Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Coloring Pages

I have made several coloring pages for my girls and wanted to share them!
 You can print them from this link.---  CHRISTMAS COLORING!
Enjoy, and Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
My coloring buddy and me.  After seeing me make some coloring pages she started making her own and giving them out!  First we worked together and now she is making them alone. :)

Friday, December 02, 2016

Story writing contest for kids!

My 10 year old (resistant reader/writer) wrote a story for this contest!  I played editor as any professional writer would have and now her story is on Youtube with some others as well!  If she gets lots of "thumbs up" on her video then she might win a prize.  Just doing this project has been encouraging and helpful to her, but obviously it would be encouraging to win a prize too.  She also has the book they show at the end and has writen more stories independently in it!  It is so encouraging to see her actually enjoy writing.

The full list of stories read aloud with pictures is linked here and below (everyone had the same pictures to choose from and base their story off of.)  Listen and watch and like your favorites!

Lily's story is called "Our Adventure in Photos, by Me, Cliff Pony"
The whole list is here - Thinking Tree Writing Contest 2016:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving coloring pages!

 I made a couple coloring pages for my own kids and their friends for thanksgiving just now!  And hopefully it will be easy for anyone to copy/save the pictures from here and print them out for your own kids.   I know how kids tend to get a little whiny when waiting for food!  ... or they could even be used for that adult relative that gets a little whiny while waiting.  ;)
Anyway, I made them myself and am giving you all permission to save and print as many as you want to use (obviously not to sell) for your own Thanksgiving gathering!

Enjoy!  And Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

A Look Inside and a Life of Learning

I shared briefly in the previous post about this pocket journal, but it was brand new and I hadn't gotten a chance to use it yet! It has a different feel than some of the others so is worth some extra attention.

My 8 year old thought it looked amazing and she wanted to use it right away, but I personally think it would work best for possibly 6th grade and higher or for a child who loves to read a lot and isn't as into the coloring and drawing and much.  The small size makes it feel more doable and less intimidating for children who don't enjoy writing as much, or for adults who want a book to guide their own studies but don't have a ton of time to put towards them.

This post will give you a peek inside this journal and how it can look to use it, but since I was the one using it, I will also share how it can be used for a mom book.  Or some people say "awesome adulting" or other people call it being an example, or modeling how to learn for our kids.  Whatever you want to call enjoying being an adult and learning what YOU want to learn is what I am going to talk about.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thinking Tree books in Categories! (& Ideas for using them!)

 We have loved using the Thinking Tree books for over a year now (and longer if you include the Dyslexia Games books that we have used on and off for about 3 years too!  Which started back when I was learning about Right Brain dominant learners.)

There are SO many books by them and they are a different style than we are used to seeing (great for the right brain dominant learners!) But that can make it confusing to know which to pick.  I thought it would be helpful to share some ideas about the types of books (in categories) and a few ideas on how someone could plan to use them.

Many people have wondered how these books work and how they can use them.  I've broken the books down into a rough 8 categories to make it easier for people to see what types of books are available.

Poetry Teatimes Continue! (And my Poem about it!)

We have been doing "Poetry teatimes" for long enough now that we have started writing our own poetry at the end almost every time!  It might be silly or short or not that great, but still it is fun and a great creative time.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Our Typical Atypical Monday

 It's hard to begin a description of a typical day because I feel like I can only describe ONE day and not necessarily show that every day will look like this, but the principles are the same to the flow and rhythm of our homeschool.  If you read my previous post you will know that I talked about how we all parent and homeschool differently and it is based on our choices that we think are best for our own family AND our own personality and what I do (and what you do) isn't a judgement on the choices of other people.

Personally, I can't homeschool in a super structured rigorous way.  I hate the detailed teachers guides that don't show WHAT the goal is for that lesson but only the 3 pages of monologue that I'm (apparently) supposed to use in teaching it.  After 6 years of homeschooling (I started getting serious about what to homeschool when my oldest was 4.... I wouldn't recommend starting then, but most of us will still do that anyway) I have finally owned my personality and style.

Our style might be totally NOT what would work for you.  That's okay!  That's the beauty of homeschooling because we can tailor it to fit our own family! 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Choosing Joy - and not planning too much

 I started our new school year a few weeks ago, feathering in the subjects and routines slowly so we could get back into the swing of learning in a more regular way.

Before starting up though, I was feeling overwhelmed and a bit worried that if I was tired BEFORE starting, how would this year of continual planning, spontaneous learning, daily questions, messes, crying, laughing, following rabbit trails, goofing off, loving, being "bored" and all the other things that make up this 24/7 job of mothering and educating look like by the new year?

Enter the gathering of encouraging words from other homeschoolers! Blogs, podcasts, periscopes, Facebook lives... The online community of homeschoolers like me who are less concerned with looking perfect and more concerned with just doing our best for our kids.  If I read something that makes me feel more stressed, then I throw it out.  If I read or hear something that gives me courage and strength, I hold onto it.
And this blogpost is going to be all about the parts that have brought me encouragement for the start of this year.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Mom-Tips from A to Z

Following my completion of all the alphabetical chalk boards, how about some tips from Amazing to Zany for Moms (and homeschoolers especially)! And there are links to all those A-to-Z chalkboard posts at the end of this post too!

Also, a free sample "Mom's book" of 100 pages from The Thinking Tree!  A great thing to print out in the summer and start working through to help you relax while prepping for next year.  (Check out this blog post for other thinking tree books and how to use them.)

Or really, it can be used any time to get a little time away for a Parent Teacher conference/refocus time without feeling guilty!
 Child-- "Mommy, why were you coloring and talking to yourself in the closet?"
Mom-- "I was having an important teacher/parent planning time, dear."

Advice from Amazing to Zany!  -Yes, I came up with 26 bits of advice and encouragement (and humor) for you!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Z week" is finally here!

Obviously my plan of the alphabet of the week wasn't just one week for each letter.  We did other things in between, and the past 2 years of going through the alphabet like this has been more of a way to find a theme and a resting point between each section (sort of like a unit study) and the blogging about it reminds me of what we have done instead of just getting caught up in the mundane every day stuff.

 Here is the design for this theme.  Zig-Zag race at the ZOO - Pizza Prize. ;)  We went to the zoo a lot (before it got too hot here!) and before that we went to the arboretum to find Zinnias.  We also planted some zinnias in our little potted garden outside our apartment.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Mom-School books, reviews, how-to, and 7 giveaways!

 These are the 7 giveaway books for 7 people that I have already given away!   But even though the giveaway portion is over you can still see inside these lovely books that everyone is talking about.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Variations on "Poetry Tea Time"

Have you heard about "Poetry Tea Times"-- check out the hash tag #poetryteatime on instagram or look at their website! Also check out their #poetryteatimecontest !

It's not a curriculum or for only homeschoolers.  It's an idea that can be molded to fit any family or interests. 

Here's the idea.
1. Parents (usually) value poetry (or other educational or enrichment type things they could plug into this idea.)
2. Kids value snacks!  Or a special meal of some kind!  (If they aren't into a tea party you could go to Starbucks for Frapps or a frozen yogurt place!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Y and Why - Modeling Learning

 "Value academic work because nurturing the intellect is part of what makes us fully human, but don't elevate it beyond its place.  There are relationships to cultivate, books to read, oceans to swim in, forts to build, toilets to scrub, bills to pay, paintings to create, dinners to make.  This is why we homeschool, because we want to engage in a full-to bursting life."
(Quote from "Teaching From Rest")

"Yesterday, a yodeling yak was in the yard of yarrow playing with your toy yacht under the yew tree.  It yelled when it sat on your yardstick and yo-yo.  Then the yak said, 'Yummy,' when it saw a yucky yellow egg yolk."
And what each girl did for her own chalk board for "Y week"
 Our chalk board alphabet theme is winding down and I've been listening and reading about how children learn and meditating on the most important things in our days.  I hope this blog post will be encouraging to my fellow homeschoolers and Moms of littles.  I will be sharing a lot of quotes and links and thoughts that have been encouraging for me!

      I'm a second generation Homeschooler which is always the highest compliment to the original teacher (my mom!) because she created an environment that I have always wanted to copy.  And I've only admired her more as I've progressed down this journey.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Freedom in Order

 What most homeschoolers understand is that struggle we have between the need to have order to our home and school, but often one of the reasons we chose to homeschool is for the freedom and flexibility and ability to hone the school our children's interests even day to day.

How do you create order and structure while at the same time desiring to nurture creativity and freedom?  Not to mention the normal flow of a changing day with sicknesses, new babies, bad moods, and just household tasks that never end?  This post has a few ideas that we are trying, but we are always tweaking it as we go.

Healthy chocolates

 My girls love desserts and especially chocolates, but I hate to give them have too much sugar and compromise their immune systems.  THESE are mostly coconut oil!  Which is great for you, but you can google all about that.  ;)  Also, you can use sweeteners other than sugar.  I like pure stevia and honey in ours.
1 cup of Coconut Oil (might need to be melted slightly if it's especially cold.  My kitchen is always about 80 degrees so it's not a problem for us.)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
T of vanilla
pinch of salt to enhance the flavor

Mix all that together well and then add your sweetener of choice.
I use honey (local so I know it's pure honey) and stevia.  Start with a few scoops and taste the mix until it is as sweet as you like.  If you go too far and it becomes too sweet you can add more cocoa powder.

Put the mixture in molds or in a pan with wax paper and put it in the fridge or freezer so it can harden.
 I found some silicone molds at a 99 cent store and used them for the shapes!
They turned out super cute and my girls and I love them!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Inspiring Early Readers with Crayons

You can inspire your child towards an interest in story telling, languages, and creativity even at a young age and even just with crayons.

 It all started with a memory.

When I was a little girl (about my two oldest girls ages) I would organize my coloring box with like colors next to each other, and I distinctly remember in one season at that time in my life where I was fascinated with the names of the crayon colors and worked at sounding them out and asking my mom about the funny spellings.

My favorite color then was Periwinkle possibly more for it's interesting name than it's color!

Deciding to buy myself a box of crayons one grocery shopping day recently, I took them home, sat down, and gently poured them out and reorganized them the way I liked.

I then colored in the word "Being" in my journal.
 When my girls saw what I'd done they were so impressed that they were inspired to do their own!

As we colored I read to them the names on the crayons and we laughed at some and approved of others.  Names such as ---

"Wild Strawberry"
"Macaroni and Cheese"
"Dandelion" and the like...
 I made word bubbles for the girls to create their own ribbon rainbow words with my crayons with the instructions to be very careful with them.

 Previously, crayons barely lasted a day and I was always sad to see them so quickly broken and ruined.

 My 7 year old was inspired to practice sounding out the names of the crayons as she saw me talk about the names.  The magnifying glass helped her do this!
If you want to inspire your early readers with crayons YOU need to be interested in those names as well!  

Actually, they are pretty fascinating to read.  It's not a box of red, red, red, red and red.. it's Maroon, Wild Strawberry, Wacky Watermelon, Brick Red, Magenta, and so on! 

 These words paint such a vivid picture if you will let them!  What stories could these crayons tell? Ask your child what they think of when they hear a name?  Who would live there?  How would this place feel?

I recently watched a Periscope to inspire Homeschooling parents to do some "Awesome Adulting" - meaning that we can't stop learning and growing and following our interests and passions because we are so caught up in the curriculum and homeschooling and surviving the days.
Doing more of my own art and crafts that I feel like doing is not only great for me it's even great for my kids to watch!  My Mom inspired me as I grew by just doing awesome things!  It made me want to learn those things too.

 I love seeing art videos that are sped up or the time lapse type and thought it would be fun to create my own coloring a page using ONLY crayons.  Did you know crayons could do this?

My new skill this week was learning to make a time lapse video and put it into Youtube so I could edit it all awesome.  This is what I came up with!

The coloring sketch journal featured is this.


It's been several days and the girls have been gentle with my crayons so I (once again) got them a box of crayons for their own.  First time getting all three a large box though!  And first thing they all did was sit down and organize their colors.  The 7 year old was very interested in the lovely sounding names and the 10 year old was quite taken with comparing the English names to the two other languages underneath each name!

What are other ways you could use crayons to inspire reading and creativity? 

 1.    Reading the names to them and talking about what it makes them think of.  If they can't think of an image or idea then come up with your own!  Make sure they know that this isn't a test and there aren't any wrong answers as you brain storm together and scribble.

2.     Compare the colors that look similar and be surprised and delighted when they look totally different on the page than the crayon looked!  You could talk about the names of those two crayons and discuss if you think the name was accurate or not.

 3.    Crayons can also teach responsibility as you teach them to take care of their art supplies.  Crayons layer really well if you don't push too hard so that's a great way to teach them to be gentle with the crayons.  Show them how to color with one and then color over it again to change the color to something slightly different or totally different!

4.     Come up with a short story game to make up together using their favorite animal toy as the main character.  Like, the toy bunny hopped along through the "Wild Strawberries"  .. Her name was "Razzmatazz"... she had "Periwinkle" eyes.  Pull each crayon out randomly and try to make the name of the crayon fit into the story!  You or your child could even write this down if you like to take it a bit farther!

5.     Draw bubble letter words that they are interested in spelling so they can color them in.  How much MORE fun would that be than copying a dry list of words?  Show them the video that I made below for inspiration!

"The highest form of learning is creating.  Creativity is a sign of true intelligence.  Creating something requires us to use our skills, knowledge and ideas.  First we look, next we copy, then we practice, and finally all we create.  This is the pathway to mastery.  
Little children are great creators, until they are told to follow the instructions, and do only as they are told.  Instead of valuing creativity, which is the highest form of learning, we value the memorization of facts - a lower form of learning that can be measured by testing."  Quote by Sarah Janisse Brown in "How to Homeschool"

To say that children can't have this freedom of creativity in how they learn, that we give to ourselves when we are older as we are learning new skills, is not only unkind, but demeaning and could even be considered cruel for some children.

If we want our children to love learning and be lifelong learners we need to think of more ways to inspire them.  

What inspired you as a child?  What memory do you have like my crayon one?  How could you ENJOY that right now and thus (hopefully) inspire those around you to want to join in on the fun!

Excellent X chalk board with Multiplication!

 The X chalk board!  This has stayed up for a LONG time because of Christmas vacation and all.  I started it with only part of the multiplication chart filled out so it would be easier for them to see at first.  I've talked before about "Math Gnomes" - the way I'm using them is just to give a good visual and story to the math symbols.  So the multiplication gnome is yellow because she is super fast like light!  The addition gnome is green because it adds and is slower like a growing plant. 

 As usual the girls did their own chalk board designs!  the 7 year old chose to do a Fox and the oldest drew Axolotls which I think she learned about from a library book I think.

Life of Fred Math Elementary Series | Educents

 We are still doing "Life of Fred" and loving it!  This website has the best deal for the set above.  We are on "Cats" (the third one in the picture above) and the picture below shows a little thing he had wanting them to memorize some numbers that add up to 11.  I wanted them to be able to picture this in a tactile way as well so I had them string 11 beads onto a pipe cleaner and as they were looking at the numbers that add up to 11 they could move the beads to show this!  There are still 11 beads, but they are just separated differently. 

 While I read them the chapter in life of Fred the girls will often color a few pages in these two books.  The Kitty Doodle one is really too easy for my oldest, but it's just a fun thing to do while she listens so it totally works.

The "Count and Color" have have for my middle and youngest girls.  They are little books and just kind of a nice filler thing to enjoy. 

 My middle daughter has been enjoying the "Schoolhouse Rock" multiplication songs.  ESPECIALLY the figure eight one!  Which you can see on Youtube!  So for her "Movie time" in her homeschool journal she chose to watch these over and over again.  I think she has much of it memorized!

The cat wanted to help with school and I don't mind her being on the table (when there's no food on it!) because I know it brightens the girls school time when the cat wants to join them!

 Both the oldest and middle have been using this book "Multiplication games"  I just have them trade off doing two pages each.  Not quite as convenient as having their own books, but it is a BIG book and is plenty enough for them to share!  It has a lot of multiplication pages to complete (copying this over and over will help them memorize their times tables.)
I encouraged them to use different colors on their multiplication charts as well to help see the patterns in the numbers as they worked!  They would look at the multiplication chart on the chalk board to help them complete it. 
 The opposite pages in this book often have a Logic puzzle to solve (figure out the pattern to finish the missing parts of the patterns on the picture.)  Gets your brain working!

An example of a logic page (they are all different!)
 Sometimes there's a hundreds chart to complete in this book as well.  It's a lot of repetition, but just right to go along with Life of Fred I think.  A few pages to gently help memorization in a right brain kind of way!
 ALSO!  I got THIS BOOK from Usborne and it is working SO well with the multiplication games from the thinking tree!  It's like they were made to go together. 
 It has a bunch of flaps to flip which make it super fun for the girls and the little multiplication tricks are helpful and my husband and I even learned a trick to help memorize one of the times tables we hadn't known about before!
Using this book has helped my middle daughter the most.  She was stressed out at first because she thought she had to already know what went into the multiplication chart and once she understood how to fill it in on her own and that she was just copying the numbers she didn't stress about it anymore.  They will memorize  this easily after copying it so much.
 They can look down the edge of the page at the times table in question and copy it in their Multiplications Games book

 We will continue to use these books after X week is over, but I got them specifically to start during this focus on X time!

 It's really clever how they set this book up!  I had a hard time finding this on Usborne's site for some reason so here's the link for you all to make it easy!
 During life of Fred he was talking about place values and this was a bit confusing to my girls so we had an extra lesson in place values.  I wrote the blank spaces and names above each and had them color the spaces like a rainbow.  We talked about how the places have certain names (or values) and that numbers can beam into these places.  If there isn't a number for it then a zero will hold the space for us.  I also had the girls walk their fingers like people starting at the ones column and repeat the names of each place value to help memorize it.

 We did a bit of cross-stiching (even the 4 year old did this with us, but I can't find the picture I thought I took of her!) which turned into embroidery, which turned into this bunny my 7 year old sewed!  Continuing with her sewing school in little ways like this!  (Next up will be a skirt for Valentine's day!)

 Some Math Gnome playing time.  They like to stack with the blocks and the gnomes like to add and argue and divide and "King Equals" comes in and makes it all right.  ;)

 We also used this game often!!!  And this particular day we used the add and multiply math gnomes to help us out.  It uses counting, adding, multiplying, greater-lesser and some crazy turns if you keep going till you can't do anything else (do the "Bisnipian move only once" but Planet zoomers and black holes can bounce you all over!)
X from OUTER SPACE Board Game
 I had this game when I was their age and it left a huge impression on me!  One, my Mom made it super fun!  And two, I finally learned my multiplication tables.  :)

 The cat wanted to help again!  The girls and I laughed about the gnomes AND the cat In Spaaace (echo echo echo.)

What?  I just wanted to see what was going on...

 And of course you can make cut out cookies for any letter of the alphabet!  With X being a little thin for topics I decided to do some gingerbread type cookies with lots of x's to go along with the theme.
The middle one is getting pretty good at cooking and following some recipes already and doesn't have any trouble understanding fractions so far even though we haven't official learned them yet.  We divide a lot of things by 3 and 4 though.  ;)

So yummy!  I feel like making more!
 And the finished multiplication chart on the chalk board in case you wondered.  :)
Not easy, but I was able to find some books that fit with the X theme (most I got at the library.)  This Animal Antics book of course! I also downloaded a xylophone app for my 4 year old.  Hey, it fit the theme anyway.
 And there you have it!  Lots of focus on multiplication this time.

Of course, in the midst of this there was a month of Christmas and decorating and fondue eating and lots and lots of cheeses and Lego like crazy (As that was most of the gifts!) and reading Christmas books and doing other random projects, roasting marshmallows over candles, stockings, Christmas movies, and then the beginning of January my oldest turned 10!  We went Ice skating for her birthday (which was the most fun ever!) and since then have been working back into the flow of our normal days.  Eating less cheese, and doing more specific school things and especially focusing on multiplication!

Y is starting and we are already doing many projects involving yarn.  ;)