Friday, December 31, 2010

Outdoor Play Space

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit DisorderHaving an active boy, I can appreciate the need for creative outdoor play spaces.

Last summer I read the book Last Child in the Woods and it challenged me to think more outdoorsy. (is that a word?)

If you'd like ideas on how to make your backyard more interesting, go here and here.

When I watched this video, I was so inspired.

Thanks for the tip, Sherry!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gingerbread House Accordion Book

How cute is this? There's even a youtube video on how to make the Gingerbread House Accordion Book.

HT: Crafty Crow

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hands on Nativity

Being on staff with FamilyLife, I must promote their products!  :)

What God Wants for Christmas is an excellent resource for families of all ages.  If you buy from FamilyLife, they have a package deal.  Unfortunately, you can't swing by the FamilyLife building to buy it.  It will have to be shipped to your house.

Another resource a friend sent to me tonight is this super cute homemade nativity.


Paper Candy Canes

This morning we're making paper candy canes.  They're simple (supplies on hand), fun and maybe a bit addicting without the calories!

Bonus: talk about the legend of the Candy Cane.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Scholastic Warehouse Book Fair, Dec. 9-21

Scholastic is having a large (and I mean big) warehouse book sale in Maumelle beginning next week. If you sign up in advance, you can get some significant coupons--I got something like $20 off a purchase of $50 when I went two years ago. Thousands of books are 50-80% off, and there are also some $2 or less. We also found software and some other great stocking stuffers.

Math practice: "mad minutes"

When I was in elementary school, we typically started out math with a "mad minute": a sheet of simple addition (or subtraction, or multiplication) problems, attempting to finish as many as we could in one minute.

I've been trying to replicate this for my son, and though I've found some mad minutes on the web, I've found it much easier with the large wipe-off placemats--addition and multiplication--at Mardel right now for $.99, available in their educational bargains section (they also have handwriting practice). It's a daily workbox at our house.

For my first grader, I give him two minutes rather than one to complete as many as he can of the 50 problems; he doesn't have to do them in order. (That's for the addition facts of 1-5; he gets three minutes for the facts of 5-10). Once I found what his average and his "best" were, I give him small rewards for completing 25 problems or more accurately, for example. Often, my little competitor wants to try again to best his record!

The wipe-off placemat makes it a little more convenient, not to mention green--and more fun for him. And his fluency in basic problems is certainly improving!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fieldtrip to Barnhill Orchards

One day at the farmers market I asked Bob Barnhill about his pecans. The conversation was complete with tractors and helmets; I knew my son would love to see the operation. Mr. Barnhill graciously invited us for a field trip. Well, to be more accurate - I invited myself. And kept calling him to remind him to let me know when he was going to make his trees shake.

The mechanism on the back of the tractor could have a fancy name. I'll call it the tree shaker.
The kids cheered when the trees shook and pecans fell.

Once picked up (the old fashioned way) the pecans are sorted into sizes with this machine.

And cracked in this machine. The nuts still need a bit of elbow grease after being cracked.

We also saw one of the Barnhill gardens.

And brought home some of the sweetest broccoli I've ever my entire life!

Thanks for showing us around Mr. Barnhill!

Toys that Build the Mind

Blokus Classics GameIf you're looking for Christmas ideas that build the mind rather than numbing it, look here.

Zillio Games M02 Mini MountainThe Pioneer Woman had a review on Zillo Mini Mountain and it looks super wonderful albeit pricey (ages 4-94).

Simple Mom wrote an excellent post on gift giving to children that is worth the read, esp. the comments from other readers.

We've enjoyed playing Sequence - the states and capitals version - and it's helped sharpen my geography facts.

What toys do you own that build the mind?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Spontaneous Field Trip

Anyone want to watch a pecan tree shake? Bob Barnhill, of Barnhill Orchards near Cabot, has invited us to watch their pecan harvest. John Isaac and I are going tomorrow (Wed) at 1:30. Email me if you're interested. luvmyhub AT gmail DOT com


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Arkansas Arborteum

We went for a family hike today in the Arkansas Arboretum. It was a flat paved trail (good for strollers).

To get to the arboretum, drive past Pinnacle Mountain and turn right at the first road. You'll see the sign on the right after about a mile.

We enjoyed identifying new (to us) trees, mostly by the bark - but a few still had leaves.

Bonus: several different kinds of fungus, too.

I can't wait to go again in the spring.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving resources for kids

National Geographic for kids has this article with photos on the first Thanksgiving. Here's a brief, more historical video; and an animated video on William Bradford in ten or so two-minute parts from the Discovery Channel, starting here.

Martha Stewart had cute pilgrim hats and a sail centerpiece for kids in this month's magazine--even some finger puppet favors, too. Here are the best Thanksgiving crafts from Disney's Family Fun magazine, too, in case you just had way too much time on your hands (or needed the kids to have a little less on theirs).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fun test prep

One of my most successful homeschooling gadgets this semester was a hot dots pen, along with their accompanying hot and cold dots. Though there are available flashcards and interactive mats that are sold for the pen, we use it for test prep--and my son loves it.

To use, I find or create a multiple-choice worksheet, and place a "hot" dot on the correct answers--and "cold" dots on the others. When my son puts the pen on the correct answer, the pen lights up and tells him, "Correct!" or "Good job!" or some sound of success--and of course the opposite for a wrong answer.

I might use them to jazz up some flashcards next semester, too!

Grammar review--through reading

One of the ways we've reviewed grammar this semester is via what Beverly Cleary referred to as "DEAR" time in her Ramona Quimby books: Drop Everything And Read. I'll have my son read a book of his choosing for twenty minutes--DEAR time--for one of his workboxes (or for most people, an agenda item).

In the next workbox, I'll have a sheet of paper that asks him comprehension questions (What is the central problem the character is facing?)--really whatever we're working on for reading fundamentals that week--but I'll also incorporate grammar, having him write one noun, pronoun, adjective, etc. from what he just read.

I really like multi-disciplinary activities to sync activities together, and this is a great way to do it (another option: have him write a summary sentence about what he read--or answer an overarching comprehension question (i.e. Who are the main characters in this book? In what setting does this book take place?--then illustrate it).

Roots Memory

If you've ever played Memory or Concentration, it's a great way to review this semester's roots.

1) Take some index cards and make pairs: the Greek/Latin root on one card, the definition on the other.

2) Once you've got your pairs, mix them and arrange them face down in rows.

3) Play "Memory" by taking turns finding pairs of roots and their matching definition.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Janel and I swap homeschooling manipulatives. In this week's goodie bag from her were color coded popcicle sticks.

First my son sorted the colors. Each shape was created with different colors. (Janel wrote names and dots on one side and just dots on opposite side of the sticks. )

Then he made shapes.

Thanks, Janel!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Psalm 34:18 song

For this week's memory verse, our good ol' Seeds Family Worship has an mp3 song that my four-year-old adores. When he came home from K4 a few weeks ago, he exclaimed, "Mom, did you know that God is close to the brokenhearted?! That means sad!"

Prepositions: Grammar Rock

Kinda guessed there would be a Grammar Rock Prepositions video, huh?

Water Cycle Worksheets

From Comm. Central mom Hope Bucher:

There are several good water cycle worksheets on the web, but I really liked these.

Thanks, Hope!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Three quick younger-elementary activities using Microsoft Excel

1) Capital/lowercase Memory. Using a large and easily read font, make an Excel workbook page of the letters of the alphabet in lowercase and uppercase, with one letter in each cell. Make sure you make borders visible for easy cutting. Print out the letters onto cardstock, then cut them up for a Memory/Concentration game to identify and match uppercase and lowercase letters.

Tip: Start with a small number of letters (like 10) first, to avoid the game being overwhelming.

2) The Name Game. Using a large and easily read font, make an Excel workbook page of the letters of the names in your family and/or your last name, one letter in each cell. Make sure you make borders visible for easy cutting. Print out the letters onto cardstock, then cut the pieces up. Ask your child to use the letters to spell out your family's first names.

Tip: To teach name-spelling, try putting the names to the song B-I-N-G-O. My family used it for me, and now I use it for my kids! Trust me, if it works for Breitenstein, it works for anything.

3) Stairsteps. As a spinoff of a classic Montessori activity, print out an Excel workbook page with large-width columns and rows, borders visible (as an option, you can fill in the cells with color). You'll be cutting out a strip of one cell, then a strip of two connected cells, then of three cells, etc. Place the various sizes of connected cells in an envelope, and see what your child does with them (Montessori functions with minimal instruction, in my understanding). If your child needs assistance, see if they can arrange them from the smallest number of squares (or rectangles) to the most (or least to greatest, if you're trying to teach these terms).

Renaissance for kids

No need to recreate the wheel; here's A-Z Home's Cool Homeschooling page on the Renaissance for Kids, a linked page from Social Studies for kids, Yahooligans' cool links including an animated trip through the Renaissance, and a good written (but not too detailed) general overview from KidsPast.

As for activities, check out this truly extensive page from ProTeacher, more cool ideas from eHow (like making your own candles), a looong page on links to the Middle Ages in general, another thoroughly reviewed and choosy set of links from, and a fun (washable) stained-glass activity that pre-K and up will love, I think.

Not really related to the Renaissance but a cool video just the same: How to Draw from Mission: Renaissance.

Leonardo da Vinci for kids

There are lots of great resources for us on our current artist, and I want to be sure and highlight such a notable man in history for my kids. Here's a six-page pdf with links and activity ideas; a link on painting birds as he did; a History channel video on The Last Supper; an online portrait-maker in the vein of da Vinci's portraiture; a great collection for teachers and students of the best sites on da Vinci; a Mona Lisa art activity; the BBC's Leonardo page; the first of 18 BBC videos on the man (no, I have not watched them).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Water Cycle: Magic School Bus

The Magic School Bus has another video for us--on the water cycle, plus two science experiments! At the bottom of the experiment page, you can also view this video on the water cycle, complete with a quiz and vocabulary lesson.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Water Cycle for kids

This page has quizzes, videos, and more! It's got pretty much everything you'll need (or want) this week! But if you want to see more, scroll down on this page to the heading "for kids"--even more videos, an interactive diagram, etc. This page has a Bill Nye the Science Guy clip.

This page has coloring and activity pages, along with helpful photos. Be aware that one of the first sentences speaks of evolution (sigh).

Here's a simple experiment, too, to demonstrate condensation--and you can take your pick on experiments from this page.

And guess what tune you can sing the fact to? Ah, yes. It's Farmer in the Dell.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mansa Musa

This page will be interesting for kids to look at with all of its facts in an interesting layout, and two short videos (the second is about Africa, not Mansa Musa). This video, at four minutes, is a more extensive version of the first video. Access National Geographic's videos on Mali here.

Here's a link to the first few informative pages of an e-book for kids with a magazine layout (you need a membership to view the entire book). This is a succinct summary of his life from an article in World Book Kids, and another with a comprehension question at the end. For older kids or research projects, here's a more lengthy explanation, along with cultural notes on the Kingdom of Mali.

I'm not aware of how lessons for older children are structured at Comm. Central, but here's a thorough lesson plan and student page for older students.

Battling burnout

In case anyone else is finding themselves eyeing the Two and a Half Weeks 'Til School's Over for a Month Countdown, I decided I'd take the leap to share my own recent battle with burnout. This particular post doesn't mention my homeschooling efforts, but I think you're probably aware of its contributions to exhaustion!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Treasure Trove of History Resources for this week

I apologize for the delay of this post. I (Amy) have been ill all week and we are a bit behind on our history for this week. I found this site using the Usborne World History, Internet-Linked Encyclopedia so if you have this book, go explore the links for this week. There are a lot of great ones. This particular site was packed with great, kid-friendly things and no registration is required. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Since the weather forecast looks crummy we're going to postpone the Two Rivers park day, scheduled for Wednesday.

Homeschool Ice Skating

The first Tuesday of the month is Homeschool Ice Skating Day at the Arkansas Skatium.  Details here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Crossword puzzle review

I utilized to make this review crossword puzzle of a very small handful (11 questions) of first semester memory work.

Weather printables

If you'll be following the weather trail created by our science facts this week and next, here are a few printables for writing and drawing. Since I'm all for incorporating other skills, here's some tips on drawing weather, and a drawing weather worksheet for Pre-K to K.

Air temperature and pressure

This page has your pick of experiments on air pressure! This page attempts to explain pressure and temperature's relationship: good for older kids, but younger kids will have an easier time with just our science fact.

This Magic School Bus Kicks Up a Storm video helps connect the dots between temperature, pressure, and weather, and Scholastic is nice enough to give us an experiment and printable to go with it, demonstrating a wind spiral using the heat from a lightbulb.

The good ol' "Farmer in the Dell" tune is there once again to help us memorize the memory work itself.

Marco Polo

From, here's a two-minute video; and from National Geographic, some of their always-stunning photos depicting with captions his journey to China. If your child is just nutty about Marco Polo, there's a PBS documentary (1 hour, 25 minutes...) on two adventurers who follow his journey from Venice to China and back--which I have not watched. And for the rest of you who I'm sure can't get enough of him, there's an animated video to buy designed to build character in kids. The two-minute trailer might be enjoyable to your kids!

Here's an interactive map of his journeys, complete with sound. If you're looking for more resources, click here.

Comm. Central Swap

I must attribute one of the most beneficial ideas yet this year to co-blogger Julie. At the beginning of the year, she and I began swapping homeschooling materials: games, manipulatives, books, puzzles--you name it. It's been wonderful to have some fresh tools to stimulate my kids' imagination, and often on things I haven't thought of.

So in the words of many a schoolteacher: Grab a buddy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Charlotte Mason Discussion Group

Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling SeriesThe next Charlotte Mason discussion group will be November 29 at 6pm.  We will be discussing Volume 5, pages 3-67.  December's meeting will be Monday the 20th.

The group meets in the cafe of Books a Million in North Little Rock.

Conjunction, adverb videos

Better late than are the Schoolhouse Rock videos for conjunctions and adverbs.

Park Day - Anyone?

I've lived in Little Rock for almost seven years but only recently visited Two Rivers Park. We loaded a bike and Razor skooter in the van, along with a stroller for Baby Caroline.
It was really fun - not to mention a great way to burn some boy energy.  There are miles of flat, paved trails.  Several people I talked with said they frequently see deer.  We talked with a fisherman who was rather entertaining.
Weather permitting, would anyone want to meet up on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 11am?  We could walk, run, ride bikes, etc. then eat a sack lunch.  Email me if you're interested luvmyhub AT gmail DOT com and spread the word - please let others know.  We'll just meet in the parking lot at the furthest end of the park, where the road loops around.

View Larger Map

If your child is an explorer, or would like more map reading practice, print this one and bring it with you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Historic Washington State Park:: Civil War Weekend, Nov. 5-7

November 6 and 7 is the Civil War Weekend at Historic Washington State Park.  The school program is Friday, November 5.

The website doesn't give many details, so I recommend calling if you're thinking of going.

However, all the moms were raving about how wonderful it is. I'm sad that my family will be out of town or we'd be there.

Below is a portion of an email (excuse the format, I'm lazy and just cut/paste).

Historic Washington State Park

1.   1874 court house visitor center:
The 1874 Court House visitor center contains orientation information about historic Washington and exhibits thematically linked to the civil war during this special weekend.  There will be special civil war music programs in the upstairs courtroom you will not want to miss.  Also take a look in the gift shop for unique gift items to commemorate your visit!

1.   Civil war period music:
Music was a much needed pastime during the dark days of the civil war.  There was the comical, patriotic and spiritual aspects of music that motivated and sustained the masses.  You might even get to sing along!

1.  cooking in the field:
while visiting with civilian refugees students will see how people cooked on campfires to survive.

1.   artillery demonstration:
see and “hear” why artillery was known as the “king of battle”!
artillerymen will demonstrate the proper firing of actual full scale Civil war artillery.

1.   civil war medicine:
A look at how sicknesses and wounds were treated by doctors and surgeons of the military.

1.   Religion in war:
Explore the power and influence of religion during the days of the civil war.  You will be in one of the oldest churches in Arkansas!

1.    Soldier for the cause:
See soldier dressed in the Hempstead Rifles uniform. This was the first unit mustered from Hempstead county.

1.    the lady in mourning:
Death and its aftermath were stark realities for most families during the war years.  Visit with a typical lady who has lost a loved one during the conflict and see how she copes during these sad times.

1.     meet the sutler:
sutlers followed the armies and provided the soldier the means to make private purchases.  See the goods they carried and find out why.

1.     meet a town doctor:
when there weren’t enough military doctors to go around the local doctors were called upon to render much needed aid to not only their usual patients but to countless refugees and soldiers far from home.  See what tools and techniques he used to practice his noble profession.

1.      a slave’s work is never done:
while a war raged on around them those people still enslaved labored to take care of daily chores and responsibilities so that households and farms could get by with some semblance of normalcy.  Visit the sanders farmstead kitchen and grounds and learn why “a slave’s work is never done”.

1.      civil war guns and weapons:
see a special program on the more interesting and innovative firearms developed during the civil war.  Some of these were the types used in southwest Arkansas!

1.      newspapers at war:
watch a printer at work as he discusses the importance of “getting the news out” during the war.

1.      the candle shop:
visit the candle shop and learn more about early lighting.  There is also a small gift shop located here.

1.       children’s games:
young people have to play!  Join in the fun of some of nineteenth century’s more popular games.

1.       ladies and men’s fashions:
this program covers some of the more obvious differences between clothing of the nineteenth century and clothing of today.  Social customs and beliefs associated with fashion will be explored as well.

1.       period photography:
ever wondered why people photographed in the nineteenth century looked so serious? You might get a clue after your visit to a nineteenth century tintype artist.  See how he made “likenesses” of people and the tools required.

1.       politics and war:
Arkansas has seceded from the Union and has joined the Confederate States of America. Witness a rousing speech by a local political leader elected to represent the state in the Confederate legislature in the 1836 court house.

1.        infantry drill:
so you want to be a civil war soldier?  Well, you’ve got some shaping up to do!  Learn the basics of infantry drill with our courteous and mild mannered drill instructors!  Bring your marching shoes!

1.         cavalry equipment:
meet a typical civil war cavalryman and examine the saddles

and equipment required to carry out mounted service in war.

1.       infantry camp on campaign:
explore the camp of a typical group of soldiers on campaign in the countryside.  See the ways they attempted to make life a little better amid the boredom of life in camp.  But be warned!  When soldiers are around civilians anything can happen!  You might even see a typical situation unfold at the Royston log house campsite!

1.        life at home:
visit with an average farmer at his humble home and learn how he survives during wartime.  He will show you some much needed skills in woodcraft and self sufficiency that any person would need during such a crisis.

1.         woodcraft:
learn how rails were split, shingles rived, and beams hewed to make a home from the wilds of the forest.

1.          home gardens:
food is a necessity and especially in wartime with shortages of all types of foodstuffs.  Visit with a gentleman and learn how he tends his important garden!

1.          swords and plowshares:
experience firsthand the sights and sounds of a working blacksmith shop.  Smiths were called upon to help in any way possible toward the equipping of the armies during the war.

Writing Practice

This activity is as old as the hills but maybe you've forgotten about it. I was reminded of it by my neighbor (veteran homeschooling mom, Kristen Burdette.)

1. Give your child a shallow plate of cornmeal, rice, sand, flour, beans - anything really.
2. Ask them to draw letters or words.
If you have a reluctant writer, this activity changes things up and makes it more exciting.  Preschoolers can get in on the action, too.  Ask them to draw shapes or give them a few matchbox cars to drive around and make textured roads.

A 9x13 baking dish, or cookie sheet with rims is better than the small dish you see above.  What was I thinking?!  Rookie move.



At dinner one night, my six-year old son was struggling to cut his food. I don't want to be cutting his steak at his wedding rehearsal dinner, so we practiced during "school."
We used Play-doh, a real fork, knife and plate.  Unlike real food, Play-doh sticks to the plate, which makes it more forgiving and easier to learn to properly hold a knife and fork.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Them Bones

Here's a printable skeleton puzzle. For longevity, I laminated it. You could use it for Halloween decorations or talking about the body.  It was a hit with John Isaac - because he asked, "Can I do it again?"

Below is Kristi singing the major bones in the body, from last year. (or here on YouTube)

HT: Chasing Cheerios

also posted on Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Robin Hood videos

Without even asking my son, I know that Robin Hood will be his research topic of choice this week, and it's brought up some good discussions at our house regarding whether it's ever right to steal. I'm thinking he'll be excited about these Robin Hood videos from the History Channel.

Fun review

For the last few weeks on Friday, I've been utilizing Hope Bucher's suggestion of make a crossword puzzle of what we've done that week. It makes review a little more exciting than it could be!

We also have been using the fill-in-the-blank worksheet maker for Scripture memory (AWANA included), though sometimes I simply have my son illustrate the words rather than write them, to change it up a little.

Magna Carta

At the end of this brief video is a helpful clip from the History Channel about the Magna Carta, and a slightly dry one from howstuffworks. Here's actually an eight-minute video from a teacher that explores a little of the history behind the document all the way back to the Battle of Hastings; helpful for older kids, BORING for younger. This text with images explains things in a little more detail and includes the previous video.

Caves for kids

This week for our science fact on caves, you may want to check out these sites for a little visual:

The Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave

Virtual Cave—be sure to check out these amazing glacial cave photos!

Here's a cool art project based on cave painting!

And check out the American Cave Conservation Association's kids' page.

This site has maps, images, and virtual tours for kids—and another one chock-full of stuff just for homeschoolers.

Similar to our crystal making experiment awhile back, this experiment helps kids understand the formation of stalactites and stalagmites!

And here are a few National Geographic videos exploring Kartchner Caverns, Howe Caverns, and Carlsbad Caverns with a lot of amazing formations and insight into cave ecology—though I have not previewed all these videos. PBS Kids has a cave video, too.

Motley's Pumpkin Patch

A group of homeschoolers met at Motley's Pumpkin Patch on Friday.

The day began with "calling the hogs" - a pig race.

We also went on a hay ride.

Petted and fed animals
Played in/on HUGE hay stack.

Charlotte Mason Discussion Group

Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling SeriesI just found them - and I'm so excited!!!  There's a discussion group for Charlotte Mason's Six Volume series.

About two years ago I first learned of Charlotte Mason, some would call her the founder of the homeschooling movement.  Her educational philosophy puts an emphasis on reading "living books" and stimulating education in a noncompetitive, biblically based way. She is a contemporary of Maria Montessori, both women were 100 years before their own time.

So, the discussion group meets tonight (Monday - which is the fourth Monday of the month.)  They meet in the cafe of the Books a Million in North Little Rock from 6-10pm.  Maybe as no surprise, they not only discuss the books but provide support and advice for one another.

Email me if you want to meet up and go together: luvmyhub AT gmail DOT com