Friday, July 31, 2009

Delivery Day

Finally decided on most of our curriculum for the upcoming school year (see "our curriculum" in the sidebar). Some of it came in the mail yesterday. As usual, the kids were much more excited about the boxes than what was in them...

Oh well. :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

You Capture: Friends

There's nothing like good, clean, dirty fun with friends

unless it's sweet, snuggly, cuddly fun with your "friends" at home.

See more friends captured at the You Capture Challenge.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summertime Blues

Am I the only one?

One the hardest times of the year for me is the last few weeks of summer, when I'm having to stay busy getting stuff ready for the upcoming school year, both at home and for our homeschooling group (and now the homeschool orchestra). What's hard is trying to keep the kids entertained while doing this, because, strangely, they don't magically disappear just because I have other things to do.

In some ways I think it's good for the kids to get a little bored, so they are at least a little bit ready to begin school when the time comes, but I still have pretty major guilt when I've left them to their own devices ALL day long. So I'm trying to make myself break away from my school planning several times a day to try to do SOMEthing fun with the kids.

Here's some of yesterday's stuff:

The girls made tissue paper vases. We didn't have any mod podge, so we made a homemade version with equal parts glue and water.

It was a good project for fun cutting practice for Lil' Diva.

Here's a video on how to make the flowers:

And here's a few shots of our theatrical production of The 3 Little Pigs:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Preschool Activities

One of the hardest things about homeschooling the last couple of years has been keeping my youngest entertained while the "big kids" do schoolwork. With 4 kids, having a toddler around to keep busy has been an issue for a long time, but Lil' Diva has required a little more entertainment than the others. So this year, I've vowed to start school prepared with lots of Lil Diva activities ready to pull out at a moment's notice. I've been compiling a list of ideas, and this week I hope to start putting individual activities into big ziploc bags, which I can then put into Lil Diva's workboxes each day. (Picture above is a scrapbook page, from way back when I had time to scrapbook, of some of the activities MyBuddy did (way back when I had time to plan lots of activities).

Here is my idea list:
  • Use tweaser/tongs to transfer pom poms into a container or egg carton
  • sort buttons or marbles in egg carton by color
  • match the shapes (match shapes on cards to shapes on poster board or paper)
  • match the numbers
  • match the letters
  • stacking blocks
  • puzzles
  • small white board and markers
  • watch leapfrog alphabet dvds
  • beads on pipe cleaners or yarn
  • hide small toys in a bowl of pasta
  • push pasta into premade holes in a cardboard box (cereal box)
  • cheerios book (book with places to put cheerios to complete pictures)
  • pasta collage
  • glue one button, pom pom, bead, etc. onto bottom of container/cup - sort similar items into cups by color
  • match photos/clip art images with ones pasted on a board/paper
  • drop q-tips into a shake cheese container
  • stick dry spaghettie noodles into a foam circle/ball to make a sculpture
  • sand/salt tray - draw shapes/letters
  • counting things tray (numbers on cards, place corresponding number of legos, bears, etc. on each card)
  • cut construction paper into confetti over a tray (cutting practice)
  • glue shape collages
  • stamps
  • markers and paper/small note pad
  • cookie cutters in playdoh
  • stickers
  • musical instruments -have a marching band to music
  • make your own musical instruments (shakers)
  • find a letter that mom calls out from a pile of letters and race to put it in a bucket (game)
  • color/toy match (color cards, put toys of a certain color on each card)
  • coloring pages and crayons
  • paper bag puppets with crafts (string, pom pom, google eyes)
  • sort counting bears
  • playdoh
  • educational videos
  • paints on an easel
  • bubbles
  • dominoes
  • stack cheerios or fruit loops on dry spaghetti noodles on a playdoh stand
  • sort nuts and bolts
  • memory games
  • trace magnetic letters onto cards, match letter magnets to each letter on card on fridge
  • shaving cream (put on table, draw letters, shapes in shaving cream)
  • washing play dishes in a tub of soapy water
  • doll and dress up clothes
  • magnet on a fishing pole, pick up magnetic objects (or make magnetic fish)
  • clothesline between two chairs, pin up letter or number cards in order
  • color on sandpaper with crayons
  • stickers on paper plates
  • wastebasket and sockballs
  • masking tape balls to throw at the fridge, wall
  • yarn shapes on sandpaper
  • make a wagon out of a shoebox to pull animals in
  • use papertowel rolls to put balls thru (golfballs?)
  • ladle beans or rice between 2 bowls
  • get a cheap blowup kiddie pool to use as an indoor "playpen" for messy projects
  • pudding paint on a paper plate
  • make a tent out of blankets, watch a dvd on computer in the "cave"
  • use a dumptruck to play with beans
  • coins and a piggy bank
  • chalk on dark construction paper
  • sidewalk chalk paint
  • paint with yarn (dip yarn in paint, make designs on paper)
  • pins and pincushion play
  • shaving cream with colors (mix to make new colors)
  • smell different spices
  • put faces parts in a bag (google eyes, pom pom noses, yarn mouth, hair, etc.), let make faces
  • color pasta by mixing 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol and food coloring in container, add pasta, let dry. Sort into containers by color
  • glue tissue paper squares onto wax paper (can use gluestick); hang as sun catcher
  • playdoh “snake” numbers - roll out playdoh to match number cards
  • small chalkboard and chalk
  • water xylophone (different amounts of water in glasses in a row, tap each with spoon)
  • HWT letters (wooden letters that come with the Handwriting without Tears program)
  • match stickers to number cards (1 sticker on number 1 card, 2 on number 2, etc.)
  • cornstarch goop
  • paint in small ziploc bags (let squish, mix colors, draw on top with finger)
  • paint with q-tips, cotton balls
Some of these are ideas I've done or collected over the years, some came from here, or the Sunny Patch, or from the Tot School website.

Some things I think are great ideas the kids turn their noses up at, so we'll see how it goes. Would love to hear your preschool ideas, too!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Homeschooling Stuff Worth Checking Out, Edition 2

Have to share these resources I came across, too...

Being EOC (Extremely Organizationally Challenged), I'm always searching for ways to keep myself on task to do household chores. I recently found this great resource called the Motivated Moms Chore Planner, and so far it's worked better than anything else I've found. I love having both the daily and weekly chore lists on the same page - for me that works better than the "control journal" concept promoted at (I've learned a lot from flylady, too, tho').

Also, check out today's post over at A Holy Experience. It has wonderful thoughts and information about teaching the Bible to children, and has links to a free pdf of Through The Bible with My Child, which after browsing through, I think I will use with our kids this year. I've been looking for something like this.

So, otherwise, we are just here hanging around at the family zoo.

Found this surprise visitor in the yard today. The kids were very excited. The turtle, not so much.

You Capture: Black & White

Who needs TV for entertainment?...

"That is one freaky dude, man."

I was a little wary about joining this week's challenge at You Capture, as good black and white processing truly is a challenge for me (as you can see). But I wanted to play along so I could see everyone's entries and maybe learn a little more about what works. And maybe it will convince me to take the plunge and move beyond the editing capibilities of iPhoto :).

See more black and white at the You Capture Challenge.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Homeschooling Stuff Worth Checking Out, Edition 1

I'm not at Super-Blogger status, so I don't get compensated for reviewing homeschooling material, but I wanted to share some things that have worked well for us lately.

I stumbled on the Headsprout Reading Program last month and tried out their free trial. I got it for my 6-year-old, who is just learning how to read, and she wasn't that interested when she first looked at it. But my 3-year-old was nearby and begged to get to play it when the 6-year-old left it. By the end of the first episode, she had learned several letter sounds and was having a blast with it.

Now everytime she sees the letters she learned, on signs, cereal boxes, etc., she proudly points them out like she has just discovered an amazing treasure. After struggling with teaching reading with my first two kids, it is such a joy to see excitement in reading.

Once CarriBear (6) saw how much fun Lil' Diva (3) was having, she decided the program was actually pretty cool, and often watches over Lil' Diva's shoulder, helping her out when she gets stuck. So CarriBear is actually learning without what she considers the "work".

The true test came when it was time to print out the first reader. Lil Diva was so excited to get her book and spent all morning carefully coloring the pictures. However, she couldn't read it. She could easily do all the lessons in the online games, but couldn't make the connection to reading actual printed words. But, it is still early for that, and her excitement and interest in "reading" that came from this program is worth the effort, even if she doesn't actually read for another year or two. She now picks up every book she can get her hands on and "reads" it to herself, which is a great first step.

Plus, CarriBear breezed through the reader with no problem, so I know the program is working for her, even though she isn't doing every exercise. As they say, sometimes teaching others is the best way to learn, and she has spent plenty of time showing Lil Diva the "right" way to play the Headsprout games.

I'm not sure yet if the program is worth the high price, but I would definitely recommend checking it out to see if it is something that might work for your family. It has gotten many great reviews. So far I feel like it is working better than Starfall and some of the other free reading programs we've tried.

BeachPea and I pulled this game out the other day - Snapshots Across America - and I had forgotten how fun it is. It really seems to help the kids learn their US geography - BeachPea was able to find the states on her cards almost immediately after the first couple rounds - plus it's fun and easy to play. You drive your car across the country, earning cards for each U.S. attraction you visit. Our favorite part of the game is when it's over and we go through our cards and pick out which of the places we would most want to visit. I'm still dreaming about the Key West vacation I would take :).

If you want to check out more reviews on this game, Amazon carries it:

The last product I was introduced to by Dana at Crazy Maize World. We ordered the Times Tales free trial download and my kids really enjoyed it. They had all the times tables memorized from the trial by the end of the first 20 minute lesson. The program uses cute drawings and stories to help kids memorize. Much more fun (and effective) than regular flash cards. You can order the free download here:

Free Times Tales Sample Download

Amazon also carries it, tho' I ordered my copy a few weeks ago and they have been out of stock. Hoping it will come soon.

That's all for now. Now back to freaking out over the rest of this year's curriculum, which I still have to decide on. Can't believe August is coming up so fast. Where did the summer go?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vacation Photos, Part 4

So, we finally come to the last of our New Jersey vacation photos. Got your scrolling finger ready? 'Cause it's going to get a workout :)

On our last night we went to the beach to watch fireworks. My sister got the girls these adorable matching dresses, so of course a photo shoot was in order :).

But, as always, the photo shoot turned into a silly-fest almost immediately. Oh well.

We got to see a beautiful sunset.

BeachPea buried herself in the sand, so we seized the opportunity for a game of ringtoss (with her as the peg) :)

The fireworks were spectacular (but then, almost anything is spectacular when you get to watch it from the beach)

Ice Cream on the Boardwalk afterwards (yum!)

Creative ways to use a palm frond

We took a train to get to the beach, which was the highlight of the trip for MyBuddy, who said he had waited his whole life to get to ride a train like this.

The kids found a way to recycle the stack of leftover newspapers on the train.

We had a great time on our trip - so great to see my family there, and we got to do so many fun things. It was hard to leave.

But we got to see some beautiful views on the way home, especially driving through Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley

and Daddy had a new sandbox waiting for the kids when we got home. They were thrilled!

and of course it was SO great to be home with Daddy, who stayed behind to work so his family could go traipsing around the country without him (I owe him for this one). And the kids were very excited to see all their animal buddies, too. So now that we've had our playtime, I'm ready to start organizing the house and planning for school.... maybe... after a couple days of recovery :).
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