Archive for November, 2011

For some time now, I have been collecting recipes for making my own art supplies for the kids.  There are various reasons for this.  One of the most important for me is the cost.  Being at home, there is no pressure on the kids having to use a specific brand of art supplies.  I love the idea of making our own.  It serves as a lesson to the children in the science of making art supplies.  The children also are using math in the measuring of ingredients.  Color mixing and other art related lessons can be taught as well.

In my search for recipes, I found an excellent resource.  The blog, The Artful Parent, had an entry that included a wealth of recipes for nearly any art supply you would have a need for.  With the winter season upon the horizon and parents wanting to find things for their children to do indoors, these recipes may be a blessing.

I am going to be printing the recipes out very soon to add to my homeschool notebook.  I can see that they will become a favorite to the kids (and Momma) in the years to come.

An individual recipe can be placed into a workbox as an activity to do with Momma.  You can even get creative and use it as a part of an art, math, science, or other lesson.  Imagine the fun a child would have if each day they may a new art supply, then at the end of the week used them together to make a craft project!  I am thinking that these will be fun to use in making holiday decorations or gifts.  Use recycled containers for storing the supplies in.  The kids can have fun making decorative labels for the containers also.


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Mum’s Musings

I am loving our relaxed schedule. Especially right now during the holiday season. I have core subjects that dd5 has to complete each day, but beyond that her schedule has a more relaxed feel to it. That is not to say that she isn’t having to do the work. Only that we approach it in ways that are less obvious than a workbook. More center activities, worksheets printed from the Internet, lapbooks, and file folder games round out the other subjects.

DS3 has been enjoying his I-pod a lot more lately. I downloaded a couple of shows and a new app for him. The other kids enjoy playing it also, but ds is finally wanting to use it himself. I get it going and he carries it around watching the shows or playing with it. I started taking pictures with it for him to scroll through. Learning to use it myself so that I can teach him to navigate through it has been an interesting experience.

I have been checking into the Kindle and am really getting sold on the idea. I found on Amazon’s website previously that they have the McGuffey Readers set for free download. There are many children’s books. I think I may one day end up getting an inexpensive Kindle for dd5 to use. She is enjoying books so much that once she is reading better, the kindle will be something she can use as a learning tool.

Who would ever have thought that an off-grid, low tech family would be getting such gadgets? I can easily adapt to it though. The gadgets are educational tools and require far less electricity than some may think. We will be able to charge the batteries easily. Currently, the small solar power set-up that we have is sufficient to charge my cell phone and the I-pod easily. We have a power inverter strip that we use in the car to charge my netbook battery whenever I drive to town. The Kindle can be charged on the inverter strip also.

I am actually beginning to be excited about the very limited technology we are using now and planning to get in the near future. We won’t be going back on-grid or having a TV, but the small amount of technology that we do choose to have will be a blessing.

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Homeschooling both a daughter & a grandson, both age 5, can be a challenge.  Grandson is easily distracted from his work.  My eldest daughter is homeschooling him, but uses different materials than my dd5 uses.  This can be a problem some days when one child perceives the other’s work to appear more fun than their own.  Grandson also has the added issue of possibly being ADD or ADHD (they are awaiting the appointment for diagnosis evaluation) which can bring other challenges into the mix.

I found a possible solution to part of the distraction issue while reading the current issue of Disney’s Family Fun magazine.  A reader had sent in a picture of her son with a “Homework Central” display.  In the article, the display was used as a way to organize the child’s supplies for doing homework without pestering his siblings.  When I saw the display, I thought it to be a great way to organize the supplies most used on school assignments as well as providing a way to cut down on the distraction issue.

The concept is a simple one.  A science fair display board, with the height cut in half,  is decorated with adhesive hooks for holding scissors, 3-ring clear binder pencil cases, ruler, and other basic supplies.  I am going to add to this adhesive stickers of letters, numbers, basic shapes, and colors to expand the idea.  This will make the board not only an organizational tool, but a mini office with ready reference information a 5 yr old may need.

I am pretty excited about this idea.  Will have to take pictures of ours once they are done.

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Daddy came home over the weekend for a couple of days. Was so fun to see the excitement in the kids when his truck pulled in. We hadn’t told them that he was coming home. I found out the day before that it was a definite that he would get home, so I hurried and bought a couple of turkeys. We had an early Thanksgiving dinner with Daddy since he will be gone until the Christmas holiday. The family enjoyed him being home as much as he enjoyed being here. It is always hard to see Daddy go back on the truck, but we know it is only for a short time. We do homeschooling while he is gone and look forward to the day we see his truck pull in again.

I have been finding that the schedule I was keeping us on just isn’t sensible for a family who homeschools year round. If we are educating our children year round, why the drive and need to keep a public school schedule and time frame? For those of us who grew up in a public school system, there is an underlying indoctrination that rules us quite unexpectedly. We have that idea drilled into us that all schooling MUST be done within the time frame of 40 weeks like that of the public schools. As a homeschooling parent, we eventually realize that this is not needed. Our children are with us 52 weeks of the year and we easily are able to incorporate their education into daily life.

I am relaxing Little Miss’ curriculum in some respects. She has to complete certain subjects (reading, writing and arithmetic) daily, and other subjects are only done 2-3 days per week. Not all assignments are done in workbooks. We have file folder games, puzzles, crafts, learning center activities, and books to add to the learning experience. She is learning the same concepts, but in a fun and varied way.

I have been reading about the TEACCH method for Little Dude and am finding that there is much in this approach that would greatly benefit Little Miss. She is not on the Autism Spectrum, but the basic concepts of the TEACCH method are very effective. One of the basic ideas that I take from my reading is that is that of giving the child hands-on activities to reinforce the educational concepts or developmental skills being taught. With Little Miss, I am applying this method through the file folder games and activities in addition to workbooks. I am already seeing a change in her learning. Little Miss has always picked up on ideas and new concepts easily, but through the activities the knowledge gained is being reinforced. The more sensory areas that I can touch on in teaching her, the more easily she will retain the knowledge. This same method will be used in teaching Little Dude later on. In baby steps, he is being guided towards this method of education.

This week I am surprising the kids with homemade play dough. I found an awesome website with recipes for all types of play dough to make using basic kitchen ingredients. You can them at Sensory Processing Disorder’s website. I love this particular recipe. One note that I will make is that for my Little Dude, play dough is NOT a fun activity. He doesn’t like anything that sticks to his fingers. I corrected this by lightly kneading the play dough in flour if necessary to remove any stickiness that may occur. Another option would be to knead in Cream of Tartar instead of flour. Cream of Tartar in play dough recipes seems to help lengthen the “life span” of the dough before it needs replaced.

Play Dough Recipe
In a 2-quart pan mix together:
1 cup flour
½ cup salt
2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar

1 Tablespoon oil
1 cup water with food coloring in it

Cook over a medium heat. At first it will appear to have too much water in it but will quickly begin to form into a ball of dough. When dough pulls away from the sides of the pan, take out of pan and lightly knead until smooth. If necessary, knead in a little flour to remove any stickiness.

Store play dough in baggies or air-tight containers for 3-4 months.

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Well, we are nearly 1/4 of the way through the school year and I have already had to revamp our workboxes…..again.  No because they don’t work, but because of space limitations.

I have been wanting to make new pouches to use in place of the boxes.  At first I thought to make the 12×12 pouches but ran into a glitch.  The edges of the pouch wasn’t strong enough to hold the pouch closed.  Thankfully, I tested it out after making only one.  So, now to try a new option.

I am going to use decorated file folders.  While they won’t be fancy, they will work.  I am using the same basic idea of decorating the folders to make them more fun.  I am trying to do the project using only the supplies I have on hand.  So, some may have scrapbook paper and others may have other decoration.

I love the theory and ideas behind the workbox system.  Anything that teaches our kids to become independent is always a good idea.  I have read and heard so many teachers in colleges talking about how so many new students do not know how to study independently.  Teaching or children this skill from an early age gives them the ability to gain knowledge on their own any area they choose.  I am pleased that my dd5 likes the workbox system also.  She has more control over her schooling.

For my ds3, it is still a new skill that he is learning to use.  I have stepped back a bit with him and am focusing on putting together a visual schedule.  Once I have his schedule made, I will better be able to get his day organized.



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Here are a few ideas that I am finding very helpful in our family’s homeschooling. Maybe there will be one or more that others can use.

Workbooks: Little Miss is working on the Little Keepers program from Keepers of the Faith. The little handbook that we use to keep track of her achievements is a paperback book. Being as the book is going to be used for several years, I had the binding carefully removed and the book was spiral bound. You can also choose to laminate the front & back covers before binding.

We are now preparing to purchase Little Dude’s first set of preschool workbooks. We already know that he will be doing the same pages more than once. The workbooks are very small, averaging only about 35 pages or so per workbook. I am planning to take apart the binding. At this point, I have a couple of options. I can spiral bind the book and simply make copies of any page that I know will be used more than once. The other option is to laminate all of the pages & covers, then bind the book to make it a dry-erase workbook.

One tip that I love is to make a copy of a sampling of workbook pages. These can be used for review later on or for extra practice. Laminate the copies and place by category into a 3-ring binder. the pages I like this idea best for are blackline masters that you can use for multiple worksheets. In penmanship workbooks, you will often find a chart of how the letters are to be written. This can be laminated to make into a dry-erase tracing page. At the $1 stores, such as Dollar Tree, you can always find children’s workbooks for preschool and early grades. These little workbooks are about the size of a coloring book. These make a great resource for laminating the pages for a binder. By laminating specific pages that give extra practice, you avoid the extra costs of having to make multiple copies. You may also consider doing the same with the timed drill math sheets available for free printing online.

Art Box: Consider having a designated art box. In this box, toss your extra crafting supplies left over from other projects. Kids can often find a lot of uses for the items in the box. From time to time, when at a dollar store, pick up a few extra supplies to add to the box. When the time comes for a creative project, your child with have a wide assortment of items to choose from. Some of the things you can add to the box are: fabric swatches, yarn, buttons, glitter, paint pens, construction paper, old greeting cards, paper hole punches, decorative edged scissors, glue pens, small stapler, old magazines, and much more.

Craft in a Bag: I love this idea. When you see a craft project that you think the kids would enjoy doing, gather up the supplies for that project and organize them into craft kits. Place the materials needed for each kit into a resealable baggie. These, along with a picture & instructions of the craft, can be placed in a storage container. When it comes time to make the craft, the children’s supplies are already to go into their workbox.

Story Sequence Cards: For a non-reader, make picture cards to represent about 4 events in a story. The pictures don’t have to be detailed. They only need some focal point to represent an event. For a reader, you can have as many cards as the child is ready for. Write a phrase or sentence to represent the events. The cards will help with memory recall and can also help to organize a child’s thought in preparing a book narration.

Reading Log: If your local library has a newer checkout system that provides you with a printed receipt of the books checked out with their due dates, save them! These become a great resource in keeping track of what books you have used. They also are a reference in case you need to go back and get a book again later on.

Can You Find It?: Have you ever seen those toys filled with little pellets that you have to turn this way and that to find the hidden objects found within? These are so simple to make yourself. You can even make them to a theme! Save little toys from the “gumball machines” or buy the little party favors type of toys at the dollar store. You can add into the canister odds and ends like buttons, safety pin, novelty erasers, or other small items that is no larger than about 1″ diameter. Use an old peanut butter jar or other small plastic cylinder shaped container. Use the little poly-pellets (like those used in dolls, found at the fabric store) as the jar filler. Alternate adding the pellets and the small objects. Fill the container completely then if desired, glue the lid in place to prevent little ones from spilling the contents. These jars are a great toy to keep kids busy, yet help them to study things out & pay attention to details.

Shape Scavenger Hunt: this is a fun game when teaching a child their shapes. Once the child has learned a shape, have them go on a scavenger hunt in and around the house to find things of that shape.

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Coloring idea

This past week, I was working with Little Man to help get him coloring with a crayon.  Have tried the regular sized and the jumbo crayons, but with no success.  He holds them alright, but doesn’t apply pressure needed to transfer the crayon to paper.

My eldest daughter had some kids’ markers and allowed him to use those.  Success!  Little Man had great fun coloring on a page from his coloring book.  Because he is unable to remove & replace the marker caps yet, I borrowed an idea that I had seen on Pintrest.  I used one of those ice trays that makes the long cylinder shaped ice for sports bottles.  I removed the marker caps and placed them on the opposite end of the markers.  I then placed each marker, writing end facing up, in the ice tray.  He was able to pick out the marker he wanted, use it, then replace it when done.  I was pleasantly suprised that he would return it, writing tip up, in the tray without any difficulty.  In that he demonstrated a level of muscle control and eye-hand coordination he hasn’t displayed before.

It was a joy to watch how excited he got from coloring.  He did a great job!

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