30 April 2009

Toot! Toot!

Yes, I'm blowing my own horn because it's been an exciting week in my little blogworld! Mrs. C very kindly featured me on her blog, Homeschool and Etc. and Gracie's B is for beans page from her ABC book will be part of letter B day tomorrow at ABC and 123. Go check these blogs out. They have some great stuff!

Preschool Activity: Bead Patterns

The bead patterns activity bag is a popular one around here. It works on fine motor development (getting those little beads on the stem) and math skills (pattern recognition) at the same time as being lots of fun. In the bag are some pattern beads made of pony beads on chenille stems. I hot glued the beads on to make them permanent.
I also included some plain chenille stems and some pony beads to imitate the patterns already made or to make a different pattern. At this point my 3-year-old just gets those beads on the stem any old which way and the patterning will come when it comes.

Click here to see other independent activities for preschoolers.

Click here to see how I use these activities while homeschooling.

To see other great preschool activity ideas go here.

29 April 2009

A Good Reminder

I ran across this inspiring post the other day on Song of My Heart. Keeping the correct perspective of seeing my children as gift does not always come naturally. Sometimes it seems contrary to every thought and feeling I have. Especially on one of "those" days. One of those days when every book is off the bookshelf again, the bathroom floor is covered with a liquid that is hopefully water, and when it's time to go there seems to be only one of each shoe and none with its mate.

Yes, they can drive us nuts, but it's important to remember how God views them: as His precious and dearly loved children.

I need to "realize the value that God places on my child and then share it with them."

Thank you Shannon for sharing!

28 April 2009

Heart of the Matter Book Sale

I just found out about Heart of the Matter's first ever book sale. It will probably be a great opportunity to stock up on curriculum and supplies for next year. I've added a new button on my sidebar you can click on to find more info. Since I'm still in the "accumulation" phase I won't be selling anything this time, but I'll definitely be doing some browsing!

25 April 2009

Book of the Week: Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum tells the story of a little girl coming to terms with unusual, unusually long, and botanical name. Despite unkind classmates, Miss Twinkle teaches Chrsanthemum to appreciate her unique and perfect name. Along with being a great story, this book is a treasure trove of vocabulary (winsome, jaundiced, delphinium) and figurative language (Chrysanthemum wilted). The author Kevin Henkes is also the author of many other wonderful children's books including Owen (Caldecott Honor Book), Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, and Sheila Rae, the Brave.

This book holds a special place in my heart since I have a daughter with an unusual, unusually long, and botanical name. My daughter, Amaryllis, currently loves her name, but there may come a day when it may seem a bit out of sorts. And so I keep Chrysanthemum close by on the bookshelf so she may find a kindred spirit in her.

23 April 2009

Preschool Activity: Pasta Sorting

One of Amaryllis's favorite activities from the preschool basket is the pasta sorting. I took several different types of pasta and dyed them. (Scroll down for the recipe.) I included part of an egg carton to help with the sorting.The pasta can be sorted by colors... or shapes...
or use them for other creative art projects and play.

Recipe for dyed pasta or rice
You will need:
  • Pasta
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Food coloring
  • Zip top bags
  • Waxed paper


  • Put the pasta into a zip top bag.
  • Add a tablespoon or so of rubbing alcohol.
  • Add a few drops of food coloring
  • Zip the bag and squish until the colors are blended.
  • Add more food coloring if desired for darker color.
  • Immediately spread pasta onto waxed paper and let dry completely.
  • Store in a plastic bag.

Note: Dyed past is NOT edible!

Click here to see other independent activities for preschoolers.

Click here to see how I use these activities while homeschooling.

20 April 2009

Earth Day plans

Monday: The continents
Label outline map of continents.
Practice learning continents.
Begin to make paper mache earth.

Tuesday: Pollution
Read The Lorax .
Identify different types of pollution (air, water, etc.)
Watch the Lorax movie.
Compare and contrast movie vs. book.

Wednesday: The 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Make homemade paper.
Take a trash walk (to pick up litter).
Analyze our recycling bin and brainstorm creative uses for items. Be prepared for some recycled art projects. Let this inspire you.
Earth Day activities at the library.

Thursday: Bible Story
Read Genesis 1.
Make creation book.
Practice sequencing the days of creation using index cards with keywords or pictures.
Memorize Genesis 1:1

Friday: Energy
Discuss the different types of energy used in a home.
Be an energy detective and find energy inefficiencies and "fix" them. Here's some inspiration.
Make a list of energy saving house "rules."
Make a solar cooker and cook some hot dogs!

Monday: Ecology
Read The Salamander Room .
Discuss what animals need to survive (LAWS: land, air water, and sunlight)

Tuesday: Endangered Animals
Read The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest
Watch FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Learn more about a favorite endangered animal.

Wednesday: Nature's Recyclers: Decomposers
Learn more about decomposers here, here and here.
Go on a decomposer hunt. (We recently discovered a very decomposed bird and some mushrooms in our yard, lucky us!)

Thursday: Field trip to the library/environmental center.

Friday: Catch-up/Clean-up
Also to do maybe perhaps:
Watch Schoolhouse Rock: Earth.
Play some recycling games.
Read Miss Rumphius. (and scatter some lupine seed)
See the new Earth movie.

18 April 2009

Food & Nutrition Week in Review

We finally settled down to some normalcy and finished up our food and nutrition plans. It was great fun, especially since Gracie did a lot of the cooking this week! Pretend Soup was the perfect cookbook to use for a beginning reader and cook. Each recipe has a grown-up page of directions and then a kid page of directions with pictures to make it easy to follow. We did some other things besides cook (you can see the plans here), but really, the food was the fun part! Here's our lunch of Pretend Soup and Noodle Pudding along with the proud chef! Amaryllis enjoyed all the participating (eating) she got to do in school this week! Here's Bright Pink Fruit Dip. Yes, that's really the name, and yes, Gracie chose it because of the name!
Gracie was proud of the Salad Bar she created. Can you tell her mom is a blogger?

A great story we read was One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale. We acted out the first week that happens in the story, and then we just couldn't keep up anymore! Gracie also loved Strega Nona .

We played with our food a bit by making a food mosaic using beans, lentils and colored rice.

Gracie says, "I like to cook. My favorite was Oatmeal Surprise without raisins. And I like Peekaboo Muffins. Strawberries are my favorite food." (Both those recipes are also from Pretend Soup.)

Book of the Week: Miss Rumphius

If you've read any childrens' books at all, you've probably come across some of Barbara Cooney's work, since she's written or illustrated more than 200 of them. The Ox-Cart man and Roxaboxen are two of her more well-known titles. But I'm all about Miss Rumphius today. It's a perfect story for the upcoming Earth Day. (You'll see it my plans for our Earth Day theme coming up.) Miss Rumphius has three dreams: to go to faraway places, to live beside the sea, and to make the world more beautiful. You'll be challenged to make the world a more beautiful place in your own unique way. And if you're lucky enough to have them around, you'll have a new appreciation for all the wild lupines (which is the same thing as a bluebonnet, by the way) that are everywhere, dotting the sides of roads and vacant lots.

16 April 2009

Preschool Activity: Homemade Puzzles

Most days Gracie and I do school while Nate and Amaryllis are taking their afternoon naps. So far, this has worked great, but I do have a backup plan. I have a basket of preschool activities that Amaryllis can do independently if she should wake up before we are finished. So far I have only had to use them a handful of times, but as she gets older that might begin to change.

I keep the basket with our other school materials and away from the toys so it feels more like school for Amaryllis. They are also reserved only for school time, so they maintain a sense of novelty, although I've made a few exceptions since she hardly ever needs to use them during school time!
One activity I have is some homemade puzzles. To make the puzzles I cut interesting pictures out of magazines, glued them onto some card stock from my scrapbooking supplies, and cut them into interesting shapes. My reason for putting the card stock on the back was to make the pictures thicker and little more durable and to keep the separate puzzles distinct (I used a different color of card stock on each picture), but it also makes a good color sorting activity! It took a three-year-old to figure that one out!
To store, I put each puzzle into its own sandwich-sized Ziploc bag and all the small bags go into a gallon-sized Ziploc and then into the activity basket. Most of the activities are in gallon Ziploc, and I have the rule of one bag a at a time in order to keep things under control. At least that's my plan!

I'll be sharing more of my preschool activity bags in future, so stay posted!

11 April 2009

Book of the Week: "Weslandia"

I first came across Weslandia while working on a children's literature project for my teaching credential. This book has so many layers and covers so many subjects that it was practically begging to be my choice for the basis of a literature unit I had to create as a final project. Of course I agreed. Being a picture book you wouldn't think it would be appropriate for older students, but because of the theme of civilization and culture, it would be great for a student learning about the ancient world. I've also read to my three-year-old, who although doesn't get every nuance, enjoyed the book very much.

This is a great summertime book that could inspire some creative and innovative projects. I must admit that it has been a while since I've read this book , but I think it's time for a revisiting. I might even dig up that theme unit and put it back into use.

09 April 2009

L.A. Fair

Last year we took our first ever "official" school field trip to the Los Angeles County Fair. It's free for all school groups including homeschoolers. It's a fun trip and a lot more than just seing cows and quilts. Although there's that, too. They open the gates at 9am, three hours before the public can enter and they give you a free parking pass. You can sign up now, but I didn't sign up until August last year and received my packet of info and passes without a problem. If you're in the Southern California area, you might want to check it out.

08 April 2009

Considering Charlotte

I've been doing a bit of researching and reading and thinking about our curriculum and structure for next school year, and Charlotte Mason is a name that keeps popping up. I borrowed A Charlotte Mason Companion from a friend who uses the Charlotte Mason method and have slowly been making my way through it.

I've also found a wealth of information at Simply Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online.

So far, here's what I like about the Charlotte Mason method:
  • There is an emphasis on nature studies. My years as an outdoor educator showed me the value of getting kids outside and looking at nature. So this one is a no-brainer for me.
  • It is based on quality literature rather than textbooks. I was not very impressed with the choppily written textbooks I was required to use in the classroom. Using good books is essential to instilling a love of reading. Using sub-par books is a great way to kill that love.
  • It is age-appropriate, yet challenging. There is no sense of hurriedness with Charlotte Mason. Quite the opposite in fact. Learning is something to wallow and soak in, rather than rush through.
  • It is flexible and adaptable. There is no "official curriculum" for doing Charlotte Mason. It is a method that can be applied to a variety of educational programs.
  • Short lessons. This is a good thing. My daughter has the uncanny ability to stretch things out to eternity!
  • It values development of life skills and handicrafts. I'm a crafty person and love making things. I have already started to introduce my daughter to some of these practical skills that are becoming lost arts.

Things I'm not so thrilled about

  • Getting my daughter to do narration. This probably isn't a bad thing, just something that will take a little practice and a persuasion.
  • Poetry. Argh! I'm intimidated, okay?!
  • Labor Intensive (lots of read-alouds). This year we've been fitting school nicely into little brother's and sister's nap times. I really don't want to change that a lot for next year. It's not that I wouldn't mind, but little brother would have some definite opinions about the matter. I'm sure!
  • Segmentedness. This is a big one for me. I love the unit studies we've been doing. I love how we're able to integrate most areas of study together. Although realistically, we still do separate math and phonics lessons. And our artist studies haven't been connected either. I would love to find a way to do a Charlotte Mason style theme unit. I'd LOVE advice from anyone who has done this.

I would love any feedback from all you Charlotte Mason-ites out there. Have you experienced any of the concerns I've mentioned? Is my list of positives accurate? Tell me what I've missed. I'd love to hear from you!

06 April 2009

Food week gone awry!

Last week was a wacky week. We started a bit off because of Greg's weekend away. That meant that Monday became recovery day for all of us. Then Tuesday was Amaryllis's birthday and a visit to Color Me Mine with friends, Wednesday we met with Gracie's teacher, Thursday was a field trip to the Long Beach aquarium, and Friday we recovered from the field trip and prepared for a Amaryllis's birthday party that evening. If you want to know how to mess up your schedule and not follow all your well-made plans, just follow the example of my week!

So we're starting the week a bit behind, but hopefully we won't have as many interuptions as last week. But isn't that the beauty of homeschooling? I love having the ability to have a "free" or "easy" day every now and then, especially on days that I know simply aren't going to be that productive!

So here's a little look into our week. I just love aquarium pictures!
This funny looking guy is very appropriately called a turkey fish!
And here's our little birthday girl! Can't believe she's three! Notice her crayon cake. I'm pretty proud of how it turned out!

04 April 2009

Book of the Week: "Down the Road"

Now that we are finished with our ABC book, I thought it would be fun to have a new "regular feature" type of post for Saturdays. I will be sharing a book that my kids and I have really enjoyed. It may or may not have to do with our theme for the week. It might be a new discovery, it might be an old favorite, and it might not even be "twaddle-free," but it will be something we consider worthwhile.
Down the Road is such a lovely book (and lovely is a word I use quite sparingly) that tells the story of girl and her first experience going to town on an errand by herself. This is one of those books that just creates a warm mood in a way that I can't really explain or describe, so I won't. I do know that any book with an adventure down a dusty road, squishy shoes, and the view from an apple tree can't be bad! Next time you're in the library, look for it. I think you'll be glad you did.

03 April 2009

Lots of Links

During the last week I've put together some link lists over in the sidebar. You might want to take a look if haven't noticed them yet. I will continue to add to them as I come across more helpful sites. Am I missing any? What are your favorite homeschool or educational online resources?