… for the flu. I’m nursing a VERY sick Molly, while finishing up a move, and keeping the other two from killing themselves and each other, so I’m going to be absent for a few more days. Stay healthy!
Talk to you soon…
One of the toughest aspects of our day is finding activities that will keep our little tornado, Logan, occupied long enough for me to teach Molly her reading lesson or Trevor his math… or whatever requires my attention to be focused on a child other than her for more than ten minutes at a time.
We are constantly experimenting to find things that work, borrowing ideas from catalogs, books, blogs, and anywhere else we find inspiration. As any parent of a toddler knows, what keeps her happily engaged today, may be a bust tomorrow. The arsenal needs to be loaded! Here are a few things that have worked for us lately:
Simple Puzzles like these from Infantino give her a strong sense of accomplishment – she cheers, “I did it!” after each one is complete.
These keys from Lakeshore Learning are fast becoming a favorite. In this photo, she’s playing with them for the first time. She decided to sort them on rings by color, and was SO proud to show me when she finished!
This is one of her favorites – and mine as well! No mess painting! I gave her a chalkboard, a mason jar of water, and a paintbrush. She played with this for a half an hour – trying to make the shapes she heard Molly and me talking about.
And then my favorite – and a reason I LOVE homeschooling – the “work with Logan” card assigned to Big Bro Trevor and Big Sis Molly at regular intervals throughout the week…
In this picture, Logan “helps” Trevor with his math work. This was spontaneous – a little sister wanting to be with her big brother while he worked. What is extra special to me is that Trevor got up just after I snapped this shot and got Logan a brand-new spiral notebook and pencil so she could do he own math while he did his. She STILL grabs that notebook when she first hears it’s “school time.”
In this one, Molly had a “work with Logan” card on her workbox with a teddy bear sorting activity. She helped Logan identify the colors, put them in the correct cups, and then carry on imaginary conversations between them… all in a day’s work, right?
And, no… Logan doesn’t wear her pajamas ALL day EVERY day! She does get dressed occasionally.
How do you keep your tots busy?
Happy Friday! It’s been a crazy week in the Kessler house – a spur of the moment move, packing, rain, snow, ice, crazy off-schedule kids, unpacking… etc. This free resource is short and… well, not sweet, but yummy!
Have you ever heard Cabot Creamery in Vermont? It’s a farm family-owned, all natural cheese co-op that produces and sells award-winning cheese. Check out their website if you’d like to learn more or order some of their delicious products.
And… if you want to teach your students (in your homeschool OR classroom) all about healthy food choices, check out their free posters.
This is the one I ordered as we’re having a bit of trouble enforcing the protein-rich breakfast idea around here…
And… not only do they have five fabulous posters to offer, they have downloadable coloring sheets and puzzles, too! In fact, Cabot Creamery is committed to giving back. Searching through the links on their website, I found grant opportunities, sponsorships, partnerships, and more. This is a first-class co-op, run by farm families who really care about the quality of foods you and your kids eat.
So check it out… and stop back to leave a comment and let me know what you tried. Did you order some cheese? Solve some puzzles? Watch a video or two? Order a cool poster of an athlete after eating some fabulous cheese? I’d love to hear back from you… and thanks, Cabot’s!
Lately, I’ve tried to buy toys and activities that can be fun, teach something, and that work for more than one age group. We are running out of space – so the toys NEED to do more than one thing!
We LOVE this! When you open the box, you’ll reveal the super-cute animal rods. From the inch-long ladybug to the foot-long giraffe, the colors and graphics are adorable. Each rod has a side marked with lines representing inches, another with a colorful animal, and the ends are marked, too. One end has domino-like dots and the other has numerals.
As soon as we opened ours, all three kids swarmed into the family room. (Sorry for the grainy photo– It’s kind of retro, though… ‘70s-ish)
Then, after giving them all some play-together time, I took the older two away for another activity and let little Logan have them to herself.
And she had so much fun with them. Her favorite activity was making an “animal train” with them.
What’s really great about these animal/number rods is the variety of things you can do with them. Addition… “What two animals equal the penguin?” Measurement… “How many inches long is the tiger?” Ordinal numbers… “Which animal is third?” (After putting them in order by size.)
To make this little set even more appealing, it comes with a set of dry erase math puzzles to solve. The puzzles are comprised of equations and questions like the above. Molly is already planning on making this her math “curriculum” for awhile! (Good thing she’s taking care of it—that’s one less kid for me to worry about teaching!)
Check them out—I highly recommend these fun number toys!
We have a lot of fun with science around here. Once you get to know me a little, you come to expect random “science days” or experiments—and lots of messes! It makes sense after all, I write nonfiction for kids, parents, and teachers and mainly focus on science and nature topics.
You’d expect, then, that I have
brainwashed my children to have a nurtured within my children a love of science, too. One of our favorite recent experiments dealt with color.
We set up baby food jars with water colored with food coloring – red, blue, and yellow, and had one filled with clear water. (We do have one off to the side with green water too, despite the fact that we were focusing on primary colors. Trevor could not resist the green bottle just sitting there, so we made the jar up for him to play with later, but set it off to the side.)
In the picture above, you’ll see one of my favorite science tools – giant plastic test tubes, or “baby soda bottles,” from the Steve Spangler website. These babies can withstand anything, so they’re perfect for little scientists.
In our test tube rack, we have test tubes filled partway with clear water. And, in our baby food jars, we have a plastic straw. Trevor used these tools to further his understanding of colors. He experimented by mixing colors in the test tubes (holding his finger over the end of a straw to pick up drops of color from one jar, and uncovering it to drop the color into a test tube.)
You might want to have a roll of paper towels on hand.
This was a fun activity. Trevor could experiment with shades by adding clear water to dilute the color, making it lighter, and adding more of another color to deepen it.
I will say… this is not an activity for the faint of heart. Food coloring stains, and can easily migrate from the newspaper to the table to the floor… Be careful!
We’ll be revisiting this experiment, though, probably more than once. There’s nothing like a hands-on experiment to solidify an understanding of colors and how they work together!
What is your child passionate about? Does your daughter love princesses? Pretend she is one? Does she create kingdoms, languages, currency, laws, and punishments for her dolls?
Does your son dream of space? Star Wars, the Space Shuttle, Neil Armstrong, whatever, as long as it happens in space – past, present, or future…
Trevor, while passionate about typical nine-year-old boy things like LEGO, Star Wars, and… um… LEGO Star Wars, has a budding interest in photography.
As young as five, he’d take my camera when I wasn’t looking and try to enlist a willing accomplice to help him out. If you’ve never tried letting your little ones use your camera, you should. Their perspective can be really cool. Just make a rule that the strap always needs to be around their neck and they need to use both hands. Your camera will be fine… and if it breaks, there’s a lesson in that, too. Things are replaceable (and the hard work a child will need to do to earn the money to replace a valuable he’s broken is a lifelong lesson), but self-worth is not.
At nine, Trevor still fancies himself a photographer, and is careful to make sure he’s taking valuable shots. He shoots, and then checks his image to determine if another needs taken:
And, because his passions are recognized, and validated, his self-esteem goes up when he has a camera in his hand. In these photos, he’s using my Canon Rebel XTi. Usually, he shoots his pictures with a Samsung we found for a song at a going-out-of-business sale a few years ago. He’s had to work his way up, too, proving that he’s careful and respects the equipment. He started with a Fisher Price digital, and now loves his Samsung (though he still borrows my Canon from time to time).
By helping your child get his hands on the tools that he needs to explore passions, you’re validating his worth as an individual. You’re telling him that, no matter how hard it is for him to sit still during a class, whether or not he understood the math concept presented today, even though he cannot wear seams near his skin, or be in rooms where there is a lot of background noise to filter out, no matter what “quirks” he has to overcome, he has value.
Sometimes, all it takes for a twice-exceptional kid to become truly exceptional is someone that believes in him.
Now… my 2E kid is experimenting with reflected light using a simple light box (table-top photo studio) so he can get “great shots without too many shadows” for the stop-action animation films he wants to create. Maybe a You Tube channel next…
How’s the snow in your area? We didn’t get hit as hard as expected this weekend, but it’s cold, cold, COLD! (And, despite living in the Midwest, I am NOT a huge fan of cold!)
We decided to pull out one of our favorite “use up old materials” projects and make finger puppets. Super fun AND super cute!
Wanna give them a try? You’ll need:
First, cut the finger tips off the gloves and choose your materials.
Next, cut the materials you’ll be using to size, deciding what type of puppet you want to make.
Then, get gluing! Moms and teachers – you need to pay attention to how well your kiddos handle hot glue. (Trevor is 9 and wields it himself, while Molly (4) tells me where she wants things placed and I glue them on.)
You should end up with some fun little friends:
Now, have some fun putting on shows for each other, letting the new friends “help” the kiddos with their school work or chores, or share secrets.
Or… just be a little silly…
We made “monsters” and “princesses.” Leave a comment and let me know what you plan to make… Or share a picture when you’re done!
Ever have one of those days? You know, those days… You’re snippy, short-tempered, and everything bugs you. And those days can find you and affect how you behave to the little cherubs surrounding you – whether you’re a classroom teacher, homeschool mom, stay-at-home daddy… whomever you are.
I mean… I’ve heard about those days. Ummm, never really had them myself. Here is a fabulous resource just in case you ever feel the after-effects of a mean-mommy day, or you feel like bashing the math workbook over you’re nine year old’s head, or the kids in the table group by the door are. driving. you. crazy. or… well, you get the picture. (FYI – We’ll be checking this out again ourselves today. This mean-mommy needs to shower some love on her little ones. We’re going to play a little bit. Hope you can join us.)
Today’s Resource Is:
I wrote about this really cool little e-book in Free Resources for Elementary Teachers, stating the same thing I’ll write here: Seems like a strange thing to include as a resource for teachers or homeschoolers, right? Wrong!
This is a jam-packed 42-page booklet with amazing activities to try with any child in your life. Got a budding politician on your hands? Try out #4 with her – Write a Letter to an Elected Official. Studying the Victorian Era? Try out #8 – Play Sardines (a fun old-time twist on indoor hide and seek). The ideas are endless – while it is entitled, 100 Free Things, each activity concludes with hot links to further resources for similar activities. This is a great book to add to your repertoire.
If you have a chance to download it, stop by and leave a comment to let me know what you try with your kids and how they liked it. Hmmm… what should we do today? Tell jokes while having an indoor picnic in forts made out of couch cushions… Will it be enough?
I have a lot of making up to do. We’re ready for a little fun.
The month of April is shaking out to be a bit crazy around here – for everyone else… I won’t be here for much of it! (Hopefully…)
We’re blessed in this little corner of the country to have two great homeschool conventions to choose from each year: The Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati in April, and the CHEO (Christian Home Educators of Ohio) Convention in June. In the past, Brian and I have attended both and found them encouraging, fun, and informative. There’s just something about being surrounded by all the people who have found innovative ways to do what you’re trying to do and the curriculum, books, toys and stuff in the exhibit hall, that reinvigorates your excitement about this crazy life you’ve embraced. (I was a little crazy about teaching conventions and their exhibit halls when I was in the classroom, too. I’m kinda crazy that way…)
While we may still attend CHEO, we are definitely heading to the Midwest Convention as I learned that my publisher will be there with another author, and would love for me to sign my new book Free Resources for Elementary Teachers since it’s being released the week before. How fun! I love writing and I love homeschooling – attending the convention and signing a newly released book is like having the whole cake, eating it, and chasing it down with a dozen or two Ghiradelli chocolate chip cookies – FUN! FUN!
And… that same month I will be having a signing event (still a little intimidated by the sound of that) at the International Reading Association (IRA) Convention in Chicago. Surrounded by books, editors, authors, teachers, librarians, ideas, and friends for three days is just mind-boggling. I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like.
In the middle of all of that – thousands of homeschoolers together to learn in Cincinnati and thousands of “book people” talking reading in Chicago – there’s this little conference I want to attend more than both of these combined (and I really want to attend the other two):
The 2:1 conference combines four of my dearest loves: Faith, motherhood, writing, and homeschooling. This conference is intimate – unlike the thousands of registrants and hundreds of exhibitors found at the others, this one’s limited to two hundred passionate homeschool bloggers.
Speakers are an impressive list of those I’ve found inspirational along my road to becoming a homeschool mommy, and the other attendees – like-minded women – will be just as inspirational. I’m just beginning my journey into the world of blogging and other social networks. I find it fun, nerve-wracking, time-consuming, exhilarating – a wild ride! Kris from Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, who is speaking at 2:1, is offering a ticket for the conference to one of her readers. With a little luck, I may win the registration fee for this conference.
It’ll make for an insanely busy April – but one filled with so many blessings!
In 2009 I wrote a book for Mitchell Lane Publishers called, A Project Guide to Reptiles and Birds. One of the best things about working on that book was its focus on hands-on projects, experiments, and activities integrated into what would otherwise have been a typical nonfiction book about the topic. Another great thing about writing that book and creating activities to include in it, was that my kids and I had to try all of the projects ourselves.
This forced-immersion into a topic I was researching created some birders and *possibly* a budding ornithologist. Winter, when the trees are bare and the birds have (mostly) left for warmer homes, is the perfect time to try this activity adapted from the book:
First, bundle up and go for a walk with your little scientists and look for an intact bird’s nest. Note that some counties have regulations about removing nests from parks and other public lands, so either stick to your own area, or know the rules – and take care not to disturb other wildlife.
Then, after you head home and warm up with some cocoa, observe the nest with your kids. Can you see the little bits of blue twine in ours? Use a hand lens (magnifying glass) or pocket microscope to look closer. What else can you see? Is there something holding it all together? What else is it made out of?
Let’s take a quick moment to talk about those observations you’re making with your kids… I believe that every kid should have a “science notebook” or “field journal” or sketchbook or whatever they want to call it. Science is everywhere, and anyone that questions and looks for answers is a scientist. Let’s use childhood’s natural tendencies towards curiosity to empower our kids to wonder about their world.
In fact, make your own science notebook and learn along with them. As you go for nature walks, stop sometimes to draw or write about your observations. While you’re checking out this bird’s nest, draw what you find, write down questions you have, wonder aloud (in writing) in the pages of your notebook, then on a rainy day or a library trip, open up your notebook and have your child do the same with theirs. Get books or search the Internet to find the answers to your questions. In short—be a scientist and encourage your kids to do the same.
Maybe it wasn’t really a “quick moment.”
Now, have your child take that magnifying glass and some tweezers or forceps and carefully dissect the nest.
Have him look closely at how the nest is woven or stuck together. Encourage him to note his observations in his notebook.
Talk about what you each discovered, then read some books about birds. Simple explorations with nature and books can provide much more powerful – and long-term – lessons for a child.
What kinds of things do you do to explore nature with your kids?
Do you ever feel that you could never do that when you read a homeschooling blog post? You’ll never be that organized… Your kids will never be that attentive… That good… That anything? Guess what? You can’t be… and neither can they! Especially if you decide to homeschool a child with any type of special needs. You have to be able to roll with the punches… Go with the flow… etc.
Every day just won’t be picture perfect. But, then again, neither is real life, right?
We have days that look like the picture above – happy children, focused on and engaged in their work, enjoying a snack while they look up time zone differences between us and Beijing.
And then there are days like this… everything’s a struggle. Math. Takes. F.O.R.E.V.E.R. “This is the worst day of my life,” a certain nine year old shouts. The (ahem) sweet-looking four year old refuses to budge off the couch. And so you put the work away and try something else.
That, right there, is the reason homeschooling can be so right for twice-exceptional kids. Things are clicking… work a little longer that day. Activities are met with resistance and nothing’s working out right… put it away and try again tomorrow. The work will still be there. Your bright child will pick it up on another day. Change what you’re doing and enjoy each other.
On the day I’m writing this post – we clicked along beautifully. That nine year old, the same one who often complains about sharpening his pencil, let alone wielding it, zipped through 22 pages of math today. “It was fun today; kind of like a puzzle. I might do another chapter or two tomorrow,” he says with dimpled grin. And the cheeky four year old? She invited her sister to share her coveted La La Loopsey toys. You just never know…
We saw it, too, and decided it was the perfect way to use up some of those 25-cent boxes of crayons that we picked up during the back-to-school sales. Wanna try? Grab:
Make sure you drape your craft area because if you have little ones wielding hot hairdryers towards melting crayons, you’ll have wax EVERYWHERE – trust me!
First, empty the crayons onto the floor and have the kids sort them by color. (Can we count that as math (grouping) AND science (classification)??)
Then, decide how you want them arranged. We went for the rainbow look, but I think I want one like this for my bathroom next.
Once you’ve decided on the arrangement, hot glue them to the top of the canvas in a row.
Set up your workspace, turn on the hairdryer(s), and get melting! (And… so YOU don’t end up having to scrape melted crayon off YOUR kitchen wall, you might want to take note of my less-than-stellar draping, and cover your work area more completely.)
The finished project looks adorable hanging on the wall in our playroom, and the kids are so proud of their artwork.