Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Very Busy Spider - Letter S

My 3 year old daughter loves to read The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. Since this week we were studying the letter S, I thought it would be fun to do activities around this book.

Book Summary: This colorful picture book describes a spider's day. Blown onto a farmyard fence, she starts to spin a web. The other animals ask if she wants to play, but in every case "the spider didn't answer. She was very busy spinning her web. (from Amazon)

The first thing we did was re-enact the story by using a big fake spider web and a plastic spider. (Right now is the perfect time to pick these up at stores). We placed our web out on our playset and went over the animals in the story that asked the spider to play. Then at the end we used black hole punch circles to be the "flies" that the spider catches in the web.

Next we made a Busy Spider craft.

6 wooden craft sticks
white yarn
white glue
red fun foam
green fun foam
2 google eyes
1 black pipe cleaner
glue dots
1 piece of heavy construction paper or tag board

First we used Glue Dots to glue the craft sticks down on the background paper. Then we cut yarn into smaller pieces to create the web.

We dipped the yarn into glue and then placed it on the paper. You could just smear glue all on the inside of the frame and place pieces of string.

We created our own Busy Spider out of craft foam. I did have to use a strip of tape on the back of the spider to hold down the pipe cleaner legs. Then we used Glue Dots to place it on the web.

Next we did a spider sort activity.  Click here if you would like to download the spider sorting mat.

First I had her sort between objects that were easy to distinguish what were spiders and not: plastic dog, cow, tooth, flag, spiders etc.  Then we moved on to the concept that spiders have 8 legs. We counted the legs on all our plastic spiders. Then I mixed the spiders with some plastic bugs I got at the Target Dollar Spot. We then sorted the spiders from the bugs. This was a little harder for her to do because she had to count instead of just look at the item and see if it was a spider or not.

Then of course we had to do a Do-a-Dot page! We found lots of The Very Busy Spider printables at
Making Learning Fun.

What a fun Letter S week!

For More Book/Craft ideas see:
stART : A Mommy's Adventures
Read. Learn. Explore.
Preschool Corner

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Owl Go for That: Etsy Owl Finds

I can't believe I'm 9mo. pregnant already! I've been nesting and not sleeping well (getting ready for those every 2hr. feedings). So in the wee hours I like to do some window shopping, and my favorite place to look is on Etsy. I don't know why, but I'm wanting to accessorize my 2yr. old and new baby's room with owls!(It kind of goes with the whole nesting and not sleeping theme).

Actually it started with getting these 2 dressers at a garage sale for $40. All I had to do is paint the tops and tighten some screws. They look great in the already-pink room (The green really does look good--for some reason it's not as pretty in these pictures.)

Then I saw this picture at Target and it just pulled all the pink and green together. The big owl is my 2yr. old and the little one is the new baby :)

 So that's how I got on my owl kick. Here's some cool owl things that caught my eye while midnight surfing:

Bellamina's bookend/door stopper owl with wings
$18.00 by Bellamina
I love the colors and the big eyes--lol!

Vinyl Wall Decal Sticker Art- Hooting Owl on Woodland Tree - with free growth chart - dd1020
$68.00 By designedDESIGNER

Wooden Owl Shelves by The Wooden Owl

Medium OUCH POUCH organizer by Pillow Sew Cute
I just love this idea! You put first-aid stuff etc. in the pouch and put it in your purse or diaper bag. There are so many choices in this shop. I probably could use 5 of these to leave in various bags. She also has Epi-pin bags which I thought was a great idea.

Organizer Basket Fabric Bin - Whimsical Owls by thespottedbarn
I think this is so adorable. What a pretty way to organize baby things.

Adorable Little Owl Hat...You Pick The Size..Photography Prop by UniqueKidz

Hanging Mobile Howls by lovelyfriend
I love all the different colored owls. So cute!

Organic multi-purpose burp cloth set - OWLS by peanuttree
Functional and cute!

Spotted Owl Wet Bag by Snuggles of Love
Yep, I'm hoping to some cloth diapering! This would be great for any kind of wet things though, even for those not
Disclosure: No harm was done to my PayPal account while writing this post (well at least not yet!)

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Learning with Cartoons

My 10 year old son and 12 yr. old daughter love to read the comics in the Sunday newspaper each week. They both also balk at doing traditional vocabulary lessons, which was what I was planning for this year. So when I got a copy of Vocabulary Cartoons in the mail, I was excited to see if this would be a good fit for my kids.

What is Vocabulary Cartoons?
They are silly cartoons with rhyming key word reminders that help students remember the meaning of the vocabulary word.

Vocabulary Cartoons works on the principle of mnemonics. A mnemonic is a device that helps you remember something by associating what you are trying to remember with something you already know.

So students can "see" the cartoon (which is very helpful for visual learners), and hear the rhyming key word (great for auditory learners) to help them remember the new word.

How We Used It:
First of all, both kids sat down and read through the book right away. In fact, I caught them trying to draw the cartoons on their own.  I decided that we would learn two words a day and use their drawing interest to my advantage. Each child had a spiral notebook where they wrote the word, definition and key word and then drew the picture. For some reason adding in that drawing part was a big motivator. I did not have to nag my kids to do their vocabulary homework at all. After they drew the picture, they had to write a sentence using the new word. Then after 10 words they were given a quiz (the quiz is included in the book).

What We Thought:
I've now added this book into our curriculum for the year. My kids love the cartoons and are remembering the meanings. The only improvements would be to have PDF downloads available for the quizzes. The quizzes are included in the book after every set of 10 words. I don't have easy access to a copier, and don't own a scanner, so I've been typing them out. There are blackline masters, PDF formatted disks and overheads available, but they are very pricey and seem to target schools not homeschools.Overall, we are very pleased with Vocabulary Cartoons and find that it is a nice resource to have on hand.

Disclosure: I was given this product for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chak Talk with Granola Mom 4 God

Over the past year and a half, I have been working on instilling healthier eating habits with myself and my family. One mom who is ahead of me on this journey and shares so much information on her blog is Jodi at Granola Mom 4 God. The cool part about this interview is that I actually got to go meet Jodi in person! (You can see her pics. of the visit by visiting "She's Real!") She showed me several things I had questions about and we had a wonderful time talking and hanging out. Here are some of the things I asked her:

1.  Have you basically always been into healthy living/cooking or was it a gradual change? If the latter, what spurred this change on?  

In short, having children changed how we ate.  We used to be able to live off of $25 a week or less for groceries.  But I found out that I had health condition (PCOS) that was going to make having children difficult.  The answer looming ahead was going on medication . . . and I didn’t want to do that the rest of my life.  At that point, I pursued losing weight and exercising.  Well, we found out we were pregnant the day before we were going to turn adoption papers in!  However, after our first was born, through a series of events I found out my thyroid had gone caput . . . and that is when the real rabbit hole opened up . . . 

2.  What advice would you give to someone who is trying to make healthier choices for their family but is overwhelmed by all the choices, options and changes that need to be made?

Pray. Pursue reading a Sue Gregg cookbook, The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin, or The Eat Clean Diet by Tosca Reno. But the biggest thing—is that it has to be a calling—and plan on taking things slowly STEP by STEP. Don’t do fast changes.

3.  If they could make one healthy family life-style change, what would you recommend?

Eliminate white flour and sugar.

4.  How do you schedule in all your canning, Kefir-making, from-scratch cooking in your week?

I set it out before I go to bed at night and my kids help out. It just becomes part of the music of our family life . . . you get in a rhythm. Once again . . . I took it step-by-step . . . none of this occurred in a day, or a week, or even a month. I am into our 6th year of growing in the lifestyle. My new ferment this year was learning how to make water kefir soda. There is no way I could have done that 2 years ago!

(Jodi let me sample her kefir soda---I was surprised I actually thought it was good! :) Maybe in the near future I'll add that to things I can make from scratch)

5.  What items are must-have in your pantry and why?

I try to purchase things in bulk (because it is cheaper) and as close to how God made it as possible. But musts? Winter wheat berries, brown rice, candied ginger (for my water kefir soda), coconut oil!!!!!!

6.  Do you do any bulk cooking?

No . . . I freeze lots of fruit ahead of time for smoothies . . . and will do a few jars of chicken stock, but that is about as bulk as it gets for me.  I am not that organized . . . though I always thought it would be nice to have meals ahead, lots of canning accomplished, etc.  Of course, it doesn’t help that we just moved and I had to leave my garden behind this summer!   

7.  We know that any day you are expecting your newest little blessing. Do you have any tips for a new mom to prepare for the little one's birth?

Become educated. Don’t just rely on your doctor’s to tell you what to do. You have choices. God entrusted YOU to be your child’s mom. Read all that you can, not forgetting to touch on the natural birth books. And purchase a baby sling or a Moby Wrap!!

8.  What would be some of your must-have items for a new baby?

A baby sling

9.  What is your favorite family recipe?

That makes me laugh . . . a family favorite is natural peanut butter mixed with cocoa and raw honey—it has a fudge-like consistency, and Sue Gregg’s English Muffins, and chocolate peanut butter smoothies (catch the theme?)

I am living life under the conviction of bringing my family closer to God by returning to traditional ways of eating, mothering, homeschooling, cloth diapering, gardening, and sewing. You can find me at Granola Mom 4 God, my Etsy shop The Cocoon Wrap Mama, and at Totally Tots as a guest writer.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

The Art of Winging It: The Preschool Edition

I have been told by several of my friends that I am a master at winging it. I have a knack for seemingly preparing things on the fly and having them (usually) turn out well. While I don't wing everything all the time, I find that I do go through seasons where I'm more prone to plan this way. I think I've developed this skill out of necessity since every two years we tend to add a newborn to the family mix (which is the current season I am in again).

Wing It: Informal to accomplish or perform something without full preparation or knowledge; improvise

While thinking about this recently, I came to the conclusion that it's not that I don't have a plan or am not prepared, but actually that I'm over-prepared and ready to be flexible. Let me explain using my current preschool planning as an example.

My Preschool Planning:

Every year I print off schedule sheets for my tot and preschooler with the best intentions of actually filling them out. I might fill it out for the first week, but for some reason I can't keep up with it. I know that we still need to do activities but I often struggle with weekly formal planning because:

1. My kids don't like the scheduled activity and it is a flop.

2. We end up doing 7 other things in addition to what I had planned.

3. My kids end up falling apart, are crabby and aren't in the mood to do anything formal.

4. I end up falling apart, am crabby and am not in the mood to do anything formal ;)

5. I just get tired from actually planning the older kids' work that I don't get around to the little ones' plans. (Ok, this is the main reason)

Because I don't have a written lesson plan, others can easily assume that I am winging it. What they don't know is that there was advance preparation done that enables my "winging it" to be successful (most of the time. )

Here's my secret:

 1. I've thought about what I want my 2yr. old and 3yr. old to accomplish for the year. I actually typed out a general year outline for my 3 (almost 4 year old.) Even though I may never look at it again, I have an over-all idea of the direction I would like to go with her schooling for the year.

2.  Once I decided the general direction, I started pooling together resources. I knew that I was going to do Letter of the Week activities this year, so I started a binder and printed out materials ahead of time.

 For each letter I have printed:
a. Letter cut-and-paste page from Homeschool Creations
b. Letter cards from the Members section at 1+1+1=1
c. Do-a-Dot pages from Childcareland

Next I started a file folder for each letter where I have printed and laminated many of the ABC activities from the Letter of the Week curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I usually print 1-2 activities from Erica's curriculum for each letter and also print out craft and game ideas. Most of the letter craft ideas come from Totally Tots.

I also have a pretty good amount of educational games, puzzles, and manipulatives that I can add to the day.

In addition to all of this, I try to have a well-stocked craft stash. You can see how I've organized our craft supplies in my Craft Stash post.

3. We have one activity that we do every day that helps structure our learning time. This is key. My girls expect it and if I forget, they are the first ones to remind me to do it. This is the signal to start our learning time. This year the activity is our calendar time.
 We don't do anything fancy with our calendar time. We sing the Days of the Week song, add the new number, count the numbers and then sing the Months of the Year (sung to the tune of 10 Little Indians). Next we say/sing our Bible verse and go over what our new letter for the week will be. (I have our Bible verse and letter card on a small tri-fold board on the bookcase so I'll remember what we're suppose to be doing--lol).

What Winging-It Looks Like:

Remember, I'm 9mo. pregnant at the time of this writing, and not getting good sleep. So my preschool day looks like this:

1. I'm still in my pajamas while two little kids are ready to get started for the day. My brain hasn't fully turned on yet, but I walk into the homeschool room.

2.  I see the calendar board and I go through the motions while my brain clears up and I am thinking again. Oh, today's letter is....

3.  I go to the binder and pull out an activity or two. If the girls are still interested, we move on to a game from the file folder. If they are still wanting to do things we add an activity from the game closet. If they could care less about an activity, I can easily switch it up by adding or changing resources. If I have time I can search for more ideas on the web or make something myself. But if I don't, I still feel like we have accomplished something.

Successful Winging It in Action!

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