Friday, February 28, 2014

Supplementing FLL1, Lessons 61-70

A continuation of how we're adding to First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind: Level 1 to make it more kinetic learner friendly. (Click here for my posts on previous lessons.)

(Lesson 61) Identifying pronouns in a story

This activity was more difficult and frustrating than I thought it would be. The idea was simple: go back to a previous lesson's story and identify the pronouns, one sentence at a time. The execution was much more difficult. They identified pronouns okay; just not the ones in the sentence we were on. They'd find the pronouns in the sentence or paragraph ahead or behind, but just could not focus on the one sentence we were supposed to be on.

My solution was to cover all the other words near that sentence with sticky notes. And if I could not miss any. This was only marginally successful. It took so much time to re-position the sticky notes that they would lose focus. And it took too long. We tried to get through the story through three days, after which I just gave up and moved on.


(Lesson 64, 67, 69-70) Seasons

Instead of doing a collage for the various seasons, I just let the kids color pictures for them.

(clockwise) snowmen drinking hot cocoa, flowers, happy sun, smiling leaves blowing in the wind
This group of lessons didn't actually require much of anything extra. The boys already know the months of the year and the seasons, and there was no new definition or poem to memorize.

Idea Noun Review

When reviewing idea nouns, Builder Boy starting trying to remember the Fruits of the Spirit. They've been teaching about them in Sunday school, and he suggested working on them at home as well. At first we just had them drawn on the white board. But eventually we made a paper version to keep on our refrigerator.

The lessons and the poem we got from FLL1. The original link is to the author's printing press website, the picture is a link to the Amazon listing. I came up with the extra activities on my own.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Climbing Dome Construction Adventure

Starting the Adventure

This weekend we put up the climbing dome we purchased. It was quite the learning experience, so I'm blogging about it so others who are interested in purchasing this item can make an informed decision. And hopefully avoid our mistakes. I set the camera to time stamp the pictures so I wouldn't have to write down how long things took. Looks like it took about two hours to put together. (This guide should help you shave 30 minutes off that time.) The instructions say it takes two adults to put together. I recommend four. One to figure out the directions and direct and organize, two to put together, and one to watch the children. But we did manage to put it together with just two grownups (and two kids.)

February may seem like a strange time to set up an outside toy. But by the end of the two hours, when the sun was finally breaking through the clouds, I was grateful that we did it when it was overcast. We didn't get too hot or sunburned. Really, if you have the chance to do it when it's overcast but not freezing, that is the perfect time.

Trying to be Organized
The Two-Handed Approach

We started out trying to be organized, and we stayed that way for the most part. We sorted the four different types of bars into piles and that helped. We set out in groups the first five sets of bars to put together, and that helped time wise, I think.

Principal Daddy figured out that the best way to get the bolts tight was the two handed approach. WARNING! Pay very close attention to the instructions. Some bolts should not be tightened until near the end. Otherwise you have to loosen them and....yeah.....

We did combine one step with half of the next step in order to save some screwing-unscrewing-re-screwing. We're not sure if this actually saved any time, or made it a little bit harder. We found that the instructions, while not giving any reasons, probably had some very good reasons for being the way that they are.

Once you're putting the parts together, try to pull it into a tighter circle to connect the bottoms. We really struggled with that part. Principal Daddy had to use a vise grip to hold it close enough because the bolts for the bottom give you NO room for error. WARNING! Using vise grips with nothing to protect the bars will scar some of the coating and may lead to rusting in the future.


Vise Grip Scratches

Thought we were done here....

At the end when you are attaching the hand holds, try to remember that TWO washers are used, not one. Otherwise you'll reach the end of the hand holds and wonder why you have so many washers left over. And then you'll have to re-do all of them, which will make the person who has the only hands strong enough to unscrew all of those bolts grumpy and it will take 30 minutes longer than it has to.


Last Handhold! (The second time)
But it was totally worth it! The boys love it and have played on it every day. They were a little worried at first, but now can climb it without any encouragement needed. They also like swinging on it by their arms. Maybe someday they'll be comfortable enough to hang on it by their legs!

Proof the Smile! Sundays are helping me be in front of the camera.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Slow and Steady: Week 28 (and Week 22)

I'm finally getting back to doing Slow and Steady Get Me Ready on a regular basis. I stopped doing it for a while because Lady Bug went through a phase when all she was doing was sleeping. And the few times that she wasn't, I was schooling the boys. Or cooking dinner. Or, you know, the whole "mom" thing. Also, I admit I had a bit of a hang up with Week 6. As author of the book tries to keep to stuff you can find in most households, she suggests making a sock ball that will be used for several different activities. For some reason, I got stuck on that, didn't get it done, and felt like a failure. It was 22 weeks later when I finally figured out: I could use a small stuffed animal instead! I don't have to do it exactly like it says in the book because it's not the boss of me. Now that I've finally figured that out, and now that Lady Bug is awake a lot more and is showing much more interest in things, we're back to doing the activities.

I'm going to stick to the activities we would have been doing if we had continued on from when we started. But I'm also going to do some (but not all) of the skipped activities; just not in order.

This week we was about encouraging baby to touch her feet with her hands. Lady Bug has been doing that some already, though I noticed that she doesn't do it when she is in a sleeper/covered feet outfit. So I put her in a jumper to encourage more of this.

I also did Week 22, which is doing "This Little Piggy" on baby's toes. I confess, I love baby feet. Lady Bug's get played with almost every diaper change. I am so enjoying this one last time having a baby.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Writing Isn't Just Writing

Experimenting with Magnets
Handwriting instruction is supposed to take no more than ten minutes. Most days it takes half an hour. Not because Builder Boy's fighting me. He's gotten over that for the most part. But because he's talking.

I've written before about a theological discussion sparked by a handwriting prompt. What I didn't know then was that sort of a thing was going to be a common occurrence. And it's been frustrating me because I keep thinking this is only supposed to take ten minutes!

But this morning I finally realized: this isn't just copying letters like a drone. This is supposed to prepare him for creative writing. And that's what he's doing: being creative. If I'm constantly shutting down his creative thinking when he's writing, aren't I hampering his ability to connect the two? I don't want him to get the idea that when he's writing he needs to shut down his brain.

Like yesterday. Builder Boy likes to fiddle and play with things when he's supposed to be listening to the story. But as long as he can answer the questions about the reading, I let him. Yesterday's fiddlings with the new white board's magnets turned into an impromptu experiment with magnets, seeing which items found on the table blocked the magnetism and which didn't, and talking about how electromagnets turn a motor. I ended up having to re-read the passage. But you know what? I'm not going to stress about it. Isn't this one of the advantages of homeschooling over public school? Setting our own schedule instead of being a slave to the clock. Going off on rabbit trails and not killing the love of learning.

I'm going to accept that handwriting is going to take thirty minutes instead of ten most days. When it is just ten I'll be pleasantly surprised. That's part of teaching a child with an enthusiasm for learning that hasn't be squashed by constantly hearing "we don't have time for that now."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Life of Fred: a Gateway Book!

I purchased the first six books of the Life of Fred elementary series because I have been feeling unsure about our choices in math. I thought it would be a fun supplement to introduce new math concepts. What I did not realize was that it would get Builder Boy to read!

Until recently I wouldn't have called Builder Boy a reluctant reader. But he doesn't have reading stamina, nor much enthusiasm for it. Taking the DORA certainly proved that he can read. He just doesn't want to very much. His favorite books are the Magic School Bus books. But mostly he just looks at the pictures and reads the little pieces of information, but not the story.

On the day the Life of Fred books showed up in the mail I read the first three chapters with both boys. Early Bird wasn't as interested in the story, which surprised me. I thought he would be the one who responded best to the story format.

Later that day I read a few more chapters to Builder Boy, who liked the story very much. The next day in the car, he finished the book all by himself! This was unprecedented. He excitedly talked about reading the next book and the next. Between that day and the next, he read the entire 19 chapter, 120+ page second book all by himself!

I knew Builder Boy was my math guy. But I never realized math would get him to read! I highly recommend these books for anyone with a math loving reluctant reader. Or anyone, really. These books are a lot of fun! I hope that once he finished the series he'll be confident enough to read other chapter books.

Added later: This morning Builder Boy came up to me and asked for the third book. And proceeded to read seven chapters; 52 pages!
Sometimes the Life of Fred books can be found on (the picture to the side is an affiliate link.) I've been looking on and off and it changes. But if you buy them directly from the publisher, more money goes to the author, and the shipping is free in the US. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Smile! Sunday #9

These are our pictures from last week. It's been five months since I planned out to post a picture of our family every Sunday. There should be more than just nine Smile! Sunday posts. Some weeks we were sick and didn't go. Some weeks we forgot to get a picture, or take the camera. But my intention was to get more comfortable being in front of the camera, and I am getting to that point.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Just Because Something Needs to be Fixed Dosen't Mean It's Broken

My sons like to talk. Before I had them, I thought it was just girl children who'll talk incessantly but nope, sometimes boys do it, too. Builder Boy, my oldest, was a big fan of Thomas and Friends and from watching the show so much he picked up the habit of narrating his play. So instead of just making sound effects he was saying exactly what was going on as it happened. And not just with his trains; with every toy he played with.

Builder Boy was not an early talker. When he first started talking it wasn't exactly clear, but I usually understood him. When people had difficulty understanding him, I assumed it was just because he was a little kid and they weren't used to having to understand little kids. As he got older I did not worry about it much; I dismissed most of it as not being developmentally inappropriate. When he gets excited about something (which is often) he will speak very quickly and sometimes drop a few sounds. And often what he's excited about is something specialized that the people who are trying to listen often don't know anything about, which makes it more difficult. Like Mincraft or machines or Bob the Builder.

A relative kept insisting something must be wrong with his hearing; that he at least wasn't hearing all frequencies. But we had him tested, and his hearing is perfect; all frequencies.

When he started reading things seemed to get better. Since we homeschool, we didn't see many people who didn't already know him and were a bit used to the way he talked, so it wasn't such a big issue that I thought it had to be addressed. I got kind of sick of hearing about it from a certain relative, so I purchased the eBook version of Speech Therapy at Home: Super Star Speech. It was written by a homeschooling mother who was also a certified speech therapist, for parents who couldn't afford to pay for speech therapy for their kids. "Perfect!" I thought. One problem: the assessment pictures had the name of the word under the picture, the sound you're supposed to be listening on the side, and the words "initial," "medial," and "final" at the top (for where in the word you were supposed to be listening for the specific letter sound.) And he could read. He didn't know what "initial" and "medial" meant, but he looked at the letter on the side and noticed that it was in the beginning of the first picture/word, the middle of the second picture/word, and the end of the last one. So he intentionally made sure he enunciated that sound in the word. Which completely skewed the test. I e-mailed the author who was very nice and prompt in getting back to me. But she'd never heard of a child doing that before, and wasn't sure what to do about it.

At the beginning of this school year I finally bit the bullet and took him in to the local elementary school to get him assessed for free. (In my state homeschoolers are able to access some services through the schools for free.) He scored, to my novice understanding, extremely low. I felt like a failure. Not only had I failed to teach him to speak properly as his mother, but also as his teacher. My saving grace that snapped me out of my guilt was my younger son who spoke just fine. He had learned to talk with me doing the exact same things as I had done with Builder Boy, and indeed, Early Bird had the added influence of Builder Boy talking not quite clearly all.the.time. Someone pointed out to me that if it was all my fault then Early Bird would have the same problem. And he doesn't. So I need to stop beating myself up about it all.

So now we're going to the local elementary school once a week, and it does seem to be helping. I'm glad we went in. While waiting for him at the school I saw a flyer for a "Preschool Screening." Mostly checking to see if there are issues that will have to be addressed during the kindergarten year. I've signed Early Bird up. I don't think anything is wrong, but I don't want to miss anything; just in case.

I wrote this up for two reasons. 1) to encourage early screening if it is available in your area. Even if you don't suspect a problem. If you are in a homeschooling friendly school district, it can't hurt. And 2) to encourage those who have had a child already diagnosed with a problem not to blame themselves. You have not let your child down; getting help proves that.

I often wondered, if all his talking to himself while playing reinforced wrong pronunciations. There's a good chance it did. But I am glad I wasn't stopping him, wasn't constantly correcting him while he played. I would have hated to put a damper on his enthusiasm. It's working out just fine now, and he's still talking up a storm without being inhibited.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jury Duty and the Nursing Mother

Get your shit together, Nevada! Boobs have their own schedule! You are denying babies the very best by refusing to excuse nursing women from jury duty! "Allowing" them to pump when it is convenient for the court to break messes up a woman's pumping schedule and reduces demand, thereby reducing production. (This isn't for me. I'm upset for a family member.) According to the NCSL website, only 15 states excuse nursing mothers. (California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota and Virginia.) Pardon my....passion...but WHAT THE HELL?! That is unacceptable.

If you live in one of the other 35 states, I encourage you to be aware, spread the word, and write your state representatives. Just last October a nursing mother in Missouri was held in contempt because she couldn't get daycare and her baby won't take a bottle. Are we going to let that stand?

The Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and More: Review

Oops! I found another draft that never got published! If you follow Sceleratus Classical Academy on facebook then you saw the pictures when we were doing this and were probably wondering where the post went. What happened is that we never finished the whole book, so I forgot to finish the post. Here it is now.

This thanksgiving we were actually home! So when the Scholastic Dollar Days sale was going on last time I picked up the eBook version of Easy Make & Learn Projects: The Pilgrims, the Mayflower & More: 15 Fun-to-Create Reproducible Models That Make the Time of the Pilgrims Come to Life. I usually prefer having hard copies of workbooks and things, but with the amount of scanning I would have had to do for this I am very glad I got the e-version. Also, with my scanner things get re-sized and then all the parts would not have been on the same, exact scale. I would never have paid the full Amazon price for it, but I'm delighted to have gotten this for only $1. They have sales quiet frequently, and I share the info whenever I hear about it. (If you're going to be traveling for Thanksgiving check out the Thanksgiving in the Car lesson plan I made for my holiday series at Sandbox to Socrates.)

There are a lot of paper models in this book. My boys aren't up to the amount of coloring and cutting required to finish all of the projects in a week, but that is what I wanted to do so I did quite a bit of the coloring and cutting before starting the lessons. I used these models along side the books Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation and Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy, but there is enough information and teaching suggestions in the book that you do not "need" anything else to use the models.

I split the models into 5 days:
Day 1
Day 1: How they got there, and why: Exchanging Worlds Trifold Diorama: (double sided new world vs old world), Moving Mayflower Map, and Peek Inside Mayflower

For the trifold, Early Bird colored the "Old World" side and Builder Boy colored the "New World." That way we only had to make one and there wasn't too much coloring for them. On the moving map they each colored "their" continent. The Mayflower was left mostly uncolored except for the flag.

Day 2
Day 2: How they lived: Pilgrim Town and Wampanoag Village

I pre-colored the map parts and left the buildings and people for the boys to color. Early Bird did the Wampanoag village and Builder Boy colored the Pilgrim town. This took much longer than I expected even with the pre-colring I did.
 I thought we would also do the gardens this day but half way through the two villages I realized how unrealistic that was for us. They did have a lot of fun comparing and contrasting the two villages, so it was worth it. Mostly.

And that's all that we actually finished. The following is what I had planned.

Day 3: Food and how they cooked it: Pilgrim Vegetable Patch / Wampanoag Garden, Hunt for Food Match-Up / Trap a Fish, and What's Cooking Double Diorama (shows Pilgrims cooking and Wampanoag cooking)Same division of the vegetable patch/garden, though I did do some pre-coloring for them there as well so they wouldn't feel so overwhelmed, since they are rarely required to do anything like this.

Day 4 (Thanksgiving Day): Harvest Feast Fun-Fact Scroll

Day 5: How they dressed: Wampanoag Basket by Numbers, and Who wore what? (Pilgrim / Wampanoag wardrobes, Wampanoag pouch)

The models are all still up, three months later. The boys like to play with their fingers as people in the villages. They still remember a lot from what we talked about. Next Thanksgiving we will finish the models the week before Thanksgiving. That was my biggest mistake; thinking we could get it all done the week of Thanksgiving. But it was definitely worth it, and we'll be finishing it in November.

I definitely recommend this if you can get it during the Dollar Days sales. And if you have kids who enjoy coloring.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"You're Not the Boss of Me!"

Sometimes you just have to say to your curriculum "you're not the boss of me!"

Okay, maybe I've been hanging around kids a little bit too much, because I could not think of a more grown-up way to say that. But it is Truth, and one I sometimes forget. Sometimes schedules fall apart. Sometimes kids don't learn the way we think they will. Sometimes Life just happens. Usually in February.

This is the time to remember that you child's education will not be ruined if you skip a few lessons. Or chapters. Or if you just take a break in the middle and don't go back for a while. I speak from experience.

I know with the end of the school year in sight, it's hard not to push to But it's not always worth it. Sometimes a break now can mean getting it done faster later. Lots of times I've banged my head on the wall of trying to teach a kid something, only to take a break for a week or two to find that it has finally clicked!

And just because you're taking a break doesn't mean the learning has to stop. One of our most memorable days was when Builder Boy decided he wanted to be the teacher for the day. So we went through our routine with him "teaching" me and Early Bird. It was excellent for review, and gave me a really good idea not only of what he thought of what we do every day, but how well he understood the material. You know the saying, "the best way to learn is to teach"? Plan a day (or if your child is older have them plan it!) where your child is the teacher and see what they come up with.

Another fun break-while-still-learning is rabbit trails or unit studies. Let the kid pick a topic that interests them, get some library books, and roll with it for a week or two. We've ended up learning quite a few things doing that, and it's always been fun.

Or do school in character. Pick a time period or setting, have everyone be a character, and dress and act the part! Do school in a deep voice or a British accent! Remember to respond only to your character's name and no other.

I know that the burden of being solely responsible for our children's education is heavy and serious. We love our kids and don't want to mess them up; their future depends on this! But school is going to go better for everyone if you are the one controlling it, instead of the curricula controlling you. It's a tool, not dictator. You use it; it does not use you. When we have an extra day when we have to leave the house for appointments or something, I skip a copywork assignment in writing. Builder Boy's hasn't finished the current level in his math curriculum, even though he can work at a higher level. I'm not going to commit us to finishing this level. The next level has review; when the next level arrives in the mail we're going to start it then. It also helps that we school year round which gives us more flexibility.

So go easy on yourself (and your kids) and don't let your curricula boss you around.

This blog post is my contribution for the
Staying Motivated Throughout the Homeschool Year Blog Hop

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Parenting Through the Triggers: Part 1

*Possible Trigger Warning*

Not that the warning is only a possibility; it's a reality. I'm just not sure if what I'm going to write on this post will be an emotional trigger or not, but I want to have the warning at the beginning of every post in this series anyway. Because I am assuming that just about every person who reads my blog is a parent or wants to be a parent some day and I'm going to be mentioning things that will hurt an empathetic parent's heart. If hearing about child abuse is an emotional trigger for you, you've been warned. I've read things with trigger warnings and sometimes I've stayed away and been grateful for the warning. As I stated last week, these sad posts are not going to take over my blog. They're just something I need to get out, written down and thrown out into the universe so that I can get some distance from them. Okay, enough stalling...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Plan

February Blahs are in full effect. Plus, I have some other personal issues making this month even harder. I almost didn't make a plan for Valentine's Day. My oldest is only seven years old; he can survive another year not knowing about about Hearts and Candy Day, right? I haven't done my research; I'm not qualified to teach about Saint Valentine. And I forgot to look for a book when we were at the library earlier this week.

I thought about making it about service and showing love to others, but to be completely honest I'm burnt out. And I really do not want to leave the house again this week. My kids resist much coloring or writing; I'm not going to force this. So what am I supposed to do?

I decided (last minute) that this Friday, February the 14, 2014 is going to be "Love Your Family Day." My kids already love their family, but we're going to practice different ways of showing it. I'll have the boys make just one card/picture. We'll take the day off of school and just enjoy time with each other. We'll think of something that will make Daddy happy and then do it. We might bake something, but probably not. We'll talk about what makes them feel loved, and do it. We'll go out to dinner as a family so I don't have to cook (which makes ME feel loved.) And we'll take a break from being busy and just take time to express love.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

DORA Review

This is a continuation of my attempts to figure out my boys' reading ability.

7 months ago, before Lady Bug was born and before I was officially ordered on bed rest, I tried several different ways to assess where exactly they were. I really wanted to do an online test, but couldn't spare the money at the time. Well, out tax refund came in, so I purchased two DORA assessments from Let's GO Learn for $35 (price for two.) The tests were online, did not expire, and the results were instant. It is adaptive, which means it's not stuck on just the grade level you register your child at but instead goes (I've read) all the way up to 12th grade. They test several different areas of reading in various ways. They do try to make it game like/fun for the kids, which is nice because it took my boys an hour (of testing time) to complete all the parts of the test.

8 Tips for Giving the DORA to Children
  1. Do not attempt this test all at one time with young children. I can not stress this enough. I did not know how long this test was going to take, and I did not know how many parts there are. I would say, anyone under 3rd grade or age 9 should spread it over two days, or at least spread it over the whole day.
  2. Take breaks when it's clear your child needs it. Even if it's in the middle of the test section. All but the first one are NOT timed, so it's okay. Also, clicking the "Stop" button will save your child's progress, even in the middle of the section. If you want the test to be accurate, let them take breaks. In between during these breaks let them do whatever they want (within reason, of course.) I let mine play the Wii or computer games that are their reward for finishing school. Which brings me to 
  3. Cancel homeschool for the day(s) and just do the test. I did this and I am so glad I did.
  4. Make sure they've recently eaten, have gone to the bathroom, and have water to drink near by.
  5. Don't be afraid to bribe. Ice cream is the only thing that got us to finish this in one day. Reward and encourage frequently, especially if your children are unused to testing.
  6. If you have more than one child doing this, don't let them watch or distract the other. Probably obvious, but I'm going to put it on the list anyway.
  7. Watch them take the test. This will give you a lot of insights that are not on the final assessment report. For example, there is one part of the test that was very different from the rest of the tests. Early Bird did very poorly in this area, I think mostly due to the format. On things I know he knows because I have done similar things with him. If I had not watched, I would not know known it was the format throwing him and giving him such a poor score. Also, if you're watching you can catch them when they're making silly mistakes from not paying attention enough, or notice when they really need an unscheduled break.
  8. Remember that their testing level might be higher than their working level. Just because they test at, say, a 4th grade level, does not mean they can pick up a 4th grade book and read it all by themselves. But it can give you a good idea of strengths and weaknesses and give you an idea if changes need to be made or not. 
The results and further suggestions were very helpful, and I am very glad I did this. It was worth the money for me. (If you're a member of The Homeschool Buyer's Co-op, you can get it at a reduced price. I'm not a member but I may join.)

If you don't already have Acrobat Reader, you WILL need to install it (for free) to read the results. Pay attention when installing and unclick the McGee (or whatever it is) Security install that comes along with it, or your computer tech husband might get annoyed...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Another Guest Post!

I've got a guest post over at Teaching My Baby to Read! I was so excited for this opportunity. Jen's blog has been such a help to me, especially with Early Bird. Check it out!

And the boys took the DORA reading assessment today and boy did I learn the way NOT to do it! Stay tuned for more later this week.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guest Post at Sandbox to Socrates

I've got another post at Sandbox to Socrates! I call them "guest posts" but I'm considered a regular member, so maybe I should give myself a tiny bit more credit. Anyway, it's a "day in the life" sort of a post, so check it out if you're interested!

Also, my friend at Not A Stepford Life is having a caption contest with a really cool prize! So if you're good at funny, check it out!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Encouraging Creativity in Your Homeschool Through Arts and Crafts (Guest Post)

When I was a child, I spent hours creating imaginary worlds in which I was the main character.  We never had much in the way of financial means, so I had to rely on my own ingenuity to occupy my time rather than on fancy toys with bells and whistles.  I spent hours writing my own stories, drawing pictures, or creating fantasy worlds in my backyard with only  a few sticks and a piece of lumber.  While there were times back then that I wished that I had more things that would take some of the creative burden off my two little shoulders, I realize as an adult that all of that time spent creating from the corners of my own imagination was an immense benefit to me.

Now that I am a mother, I strive to encourage my own children to utilize the ideas and worlds locked away in their brains.  I am blessed to be able to provide them with more tools than I had for this so I attempt to set up frequent times during our week where they are allowed to participate in both structured and unstructured crafting time.

I've heard parents that have similar desires to do this for their children, but either don't know where to begin or are scared of the mess that can accompany the creations.  At Mrs. Warde's request, I will be sharing a few tips and suggestions based on how I do things in my home. 

Supplies to Have Available 

Most of these things you can find at dollar stores or you can get a better deal by purchasing them in bulk like in the links provided.  The latter option works best for me because we use up things so quickly it can be hard to keep things in stock.

There are other supplies that I usually have around like ribbon, bottle caps, craft sticks and other miscellaneous items.  These are things that I save after their original use because I never know when they will  be just the thing we need to add the finishing touch to our project. I organize all of our supplies in labeled bins for ease of use.

Moving on to actually getting our hands dirty...

Tips for Unstructured Craft Times
  • Refrain from giving too many directives.  Just provide the materials and let the children create without much guidance.  
  • Provide help if asked, but don't interject without a request to do so. 
  • Never criticize your child's creation.
  • Don't worry about the mess.  I repeat, don't worry about the mess.  Safeguard the area with newspaper or an old sheet, but don't fret over the clean up.  Creativity is often messy.  Which would you rather remember?  The time that your child made a robot with pipe cleaners and a cereal box just for Mommy or the time when you you had a conniption because there was playdough in the carpet? Messes can be cleaned.  Memories are forever. 

Tips for Structured Craft Times
  • Choose activities that correspond to lessons or interests. Studying about horses? Make one out of clay. Learning about a specific country?  Research and fine a related craft. Pinterest is full of ideas at your fingertips.  You can also invest in or borrow craft books from your library. 
  • Craft with them. Children love to have their parents involved in activities with them.  Roll up your sleeves and work alongside them!
  • Don't worry about the mess.  Read above.
  • Don't be afraid to try new things. If something about your planned craft isn't working out, it's perfectly fine to adapt and change things to make something new. Go with the flow.
I don't necessarily schedule in crafting time unless I've found something that will accentuate a topic we are studying.  Since my children are so young, we are typically finished with our school work by early afternoon.  This leaves several hours before dinner to fill. This is the prime time to pull out the supplies to occupy little hands and minds.  I've found that it also cuts down on bickering and requests for screen time.

I also try to allow them to create whenever they ask unless there is something more pressing to be accomplished first. I don't want to squelch the desire.  Imagination is key to a fun childhood!

Recommended Resources

 Do you have utilize arts in crafts in your homeschool? 

Dusty is a stay at home, homeschooling mother of four and has been married to the love of her life,  a Southern gentleman, for 8 years.  She is trying to find her own path in this great wide world while devouring chocolate and leaning on the Lord.  She blogs about homeschooling, homemaking, motherhood and faith at To the Moon and Back.  Follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also find her at Breastfeeding Place, Blessed Beyond a Doubt, and The Multi Taskin' Mom.

-- Dusty Blog: To the Moon and Back Facebook Twitter

Sunday, February 9, 2014

New Series Introduction

Being a mother to a daughter is more different for me from being a mother to sons than I thought it would be.

When I found out with my first pregnancy I was carrying a boy I wondered, "What do I do with a boy?" I thought, having been a girl, I would have no problems with raising a girl; that I would know what to do. But raising a boy was a foreign concept to me.

But now that I have a daughter, some emotions and memories have been coming to my mind frequently. Unhappy memories; upsetting feelings. Feelings that I do not want to be connected in my mind with my sweet baby girl.

I am writing things out in an attempt to process and heal in a healthy way. I am going to be sharing part of it as a series on my blog because I am hoping that it might help someone else to read it.

I will only be posting the series on the weekend, and they will be clearly marked with trigger warnings for those who would be upset by it. I do not intend for this series to interfere with or replace my homeschooling posts. But as this is affecting my parenting, I think it applies.

I will be trying to be a bit vague because this is not just my story. There are a lot of other people who have been hurt by events in the past that are affecting me now. I do not wish to tell their story, only mine, and how it is affecting me.

For those of you who pray, I would appreciate your prayers as I work through this. I am also seeking professional help.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Learning Time the Kinetic Way

I've written before, though not recently, about how Builder Boy learns best when he can physically move something related to the topic. I don't do this with every single subject, but when he gets stuck on something I find for him it's best if I pull away from the official curriculum for a little while and come up with something different and tangible. Builder Boy was getting frustrated with his telling time workbook, so we stopped started trying some other things.

The first thing I had him do was to write the minutes on a paper circle. Then I gave him some of his PVP pipes to use as clock hands and I had him be the clock. He really liked that.


The next day we used two pieces of paper, one on top of the other. On the top piece I wrote the regular clock numbers and then cut between numbers to make tabs. Under each number Builder Boy wrote the minutes for each one. This way he could practice without being given the answer.

The next day I cut different colored construction paper circles into fractions that fit his clock from day one. I made half's, quarter's, and sixth's. On one side I wrote the fraction, on the other side I wrote how many minutes. He loves playing with fractions, so he played with these for quite a while, experimenting with what equaled what.

The next week I made construction paper circles for every number on the clock and had him jumping around the clock. We also practiced "top of the hour," "bottom of the hour," "quarter after," and "quarter 'til." He jumped clock wise 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 30 minutes. We worked/played with the floor clock for a week. We also used larger pvc pipes to show fractions on the floor clock. Even Early Bird is joining in with the floor clock.

I think it's starting to sink in, though Builder Boy still thinks a "quarter of an hour" is 25 minutes when initially asked. But at 11:45 one day he did look at the clock and say "it's a quarter 'til lunchtime!" We'll practice a little bit more, and then try the workbook again.
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