Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Just a quick post to say Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a great holiday. The blog will resume in 2011!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sight Word Activities for Kindergarten

If you're like me, you are always looking for fun additions to add to normal curriculum instruction. Reading is one area that often gets overlooked when it comes to being creative. So much stress is put on children to read well, that many workbooks designed for younger children are very repetitious and, let's face it, downright boring. But children do need repetition when learning to read; it's the boredom they could do without.

We are currently working on learning our sight words. We are up to a total of 30 words that she can read fluently and without help. My goal is to have 100 words down fluently by the end of the year. I am doing things completely different than with my son. With him I focused mainly on phonics, but failed to give him a solid grasp of a large amount of sight words. This meant that in first grade he could sound out encyclopedia but struggled with generic sight words like blue and come. So with her I'm focusing largely on sight words and we do phonics 2x a week. By first grade she should be reading fluently and we can get more involved with phonics.

Here are some sight word games or activities we do to break up the monotony of sight word drills and general reading.

Spruce Up the Sight Word - I just found this site yesterday, and I love it. They provide a variety of sight words along with strips of decorative items like eyes, legs, mouths, etc... Your child can read the word and then use the provided illustrations to "spruce up" the sight word. Here's an example of Avlyn's sight word "ME."

Games to Make from Kelly's Kindergarten - This site is fabulous. I stumbled across it on my search for fun sight word activities, and I still haven't explored it thoroughly. She has a ton of games to print out and play. One example is the Krusty Krab game. It's meant to be used to teach money, but what we do is put our sight word flash cards word side down. One of us draws a card and reads the word. If we read it correctly, we move a quarter to the next space and the next person reads a word. Play continues that way. If someone misses a word, they have to move back one space. The person who gets the quarter to the other side first, wins a skittle or M&M or whatever little candy happens to be waiting on the other side.

Note: If using this sight, you will need a lot of paper and printer ink, but I think it's well worth it. We use a lot of these games on family game night, which gets the whole family involved in learning.

DLTK's Alphabuddies - This site offers a large letter with fun decorations to turn the letter into an "alphabuddy." I print out all the letters for a particular word and she decorates them. Then I help her cut them out. I then mix up the letters and have her spell the sight word correctly and glue it on a piece of paper. This activity helps with both word recognition and spelling. Here's an example of when Avlyn did the word "FOR."

Hope some of these sight word activities are useful for your preschooler or kindergartener. Happy homeschooling

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Field Trip - Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott, Arkansas

 This week we went with some friends on a field trip to Piggott, Arkansas, which happens to be the location of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and the Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer Museum. The first is a 100-year old home, formerly owned by pharmaceutical company owners, Paul and Mary Pfeiffer. Their daughter Pauline would eventually marry famous author, Ernest Hemingway. The home is pictured here to the left. This shows the front porch to the right, and the back entrance of the house to the left. This is actually a side pic of the house. The balcony seen on the second level was accessible by two of the bedrooms in the home. Avlyn really enjoyed telling everyone that she saw a really old house.

The tour guide at the museum was able to bring the tour down to a young child's level. While we didn't learn much about Hemingway, she did show and teach them about all of the antique things in the home and how they were used. Anything behind black ropes was original furniture used by the family in the early 1900's. I know Avlyn enjoyed seeing an old bed warmer and learning about how they used to fill it with hot bricks or tinder to keep the beds warm. I think they all thought the chamber pots and lack of indoor plumbing was a little gross, too.

There is also a studio barn on the property that was designed for Hemingway to write. History says that he wrote a great deal of his book, "A Farewell to Arms," in the barn studio. They're currently creating an exhibit of animals that represent the types of animals Hemingway hunted on his many trips around the world. The kids loved this part.

Afterward, we headed back to the Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer Museum, which is a traditionally designed tudor home. It houses an extensive mineral collection, with minerals showcased from all over the world. The tour guides at this house absolutely LOVED having the little kids, and the children were all fascinated by the shiny, colorful minerals. They even allowed them to touch some of the minerals, which is always a hit with kids. The home itself is beautiful, and there are 11-acres that can be explored on the property. We passed because it was bitingly cold yesterday, and we didn't have any mittens or hats with us. But we plan on going back in the spring. I'll post more about that museum then - with pictures.

Overall, it was a very educational experience. I would like to go back and hear the actual real tour, but the staff at the museum was great at catering to our age group and making sure the kids were interested. If you're ever in Piggott, this is definitely an interesting place to stop. The Hemingway museum charges admission, but the mineral museum simply takes donations. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

An original desk from the Pfeiffer family. Did Hemingway sit and write here?

The ceilings in the home are made from pressed tin and then painted.

The top of the stairwell, with the original built in child's gate to keep kids from falling down the stairwell.

One of the bedrooms, with the old bed warmer sitting on top. Avlyn really liked learning about that.

Same bedroom with other original furnishings. Can you see the ghosts in the mirror? ;)

A closeup of the pressed tiles. These actually have faces pressed into them. Can you see them?

Another bedroom. The pots on the floor are chamber pots, used before the family was able to install plumbing. An outhouse was used during the day.

Living area to the right of the front door. The fireplace that was used to heat the house can be seen a bit to the left.

We couldn't use a flash in the house, so this pic came out a little dark. This was the formal dining room, with original furnishings and dishes.

The kitchen, with original stove. Plumbing was added later, so you can see a sink to the right. 

The in-progress animal exhibit. The kids saw lion, leopard, dikdik, and water buffalo, among others. This is the only picture inside the restored barn studio where Hemingway would write. Not sure why I didn't take more. Guess the excitement of the animals overtook me. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Raised Salt Painting for Kids

Shaking off the salt
 I saw an idea in Family Fun magazine that talked about creating 3D paintings out of salt, glue and food coloring. I decided to give it a shot with Avlyn, and she had a lot of fun. We did not have card stock paper, so we just used light colored construction paper. We did this as an art project and explored working with different mediums to create a picture. But this can also be used as a science project to explore how the salt soaks up the food coloring and helps it travel along the glue lines.

Adding more colors

Construction paper or card stock
White glue
Dropper (we used a straw, but a dropper would definitely be better)
Cookie sheet to hold salt pieces
Food coloring
Small bowls

We began by placing the construction paper onto a rimmed cookie sheet. We then mixed our food colors with a small amount of water. I only had yellow and blue, so we'll try this next time with much brighter colors.

Next, have your child create a crazy design with the white glue. Help them pour salt all over the picture and shake it off. Using the dropper, suck up a small amount of colored water. Slowly drop out 1-3 drops onto the glue and watch as it travels along the salt. Keep adding color until your pictures is complete. Let dry overnight and you have a 3-D, textured picture. Happy homeschooling!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pumpkin Seed Mosaics

This is a fun activity to do with left over pumpkin seeds. We carved a few jack o lanterns this year and had quite a few pumpkin seeds to play around with. I thought about roasting them, but last year the kids didn't really like the taste. I hated to throw them away so decided to do an art lesson on mosaics. We started by discussing what a mosaic picture was and then creating our own.

I looked up a few pumpkin seed ideas as a jumping off point, and then finally decided to do it the way I did. The ideas I saw said to paint the seeds first and then create a picture. But I thought it would be a little easier, and relate more to fall, if I drew the outline of a picture. She filled it with seeds and then painted it. It still looks like a mosaic and it gave her a jumping off point. Knowing her, if I'd followed the advice from the other websites she'd have ended up with a bunch of painted pumpkin seeds saying, "I don't know what to create."

I took a piece of construction paper and drew an outline of a pumpkin for the first one and a pilgrim for the second. She covered the pics with glue, placed the seeds in different directions, dried them over night and then painted them the next day. She really enjoyed this project and we have these displayed on our kitchen cabinets. I think I will get more advanced in the spring with actual tile pieces and let her create something from her mind. Hopefully, her imagination will have grown a bit by then. She's not very imaginative under pressure, but she's great when she thinks no one is watching.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

If You Give a Moose a Muffin Storyboard Presentation

After you've completed your storyboard for whichever book you choose, it's time to present it. In order to assess whether or not your child truly gets how to retell a story, you need them to go through the storyboard page-by-page and retell the story. They can do this just with you, or you can wait until the whole family is home and have them give a little presentation. Avlyn wanted to share it with her dad and brother. She practiced with me in the morning, and then later that night she presented it to her dad and brother.  Below is a short video I took of her presentation. She's generally soft spoken, and for some reason she was nervous and kept rocking back and forth, so it's a little hard to hear her. But it gives you a general idea of what we did. If your child is less shy, I could see this being a much more elaborate presentation of the book. But I'll see if I can't get her to come out of her shell a little more on the next one. I hope that some of you have found this idea different and will take a stab at creating your own storyboards. Feel free to comment with links to your storyboards, cause I'd love to check out what you do differently. 

The link to the YouTube video is:

I have the video set up as a private listing, so you will need to cut and paste the link in order to access it directly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

If You Give a Moose a Muffin Storyboard Activity Part II

Here's the update on the Teaching with Storyboards post from last week. Like I stated before, we chose If You Give a Moose a Muffin for our first ever storyboard. This blog post will cover the process, and I'll post tomorrow about the presentation of the storyboard.

Getting Started
To begin, we read the story for one week every day.  I helped her start to memorize the story so she could retell it using her storyboards. After she had the story pretty much memorized, we began working on our storyboards.

Large index cards
material (we used an old shirt that no longer fit---you get lots of neat prints and fabrics this way)
printed clip art that related to story (for this I printed out moose, muffins, and a blackberry bush piece)
magazine cutouts
button, thread, and needle


We started by adding the title to an index card with some clipart for illustrations

These storyboards illustrate the part in the story where you go to the fridge to get some of your mother's homemade blackberry jam and the moose asks for another and another muffin.

So you have to go to the store to get some, but he wants to go with you. But since it's cold, he'll ask for a sweater. We used red felt to cut out the sweater. For the part where he notices a button is loose, I cut out another red sweater and loosely sewed a purple button onto the sweater before she glued it on the moose.

This is her illustration for the part where the button reminds him of sock puppets so he gets scissors, glue, string etc... to make some.

The next few storyboards skip ahead in the story, to the part after you help him make scenery for a puppet show and he needs to hide his ears under a sheet.

This was one of her favorite boards to make. Using the clipart of the moose, which we also used on the title page, we found a picture of a ghost in a magazine and recreated the part where he puts the sheet over his head, which reminds him that he wants to be a ghost for Halloween. Using little magazine letters, we spelled out the word Boo!...the colors everywhere illustrate the fact that he scared himself and spilled the paint everywhere.
This illustrates the part where you get a sheet from your bed for the moose. We cut up an old, patterned t-shirt that didn't fit her anymore to act as the sheet on the bed.

This is one of the last scenes in the storyboard. She drew the moose going to hang up the sheet after he used it to clean up the paints. The clipart is supposed to be the mother's blackberry bushes in the yard. The last page simply had a drawing of the moose with a clipart of the muffin with the words, "And chances are...."

 As you can see, there isn't a lot of writing with these storyboards. My point wasn't to have her copy the story onto the cards, but use her imagination to retell the story. We focused on 2-3 cards per day, and it took us almost 2 weeks to complete the entire thing. We would read the story as we created the boards, and she would draw the storyboards in relation to how she remembered chunks of the story. So one card may represent 3 pages in the story, while another might simply be 1 page. There are no set in stone rules. The storyboards I didn't include in this blog were simply hand-drawn. I tried to lead her to more creative ways to express the story, but she is very much into drawing her own pictures right now, so that's mostly what we went with.

Since these are time-consuming projects, I only have 1 planned a month. We are thinking of doing If You Give a Cat a Cupcake this month, but she's still deciding which book she wants. Tomorrow I will post a short blog post on how we presented this story to the rest of the family and saw the whole thing come together in a cute little presentation. Happy homeschooling!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Teaching with Storyboards

The next few posts are going to be about something I like to call storyboards. If you've ever heard of a storyboard, it was probably in the context of a movie or television show. Creators of media use storyboards to organize their thoughts and plan out scenes. It's basically an organizational tool. In our homeschool, a storyboard is a fun, creative way to retell a story. 

Since kindergarten focuses mostly on reading and writing skills, storyboards are a great way to teach a child how to retell a story. Older kids normally get stuck with this task in the form of a regurgitated book report. I know many kindergarten classrooms have the students orally retell the story or draw a picture of their favorite scene. With our storyboards, we retell the entire story with drawings, cut-outs, pictures and more. All of these items are put onto the larger-sized index cards. We recently just finished our first storyboard. Since this is a brand new experiment for us, and I couldn't find too much online about creating storyboards like this, our stories will probably improve over time. 

I will be posting about the storyboard process over the next few days. I'd love to hear feedback and any suggestions you may have about creating and implementing storyboards. We're doing our presentation tonight,  so I will have step-by-step pictures posted, too. If you'd like to take part in a storyboard with your homeschoolers, pick up some large-sized index cards, crayons, glue, felt, and anything else you think you might need. We chose " If You Give a Moose a Muffin" for our first storyboard, so I also printed out clipart from Word that related to the story. Look for more postings this week to follow the storyboard process.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Do You Work from Home and Homeschool?

A post over on one of my favorite forums WAHM got me thinking about this topic. A mom recently went from being a work-at-home-mom to a work at home homeschooling mom and was wondering how to do it. As a homeschooling family, we understand what it's like to want to offer the best educational choice to your child and still make financial ends meet. That's why I work from home as a freelance web writer for various websites and clients. I network with a lot of WAHM's who have kids underfoot while working. Being able to work from home is great. I can start at any time, finish at anytime, and no one knows if I'm wearing a nice outfit or my Hello Kitty robe and matching slippers with my hair in a bun. But homeschooling and working from home can get difficult.

Below are some tips I think may be helpful if you're struggling to work from home and homeschool. Or if you currently homeschool and would like to make a little extra money but have been afraid to take the plunge because you think the schooling will suffer, maybe these tips will help.

  • Choose a work from home job that you can do well. I write because it comes easy to me, and I have the educational background that helps me land jobs. Other work from home jobs include transcription, web design, CSR for various companies, babysitting, creating an etsy store for your crafts, proofreading, online tutoring and phone scheduler. 

  • Become familiar with a crockpot and start a lasting relationship. I couldn't live without mine. You can put the bulk of your dinner in at 10 a.m. and not worry about it until dinner time. All you may need to do is throw on some rice or nuke some potatoes. This can give you an hour or more of homeschooling or working time that you'd normally spend on dinner prep and cooking. 

  • Plan to get up earlier or go to bed later than everyone else. This is easier for people who can create their own work schedule, such as online writers. 

  • Schedule, schedule, schedule. It doesn't need to be an exact science or even followed to a tee, but without one you will always feel that you're behind in either homeschooling or work. Use a large desk calendar so that your schedule is always visible. 

  • Plan your lessons on a weekly basis. I write down the general ideas I want to cover for the week. I then find appropriate activities and lessons, print out needed materials, and write down a rough draft of what we'll do each day. It's easier to plan if you use a prepackaged curriculum, but if you plan each thing separately like me, give yourself a couple of hours to get your week planned out. It's amazing how much time gets wasted when you try to plan at the last minute, and the quality of lessons usually suffers, too.

  • Relax. It can be stressful working from home and homeschooling. It can be confusing to know which one to put first. Working makes you money, but your kids need to be educated. When I'm stuck on which area to give my focus I ask myself which one could be done later that night. If the lesson we're doing is going well and she's gung-ho to keep going, I won't make her stop so I can get some work done. If I have a pressing project with a tight deadline, I plan my homeschooling stuff for after dinner. 
Hopefully these ideas will help you in your quest to homeschool and work or work and homeschool, whichever way you look at it. Happy homeschooling!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge Field Trip

 This week we went with a few other homeschooling families to the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Puxico, Missouri. With more than 21,000 acres, this refuge is the largest remnant of bottomland hardwoods in S.E. Missouri. In the fall, there is a waterfowl migration that brings a variety of geese, ducks, and other water birds to the marshes of the refuge.

We really enjoyed getting together with other homeschoolers to explore this area. I think Avlyn's favorite thing was the colors and textures of the shelf mushrooms growing on the trees. She also enjoyed kicking up all of the leaves that had gathered on the boardwalk trail

Making new friends was also nice, as she was able to explore with kids she knew and those she'd just met. She got along particularly well with one little boy. Her dad says it's always the boys....:)

 Wel also spotted quite a few animal tracks on our quest. We saw coyote, racoon, and deer tracks. Here she is looking at what we think are deer tracks in a muddy area next to the marsh.
Squashing the prickly berry may have been a high point for her, but wasn't exactly a high point for me. Being that she's 5, baby wipes just aren't something I keep on hand anymore. Thankfully, her outfit and her hands were kind of the same color. We are looking forward to another trip out there with the whole family next spring. I think seeing the refuge in full bloom will be beautiful. If you'd like to explore a refuge in your state, check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website for a listing of wildlife refuges all over the country. Happy homeschooling!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How to Create a Kindergarten Literacy Bag Part II

My first post, How to Create Kindergarten Literacy Bags, explained exactly what a literacy bag is and how to work with one. This post is an example of what we have in our literacy bag for this week. Homeschoolers could probably work through a literacy bag a week, but if you include enough activities you can plan a monthly bag.

The bag we've designated as our literacy bag

We are using the book Literacy Bags as a jumping off point for theme ideas, but most of the activities are things I've researched and found on my own. The theme for our first bag is the letter A and apples.

Inside of our bag is one activity for each day. There are two math options included along with the literacy options. The math options include a photocopy of a graph from our Literacy Bags book, along with little tiny apple templates colored red, green, and yellow. The activity is to graph the apples according to color. The other math/art activity is a photocopy of three tree stumps that I found at this stamping blog. I wrote numbers on the trunks and will instruct her to draw three apple trees and then using her fingertip, she will dab on the correct number of apples with red paint.

The literacy activities include copies of our little apple templates found in our book, which I have written beginning consonants on some and word families beginning with A on others. She will match up the beginning consonant with the ending sound to create different words. Some of the ending sounds also coincide with the sight words she's learning, such as an and am. I also printed out a story from The Virtual Vine called The Little Red House with No Doors and No Windows and a Star Inside. This is a storytelling activity that involves cutting open an apple at the end to reveal the star inside the house with no doors or windows. We talked about the story and discussed vocabulary she was unfamiliar with, such as the word orchard.

math graph

I also printed out a story from the Virtual Vine called Apples Yuck and Apples Yum! This is a sight word book of a dozen pages that uses the words I See A ------ Apple. The blanks are then filled in with color words such as blue, red, yellow etc.... followed by the word yuck or yum! She will then draw the apple according to the color mentioned and read the book. The last activity is just a brown paper lunch bag with a green pipe cleaner inside. She will paint the bag red, let it dry, stuff it with paper, and tie it with the pipe cleaner to look like an apple.
stories and craft

The above is just one small example of how you can do a literacy bag. You can include books if you want, but we just pull them off the bookshelf. As we experiment more with these bags over the year, I will post again about our more creative and fun bags. Happy homeschooling!

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Create Kindergarten Literacy Bags

Kindergarten reading activities should be fun and interactive. I like the idea of a literacy bag, and we successfully use one in our homeschool. I found this great book   at our local book store. It has literacy bag ideas for every letter of the alphabet. I use the ideas as a jumping off point and go from there.

What Is a Literacy Bag?

A literacy bag can be an actual bag, bucket, basket, or whatever container you want to use for the activities. The bag is filled with a thematic unit, with the focus on reading and literacy. In the traditional sense, kids check out the literacy bags from their classroom and explore the activities inside. In our homeschool, I provide enough activities to do one a day.

What Goes Inside the Bag?

 You can put anything you want into the bag. Toys, games, worksheets, crafts, music, poetry, or whatever you want to explore for the week. We are just starting this week with our literacy bag, so we're on the letter A. Inside our bag I have 5-6 activities that follow an apple theme and cover reading, phonics, storytelling, art, and math.

How Do I Teach Using the Bag?

I fill the bag with the activities and have her pick one activity a day. I do not tell her what the activity actually is, as being surprised is part of the fun. For example, one of the things in our bag right now is a brown sandwich bag with a green pipe cleaner in it. It's an art project where she will stuff the bag, paint it red, and add a green stem. Today she chose a two page story out of the bag which involved using a real apple to tell the story, which in turn became our snack after the story.

Tomorrow I will post pictures of our literacy bag and show you examples of what I have in the bag for the letter A apple theme. (Literacy Bags Part II) The literacy bag idea can be tweaked for toddlers or preschoolers just by providing age-appropriate lessons. Older kids also like these bags, as more involved puzzles and games can be put inside for independent learning. Happy homeschooling!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Easy Halloween Crafts for Kids

 Here are a handful of simple things we've done for Halloween. In the first picture is the baby pumpkins and gourds we grew in our garden this summer. Avlyn simply used a permanent marker to draw faces on the pumpkins, kind of like a faux jack-o-lantern. Hanging out with our faux jacks is our 'W' witch that we made today. Avlyn is already familiar with all of her letters and letter sounds, but we are still working on writing all of the letters correctly.

This witch craft, provided by Craft of the Day, was simple and fun. I always like to show our version of crafts printed on websites or magazines, since I think it gives a more accurate description of what you're going to get at home. Craft of the Day provided the template. I printed it out on white printer paper, cut it out, traced the outline onto green construction paper, cut that out, and then she decorated it. The original instructions call for paper shreds to be used as the broom, but if you've ever tried to glue paper or yarn to a pipe cleaner, you know how frustrating it is to get things to stick. I tried yarn at first, but got aggravated and just cut  two yellow pipe cleaners in half. Then I wound them around the bottom of the red pipe cleaner to make the broom bristles. The pipe cleaner is bent in back and hooked onto the witch. After making this craft we sang Old Mrs. Witch and acted it out with the puppet.

This next picture is our take on an idea from Family Fun . Avlyn found a bunch of acorns at a neighbors house, so we came home and researched something fun and simple to do with them. We found the idea to paint them orange and draw faces on them to make mini jack-o-lanterns. While these are simple, they do take quite a few coats of paint. And the paint ends up chipping quite a bit once dry, as you can see on the unfinished ones to the right. You would need to plan to work on these throughout the day, if you wanted to have them finished by bedtime. For our next batch, we're thinking of trying spray paint instead.

Side note: If doing an acorn craft with a bunch of acorns, make sure to perform the sink or swim test first. Weevil larvae exists in acorns, and if you don't kill them before crafting they can hatch and get out in your house. The whole weevil sink or swim is a great lesson for preschoolers and kindergartners. Fill up your sink about 1/4 full. Drop in the acorns. Those that sink are free of weevil larvae and can be crafted with immediately. Those that float have weevil larvae and should be frozen or boiled to kill the larvae. We put our floaters in a plastic baggie and have had them in the freezer for about 4 days now. They should be good to go. Just to give you an idea of how prevalent weevils are, out of about 50 acorns, only 12 sunk. Happy homeschooling!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Grow Your Own Loofah (Luffa)

My mother gave me something interesting this spring - a bunch of loofah seeds. Loofah's are those little scrubby things often seen at the stores with a string tied round the top. Most people use them in the shower because they make a great exfoliator. They are as prolific as cucumbers or zucchini when growing, so they make a great homeschool project. (SINCE THIS ISN'T TECHNICALLY A LESSON, I WILL PUT THE WORD LESSON IN PARENTHESES NEXT TO ANY GOOD IDEA FOR USING A LOOFAH TO TEACH) We are still in the process of learning about them, but I thought I'd post on how to grow them so you can order seeds for the spring.

Loofah does great right in the ground, but you can also start them indoors in tiny pots. (LESSON) The one plant we have was started in a peat pot. Honestly, I kept it in the pot too long and will experiment with ground seeding this next spring. However, it has not failed to flourish. (See picture above.) In fact, it started taking over my house. Climbing up the brick wall, strangling out my smaller bushes near it, and attaching itself to my front window screens. Next year, we will make sure we have a large trellis or use our back deck to give it more room to climb. While it can climb up a brick wall, once the loofah begin to grow the weight will rip it from the wall. (LESSON)

Loofah seeds are medium-sized black seeds, and one loofah can give you up to 30 seeds or more. That's why you only need to get your hands on one to have enough seeds to last a lifetime.

It will take a few weeks before your vine grows strong and healthy. Once it does, it will start to branch out and need quite a bit of trellis support. Unfortunately, ours is only supported a few feet, so most of it is lying on the ground. We will fix that next year. Once it starts to grow, you will see little green cluster buds start to form. Those clusters will bloom into pretty yellow flowers that attract a ton of bees for pollination. (LESSON) Once the flowers dry up, a baby loofah will begin to grow. When they first start out, they resemble a certain part of the male anatomy. (POSSIBLE LESSON?) If you notice these all over your vine, you're going to have a great harvest. Here's a pic that shows cluster buds, a flower, and the baby loofah:

Our plant has been in the ground since mid-August, and we noticed our first flowers and baby loofahs about 3 weeks after transplanting it. The loofahs we currently have on the vine look like this:

As you can see, they look very much like a cucumber. I have read a variety of advice about harvesting these vegetables. Most say to wait until the loofah is brown or yellow and dried out. This means the fibers inside have dried out and you can peel it, lay it in the sun for a day, and use it. There are people who say you can pick them green, especially if you notice that they're beginning to get ground rot or mildew, and let them dry out on your porch. Others say you can pick and peel them green, but you will need to milk the loofah before it will begin to dry out. (INTERESTING LESSON) The only method we've done is to peel a dried loofah. The skin is crusty and peels away in chunks and flakes. We shook out the seeds and this is what we had left:

I personally don't care for the earthy smell of it, but I do like to cut it into chunks and use it as a dish scrubber. We are going to keep our loofah vine until the first frost kills it. I'll post an update about our harvesting/milking/peeling/drying methods then. I hope you've enjoyed this interesting vegetable and will consider planting one just for the fun learning experience. Happy Homeschooling!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Have You Been Boo'd? Teaching with Halloween Boo Grams

Halloween is approaching. It's one of our favorite holidays because my husband loves anything scary. My kids are also little zombie-freaks who like a good scare. I'm more of a mediocre scare girl myself, but I still like to decorate for Halloween. This year I learned about Boo Grams. I love fun stuff like this, and I think you can use it to teach your kids about giving and sharing at a time other than Christmas.

Basically you create a boo bag or basket and secretly leave it at a neighbor's house. You can fill your boo gram bag with all sorts of goodies. We haven't begun working on ours, but I'm thinking of putting stickers and other Halloween goodies in for the kids, along with some Halloween sprinkles and a cookie cutter for making some homemade goodies.

Inside your boo gram you put this note:

You've just been boo'd, but you don't know by who. Keep the scaring and sharing going by making up your own boo gram for another friend or neighbor. Drop it on their door and RUN! Happy Halloween.

There are variations to the different notes available for boo grams, and the one above is our own custom gram that we made up ourselves. If your neighborhood has never done this, get started and create a new tradition. Once you do a little scaring and sharing of your own, others will probably join in the fun. I'll post pics of our boo gram process next week. Happy Halloween and Homeschooling!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blog Overhaul

Now that regular school is back in session, it's time for me to overhaul this blog. I don't want to abandon it; I've neglected it enough as it is. But being that I now have a kindergartener and a fourth grader, I'm going to tweak it a bit. With our summer being so busy and family visiting in May and June, I just haven't had a chance to keep up with the blog. But with both of my children off to school and me home alone for six hours a day focusing on my job and what not, I'll have much more time to dedicate to the blog.

I will still have preschool related projects because it's my favorite age. And quite frankly, any projects done with a kindergartener can also be done with the 3-4 age group, give or take some minor adjustments. But I will also be including more projects for older children. I will also be showcasing the things we do as a family that have educational value. So even though my children are older, I don't plan on abandoning the blog to cyberspace. It's just going to take a different direction. But isn't that what homeschooling is all about - growing and learning.

And even though both of my children have chosen to attend mainstream schools, I consider myself a non-traditional homeschooler. Why? Because learning doesn't stop just because the school bell rings. Everything we do has some granule of learning. And because I'm so rooted in being my child's teacher, the fact that they aren't learning reading, writing, and arithmetic at home doesn't mean I wash my hands of their education. So look for future posts to cover a wide variety of topics, with a bit more focus on the younger ones for now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Great Blog to Check Out

If you're working with preschoolers or even kindergarteners, you need to bookmark the blogger blog Excellence in Early Childhood Education This blog has great ideas and she posts frequently. I love a newer post about turning jar lids into little critters. I'm always throwing away jars and lids, but Avlyn would have a great time painting them and turning them into bugs for our garden. So check out her site when you get a chance for a lot of great ideas.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fun With Play-Doh

I think every house should have a few containers of Play-Doh. I know some families who have a ban on Play-Doh because it gets in the carpet. However, you can rectify that situation by purchasing a large dry erase board. This board performs double duty by acting as a writing/magnetic board and a Play-Doh board. And clean up is easy since the dry erase board material is so smooth and slick. Here are some ideas for Play-Doh lessons.

Practice letter formation: For this activity I draw both the capital and lowercase letters on the dry erase board. Then we roll Play-Doh out into long lines and trace the letter. We usually do different letters and then race to see who can finish their letter first.

Practice beginning words: For this activity I write a simple word such as bat or cat on the board. We then go over how to sound out and read the word. We also go over other words in that word family, such as sat, rat, and mat. Then we use the Play-Doh to outline the word

Practice creative arts: There is no set way to do this activity. All you need is a little imagination and lots of Play-Doh. This last time we made a person. It started out as just a face, but by the end we had added a neck, shoulders, and arms. All you have to do is draw out what you want to start with and go from there. Let the imagination run wild.

Happy Homeschooling!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Assignment: Take Pictures of the Signs of Spring

Avlyn had a fun assignment that she really enjoyed today. Her job was to go outside with my digital camera (never running, only walking and wearing the wrist strap at all times :))and take as many pictures as she could of the signs of spring. As you can see, she photographed just about every flower in the yard. But what I was looking for, and was happily rewarded with, was her notice of the smaller signs of new life. We have the traditional daffodils and tulips popping up in our yard, and our trees our in full bloom with buds right now, but there are plenty of other signs of spring. I was hoping she'd observe them, and she did!

The signs of spring she noticed included:

Daffodils in the front yard
Tulips around our bird feeder
Little yellow dandelions popping up everywhere
Puffers (that's what we call those weeds you can blow the seeds off)
Blooms on our trees and shrubs
Little purple flowers growing alongside the shed
Wild spring onions
Our broccoli seedling coming up

Some of the more uncommon things she noticed were:

A bird with a twig in its mouth, off to build a nest
Tiny little evergreen buds that almost blend into the tree itself (I didn't even notice these)
Tiny twig buds on our oak tree
Our boat in the driveway (a sign that daddy's getting it ready for summer)
The fact that our Boston Terrier's nose and mouth were covered in mud - a sure sign spring is here and she's outside digging for moles

The number one thing I noticed as a sign of spring was that the kids have left the confines of their warm homes, taken off all the heavy jackets and mittens, and are thoroughly enjoying the type of weather that only spring can bring. Happy Homeschooling!