Archive for October, 2011

I had an idea come to me as I was working on a Lapbook for Little Miss.  When assembling the various components for her to complete, I realized just how easily these same components can be used in teaching Little Man later on.  This particular Lapbook is an Apple theme, so the examples below are based on that.   You can adapt the ideas to any theme you are using.

Life Cycle Sequence cards – instead of a chart or life cycle wheel, make a set of cards depicting each stage of the life cycle.  The child then can place the cards in proper
sequence.  You can extend this activity by making a second set of the cards with the life cycle stage names.  Play as a matching game, matching the stage name with its corresponding picture.  To turn the life cycle cards into a file folder game or learning mat, draw 2 rows of card outlines across a sheet of cardstock.  If the life cycle has only 4 stages, you would have 2 rows of 4 outlines with the bottom row directly below the top.  Laminate the cardstock and place a Velcro dot in the center of each outline.  Laminate the life cycle cards then place the other half of the Velcro dots on the back of each card.  If using 2 sets of the pictures, place one set on the upper row in proper order.  The child then places the 2nd set in proper order on the bottom row.  You can also use the pictures on the top row and have the child place the cards with the stage names below to label each picture.

States – in the Lapbook we are making, there is a list of the states that Johnny Appleseed had traveled in.  Make a matching game with cards with the state outline and labels of the state names.  On each state outline card, Velcro in place the name label.

Fractions – make a learning mat & a set of circles from cardstock.  On a sheet of cardstock, draw circles about 3”-4” diameter.  Divide one in half, another in thirds, another in fourths, etc.  Make a duplicate using the second sheet of cardstock.  Laminate both sheets.  Cut out the circles, cutting along the fraction lines from one of the sheets of cardstock.  Activity – place each piece on its position on the remaining cardstock sheet.  Use Velcro dots to adhere the pieces in place if desired.

A simple activity is to start with a diecut of a variety of leaf shapes.  Laminate each leaf and trim as needed.  Cut each laminated leaf into a simple 3-5 piece puzzle.  For a younger child, you may find it helpful to trace the outline of each leaf onto cardstock
prior to cutting into puzzle pieces.  Laminate the cardstock for durability and use as a mat to aid in putting the puzzles together.  Another option to the mat would be to have 2 sets of the laminated leaves.  Cut one and use the other as the example of
what the completed one should look like.

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This week, I saw a link to the free download of the Apples Learn N’ Folder from Live and Learn.  This was my first experience with this company’s Learn N’ Folder.  A Learn N’ Folder is their name for a Lapbook. The download is in pdf format.  The Learn N’ Folder looks colorful and fun.  There are a wide variety of mini books and activities for the kids to complete.

I printed out the pages and read through them before assembling the Learn N’ Folder.  I was pleased to see an illustration of the completed Learn N’ Folder with all the components in place.  Being very visual, this was an asset for me in putting the Learn N’ Folder together.  The assembly instructions were clearly written and easy to follow.  One feature that I love is the teaching instructions.   The Learn N’ Folder instructions are filled with web links for  additional resources to help in gathering the information needed to complete the mini books and activities included as a part of the Learn N’ Folder.  This free download is a small sample, yet it is enough to fill a 2-file folder Lapbook.   I am very impressed with the quality and variety of the activities.

I added an additional file folder to expand the Learn N’ Folder a bit more.  To this extra section, I added the Johnny Appleseed facts book from the download.  I wanted to add more information about Johnny Appleseed, so I added the following:

  1. A map of the US with the state names listed – on this map the states Johnny Appleseed traveled in will be marked
  2. A pocket with 6 cards for pictures of our daughter’s favorite foods made from apples
  3. A pocket with cards to show the life cycle of a tree.  These can then be used for
    sequencing activities
  4. A reading log to list all the apple & Johnny Appleseed books we read as a part of the unit

There was enough spacing to allow Little Miss to decorate with drawings or stickers.  She will be making the front cover using apple prints.

Overall, I love the Learn N’ Folder.  I am looking forward to spending time on the
website and checking out more of their Learn N’ Folders.


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I love this time of year. As we get closer to the holidays, we have a perfect chance to add some holiday related activities to the workboxes. Kids love to make decorations for the seasons and holidays. Making autumn related decorations or Thanksgiving crafts as the holiday approaches is a fun activity. You can maybe add a autumn or Thanksgiving themed cookie cutter to a workbox with a “bake cookies with Mom” note. As it gets closer to Thanksgiving, making decorations for the windows and dinner table can be fun projects. Weaving paper place mats, making turkeys from pine cones, a paper cornucopia, or little models of the settlers’ village can be fun as well as educational.

One project I am going to start with the kids beginning November 1st is a “Thanksgiving Tree.” I bought a package of paper that looks like an autumn leaf from the school supply store in it’s bulletin board supplies area. Using an end roll of newsprint from the newspaper office, I will be drawing a tree to hang on the wall. Each day, the kids will write on a leaf something that they are thankful for. These will then be added to the tree branches. By Thanksgiving, the tree will be covered in the autumn leaves. This activity not only provides a chance for the kids to do copywork, but more importantly it encourages an attitude of gratitude for the blessings in their life by stopping to think of a blessing each day.

The Thanksgiving Tree activity is a perfect one to do prior to the Advent and Christmas season. As we teach our children to have gratitude for their blessings, continuing it through Advent and into Christmas, we can help take much of the commercialism out of the holiday season. We are then able to foster in our children a feeling of appreciation for what they have and not focus so much on the “I want” and the “What did you get me?” that always seem to run a muck in our families in the Christmas season especially.

Some other educational activities for Thanksgiving that I am planning to include are:

Leaf rubbings – add these to your nature journal with the type of leaf, where it was found, and any other information that they learn about it.

Leaf Sequencing – using small stickers of various leaves, make a sequence pattern for the child to duplicate. For an older child you can have an incomplete pattern with a couple leaves missing within the pattern for the child to finish.

4 Seasons Tree – draw an apple tree depicting each of the 4 seasons

Map the Pilgrims’ Journey to Plymouth Rock and Jamestown

Study the clothing and daily life of the colonists

Make a model of the Mayflower

Have a simple dinner using colonial recipes (should be able to find suitable recipes online)

Learn the history of Thanksgiving

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Precious Blessings

Today, I am writing to share with you a precious blessing. Over the past month, our family has gone through some changes that affected routines for Little Man. As anyone familiar with Autism knows, this can bring about stress on your autistic child or loved one. With this in mind, we relaxed the routine to give Little Man the time to adjust. With that decision came a blessing.

Instead of doing structured therapy with Little Man at home, I have been simply letting him enjoy his days. I gave him all the time he wanted to play in a quiet room. With 7 people in the house, I felt it was important to give him that time to adjust to the increased activity level. Today, he spends very little time playing in a quiet room alone. He has chosen to spend more time each day with the rest of us. I have left it totally up to him. Only Little Man knows how much of the stimulation he can handle. He now only goes to that room for very brief periods unless he is tired and wanting to lay down. When he is with us, he is more engaged in what we are doing. He may not always participate, but he is there with us and taking part in his own way.

A few days ago, Little Man began to feed himself his cheese crackers. What a blessing! At 42 months of age, he has finally figured it out and is consistently doing it. We now leave a little 3-section container where he can get to it stocked with his favorite cheese crackers and a couple of other snacks. He goes to it whenever he is hungry and feeds himself. We are now working on getting him to feed himself finger foods at meal times.

Today (Tuesday) Little Man came up to me and signed “cookie.” I hadn’t taught him that sign yet, but months ago had used it. He had remembered that sign and asked for a cookie today. I gave him a cookie, broken into finger food sized pieces in his dish, and he gave me his cup. I asked him if he wanted water or milk. He looked towards the refrigerator instead of the water pitcher on the table. I asked if he wanted milk and he signed “yes” which is another sign I hadn’t worked on with him. I got his milk for him and he was all smiles.

The relaxed atmosphere is benefiting Little Man more than any structured therapy has to date. We are involving him in our daily activities just as you would a young toddler or child. I am finding that he is eager to participate. He is enjoying the connection with us and now seeks it out. Our son is turning into a more confident child. No more outbursts from frustration. No more hitting himself or screaming out because of not being able to communicate his needs. He is gesturing or signing consistently now.

I know that it is the Lord’s blessing and grace that is aiding him. It is as though a switch has been flipped on inside of Little Man. He has always been a joy in our lives. Seeing his joy in the realization that he is able to convey his wants and needs is a humbling event that just shouts out to my heart how much the Lord is involved in this journey.

So many friends and family, especially our church family, have been keeping Little Man in their prayers. The Lord is hearing our prayers and answering them. I feel so grateful to the Lord for allowing me to see Him through our son. Not a day go by that the Lord’s presence is not being shown to us. He is with our Little Man with every step he takes from the isolation and withdrawal of autism to being an active participant in our family. It renews each day my conviction that Little Man will one day be able to stand up and share his testimony of what he has been able to do & how far he has come in his life in spite of his autism through the Lord’s power and grace.

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Ever have one of those days when it seems everything just doesn’t go as smoothly as you hoped? If you homeschool, you know what I mean. The day starts and instead of it being the normal routine, something is “off” and everyone reacts to it. Maybe the kids are restless or maybe you just can’t seem to follow routine yourself that day. Maybe something occurs that sets the routine in a tailspin, such as you not feeling well. Whatever the cause, it is a good idea to have a back-up plan. Or as stated in the blog title, a “just in case” workbox.

I have been slowly gathering odds and ends to store in a special tote. Puzzles and file folder games are a nice start. I am wanting to add educational board games, books, and science experiment/project kits. These are not for everyday use. The tote will only be brought out on those days when we all need a break from the usual routine.

Another idea for a “just in case” workbox is to have an assortment of free printable worksheets that are good practice sheets for reviewing lessons already learned. You can find these online. Around the holidays, I like having an assortment of holiday themed pages for Little Miss and grandson to work on. Little Man will have holiday themed coloring pages this year also.

One idea that is especially nice to have on hand is a dry-erase book. I am collecting practice pages both the free printables online and some traceable font pages that I am making up on the computer. To make these pages reusable, I will be printing them on cardstock, then laminating the pages. Using my comb binding machine, I will then bind the pages into a book. The first page of the book will be a laminated manila envelope with velcro closure added to hold a square of flannel and a dry erase pen. This will make a nice portable practice book to use when away from home. You can also make this same book by using a 3-ring binder. Use a hole punch to make the holes down the binding edge and place into the binder. Sheet protectors work well also if you don’t want to laminate the pages. One advantage to the 3-ring binder is the ease with which you can change out the pages. You can make up a supply of several pages for each subject and have them set aside. Then, place the ones needed into the binder when the time comes to use them.

If you have a 3 inch binder, you can use index pages to separate the pages by subject or the child’s name if you have children at different levels using them. In my family, I would have 3 sections: grandson, Little Miss, and Little Man. You can further organize the pages by color coding the children’s sections and then have a tab for each subject that child has pages for. In example, Little Miss may have the color lilac for her pages. In her section, she would have index tabs for Math, Reading, Writing, Science, History, Geography, and Bible. This would make it easy for me to find specific subjects that she may be needing practice in.

You can mix it up even more by having some of the pages be interactive. Draw the outline of a color wheel on a sheet of cardstock. Using index card size pieces of red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and purple cardstock or scrapbook paper, laminate all pieces including the color wheel. Use a round paper punch of about 1 inch diameter to cut out a circle from each of the color cardstocks/scrapbook paper. Apply a velcro dot to the back of each and to their places on the color wheel. Place the game pieces into an envelope and staple it to the back of the cardstock. When playing the game, the child has to place the color game pieces in their correct positions on the color wheel. There are many ways that you can use this idea. Think of these sheets as being scaled down versions of the interactive posters Sue Patrick describes in her book. Another option for younger children is to buy the cheap (dollar store) workbooks for their grade level. Laminate the pages and place them in the binder. These practice pages are a fun, colorful, and welcome addition to your child’s curriculum. Often you can find these “all subjects in one” workbooks at thrift stores or a secondhand book store and in very good condition.

These are just a few of the ways that you can be prepared for those unexpected days. Having a back-up plan sure makes the otherwise stressful days go easier.

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Everyday Lessons

One of the parts of homeschooling that I love is being able to teach our daughter how the lessons apply to daily life. Having her home, I have many opportunities throughout the day to teach her. Cooking, for example, is a great outlet for teaching several subjects.

Math: In cooking, math is used constantly. Of course there is the measuring of ingredients, but what about when you have to double a recipe? This gives great practice in how to multiply or add fractions. It also gives opportunity to make other measurement adjustments, such as 8 teaspoons equals how many cups?

Reading: If you cannot read a recipe, you cannot follow it on your own. Reading a recipe’s ingredients and instructions give practical application to their phonetic and reading skills. They also receive practice in learning abbreviations for measurements.

Science: Science in the kitchen is a daily occurrence when cooking. Whether explaining how yeast causes a bread to rise or the chemical reaction of vinegar to baking soda, science is abundant. No matter what food you are cooking, you can find a way to turn it into a science lesson.

History: This is a fun one. Let’s say you are studying the Colonial Period. What were some of the typical foods eaten during that time? You can plan a Colonial Day and serve all meals using period recipes. It really gives the kids a chance to experience a small piece of history.

Geography: When studying a foreign country, why not incorporate a meal made from that country’s typical foods? Having a “Flavors of Italy” night with an Italian pasta dish or other food choice will make a fun ending activity when studying a country as a part of a unit study.

Health: Teaching about food safety is always a great lesson! It is never too early to start. Allowing the kids to learn from the beginning to be careful in food preparation and proper storage will develop into a lifetime habit that will benefit them for years to come.

With autumn being here, it is a good opportunity to teach about apples or other fall harvest foods. Using apples as an example, you can teach younger children about Johnny Appleseed and map out his travels. Learn about the various types of apples found commonly in the stores or your area’s orchards if you are lucky enough to have them near you. Teach the difference between sweet apple varieties and the more tart baking ones. It may be fun to allow your kids to plant an apple seed in a cup to keep in a window. As it grows, it can later be transplanted into a container until large enough to plant in the ground. A chart labeling the parts of an apple or apple tree can be added into the lesson. For the younger children, you can have them fold a sheet of paper into quarters. In each section, they can draw an apple tree that represents each of the 4 seasons. Very young children may enjoy using 2 apples, one cut in half from top to bottom and the second cut across the middle, to use in making apple prints. In the kitchen, you can let the kids assist you in making an apple dessert or some apple butter in a slow cooker.

There are many ways to use cooking as an opportunity to teach children. It is so much more than meal preparation. When you think on the meal you have planned, consider what other ideas you can bring to enhance the children’s learning. The limits are only what you make them to be.

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Now that the holiday season is approaching, I thought I would start sharing kids craft ideas. This first one is a very simple and quick one for kids to do. It will also provide a wonderful opportunity to study winter birds for the kids’ nature journals!

To start with, you will need to go to a grocery store that has meat cutters on location. Ask if they have suet. This is the fat that is trimmed off meat. Most meat departments will package some up and sell it to you very cheaply. If possible, ask them to grind it for you. Otherwise, grind it yourself at home or finely chop it up.

You will also need birdseed. We get the kind that comes in a large bag with millet, sunflower seeds, and other seeds mixed together.

To make the ornaments, you will need some pine cones and cord/ribbon.

In a bowl, mix together some birdseed with just enough suet to hold the birdseed together. On a pine cone, tie a length of cord or ribbon to the top to form a hanger. Tightly pack the birdseed mixture into the crevices between the pine cone leaves. Set aside on waxed paper.

Hang the pine cones in tree branches within view of a window so that you and your children can watch the birds as they feed on the feast you have made for them. As the pine cones are emptied, you can refill them with more of the mixture.

The leftover suet can be frozen for use later.

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