Saturday, August 31, 2013

trash to treasure

My daughter is the queen of creating "treasure" from "trash." I have been saving toilet paper tubes and paper towel tubes with her creativity in mind. ;)

I saw something like this on a much smaller scale on Pinterest. So, having been saving the cardboard for some sort of creative free play/art project in mind anyways, I tasked them with making a marble run. A few rips of the packing tape and snips of the tubes, this is what they came up with.

Surprisingly enough, all three tracks ran about the same speed.


Another perk? A few days from now it can all get taken out with the recycling ;)

Friday, August 30, 2013

more than just a "finger"play...

This is what my living room looks like, as we wait for my husband to come home this evening. In actuality, it's really pretty clean, lol, as compared to most days! The "stage" is strategically set for acting out the finger play in Little Hands to Heaven's Unit 7, called Baby in the Basket.

When we first started this curriculum, my son wanted nothing to do with the finger plays. He would actually say, "Mom, stop singing." (How's that for an ego check, lol). But, each week I try and he's started to come around and actually participate in the motions with me. This time, my daughter (who usually sits and watches me do them with Z), jumped in and said, "Let's act this one out! I'll go get my doll and we can"... do this and this and this... So, now we have a "baby in the basket" a "God's fire," and little actors who will be ready to jump up and down shouting "free, free, free!"

I will type out the finger play so that you can follow along with what I mean :)

Baby in the Basket
Float, float, float
Baby in the Basket
Float, float, float
Baby in the Basket
Float, float, float
God saved Moses
We all know.

Moses saw God's fire
Moses saw God's fire
Moses saw God's fire
God spoke to Moses
From the bush.

God wants Israel set
Free, free, free
God wants Israel set
Free, free, free
God wants Israel set
Free, free, free
Israel has cried
Out to Me.

So today we jumped from "finger" plays to putting on a performance. What a great way to reiterate our Bible story!

Note: The "f" in the middle of the floor is from another part of our lesson - we jumped frogs on the taped-out "f" to learn the form of the letter f...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

how do you spell...

Spelling has never been my 10yo daughter's favorite, subject. Back in her traditional school days (K-3rd), she would come home with spelling assignments left over from seat work time and have to use her weekly spelling words in a variety of practice methods - putting in ABC order or writing sentences using those words or creating a crossword puzzle with them, etc etc. 

Burn. Out. 
I saw discouragement, frustration, and flat out anger over having to use those words over and over again. No combination of assignments and studying seemed to assure a great grade on the test. Now, don't get me wrong. Repetition is key. That was what was at the heart of all those busy-work assignments and I tried to encourage her through all those assignments.

Last year, our first year homeschooling, I picked out Spelling Power. I was hopeful. I thought the process sounded great for us... a daily "quiz" that concludes when she misses three. Practice those three. Talk about their sounds, syllables, etc focusing on them. Then, start the daily quiz the next day with those three words and continue through the never-ending list of most frequently used words in the english language. No constant working with a list of fifteen or twenty words each week (and then forgetting them the following week after the test is over) when she already knows part of them. With Spelling Power, you're only studying the words you don't know.

Well, as great as it sounded, it didn't pan out well. 

So. This year we are trying another option. This week we began Phonetic Zoo, by Excellence in Writing. It is self-directed and great for auditory learners (ahem, my daughter). She puts on headphones and works through the daily spelling lesson. Each lesson is broken up into a spelling "rule." Lesson 1 goes over -ai and -ay. Both make the long "A" sound, but they occur in different places within a word (-ai in the middle of a word, -ay at the end). The word list is full of 15 words that fit (and actually one or two that don't fit because, as we know, the english language is full of contradictions!) the lesson "rule."

So, she is basically taking a spelling quiz each day, by listening to the instructor on the cd give each word and then correcting the words by listening to the correct spellings of each word in the next track. Once she makes a 100% two days in a row, she moves onto the next lesson. The isolation and focus of using head phones is a great thing. It allows her to hear each word without distraction. That's huge for her. Little brother tends to be quite noisy, and while she's getting great at tuning him out and focusing, for a subject that needs extra attention given to it, the cd provides a great way to concentrate.

Head phones on and off she goes....

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

digging in...

...literally :)

For our preschool Bible lesson this morning, we talked about the Israelites (i.e. Joseph & brothers' childrens' children etc) becoming enslaved in Egypt and the Pharaoh putting them to work. Part of their work was building pyramids and other such structures. 

Bricks were generally made of clay or mud, but instead of going outside and digging up the backyard, we opted for playing in Moon Sand. We constructed a few buildings in the sand to remind us of what the Israelites did while they were slaves.

I don't even know if they still make this stuff, but we've had this mat-full for a number of years. Despite it being a hit, I really don't pull it out much as it does tend to wind up all over the place :)

The curriculum called for us to build with blocks, but my creative 10year old suggested we build with pillows instead. So, we counted pillows as we "built" a pyramid. Then, the kids jumped in the pile and had a pillow fight, lol.

Never a dull moment ;)

first day of "full" school

Well... today's the day! We are transitioning (slowly, I think) from "summer mode" to a full school load. Excuse the hidden faces, I'm a little shy about sharing photos of my kiddos on a public blog, but I thought the signs were too cute not to share :)

We'll continue on with preschool as we were and then add in a few subjects this week and then the rest next week to get going up at full speed. I talked about my curriculum choices for the year here, in case you are interested in seeing what we are doing this year. I always think it's fun to compare and see what people are using. I also like looking at what families with kids that are in middle and high school are doing so that I can start thinking ahead. 

Is there a certain subject/curriculum that you are really pumped about using this year?

Friday, August 23, 2013

what to do when...

... your preschooler says "I don't want to do school today!!"

1. Pull up Pinterest.
2. Search for preschool craft ideas.
3. Find one.
4. Tweak it so that it goes along with the letter of the week.
5. Get big sister involved and excited.
6. Watch as little bro climbs up in his chair and wants to do the project too.
7. Smile. You've got 'em doing "school."

This is "salt painting." I used the glue to draw the letter "E e" on the paper, then helped Z sprinkle salt over it. Then I just shook off the excess salt and gave him food coloring to drop onto the salt. We watched as it spread color on the salt (...and onto the paper if you squeeze 2 drops vs 1, as my son had the habit of doing).

My daughter, and later my son, free-handed whatever design they wanted. My daughter also experimented by mixing the salt with drops of food coloring in a separate cup, then spreading the colored salt over her glue design. A little different effect (lower left page). I thought my son's (lower right paper) looked like blocks of ice floating on water, which prompted talking about penguins and ice bergs and cold weather... now, who didn't want to do school today? ;)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

preschool is brought to you by the letter...

We have been on Unit 6 this week... still in the story of Joseph, this time focusing more on "e"mpty jars (aka famine) in the land, forgiveness and Joseph's reconciliation with his family. We also discussed God's provision for His chosen people (through Egypt's stockpile of food) by allowing Joseph to come into Pharoah's awareness in the first place by interpreting the Pharoah's dream.

We saw that "interpreting" dreams is hard work, just as "interpreting" which animal I was acting out on Z's (wiggly, giggly) back was hard to do. God was surely at work, to allow Joseph to be able to explain Pharoah's dream!

Z was eager to work on worksheets this week. He really wanted to work like big sister does at the table! He colored in a laminated counting worksheet. He also did a letter "e" seek & find, traced some capital letter "E"s, worked on a few shape color/cut/sort/glue worksheets, and completed the one I share about further down below. 

A fellow Little Hands to Heaven momma has put together an A to Z set of tracing pages that coordinate with the finger play-poems for each unit. You can find all of Dawn's Little Hands posts here. (I don't think this particular set has been posted yet, but watch for them referenced within her posts).


This was a busy school week. We doubled up on our Sonlight lessons, spending more time reading,  and also working hard to finish up the review math workbook and spelling workbook that L was working through this summer. This is our last week on "summer mode." Next Monday we start back up with our "full schedule!"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

just couldn't help it...

Ok, soooo the planner pages I decided on didn't last long, lol. I have already tweaked a different form I found online, from One Fun Mom. This one has some color to it and it has enough squares to allow me to add in our preschool work as well as a "note" block at the bottom for extra reminders (like science experiment supplies I need to pull together, etc). 

We are starting "full school" next Monday, so last weekend I went ahead and planned out our first three weeks of full school, using this grid. I had a space for everything I needed, so I think this one is a keeper!

Monday, August 19, 2013


Do games have a place in your family time (or homeschool time)? I loved playing games as a kid, and still do, so it only makes sense to me to incorporate actual board games or card games into learning time. If it's not obvious learning (i.e. CandyLand to learn colors), there are so many intangibles that come into play(haha) as well... taking turns, counting spaces, gracious - just thinking and reasoning in general!

My daughter recently learned about the game of Clue, and now she's hooked! I had three different versions of it growing up, so I think I know where her interest in it comes from ;)
However, I only kept one version over the years and so we have played "Master Detective" a handful of times now. She (just as I did) loves looking through the cards and reading about the people and rooms. I even taught her a few of my tricks that I had picked up over the years. (Yeah, I'm a cool mom like that). ;)

This evening, I just spent time with my son playing Cootie. He's old enough now to learn how to actually play a game. We took turns rolling the dice and even practiced counting its spots! It takes patience for a three year old to wait his turn, especially after the disappointing roll of landing on a "2" when you already have your cootie heads (that's the body part you get for a 2). In the end, after the game is over, it's a lot of fun to act out goofy scenarios with the little guys too. Tonight our cootie bugs were sneaking around in a library! :)

Personally, I have really enjoyed a copy of Mancala that we picked up a few weeks ago at a used bookstore. Such a simple, old game, but new to me and I've enjoyed it a lot.

What are a few of your family's favorite games?

just bc stats are fun...

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

Thursday, August 15, 2013


What do you do when the sun and cool breezes of a fall-like summer day beckon you outside on a school day? Why, move school outside of course! 

My family really enjoys hammocks. We have recently made the switch from tent camping to hammock camping. All four of us have hammocks (as well as tarps and bug nets) and enjoy the comfort of sleeping suspended in the air vs on the ground. I confess, we have yet to have all four of us hang out overnight. On our last camping trip, when I thought we'd finally get to try it, my son opted to sleep in my in-laws trailer vs hanging. So, the next chance will happen in October when we have another trip planned (with no in-laws for back up!). 

Here's our backyard classroom for today:

Sonlight and hammocks... this curriculum was made for lounging! L is completing her reading for the day:

Any questions about hammocking? Anyone else move school outside on the pretty days?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

so much more than a story of a man...

This week in preschool we are learning about Joseph from the Bible.

As an adult, I find this story utterly amazing and comforting because it reminds me of God's sovereignty. If you were to stop in any portion of the story, it might seem hopeless. Joseph looks to be stuck in any number of places... thrown in a deep pit by his brothers just for receiving a gift from dad (it's not like he asked for the robe), wrongly accused by the wife of his boss (he did the right thing yet still got thrown in prison),  and stuck in prison (even after asking his fellow cell mates to remember him when they got out). What ties the story together and reminds me of God's sovereignty is the conclusion which includes reuniting with family, forgiveness, and God's grace through provision of food and even status. So comforting. So reassuring. Our life right now seems to be at a "stop" in the middle of our story. I already see God's hand in our circumstances that do remind me of His sovereignty, but I do look forward to the day I can look back and see the story in full.

A few photos of our preschool activities that go along with the story...

Coloring (wet) coffee filters with food coloring to represent the variety of color in Joseph's coat.

We had a fun time with this last activity as well. The curriculum called for me to wrap a coat in a gift bag. We were to then practice graciousness at receiving a gift, as well as bringing up the obvious - it's a "coat" like Joseph received. Z was so cute. He saw the gift bag and was like "A present?! For ME?? Is it my birthday?" (L's birthday was last month, and he realllly wanted presents too, lol). He opened it and immediately put on the sweater (which was a multi-colored sweater, that was actually made by my grandmother for me as a child, and now lives in the dress up box). Nevertheless, he already was like "Oh THANK YOU Mommy!" Too cute. I really appreciate how this curriculum puts in scenarios to act out different things. Too many times I think we forget that we need to train our children, even for what we would consider "typical" scenarios... sharing with a friend, saying thank you when receiving a gift, asking for something, etc. It's been fun to run through these with my kiddo (and great reminders for later... "Remember when we shared with our teddy bear?" That's what you need to do with you sister.") ;)

Monday, August 12, 2013

the planner dilemma

Between Saturday evening and this morning, I have looked at about a zillion websites for free, printable planners. I vacillate between wanting something pretty and just making due with a black and white "it does the job." Since I can't see printing it all from home or going to a print shop and spending money to print the "pretties," I opted for the black and white.

Last year (our first one homeschooling), I used an online planning program called Scholaric. It was perfect! It allowed me to list all my subjects (no limit on how many, which is good because I started and stopped a couple in the beginning) plan ahead but then "bump" a lesson if we decided on an impromptu playdate or field trip. I was looking forward to using it again this year, but then I picked Sonlight...

For those that are familiar with the program, you know that it comes with a 4 or 5-day schedule already planned out. That's great, but as far as planning goes, I was at a loss on how to transfer those assignments into the program. I want to be able to integrate my other subjects into one big schedule along with the Sonlight material. Do I enter the various Sonlight assignments as "history," "Bible," "reading" or "language arts" (etc)? I decided I didn't want the headache of having to rewrite and separate them out by subject-specific. (I did not order Sonlight's language arts or science, so I didn't have those schedules from them). So, that lead me to turn to the internet to see if I could find a free solution.

Should you want to see a bunch of planner options in one easy Pinterest board, this gal has a whole board-full. If you want to see the ones (free, printable) that I narrowed down my choices to, you can find them on my general homeschool goodies Pinterest board.

Honestly, I am just going to give some of Donna Young's printables a go. I went ahead and used the "annotate" feature on my Mac's "preview" program to add in our specific curriculums and year for L. By the way, this is from her Marble set.

I also decided that I would have separate page for my son's preschool work. I am mainly using Little Hands to Heaven, but also do a bunch of printables and other "intentional learning" busy bag and file folder games and manipulatives. I thought it would be fun to have a place to record Z's work. (Yes, I actually used the word fun for paperwork, lol). So, again, just using one of Donna Young's basic grid, I added in specifics that would work for us.

So - we'll see how it goes. Now the next debate is whether or not to write in pencil or pen OR whether I make it 2-sided and just write the planned on one side and "actually done" on the back. (Believe it or not, that is what I am doing now for our summer school work, and it works. I like that it gives me flexibility in our daily schedule).

So - what do you all use?
Paper planner? Online? No planner at all?
How do you make note of schedule changes in your planner? Am I too much of a neat freak to want clean "accomplished" planner pages? (Note: my state does not require it, nor do I know what I am actually going to do with them at the end of the year?!)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

choc-o-licious fun

If you're following along, we're on Little Hands to Heaven unit 4, day 5 today. I think it's been the "yummiest" day by far! One thing I appreciate about this curriculum is that the activities all have a pretty easy supply list. Most things are found around the house or are typical art supplies (crayons, water colors, etc). Today's activity called for us to write the letter "Dd" in either pudding, chocolate syrup, baby food, or fingerpaint. Chocolate syrup? Check!

across the globe

We listen to k-love radio station and they have been sharing about one of the dj's upcoming trips across the world. Partnering with World Vision, they are asking listeners to consider sponsoring a child. Beyond sponsoring, another way to become involved is to send a note of encouragement to a child in another country.

After seeing a blog post by Tori over at A Life of Gratitude referencing the idea, I went ahead and printed out three copies of the paper doll for the kids and I to complete as well. K-love supplies a pdf of paper dolls to easily download, print out, design and mail. We colored, wrote a message, and prayed for our new little friends. We pulled out a map of the world to talk about how far away these children might be!

Z and I went for a more abstract approach to our coloring :)  How fun to imagine what another set of little hands might draw on the other half of our papers! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

left hand on green...

Twister. That game either brings up fun memories of playing with friends... or it brings up embarrassing memories of plopping down so hard it brought tears to your eyes in front of that boy you thought was so cute... I won't say which it is for me ;)

My daughter recently used some birthday money to purchase the game of Twister. First thing this morning (i.e. 7:30am), my kiddos are ripping into the game eager to play. Not having had my first cup of coffee yet, I lazily spun the spinner and called out commands. My three year old is still learning his left from his right, so this "game" was much more than just a game. Funny how my perspective of "school" has changed with homeschooling. I see so much of life as learning... "learning" is way more than a textbook in front of a student. I want it just to be a natural part of life with my kiddos. If they have a question about something or how something works, I want their default to be to look for an answer. Ok, that's a little bit of a digression from Twister. Sorry. (I've obviously had my coffee now and am awake!)

So. After they ate, as the board was still on the floor, my daughter came up with an idea. She instructed Z to start out by standing on a circle. She then gave him directions... "Move three steps forward and one to the left."... and then asked "What color are you standing on?" Ah... see? Natural learning. It makes me smile.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

hello my name is...

We started Unit 4 this week in Little Hands to Heaven. We read all about Isaac meeting Rebekah and even practiced introducing ourselves to one another by shaking hands and looking one another in the eye while we said our names. The lesson called for cutting out four women. We modified that and have two men and two women... maybe Isaac & Rebekah with Abraham & Sarah? ;) Anyways, Z did a great job cutting them out and then gluing them on.

I look forward to the end of the year when we have our number booklet completed and can look back through and count while remembering these Bible stories. I am thinking about writing a little summary at the bottom of each number page tying it back to the story for that unit.

Has anyone done that or found it fun to use it for Bible (or even specific scripture!) recall?

Interested in the curriculum I am using? Look here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

calendar notebook

Preschool. Traditionally, that means sitting in circle, completing a calendar time and weather check, having a letter of the day/week, a color and shape of the week, story hour, and maybe even a "share and tell" time. All great stuff!

Homeschool preschool. While it can look identical to that or completely different, I decided to keep the idea of a calendar time, but modify it for my "kitchen table homeschooling" space. So, we have a calendar notebook! I merged two freebie calendar sets from both Motherhood on a Dime and Mama's Learning Corner. They have just about everything you'd want. I selected a few things from each to get us started.

Despite it being the 5th, we began today and introduced the concept of days of the week. Z traced the numbers/dates up to 5 and then found the number 5 in the "seek and find" page. 

I'm on the hunt for a fun "days of the week song." If anyone has one, leave a link in the comments below. I'd appreciate it! 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

sunday scripture

A shot I captured while blueberry picking a week ago. I thought the verse was appropriate. Enjoy your weekend...

Friday, August 2, 2013

what's for dinner?

As compared to last year, our garden this year has been overall better at producing the vegetables I have planted. We have had all of our five tomato plants produce four beautiful, yummy varieties of tomatoes. Last year, we only had two of the six plants give us tomatoes. This year, I have red and golden yellow peppers growing on all of the eight plants. Last year, I had about two peppers from the four plants. Last year my cucumber plants died. This year, they had an early burst of quick growing vines and a crop of a handful of cucumbers. Unfortunately, now something is plaguing them and I haven't found a cure yet. The leaves have almost a mold or fungus growing on them. We had a TON of rain this season, so I thought maybe it was an excess of water. However, a week or two of dry weather proved this wrong. Anyone have any ideas?
One bummer with this year's garden... our lettuce hasn't been as spectacular. I am glad that I planted two rows! Last year, our one row of lettuce was cut and then regrew at least three to four times over the summer to be re-cut and eaten. This year, my two rows have yet to produce a second growth from the cut stems. Last year we had a salad every night just to keep up with it. It was delicious! This year, we have had a few good chef salads. Those are some of our favorite dinners.

We start with this, picked fresh that day...

And end with this...

Is your mouth watering yet?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

decorating take2...

I showed you my son's wall, so I thought I'd show you a few new printables that I recently had printed at Staples and then framed for my daughter's wall. L has a lofted bed and the wall above her headboard was empty, except for the random "L" and "H" that we had used in a different part of her room before the great "room redo" for Christmas this year. Using Pinterest, I searched for Bible verse printables and found quite a few options. I settled on a few from Delight Creative Home. I really could've picked a zillion of hers, but I only had three frames, so three it was. ;) 

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

"Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." 2 Timothy 2:22