicks, shells, etc. wasn't keeping her interest. Once it was a game, where she got to pick the number and make it, that was just enough element of fun to make it work.

What games or activities have given you success in math concepts? Share, please!