Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Books About Kids Who Homeschool

"My name is Angelina Ballerina," my son Chobie spent the better part of six months insisting when asked what his name was.

If your kids are anything like mine, then books provide a huge source of play inspiration. Chobie loves trying on all of the identities of his favorite characters. He gets to identify with all kinds of people, it helps him try on different roles and develop empathy. But, it's also nice to see characters who you identify with already.

With all of the books out there about the first day of kindergarten, not to mention most books where children go to school every day, it's been tricky to find books for Chobie to identify with as a homeschooling kid.

Well, I've been doing some investigating and have come up with this list of picture books about homeschooled kids.

Kandoo Kangaroo's "First Day" of Homeschool by Susan Ratner

I am Learning all the Time by Rain Perry Fordyce

Ippie Unschooled by Nicole Olson

The First Day of Homeschool  by Michelle Frederickson

I am a Homeschooler by Julie Voetberg

Snowflake Bentley by Jaqueline Briggs Martin

Allison's Story: A Book about Homeschooling by John Lurie

 It's not a huge list, but it's what I've been able to come up with. I've yet to get my hands on a copy of any of these, so I can't lend my personal recommendation. It is worth noting that Susan Ratner's book is a Christian oriented book.

*This post contains affiliate links. 

Have you read any of these? Do you have more to add?

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lately...Week Four

this week I've been...

remembering to sleep enough
trying to catch up on yard work
cooking the bare minimum
reading too many articles online
wanting to avoid packing
creating a gift for a friend
playing toss
deciding that I really can't avoid packing any more
wishing that the good fairy would come and move for me
planning out the packing and moving schedule
wondering how I can juggle moving, homeschooling, and enjoying summer 
loving my little people
listening to Chobie sing the songs we've been singing together
needing boxes
wearing shorts everyday
noticing how many half-finished projects have accumulated around here
exploring new places to take the littles to play
thinking of things I want to write about
getting back in shape
feeling happy

gratitude for...
Bee's new spooky monster imitation 
ripe Salal berries
local broccoli 
the easiest round of house hunting ever
good novels
summer festivals
day time moon sightings
Bee's fascination with the moon
living walking distance from town (for now)
having ice on demand when its hot
homegrown garlic

links to enjoy...
I liked this article about ways to help your child listen, especially because it turns the focus back on us as parents.
I've been fantasizing about doing this for our new place.
And making these.
I've always wanted to host a party featuring vintage foods, I found this page of perfect appetizers
Not included in this weeks update above, I've spent a bit too much time oggling this feature on one of the latest and greatest blogs I've started following.

How was your week?

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Going on a Bear Hunt

We've been playing with our set of counting bears (scored at a thrift shop for less than a dollar) since January, but lately, now that the novelty has worn off, there's been a lot more throwing and scattering of the bears, and of course the subsequent finding of counting bears in every possible nook and cranny of the house.

So, to keep it educational, I invented this little hide and seek game to play with the bears. While one could argue that he's learning valuable lessons about physics by throwing and scattering the tiny pieces, I guess I still prefer games that are easier to clean up.

While Chobie counts or sings the ABC's a certain number of times in the other room, I hide the bears in the living room. Then when he comes out, I give him a rule of all of the kinds of bears he has to find first. For example, first find all the blue bears (so he's working on sorting skills). While he already knows colors and has just about mastered sorting activities, I do try to remember to keep asking him to do "easy" stuff like that because it's still really fun for him and builds his confidence.

After gathering the bears according to the given rule, we count them, then go find the rest.

I also hid the bears in groups of different numbers then had him pick up only groups of a specific size. Once he picked up all the groups of 4, for instance, we'd lay them out in groups of four to count them. We'd count how many individuals and how many groups, then I'd say "Look six groups of four bears makes twenty-four bears all together."

We didn't do it this time, but you could also try having your kid find the bears in a certain pattern as the searching rule: find a blue bear, then a yellow bear, then a blue, then a yellow.

What kinds of math games do you play with your kids? I'd love to get more ideas!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our Morning Homeschool Routine

My weekly homeschool update posts tend to feature the highlights of our homeschooling week, but I realize that I've yet to share the daily homeschooling activities that we do.

In the mornings, usually around 9:30 after breakfast and chores and whatnot, we have our morning
"circle" (technically a triangle I guess, since there's only three of us). It starts with this little adaptation of the classic Waldorf verse:

Good morning dear earth
Good morning dear sun
Good morning dear trees
And the flowers every one

Good morning dear animals
And the birds in the trees
Good morning to you
And good morning to me

Then we do a song and a verse. I started with doing a new one every week, but since we only do this 2-4 times a week, it wasn't enough for Chobie to really learn them, so I started on a two week cycle and that is working much better. The KCLS website hosts an excellent selection of fingerplays and kids verses that we've used a lot of. Shea Darian's Seven Times the Sun, (affiliate link) has also been a really good source. We also just got a copy of Sing a Song of the Seasons (affiliate link) and we are starting to use those songs too.

Afterwards we talk about what day it is. We look at the phase of the moon and where we are on the wheel of the year.

This month, we added in a regular calendar

and we've also been looking at the clock and practicing telling time, since Chobie has been expressing a big interest in telling time. I don't think that I learned to do that until about second grade, so I hadn't really planned to introduce it yet. But Chobie was enthusiastic about it, so I've incorporated it.

Next, we read our books, usually based on the theme or season. Then we talk about our letters for the week, he has a chance to trace them on the board and then we move on to play some letter and number games like counting or spelling puzzles or play with math manipulatives.

If Chobie is still interested, then he reads his Bob books to me.

By then, it's usually time for a snack, then I set the littles up with an art project, if we're doing one.

The rest of our homeschooling adventures tend to happen in the afternoons and a lot of it blends together with our daily life. The littles help with chores and cooking, we go on walks or work in the garden. Or they just play while I work on projects. Sometimes they come to "help" me sew...All of this stuff seems mundane, but I think they learn just as much from it as they do from our more structured educational activities.

What is your homeschool routine like? 

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Homeschool Update: Building Theme Week Two

**this post contains affiliate links**

It's been a busy week around here, and not just with homeschooling. We've opted for yet another move (hopefully the last for a while), so it's been a bit of an upheaval, so all of my projects that were on hold for a few weeks to make room for a bit of summer fun are now on hold, well....indefinitely.

Nevertheless, we are continuing on with our homeschool plans and summer fun plans for this summer and moving will just occupy all of my side project time.

Last week we continued with our building theme. We had another visit to the curriculum room at the local college full of all of its fun building toys.

Chobie had a great time with these. I especially liked his sky scraper...

He also played building and "repairs" with cardboard boxes from around the house. He's been really excited to use his wooden train tracks, blocks and other assorted toys to build a city. No photos of these activities really. Let's just say that these activities were even messier than the one above.

One of the big points that I've wanted to bring up with this building theme is the origins of the building materials, like preschool-appropriate discussion of the ecological impacts of urban sprawl. We read this book about wood...

Wood (True Books: Natural Resources) by Christin Ditchfield

It was pretty good over all. There were some things that I added in when I was reading it where details of the book. For example, there is a part where they talk about how logging without replanting destroys habitat. While that is true, it implies that replanting trees in tree farms replaces habitat that is identical to the original forest, which is not true. Forests and tree farms have very different ecologies, so we discussed that. Which is to say, I added it in when we were reading and he asked questions about it.

We also read this book about building...

The House That Max Built by Maxwell Newhouse

And this one...

Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood with watercolors by Jon J Muth

Honestly, it was a bit above Chobie's head, even though it has a really good message and I love watercolor illustrations (Bee did too, actually).

I shared some of our letter writing adventures back when we began the upper case alphabet, but now we're into writing letters in lowercase. I made these giant chalk letters on the deck for Chobie to walk along.

I can't say that we had a chance to cross anything off of the official summer fun times list this week, but we did have a fun trip to the Children's Museum, some fun play dates, art times, and went to a really fun party/cookout over the weekend.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Staycation Retreat for Busy Mamas

Welcome to the July 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Vacation
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their family-travel tips, challenges, and delights. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

There’s so much to juggle as a work at home mom. It’s fulfilling, sure. There is nothing I would rather be doing, but even so it is a lot. Kids, house work, work, work, work, grocery shopping, meal planning…for me homeschool and any other time that I might have for projects or reading. Especially in the early phases of starting up your own business enterprise, it’s almost impossible to imagine finding time to go on a vacation. Not to mention that start ups are hardly filling your pockets with disposable income for travel.

But surely, with all of these things to tend to each day, we work a home moms need a vacation as much as anyone else. For our family this year, travel outside of our state is outside of the realm of possibility. With my partner at a new job, and me in the middle of working one at-home job while trying to transition into being in business for myself, there isn’t going to be time for much more than an overnight camping trip.

That’s why I’m planning my very own WAHM Deluxe Staycation Retreat!!! and of course you can gather some inspiration here and plan your own too.

Not only is it budget friendly, the majority of our activities will be within walking/bussing distance so it’s greener on the transportation side (what’s that statistic about how many times you can drive across the country with the amount of fuel it takes to fly across?) and I’ll achieve the same major benefit of vacationing: a rejuvenating break from our daily routines (didn’t want to say “daily grind” here because I like having a positive spin on things, but you really could say that and be pretty accurate).

The basic plan:

1.       Take 3(ish) days off of work entirely. If you can’t do this, which a few months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to either, you can just pare down to the bare minimum and keep it strictly confined to a couple hours at the beginning or end of the day, leaving the rest of your time for your retreating.
2.       Create an itinerary based on local activities within walking distance and maybe one or two a short journey away. Local parks, hiking trails, playgrounds, and lakes are especially great options for the budget conscious. Keeping it simple=less stress=more relaxation.
3.       Plan your retreat time. For the retreat part of the staycation, I’ll also be doing some DIY “home spa” treatments (hooray for happy feet) and some reflective journaling to get some perspective and inspiration.
4.       Finally, perhaps the most important step, is: adopt a relaxed and carefree attitude for this time period. I’ll admit that’s a lot easier away from home, but being present and relaxed is going to be the key to the experience.

So that’s the basic idea. If you can’t get away physically, get away mentally. Here are a few more ideas for keeping things smooth:

  • Make your itinerary and have nothing else to do. This might seem obvious, but I know how easy it is to always try to just squeeze a few more things in to the day. Do all your grocery shopping and errands ahead of time, just like you would if you were actually going out of town.
  • Make a physical barrier to work. Pack away or cover all work supplies and materials, or close the door to the home office and don’t open it.
  • Keep meals simple. Eat out or, for the extra-budget-conscious, plan some simple meals at home: burgers and baked potatoes, a homemade salad bar that you can keep using for multiple meals, chili in the crock pot, etc.
  • Don’t forget to stock up on good snacks too.
  • Team up with friends for extra fun. Plan an outing or two with friends to change things up.
  • Prepare some quiet activities for the little people during the time that you plan to be journaling or trying to relax in the tub. Of course there will be interruptions, especially if your kids are little, but putting together special activities will make it a special time for them too. Not only that, with all of the day trips you plan, having some quiet time helps avoid melt-downs by maintaining a steady rhythm of activity and rest.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll be enjoying a fabulous three-day staycation retreat this summer: fun with the kiddos, relaxing time for me, and tasty worry-free foods…all at no extra charge!

Don’t forget to follow Lydia’s Handmade Life to see how things go! I’ll be sharing our itinerary, pictures of our staycationing fun, herbal home-spa recipes, quiet kid activities, along with the insights I gather on our homeschooling life since that’s going to be a major theme of my reflective journaling.

Do you have vacation or staycation plans this summer? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! Feel free to link to your posts, as always. 

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Favorite Family Vacation Recipe: Staying at Home — The best family vacation Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence could ever recommend requires minimal packing, no hotels, unrushed travel, easy meals to everyone’s taste without a bill, no schedules, everyone’s favorite interests, and three generations playing together.
  • Scared of toilets and other travel stories — Tat at Mum in search is an expert at flying with kids. She shares some of her tips and travel stories.
  • Staycation Retreat for Busy MamasLydia's Handmade Life gives Budget-friendly, eco-friendly staycation ideas for busy work-at-home moms.
  • How We Leave It All Behind — At Life Breath Present, they don't take traditional vacations — they go on forest adventures. Here are some tips in planning for an adventure, if you don't just go spontaneously, as they have before. Plus, many pictures of their latest adventure!
  • Traveling while pregnant: When to go & how to manage — Lauren at Hobo Mama discusses the pros and cons of traveling during the different trimesters of pregnancy, and how to make it as comfortable as possible.
  • Our Week in Rome: Inspiration and Craft Ideas for Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers — If anyone in your family is interested in learning about Ancient Rome, if you enjoy crafts, of if you're a parent looking for a fun staycation idea, check out Erin Yuki's post for a Roman-themed week of crafts, food, and fun at And Now, for Something Completely Different.
  • The Real Deal: A behind the scenes look at our "Western Adventure" — Often Facebook and blog posts make vacations look "picture perfect" to outsiders. If you only looked at the pictures, Susan's recent family vacation was no exception. In this post at Together Walking, she takes readers "behind the scenes" so they can see the normal challenges they faced and how they managed to enjoy their vacation in spite of them.
  • Welcome to the Beach House! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is in love with her family's new "beach house"!
  • Road Trip to Niagara Falls — Erica at ChildOrganics writes about her first trip out of the country with just her and the kids.
  • 5 Essential Things to Take on Vacation — Five things Nurtured Mamas should be packing in their suitcase for their next trip, in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • The Many Benefits of Camping with Friends — Do you want to go camping, but the very thought of it seems daunting? Make your life easier - and your kids happier - and go camping with friends! Dionna at Code Name: Mama discusses how much better camping can be when you join forces with others.
  • My Natural First Aid Kit for Camping, Travel, and Everyday Use — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama gives us an insiders looks at her natural first aid kit for camping, travel, and everyday use. These natural remedies have saved her hide and those of others many times! You might be surprised what made her list of must-haves!
  • Traveling Solo and Outnumbered — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras shares lessons learned from a recent trip with two toddlers and no co-parent.
  • Compromise and conviction on the road — Jessica of Crunchy-Chewy Mama shares the reality vs. the dream of travel and dishes on the compromises she makes or won't make while traveling.
  • Camping Trauma — Jorje of Momma Jorje offers why she loves camping and why she and her family are a little gun shy about it, too.
  • First in our Books — Writing fresh from her first family vacation, Laura from Pug in the Kitchen has realized that helping pack her parents' station wagon made for a smooth and pleasant trip that was more than she hoped for!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Homeschool Building Theme Week One

So, as I've already mentioned, we have decided to keep homeschooling through the summer. This week we official started our building theme.

When we decided to keep homeschooling this summer, I knew that I wanted to focus on things that Chobie likes the most so Building was the first choice.

I've been seeing some cool DIY building toys on Pinterest lately, so we tried out a couple this week. First these cardboard building toys from Happy Hooligans

I just cut up a cardboard box we had laying around, so mine aren't as clean and good looking as the original pin.

Then, inspired by this activity

 from Skip to my Lou (also found here on Pinterest), we made some straw building creations. Since my kids aren't doing much sugar, we substituted this baking soda and cornstarch dough that you make on the stovetop. I originally found this dough in a recipe for Christmas ornaments, but it's a fun alternative to salt dough for playing with too. And, its a fun science experiment to see the texture of the mixture change on the stovetop.

I tried to do a little explaining about how all the little tiny pieces of cornstarch "hold hands" when they heat up. I think the idea of things existing that are too small to be seen is still a little beyond Chobie's interest, even though we could easily see the effects. I figure the more that I mention it, the more it will start to become interesting.

These were the creations:

Our book selections this week were:

A House in the Woods by Inga Moore

Angelina on Stage by Catherine Holabird

This one might seem like a bit of a stretch for a building theme, but it actually fits well for Chobie. He is really into the Angelina Ballerina series to begin with (in fact, pretending to be Angelina was his favorite game until it was replaced by playing Nutcracker when last winter when we went to see it, later to be replaced by other games). In this book, Angelina is invited to be in her first adult production. The mouse ballerinas rehearse while the crew builds the set. When we first read it, Chobie begged me to build something like it, so I included it in our building theme. I am still on the hunt for cardboard big enough to use to build trees out of, so we haven't started construction yet.

The House I'll Build for the Wrens by Nancy Winslow Parker

This one is a rebus book (a book where some words are replaced by pictures in the text), so its a good one for beginning readers. 

We spent our week building, mixing, and reading. Plus we got a chance to cross another one off the summer fun times list with a swimming trip to the river mid-week.

How was your week? 

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