Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rain gutters in the play room!

Not long ago, I created a little canopy to set aside a portion of the play room as a book nook.  It was a fun project, and the kids have so enjoyed it, but I still needed to find a way to store their books nearby.  I found a totally genius idea here and here for rain gutter bookshelves, and finally hubby and I got these done today!  We are so happy with them, and the kiddos LOVE it!

Pun'kin and Peanut ready to read!  Notice the splotches on the wall?  That was a paint color possibility which we did not choose.  We have yet to paint the walls in the winning color.  Someday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mud Pie Cutie Pies!

So I've been wanting to make a mud pie kitchen for the kids.  I love the look of things when they've been collected little by little over a lifetime, but it seems that I have no patience for seeking and finding just the right pieces to fill any need or want in my home.  Instead, I scour Ebay, Craigslist, drive all over creation to every thrift/consignment shop I can find and force together an end product that somewhat resembles my vision.  That is what I did this weekend with the mud pie kitchen, but for a change, I'm glad I did!  It is a huge success, and I can continue adding to it along the way.  I still need some utensils like wooden spoons and rolling pins, and I'd like to find some enamel ware mugs or soup cups, and I want to add a shelf in the big open space and put a hinged oven door on the front.  At least I've got the bones of it, and I just hope I can wait and enjoy the hunt for the perfect details along the way.

You might also notice the absence of mud.  The mud is yet to come.  We'd have to pull up some grass to reveal any dirt in our yard, and we're not really interested in that, so I'll keep my eyes peeled for some cheap dirt along the way too.  In the mean time, the kids are perfectly content with grass clippings and mushrooms!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Handprint and Thumbprint Art

So my baby brother is in the Army and is somewhere in Washington right now at some kind of class or training (I honestly have no idea what he's up to), and he needs to earn a score of 5 in whatever it is that he's doing.  My sister-in-law asked me to have my kids send him a little something to lift his spirits and cheer him on to that big 5.

Here's what we came up with!  Hope you are inspired to come up with your own ideas for sweet little fingerprint art for your little ones!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The math is here! The math is here!

I'm super excited!  The mail carrier just dropped off my little punkin's math curriculum.  We're going with the Math U See program, and we're starting with the "primer".  We got the Instruction Manual, the student text with instruction DVD, the Songbook and CD, and the Manipulative Blocks.  I'm thinking I should have gotten the organizer box for the blocks, but surely I can find something around here to store them in when the cardboard box they came in starts getting tattered.  I'll let you know how it's going along the way!  We still have a bit before we start this curriculum, so it will be a little while before I come back to this topic.

DH, the algebra teacher, had to check it out first to make sure he approved :0)

Punkin in excited too!  "Can I do it right now?!?!", he asked!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My "workbox" version

Okay, so I've discovered that for homeschooling families, there has been this HUGE trend in "workboxes". The original idea and information can be found here, but families all over the globe are taking the idea and making it their own in creative and practical ways.  I'm planning to homeschool my preschoolers this fall, but I thought I'd use some summer time to develop a system that works for us and then to work out the kinks so that we can be super productive this fall!  Here's what I've got in the works so far:

Here is Peanut's work for tomorrow.  It includes 3 Envelopes containing 1.  a clock for working on telling time.  2.  part of a puzzle in which she will have to match the numbered pieces with the pieces with the corresponding number of dots.  3.  a sequencing worksheet in which she will put the cut-out picture pieces in order and glue them to the worksheet.  They each have a "believe" bag which I will use to put a Bible activity; for Peanut today it's a little prayer book.  I also included a sticker scene that they both are working on

Here is Peanut's Work Bucket all put together.  I have no idea why Blogger insists on turning some of my photos sideways even though they're not sideways when I "select" them!  Grrrr......

Here is Punkin's work for the day.  1.  A letter-writing worksheet that he needs to finish.  2.  A "which one is different" worksheet.  3.  Alpha tiles:  he will use his uppercase alphatiles to spell the lowercase words written on the card.  4.  A clock for practicing telling time.  Also, I included a Noah book in his "believe" bag and his picnic sticker scene to finish.

Peanut's workbucket!

The Book Nook is equipped with some Hi Five magazines and some great little animal paperbacks that came in our Chick-Fil-A kid's meals a while back.

This is my Montessori-inspired area, a little bookshelf with 9 different activities.  These are by no means official Montessori activities, but the idea of having an area with manipulatives that were within easy sight and reach of the children to be able to use, was the Montessori-like idea here.  This is the first shelf with puzzles for each of the kids, magnetic numbers, and another magnet board for making shapes out of the provided pieces.

Here's what's on the second shelf:  a bucket of toy nuts and bolts for screwing practice, a bucket of lacing activities, and button snakes (practice buttoning and unbuttoning).

And on the 3rd shelf (aka the floor) is a basket of fact cards, a box of Easter eggs (my kids LOVE to play with these!), and our flower box.  I provide a variety of small planting containers, and the kids use the dry peas as a pot-filler and add the flower stems of their choosing...they LOVE to do this, and it's time to undo the 4th of July flower arrangements.  They are allowed to put these ANYWHERE in the house that they choose.  We're always working on making the house look nicer, and this is one way that they feel that they can help decorate and add to the beauty of our home.

This is the whole set-up!  We tried this once last week, and it worked like a charm!  The kids were so excited when they came into the playroom to find these things ready for them first thing in the morning, and they couldn't wait to get started on their activities!

Well, that's all from this newbie homeschooling momma!  Any feedback would be much appreciated!  Have a happy Monday everyone!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cinderella, really, it's okay to enlist your kids as cleaning buddies!

At the risk of sounding like Mrs. Tremaine, I thought I'd post a peek into my kids' cleaning baskets.  Several months ago, the kids became obsessed with cleaning, and I thought I'd take advantage of it before they grew out of that phase!  Off to the Dollar Tree I went, and here is what I came up with...little plastic baskets each containing a soft terry (and oh-so-adorably striped) cloth, a super squishy and stringy sponge, a little hand broom and dust pan, and a squirt bottle with water, a couple of drops of dish soap, and about a capful of white vinegar...oh, and they had Windex wipes which I hijacked for my van's glove box and still need to replace because it was HUGE having the kids wipe their own fingerprints off all the windows!

So this handy dandy little life-saver doesn't fit in the cleaning baskets, but it does have a telescoping handle making it JUST the PERFECT size for my little ones!

The kids' job is to 
1.  use the little brooms to sweep the crumbs off their table and chairs.
2.  use the spray and the rag to clean their eating surfaces.
3.  use the squishy stringy sponge to dust all of the wood surfaces in the living room.
4.  use the Windex wipes to clean as far up as they can reach on the windows in all the rooms where their fingerprints can be found on said windows :0)
5.  use the stick vac to vacuum up the crumbs around their eating areas and the cat's furballs from along the edges of the living areas where they always seem to drift!

They love their jobs and are really good at it!  I DO NOT go back and re-do any of their cleaning work.  I want them really to feel like they have helped me and let them take complete ownership and pride in their work.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Homeschool Day 1

So on Monday, I FINALLY got the long-awaited A-OK from the hubby to homeschool the kids!  I have always had structured activities for them and a "school time" during the day, but now I can make it official!  So I'm going to try to blog my progress at least until I figure out what works.  This will be sort of my homeschool journal as, through trial and error, I find a system that works for us!'s most of today!

First we did our weather and calendar at the Classroom Closet.  Then we reviewed our sight words from last week's 4th of July unit.  We reviewed the parts and colours of the United States Flag then worked on a Melissa and Doug USA floor puzzle.  (I totally forgot to say the Pledge of Allegience and say a prayer during our beginning activities!)  This is a good puzzle for us because my 3/yo can sort the puzzle pieces by colour, and my 4/yo can put the puzzle together. 

While Nikolas was working on the floor puzzle, Ava Louise and I worked on shapes, colours, and sorting with another puzzle that I found in the Dollar Spot at Target 2 summers ago.

Then we met back around the Classroom Closet to sing "Happy Birthday America" which we learned last week and watched the video.  Next, we listened to--and talked about--the Alabama state song, "Alabama".

Next we did our Poetry Basket.  I got the idea for a Poetry Basket here at Counting Coconuts, a WONDERFUL blog about homeschooling little ones!  Here's a peek in our Poetry Basket and list of its contents:  "Daybreak in Alabama" by Langston Hughes, an instrument for each child, spray bottle set to "mist", a few toy trees (out of our Dino bucket), 2 sprigs of pine branch, hands traced onto coloured paper.

 I put together a data sheet with miscellaneous clip art pieces that I found throughout the web (much of it here).  It included the state seal, the state flag, the state bird, the state flower, pictures of Alabama's Native Americans and their tools and pottery, native wildlife, local agriculture, and art by Alabama-born Howard Finster

The kids practiced coloring, gluing, scissor skills and collaging (just made that one up, but I think I like it!) by creating a state seal, state flag, state bird and state flower, doing their best to copy the pictures provided.  Finally, they made a collage on the state of Alabama using cotton balls, popcorn, and peanuts to represent the local agriculture.  Each of their created images was then glued to the first page of their 50 Nifty States self-authored book.

Here are the pictures of these activities:
 I put the laptop on a chair by their table so they could see the pictures.

 Practice with scissors!  Cutting out a circle...Nikolas is already proficient at this, but a little practice never hurt, and Ava Louise is still quite a ways from being able to do this herself.

 State agriculture collage....I know I know, it's upside down!

 Here's a sideways pic of our peanut and popcorn snack in keeping with our theme.

 Then the kids took turns on the computer doing an interactive coloring page of the 
Alabama state bird at this site.
 They each did a lacing activity while they waited their turn on the computer.

More sideways are the first pages of their 50 Nifty State Books.  
The flags were made by gluing red crepe paper to a blank coloring sheet.

All the blank sheets were found here.

All in all it was a good first day and ran smoothly.  I need to get started a little earlier, and I need to have some activities that we do for circle time before we start our new lessons.  I'm currently working on a variation of the work box system that I think will work for us.  More on that later!

Signing off!
~Melissa  :0)