Wednesday, September 25, 2013


We are frequent library patrons. If not weekly, we go at least once every ten days or so. I do not rely on the library for our Sonlight books, but my daughter is an avid reader so she is ready to trade out books each trip. Something we started doing this year is recording the books she reads on a Goodreads account, named for our school. It's fun to be able to look back and see all that she's read, both for school and for enjoyment. It also makes suggestions on books that are similar to the ones she is reading, which has been neat. Not perfect, but it has at least given us a direction of books to look at that I might not have looked at before. Eventually, I can record Z's books as well, if I wanted to (or maybe when we start reading specific titles for school, I might).

My son, too, enjoys reading. At this point, at 3.5years old, the reading we do is together, as I read aloud to him. (Although I must admit, he will sit and look at books for a good amount of time, if he's looking for something to do and I suggest he sits and reads).

I thought I'd blog about a few of the books we just happened to bring home this last trip. We have enjoyed them considerably, which is so neat because we really just pick books at random for him.

Spy Hops & Belly Flops by Lynda Graham-Barber was a fun one that Z immediately got down and started acting out, like it was written. The book introduces an animal, then instructs the reader to act out a mannerism of that animal. It then explains why/what the animal does that action.

This next one is called A is for Salad by Mike Lester. Did you just do a double take? I did when I first pulled out the book. A is not for salad, lol!

I read this one today with Z. I told him that I thought the author was a little goofy in this book. Not knowing what I meant, we began the book. I read, "A is for salad. Wait a minute?! Does salad start with A?" He immediately began giggling and let me know that "No, A is for alligator!" The whole book went like that. "L is for lion! M is for moose, mom!" We reinforced the starting letter sounds to verify, "Yes! Mmmmmm, is for mmmmoose." I loved it. So clever!

This last one, titled Wave by Suzy Lee was special because we just got back from the beach! Z could immediately identify with the plot and the emotions this main character felt. There are no words in the book, simply these sweet simple watercolor illustrations.

Books like this are so fun because I tell Z he gets to read the book to me! I started off, "I wonder..." and he took it from there, describing what happened and what she had to do next. Simple and sweet.

Does your family have any favorite books that you pull out time and time again?

FYI: I receive no benefits from the book publishers nor the website linked within the post. I just liked these books :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

keeper of the home

When I first started praying about the idea of homeschooling, I met with some "in-the-trenches" homeschool moms. They were in the journey that I was considering beginning. They had a variety of backgrounds, but most had begun homeschooling from the start of their childrens' school years. One thing they all had in common? They all included the idea of including classwork in the subject of: "keeper of the home." More simply explained: taking responsibility around the house! Now, one does not have to be homeschooled to be schooled in this subject! And, prior to homeschooling, my children had their chores to do each day (make bed, keep room picked up, bring dishes to the sink after meals, etc), but all the others fell into the "hit or miss" category. I wound up dusting or vacuuming, etc, usually due to L being in school all day or doing homework when she was home after school.

So, when I set out to outline studies that would be included in our homeschool, I was sure to include a bigger responsibility for chores each day. Much of it happens naturally: we create lunch together, then clean up after it. We strip beds to wash, then remake the beds with clean sheets. We throw in loads of laundry, then fold them together, chatting about whatever comes into their heads. We snack while reading in the living room, then vacuum the floor.

But, there are still the "big five" that get done each week. For us, they are 1. wipe down bathroom counters and vacuum bathrooms (usually Mondays vs the full cleaning at the end of the week), 2. dust the furniture, 3. clean/organize bedroom (intentionally putting everything away - clothes, toys, etc - vs a "rush job" at the end of the night, stuffing things in drawers or hiding spots!), 4. vacuum all floors, 5. clean both bathrooms. L is 10years old and takes care of these things. Her 3.5year old brother helps with some of those things: dusting, cleaning doorknobs throughout the house, collecting trash, and general clean up and organization.

It has worked out well so far. We don't have a set time of day they are done. I know some families choose to do them at the beginning of the day along with their other daily responsibilities. For us, they usually happen in the afternoon, one of the last school "tasks" to check off the list.

What do your kiddos do as chores around the house?

Monday, September 23, 2013

nowhere to go? i think not.

Unit 8, days 3 and 4: the great wonder of God parting the red sea for Moses and the Israelites! I am a little behind in posting this... we actually completed this day before our week off last week.

My had daughter gone on a field trip with a friend for the day and my parents were due in town by lunchtime, so that left Z and I to have some one-on-one time for the morning. I had an eager and willing student, so I jumped right in with the lesson! We continued with Moses' story, this time learning about when the Pharoah finally released them from slavery... and then came running back after them!

We talked about how God lead the Israelites by cloud during the day and by fire at night. We actually used our Number 8 counting page and cut/pasted photos of clouds and fire, instead of the recommended jewelry idea. Fire is always much cooler to a boy.

Then we spoke about how they were stuck - they had come to a point where the sea was on one side and the attacking Egyptian chariots on the other. But, God, with His grace and knowledge of His ultimate plan, did the unthinkable - caused the sea to open up and the waves to part!
Another part of the story that earned "cool" boy points... the chariots being covered by the walls of water that suddenly came crashing down after the Israelites safely crossed.

I went ahead and combined the planned craft on day 4 along with this one I found through Pinterest. The curriculum called for us to tape off the center of a paper, painting the entire paper, then removing the tape and wa-la the parted sea crossing! 

Taking it a step further included making the walls of ocean waves and adding in the main characters. My son loved cutting out the waves and though it was totally cool when we rolled them around a pencil to make the curl up. (I think he was quick to share that with both my parents later that day and my husband that evening). :)

The next thing we did was sooo much fun. Sometimes the most simplest of things get the giggles and grins. We acted out our own sea-crossing, complete with fish swimming in the sea! 

We combined the active exploration idea from day 3 with our sea crossing. We followed the leader through the parted waves and even within the ocean water, using ideas like "through the waves," "around the pink fish," & "over the sea wall" to practice directional descriptions. We even followed the leader "skipping," "crawling," "hopping," and "slithering" across the dry land, imaging what those people must have thought as they crossed through.

After tiring of the follow the leader, we played with the fish by themselves. We had made these awhile ago and the kids have little fishing rods with magnetic ends that we put together as well. So, we fished and talked. :)

By the end, we separated the fish to represent our (extended) family - our family of four, two sets of grandparents, and two sets of aunt/uncle. One aunt being pregnant (at the time - now she had her baby and I am an aunt!!!) with the littlest fish inside. Thank you, God, for all of our family members!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

waves. wind. sand.

Took a family beach trip this week. We live about three to four hours from the coast and try to make it to the beach at least once a year, but it doesn't always happen. However, this year we made it. Ahhh... It was truly a beautiful time to go. September temps are so much more pleasant than the heat of the summer! I don't think it reached 80, or if it did, it certainly didn't feel like it with the breezes! It was only Z's second time at the ocean. He had little hesitation and played most of the time at the water's edge, driving his over-sized monster truck or zooming his motorboat as the waves broke and rushed towards him. He got knocked over a few times and learned that the sea isn't one to turn his back on, but for the most part he just stayed right in the middle of it all. 
By the end of the trip, I came to the conclusion that my daughter is part dolphin. I don't think she spent any time out on the sand; she was too busy jumping waves and splashing around in the surf! She was also able to go out in a kayak with my husband and another friend of ours. That was the highlight of the trip for her. 

It was great to be away from home. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery! 

I think today (2 days later) I am finally caught up on laundry and putting everything back in order. Next week we will be back to normal school schedule!

Friday, September 20, 2013

even Barbie needs to learn her ABC's the process of osmosis?

I got out our ABC foam puzzle pieces and after a time of playing with them in a traditional way (i.e. naming letters, matching the popped-out letter with it's correct puzzle place, spelling a few words, etc), I left them to their own creative minds. When I next looked at what they were doing, L had given Barbie, Ken & their family, a new home, complete with a rooftop deck and multiple bedrooms and a breakfast nook for eating!

p.s. Hoping to post some beach photos later this weekend - we enjoyed a few days away, relaxing to the sound of the ocean waves earlier this week!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"just because"

As I sit here typing this blog post, my children are working on a self-assigned report on volcanoes. 

It all started when L and Z pulled a book out of our book box and, heads-down in to it, were pointing and talking back and forth about the information it contained. L then said, "Let's get notebooks and we can draw and write what we are learning!" So, my 3.5yo is now drawing pictures of volcanoes from the book while his older sister completes a report on the various types of volcanoes, lava, etc.
I just have to shake my head and smile, as I remember the very same girl that is now jotting down notes and writing a report on volcanoes (that she has asked to present aloud to me when she's done!), just yesterday was whining over having to do writing work.

But I am also silently smiling because she has learned one of the real "assignments" (goals) of homeschool - to seek out and learn more about a topic, purely because there is an interest in the knowing. If I can cultivate a desire to learn, as well as equip them with the knowledge on where to seek out information, than the sky's the limit, whether it be vocationally or just for fun.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

finding mercy in unexpected places

Little Hands to Heaven Unit 8, day 1: We are in another portion of Moses' life story: the plagues. We were scheduled to solely focus on the last plague, but I decided to go ahead and review all ten of them. I did that for a variety of reasons, especially when I found these finger "puppets." 

I figured that we could practice counting to ten and that these finger puppets could also be used for the curriculum-scheduled math activity, discussing first, last, second, third, etc. 

I just went ahead and printed and cut these out ahead of time. Then, as I was reading the Bible story in Exodus 7-11 (in a children's Bible), Z went ahead and picked out the corresponding picture. I then taped them on as we went through the story. It was kind of funny, as he really wasn't too sure about all of them taking over his fingers. 

Z was familiar with the first plague, as we discussed that in a prior lesson. That was a fun day. I gave him a bucket of water with various spoons and cups just to simply play. Amazing how long a preschooler will just play in water on the kitchen floor. Surprisingly, the mess was contained by putting a beach towel under the bucket! When he was all done, I put a few drops of red food coloring it in. We talked about how God turned the Nile River's water from water to blood. Ew, no way would we drink or take a bath in that!

It's an overwhelming story - those ten plagues - to be faced with God's very real power in His rebuke to Pharoah's hard-heartedness... things like His ability to summon populations of flies to swarm the city and to give Moses the instruction so many times to raise his staff toward heaven in which God answered by sending another plague. But you know, I also saw this as a testimony to God's mercy. Mercy? I know, probably not the first thought that comes to mind. But, honestly, He gave Pharoah ten chances to obey. Yet, each time he refused. God could have struck that man down at any moment. He knew the condition of Pharoah's heart. He knew it would take killing his son to weaken his stubborn resolve. Man. How often God does this for me! As a parent, sometimes I feel like I am talking to a brick wall with the way my instruction is (not) taken. There is no doubt in my mind that God could say that of me as well. Thank God for His mercy!

Here is the link to the blog where I found these finger puppets. I created my own "swarm of flies" however, replacing her fourth plague puppet. I was not comfortable using wild animals as a different translation for flies. I used the "lice" photo she gave, although we called them gnats, as from the ESV Bible text. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

foreign language

This year we added foreign language to our curriculum load. My daughter has started with Rosetta Stone's Spanish program. At first the "immersion" style learning was overwhelming. She did not expect to be speaking sentences aloud during her first lesson! She's gotten into the groove though and it's been going well. She is still within Unit 1, so I can't comment too extensively on the program itself. The program allows multiple users (I'm thinking up to five?), so we set one up for each of our family members, even Z. Now that I am seeing how it works though, I am not sure I could start him yet, not unless I could skip him to the speaking portion only (which is probably possible). However, my husband and I are looking forward to reviewing and freshening up our Spanish vocabulary.

Do you study a foreign language personally or for school? Which language?

Monday, September 9, 2013


Ever since the kids acted out the Moses finger play for letter F, we've been continuing in Unit 7 all last week by reading the various parts of Moses' story. 

We cut and colored this clip art picture of Moses in the basket. Then we went ahead and traced and cut out Z's hands. He felt strongly that we needed to literally put Moses within the "reeds" so little baby Moses is hidden from view. We used the occasion to talk about how God has plans for each of us. He even knows what tomorrow will be like before we even go to bed tonight!

We also had some fun with plain ole brown paper bags... 
L weaved pieces together and made a basket. 

Another brown paper bag project was inspired by a Pinterest find. We made a burning bush (ok, use your imagination... pink flames is a stretch, I know...) and then acted out taking off our shoes, as the audio Bible read Exodus 3 aloud: "Then He said, 'Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.'” 

There is something about walking through a Bible character's life to learn about that character, but it's even sweeter to see what you can learn about God within that story. Through Moses' baby years, I saw the power of God. I saw His power to save a baby boy in a country that mandated death for all Hebrew baby boys. Through Moses' experience with the burning bush, I saw God's majesty. Moses' sandals weren't fit to touch the ground near the bush in which God was speaking to him through.

Wow. What an amazing God we serve!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

science experiment turned...

We are using Apologia's Zoology 3, the study of Land Animals, this year for Science. We did Zoology 2/ Swimming Creatures last year and all three of us truly enjoyed learning all about the animals of the sea that God created on the fifth day. It never ceased to amaze me what even my then-two year old would tell his daddy at dinner that night that was taken straight from the Science reading for that day.

Finished up lesson 1 in Land Animals last week and it had us do an experiment about camouflage and natural selection. We had to tear up colored construction paper into pieces, then mixing them in with colored m&m candies into a bin-full of the torn paper. "Did the camouflaging make some harder than others to find?," was just one question we explored. The experiment went fine... Z got more out of it than L, as it was a pretty basic concept for a fifth grader. Anyways, after we were done with the paper, L asked if they could play with it like confetti... which led to needing a wind source to blow it up... which led to "let's get the butterfly nets..." and eventually a mess on my living room floor that was picked up and enjoyed again and again.

Wonder which "experiment" was more beneficial?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

busy busy busy, bags

When L is doing school work and Z can't seem to settle down with any work or toys of his own, I usually pull out some of these hand-me-down busy bags. Sometimes he works on them by himself and other times with me or his sister.

Yesterday, L was doing some independent work at the kitchen table, so Z and I went back to my bedroom and sat on my bed, pulling out some of the activity bag games we have. 

We talked about the weather and what bear might wear if it was raining... or if he wanted to go outside and play...

We matched up the halves of each shape. This is a good one from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Super easy, but it prompted talk about shapes, colors, and fractions even ;)

 More shape matching...

And, good ole Brown Bear, Brown Bear. This has been each of my children's favorite first book. They get so proud of being able to "read" it to me on their own ;) This time we sang our way through it and Z put the animals together in the activity as we turned each page.

This last one is one that I made forever ago. Each color name fits into the blank space on the color circle. He's at the point now, that we can start sounding out each letter sound to get the name. Some days he is more ready to do that than others, but we at least work on the first letter together while I read the rest.

 Another way we use these circles, is to sort out our counting worms by color. 

Pinterest has about a zillion different suggestions for busy bags if you are looking for some new ideas. Like I said, the first couple of ones were hand-me-downs, but I have a bunch of others I didn't share today (including file folder games) from various places. Some of the sources are pinned here (scroll all the way down for most of them). They've all been such a huge hit with my children during these toddler/preschool years.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

thrift store finds for school

I have had a small bag of donate-able items in the back of my car for a week or two now. Today I had the opportunity to swing by and drop it off at a local thrift store that is run by a church, in which all monies collected go towards their domestic violence program (a good enough excuse in itself to go perusing their store, right?!) Well, for me, that was a good enough excuse and the children and I found some great school goodies.

After getting home, I realized what a gem this little game truly was. It's called NumberStart and is made by Living & Learning. I've never heard of that company, but I might check them out. The game consists of 9 different game options and help preschoolers practice comparing, sorting, matching, counting, recognizing numbers, and pattern work.

After making sure all the pieces were there (they were, and practically brand new looking!) and reading some of the game options, Z and I played one of the games. It was pretty fun they happened to use frogs (the letter "f" that we have been working with this past and next week).

The game we started with consisted of spinning the spinner to get a color. Then we had to put that color frog onto the matching spot on one of the lily pads. After we had all the spaces filled, we counted each one, then talked about which one had the "most" and "least."

Later on in the evening we played a few more of the games, including one that he had to place number cards onto spaces with the corresponding number of ducks on them, and then we played another that had him finish a pattern that I started. Who said math wasn't fun?! ;)

I also picked up two more games too. Scrabble Jr. will probably get put away for another couple of years, as far as making words with Z. But, as far as tiles go, we already use tiles from our adult Scrabble game (I think we don't have the board but kept the tiles? Random, I know!). I have my daughter put a set of 26 letters in ABC order and time her. Then she tries to beat that time a few more tries. With my son, I have just pulled out letters and we made the letter sounds together. They are fun to shake up in the bag and then pull out :)

I had never seen this Larry Burkett Money Matters game before, but it looked like a good one to pick up. It says for ages 7 & up, so this will be kept for a daughter/parents game time after Z goes to bed. I'm sure it will be fantastic for reinforcing sound budgeting principles, not only for L but for my husband and myself as well!

All in all, I'd say these were a good way to spend a grand total of $2.13!