September 25, 2015

Fall Theme Homeschool edition

Well friends, apparently it is wouldn't know it if you got dropped into San Antonio TX and just went by the weather. It was very much in the 90s and muggy all week. I barely went outside, being all giant and pregnant and suffering from my own brand of hot flashes as it is...and knowing that I'm facing yet another flaming day at the Soccer fields tomorrow I pretty much have a bad attitude about this week being the first week of fall.

I tell you all this to say that when I planned for this week's homeschool theme to be "Fall" I really thought I would be able to pull it off in style just through shear will and the use of well-placed fall decor. I think I was wrong.

Sure, we got off to a pretty good start-the kids and I put out our fall decorations and they "scattered" all my fall gourds spot. In a pile. Seriously, we need to work on their decorating eye.

After that we did get started on a few Autumn themed homeschool activities but honestly, my books were a bust this week....and one of my activities I didn't even have the heart to attempt-so I'll start there:

If you happen to live in a part of the country where the change in seasons is ACTUALLY HAPPENING. Then I'd totally do this cool Leaf Science Project, its just three pages mostly about observation and I think it's perfectly suited for the 4-6 year old set, and maaaaaybe in like December when "Fall weather" hits San Antonio we will actually get to do this one. BOO. *Pout*

Now to the activities we DID do:

Activity One: Leaf Sight Words

The idea is we are working on sight words in such a way that it is not "work" or involve flash cards of any kind- This "game" required Ransom to identify sight words that were written on leaves that I had printed out on colored paper ( I used this printable) on red/yellow/orange/brown construction paper), and if he got the word right then he got to attach it to his bare tree.
We did this activity twice this week and it definitely seemed to be a painless way for him to work on his words!

Tabitha also enjoyed putting the leaves on the Tree and Ransom was sweet enough to let her attach some of his leaves. I suppose I could have once again done some letter leaves for her, but I had already written up all my words and I really wanted Ransom to work on all of them....neeeeext tiiiiime.

You'll need:
A large piece of paper ( for your tree)
Brown marker
autumn colors construction paper
tape ( I used sticky tac for my leaves and it worked waaaay better)

Activity Two: "The" tree picture

I noticed that one of the words Ransom was struggling with last week was "The" so this week we did a little picture story where he got to glue scraps of colored paper onto a tree, I had written a sentence below it with all the "the"s left out and Ransom had to write them in. This ONE little activity totally solidified the word in his mind! Now, if I can just come up with a sentence and a picture for every sight word and we'll be golden! haha!

You'll need:
White paper
glue stick
autumn colored construction paper for ripping

Activity Three: Acorn Addition
So I found these fake acorns in the Dollar section of Target and I was all excited about using them for Ransom's addition problems this week...but when it came down to him doing his addition problems he chose to use little plastic action figure men ( also from the Dollar section at Target...oh how I love you, "One Spot"!) instead. So, in the end my Fall theme went out the window...but he did his addition no problem.!

You'll need: 
fake acorns ( that don't get used)
addition worksheet

In the end Tabitha L-O-V-E-D the acorns and played with them all suppose it was still worth my $1.

As for my book I said, pretty much ALL my fall books were major fails. All accept the one I already owned and it is truly a gem, I have loved it since my own childhood- GO FIND THIS BOOK:

So, in other homeschooling news: This week we came up with a new "plan" to deal with a rather bad attitude Ransom was getting when doing his piano practice and I decided to just go ahead and extend it to ALL his schooling. It's rather revolutionary and also quite controversial and its called "Bribery"
Ransom is "earning" a light saber that he saw ( YESS!!!! IT WAS IN THE ONE SPOT AT TARGET!) and was begging for-so now he knows that if he does all his school activities without complaint and with a positive attitude he gets a sticker on his earning chart. We're on day 5 and it's going great. I am not above bribery. Period.

September 18, 2015

Dino Week!

This week was a really crazy week mentally for me- we had something going on nearly every evening until late-and that was hard for this pregnant mama. I am feeling the end of this pregnancy more and more. But, in the midst of all that busyness we had some really good homeschool times! In fact, some of our very best, I think! If anything as the week continued and we got busier with all our extra activities we had less time to do cool stuff and the week kinda got harder. Where is my happy middle ground?! It is so hard to find sometimes!

This weeks theme was Dinosaurs!!! Definitely a fun one! And there was SO MANY good resources for Dino activities and SO MANY Dino books that it was really hard to choose! But this is what we did at the Wilson House:

Activity One: Craft Dinosaur Egg/Dinosaur search

So, I sadly threw away the packaging but basically a few weeks ago when I was buying other homeschool supplies in the glorious Dollartree I found the rare "non dollar item"...I almost didn't buy it because it was $2.48 and that seemed super pricey surrounded by all the $1 items but the cool factor won out and I purchased this little "dinosaur excavation kit" -it looked like an egg made out of hard sand that came with a little paint brush and I was curious to see how fun it would be....but turns out it was a GREAT success! And a great introduction to Dinosaurs being extinct and how Scientists learn about them today (by their bones!). Bonus: it took Ransom FOREVER to chip away at that egg! hahaha! Inside was a tiny rubbery dino skeleton and he loved it. "Totally worth $2.48!" Said the cheapest mother in history.

While Ransom was working on his egg ( so glad I didn't get one for Tabitha too! It would have been waaay too hard for her to get into and it would have been frustrating! I definitely recommend this for the 4+ set.) Tabitha found little dinosaurs that I had hidden in our Sand Box.

If you have not purchased yourself some Molding Sand you need to do it right away! I love it so much, I really want to buy more! Thankfully the sand that was gifted us well over a year ago is STILL going strong! ( Thanks Aunt Donnave!) And while I plan to get some more for one of my kid's "need" present for Christmas we really are doing surprisingly well with the stuff we have ( even though you inevitably lose a little bit to the floor every time you play with it!)

You'll need:
Dinosaur Egg ( I saw these at two different Dollar Trees so I feel like they are definitely excessible) but here is a much more expensive one on Amazon.
A baking tray
Dollar store dinosaurs.
A Broom-because your sand clean up is gonna be extensive. Trust.

Activity Two: Dinosaur Bone Classification ( measuring)

While my kids were working on Dinosaur excavations in the dining room I was throwing together the ingredients for your classic Salt Dough. (Mix 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water and stir until almost fully mixed. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. )
 So when Ransom was ready later in the morning he and I created our own Dinosaur bones. He had a lot of fun molding them into "bone" shapes and it was my job to make sure that they were varying in sizes and shapes.
We then threw those suckers in the oven at 250 for about 2 and half hours ( my oven runs hot so maybe close to three?) and then Ransom was VERY excited to see his "play dough" creations turn into BONES!

After the bones had cooled I wrote a letter on the back of each Bone with a Sharpie and then Ransom set to work "classifying them" like a real scientist.
Using a little measuring tape Ransom had to measure the length of each bone. He then had to write the Letter and then the number ( in inches, and we rounded heavily) on his piece of paper.

Ransom: Practiced both Letter and Number handwriting without evening realizing it. ( HIS LEAST FAV activity) and worked on some measuring math skills. Score, double score.

Tabitha: Surprisingly had a HUGE blast playing with the dinosaur bones when we were done with our activity. She pretended to measure them and she spent a lot of time identifying the letters on the back of each bone as she took them on and off of the tray.  Bonus! I didn't even see that coming as far as a learning opportunity for her too! Hooray!

You'll need:
Baking Tray
Measuring tape/ruler ( I think, in hindsight a ruler would have been easier)
TIME ( you'll have a break between making your bones and doing your "learning" activity. Either do it on separate days or factor in your time)

Activity Three: Sight Wordosauras

This was my favorite activity of the week! I knew it would be and I was way excited about doing it! First I taped different colored dino foot prints ( different colors for each kid) on my floor. Ransom's foot prints had 5 different sight words that I wanted to work on this week ( I repeated each one 3 times). And then on Tabitha's I had letters that I thought she might be having trouble with ( turns out she knows all but one letter now...girlfriend is picking things up!)

I gave each kid a Dinosaur Hat to wear ( just for fun! picked up at the Dollar Tree, obvi)

Game 1: Say each word/letter as you STOMP through the footprints
Game 2: I yell out a letter/word and they have to LEAP to the footprint with the corresponding letter/word.

Both kids LOVED this activity. Ransom did it several times even though he had a hard time with two of the words ( as I suspected ).  To help him take the time to stop and think about the words he didn't know I had him ROAR like a dinosaur before reading the hard words. That helped a lot.

Ransom worked on: Go, It, Is, The, And
Tabitha mastered her whole alphabet

You'll Need:
Construction paper and the ability to draw a Dino Footprint ( which I didn't so I cut out this printable as my shape). I was able to fit two prints per piece of paper.

Bonus: Dinosaur Hats.

Activity Four: Sightword Gems ( not really dino related....oops! If you can think of a connection let me know! haha!)

Using this awesome Printable site that has a TON of early sight words ready to print off, I printed off the 5 sight words for the week that we had already worked on. Ransom then had to write them and then find them and place a "gem" over the correct sight word. He could easily see through the "gems" and tell if he'd made a mistake which was nice, and it was way more fun then doing flash cards!

You'll need:
Flat marbles ( found at the Dolla Tree, per usual!)

* After we had already finished, I remembered that I had some great sleeves I could have used so that I could not only re-use the bottom but also the tracing part! Therefore I'll be doing that in the future and using dry-erase markers

Activity Five: "types" of Dinosaurs
Before you think we finally started to get technical with this week's theme, forget it! hahaha! Instead, I re-used my sand box with the dinosaurs with Ransom this time. He had to find all the dinosaurs and then "classify them" into groups. He chose to do by color so after he had grouped them all he then had to graph them on his graph paper.

You'll need:
Dinosaurs of various shapes, sizes, colors
Sand ( optional, but fun)
Graph paper

Activity Six: How Many Dinosaurs? 

I wrote about 6 ( the attention span of my 5 year old is shocking) small addition equations on a little white board ( more fun, save paper) and then I showed him how he could use his dinosaurs to help him do the addition equations. He was very quick with this activity and is definitely mastering his addition concepts!

You'll need:
Dinosaurs for counting
Paper or white board with equations


WOW! Looking back at that post I'm really pretty proud we fit so much in! And to think I was lying awake at 4:30am this morning thinking about how little time we seemed to have to do homeschool activities! Hehe! Silly me! Anyway, I hope you will have fun with some of these activities in your own home-Dinosaurs are SUCH fun and I almost feel like we could have done another week!! I think this is a week we'll have to repeat in the future :-) 

September 11, 2015

Homeschool Prep Questions

I've had a few questions regarding how I plan my homeschooling week themes. So I thought I'd give you a little rundown on how planning works for me. 

So when do I do my planning? 
Thanks to the glorious smart phone I can do planning anywhere. Most of the time it happens in bits and pieces throughout the week during moments of free time, but I suppose the most productive planning time happens during Tabitha's nap/Ransom's rest time. I think I've said before that planning is my jam and anything that involves my planner is like a calming meditation so you could say I was MADE for Homeschool homeschool carryout...that remains to be seen! haha! 

How did I get started? 
First I brainstormed my weekly themes. I jotted down 12 topics-I gave myself a running start by using the creation story: Planets, Garden, Water, Birds, Dinosaurs ( not mentioned in the creation that's where we got off track) and then I just went into topics I thought would be interesting and informative to Ransom ( and Tabitha too!)-things like hygiene( teeth, germs, washing) and safety ( think firemen and police officers)...and then I also looked to the calendar for inspiration Fall, Pumpkins, Thanksgiving...Topics are really pretty free flowing at this point. 

Once I've got my list of topics I wrote in about 6 weeks ( USE A PENCIL!) worth of topics at the top of each week in my planner so I would know what was coming up. Why 6 weeks?! Well because that was how long I had till my due date-and that's the point in which all homeschooling will end for the foreseeable future. 

THEN I made a pinterest board for each theme. Some of my boards are still empty but I'm using them as place holders and also if something crosses my path that DOES fit into one of those themes I can toss it where it belongs-vitually speaking. 

How do you use Pinterest for your planning? 
UMMMM almost entirely. People, the wheel has been invented, I repeat, the wheel has been invented! There is NO NEED to come up with your own activities unless you are just somehow inspired. But honestly, even when I have technically made up my own activity I usually saw SOMETHING on pinterest that gave me the idea. It is the greatest resource eeeeevvvver! 
So most days "planning" involves me typing in a topic in the search window: "dinosaurs kindergarden theme" or "dinosaur picture books", I usually try to hit all the different subjects during the week so if I'm light in one then I'll search more specifically "teeth math games kindergarden"-yes, that is a search, and yes, you will get results! I'm telling you, it has ALL already been done!!! 

I focus on the next two weeks to make sure my boards are pretty full of options. I am not partial and if something seems even remotely useful I'll stick it on my board. 

When do you prep? Do you do your planning the weekend before? 
Yes and no. As I've said before the planning is happening throughout the week before, as I gather resources. But usually on Friday or Saturday I start to hash out my plan for the upcoming week. On one side of my planner there is an open space for "To-Do lists" and I use this to list out the 4 or 5 activities from my pinterest board that I want to do- like I said I usually have all subjects covered ( usually!)- but we don't do all subjects every day... I then make note of anything I'll need to prep/buy so I make sure I have everything together. However, I don't always have it all done by Monday. 

Monday morning I find it incredibly calming to write in ( IN PENCIL*) each one of those 4 or 5 activities into the days of the week side of my planner. Then if I have an activity that I want to do, but I don't have together is probably going on Thursday or Friday. I also find it calming because, even though its Monday and the week is stretching endlessly in front of me- at LEAST we have a plan! 

How do you pick your books? Do you browse at the Library? 
LOL. Anyone who has even one mobile child can tell you that "browsing" at the library also looks like child neglect. Now, don't get me wrong, I do browse a little at the library-but that's because I already have two kids and I'm pregnant with the third and so I'm immune to the judgmental eyes of librarians and mom's with one small toddler ( that was me once, bless my heart)...I just let my kids run around while I throw books that "look good" into my bag-sometimes you luck out and get a winner/sometimes it is a mega failure....this is why I have memorized where particular prolific authors are located in the library-when all else fails another Skippyjon Jones or Angelina Ballerina or Bernstein Bear book will get grabbed up as I head for the door. 

All that to say, when it comes to getting books in a particular theme, I had to come up with a new system. LUCKILY, we live in a city with multiple libraries and a pretty great online catalogue. This means, that every Wednesday I open my pinterest theme board for the coming week in one window and my public library online account in another and I get started on making my "Place Hold" list for the next week. I basically go through the books that look good to me that I've found through other awesome moms and teachers suggestions on a particular topic and I search them in my library's system. If I can find it, I place a hold on it through my account and MAGICALLY by the next week all my books have miraculously made it off the library shelves at several different libraries and made it onto ONE SHELF with my name stuck in them by the front door of our library. And here's the great part: 
When my kids and I arrive for story time on the following Wednesday, my kids happily deposit last weeks books into the return slot and I walk two feet away and pick up my stack of books for the week. GLORY GLORY AND ALL THE ANGELS SING! 

Usually I've only chosen 4 or 5 books for our theme, this gives my kids the opportunity to pick out books too-which is important-even though I H-A-T-E those Lego Easy Reader books with a the same fiery passion that my son loves them...sigh. 

Now, sure, this system isn't without its faults-I am not getting to look through the books like I would want to and sometimes when I go to pick them up, I can take one look at a book and know it'll be a flop. I also wish I could have my themed books on Mondays when I start the theme, but story time is on Wednesdays and I have yet to master having library books for two different themes going at once. So yeah, half way through the week is the best I can figure. 

Now, you may have noticed I only have picture books as our themed books-but we are also reading chapter books with Ransom ( the BEST way to help any kid with reading is to read to them!!)...because those take longer for us to get through (obviously- they are rarely on theme) 

Mom Tip: Pick a magic number of library books and stick with it EVERY WEEK SO HELP YOU GOD. We always get 10 library books. Never more, never less. This way when we are rushing out the door to the library I can count the books and immediately know if we are missing one. Also it goes without saying that library books should be kept in a special spot that is different from your other books, but my children clearly didn't get that memo....double sigh. 

* I can't tell you enough how important the PENCIL is to this process. Give yourself the freedom and permission to scrap everything as your week/days/hours progress. I made the rookie mistake of writing in pen my first week and my calendar looked like an ink pen had leaked everywhere because of all the scratching out I had to do. NOT PRETTY. 

Bird week

This week was "Bird Week" at the Wilson house....I had some pretty grand plans but not all of them made their way into reality-however, I'm coming to learn that EVERY week is different around here and I should give us all as many "free passes" as possible.

At the end of most days I try to look back to see if anyone learned anything at all ( and it doesn't even need to be on theme, or something I MEANT for us to learn!) and usually someone has learned something.  So we put that into the win category. ;-)

Anyway, this week started off discussing how God made birds. I then asked Ransom what made a Bird special from every other animal. He guessed that they had eggs, a nest and that they flew. So we talked about other animals that had eggs, nests and flew ( i.e. fish have eggs, alligators have nests and butterflies fly). Then we talked about how Bird's have FEATHERS!!!

As "luck" would have it we are in the middle of potty training with Tabitha so Ransom and Tabitha were introduced to our theme through some iPad videos while we sat around in the potty waiting for things to happen....

Here are the ones I think are worth watching:

(warning: Tabitha was a bit freaked out by the baby bird once it was born-but the process of it coming out of its shell was pretty cool!)

And then also this really great song All Birds Have Feathers from an episode of Cat in the Hat.

Activity One: Hummingbird Craft

I printed off the different pieces and cut them out ahead of time. I then gave Ransom a picture of the finished product ( the picture above, actually) and then told him to glue it onto his sheet of paper. I gave him no direction and just let him try to match the pieces. It was a good little puzzle exercise for him! And bonus, I got to make dinner uninterrupted!

You'll need:
The printable
Another piece of paper to glue your bird onto
colors/paints etc.
glue stick

Activity Two: Feather Walk
Yup, you guessed it! We walked around the neighborhood and looked for feathers! Luckily, we live in an area that is infested with doves. So the feathers were plentiful, though not very diverse in nature. It was still fun to collect them and it re-stated the fact about feathers being special to birds.
The kids then ran around the house hold feathers they had collected, flapping like birds.... Not my idea, but whatever. 

Activity Three: Egg Addition
Using this Printable here, Ransom put the right number of eggs into the nests using an ink pad and his finger.  He also really enjoyed this worksheet too even though he just wrote the numbers.

Activity Four: Bird Calls
Using your computer visit this Website which allows you to listen to the various calls of different birds-the fun part is that you then guess and match if you think it is the bird's 'alarm', 'call' or 'song'! I actually really enjoyed this activity too! And we were able to talk about Bird's special language of song!

Bird Books: 
Here are the books we enjoyed that had sometimes a very "loose" bird theme:
We love ALL the Tacky books, but a good excuse to check one out this week. 

Good non-fiction book about birds.

This one re-enforces the whole "other animals have eggs" in a hilarious twist

I love, love, looooove this book! Forget about the bird theme! Go check this book out! 

Bonus: our library's story time theme was birds!!! So my kids got to play with some pretty awesome super fancy bird wings too! Sweet! 

September 06, 2015

Water Theme

This week in homeschooling we returned to the right order of the Creation Story and studied "water". I knew this week was going to be a bit crazy since we were adding Soccer practice into the mix two days a week so I didn't plan quite as many activities and no outing....although with this kind of a theme I think I would have totally fudged and had us visit the splash pad or something haha! I'm clearly a very hardcore teacher intent upon my children learning at all times.


The introduction to the theme was, of course, back to the creation story and a discussion of how all living things on earth need water to survive.

Activity One: 3 types of Water
 filled clear jar with ice cubes
an empty jar
a jar filled with water ( with a drop of food coloring for effect)

We then talked about how when water gets VERY cold it turns to ice.
Then when it warms up it turns into Water ( we played with the ice in our hands and watched how wet our hands got ( and cold)).
When water gets HOT ( you can boil water and let it steam for them to actually SEE) it evaporate into the air and becomes a gas!

Activity Two: Makin' it Rain
This same activity then transitions into how rain is made...we talked about how the water from the oceans/lakes/rivers is warmed by the sun and then is evaporated back up into the clouds ( we used cotton balls to soak up the blue water) then when the cloud gets very full it "pours back out" in the form of rain ( squeeze the cotton ball so the water comes back out).

Ransom enjoyed this activity of squeezing cotton balls and seemed to really get the concept ( as basic as I had made it, anyway!)

Tabitha then had a go and made a GIANT MESS of water and cotton balls while Ransom and I did more school work at the table. It was a great distraction for long as I didn't mind the mess...

You'll need:
cotton balls
blue food coloring
clear cups/bowl

Activity Three: Water Cycle
We had already talked about the water cycle that morning, but I thought it might be nice to review it. Also Ransom hadn't had much cutting practice in a while so during his quiet time I whipped up four drawings to illustrate the water cycle. I then drew a large circle with arrows on a larger piece of paper. He then had to cut out the drawings and decide what order they went on in the circle.
Putting the pictures in a circle rather than a straight line of events was actually mildly challenging so that was an extra bonus.

You'll need some minor drawing skills
paper, markers
larger paper to glue onto

Activity Four: Two Rivers
This activity was not necessarily water themed but we fudged because it was an AWESOME addition exercise and BOTH my kids looooved it.
Here's what you'll need:

Two toilet paper rolls ( or one paper towel roll cut in half), "decorated" with water to look like "rivers" ( you'll notice mine are like works of art)
Gold fish crackers
Either a white board that you can then draw on above each 'river', or number magnets
A "bucket" to catch the fish.

Here's what it looked like:

We then would chose numbers for each river, counted out each number as we dropped the fish through the river into the bucket below, doing each river separately. Then we dumped out the bucket counted up the total and then Ransom would put that number at the end of the equation. We would then read the whole equation out loud.
Repeat, over and over and over again.

NOTE regarding siblings: While Tabitha LOOOOOVED this game too, her love made it far more challenging. She would start putting her own gold fish through the "rivers" while Ransom was trying to do an equation. Not helpful. I think next time I'll need to make her, her own separate river.

Activity Five: Will it float? 
Using this printable, I collected a bunch of objects from around the house and then we talked about "hypothesis" and what that meant. We would then make a "hypothesis" on whether or not the object would FLOAT or SINK and circle his guess. Ransom practiced his writing by having to write the name of each object before he circled his hypothesis, then he'd go do his "experiment" in our water table.

 All while  Tabitha was busily trying to empty the water as fast as possible onto her body...I had to refill half way through). ( Water ban-shwater-ban), afterwards Ransom would have to circle what actually happened to each item.  

Strangely the hardest part for him was staying on the same line when circling for each experiment. Not sure why this is, but it was a good challenge.

He also got bored* about halfway through-mostly because of having to write each word ( with my help with spelling on some words)-we had to push through a little pouting. I suppose if you just wanted to make this a more fun activity then just write the word for your kid ( or if they are really young, draw a picture of the item?)

* Bored seems to often translate into something that is mildly challenging that he is having to use mental or physical exertion towards. This is a major challenge of homeschooling...pushing past these moments.

(This week my library was a little weak on my water book choices-but we did get these fun, semi-water themed books)...Pattern fish is a great little lesson patterns which was an extra bonus!