Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Busy Bags for Older Kids

Busy bags are containers, usually bags, that hold activities your child can complete on their own. They are used by many homeschool moms to keep their young child quiet and busy for a small amount of time while Mom works with older children, does housework, starts dinner, or takes a bath! The busy bags only come out at certain times, and the child is expected to play alone and clean up alone.

Most busy bags are geared toward toddlers - 2's and 3's. As I was searching Pinterest, I had a difficult time finding busy bags for my boys, who are almost 5 and almost 7. I really wanted to make some busy bags for them, because I'm starting a new curriculum with my older three kids. This curriculum requires more teacher-involvement than what we've been using, and I thought busy bags would be a great way to buy me some quiet time to teach. I plan to set a timer for ten minutes for some bags, and 20 minutes for others - depending on how long each activity should hold their attention.

I've started making some busy bags this week. I figured I would use this hotel-time wisely and get a head start on lesson planning and organizing! Here are some busy bags I made for my boys. Some of the activities are for 1st graders, while others are for preschool to kindergarten age.

I found this spiral art set at the Dollar Tree! I paired it with some colored pens and quartered card stock pieces. My boys love art and have never used a spiral art set before, so I think this will be a hit.

The boys (especially Silas, my almost 7 year old) will use the alphabet stamps to stamp the words from the flashcards into play-dough. These first word flashcards (found at the Dollar Tree) contain sight words as well as easy to read words and a colorful picture.

This bag will be a fun, free-play with play-dough and these fun tools and cutters. Play-dough keeps my boys entertained for a while!

I stuck magnetic strips and foam numbers on colored craft sticks for this activity. They will put the correct number of paper clips onto the magnets. It's geared mainly toward Titus (my almost 5 year old), but I'm sure Silas will enjoy it also. I would love to make a set with number words for Silas.

I used the colored craft sticks paired with some mini, colored clothespins (found at Michael's) for this bag. The boys will pin the correct colored pins on the sticks. I may put a dice in the bag, and let them roll the dice to see how many to put on each stick. It is also geared toward my younger son, Titus, but will be good fine-motor practice for both of them.

This bag will contain Chenille stems, alphabet beads and plain colored beads. I will ask Silas to string words (using index cards or flashcards), while Titus will just string patterns (again, using index cards). They will also just string beads, which they think is lots of fun!

I word the numbers words one through ten on these index cards, and I wrote the number very small on the opposite side (so Silas can check himself). He will match the foam number to the number word, and then punch that many holes in the card.

I picked up these Lego Classic sets at Target for $5 each. There are directions to build three things per box. I put each set in its own bag. This should keep the boys busy for a while!

Finally, I picked up some 24-piece puzzles for Titus and a 100-piece puzzle for Silas. I will put the pieces and a small picture of the puzzle in a bag.

I have several more ideas for busy bags, and when I get them put together, I will post them!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Narration for the Young Child

Narration is one of the most important keys in a Charlotte Mason education. I'm sure everyone knows what narration is, but in a nutshell, narration is the art of telling back what you've heard or read. The amount of narration you should expect from a child, of course, varies with age.In my opinion, a five year old should be able to narrate one complete sentence that expresses an important point in the story he has been read, while a ten year old child should be able to narrate in at least five sentences the main ideas he has read or heard. All of this will vary according to your child's ability, as well.

Sometimes, narration gets overlooked by the mothers of young children. It is such an important skill, though - listening, comprehension, vocabulary, speaking, attention to detail... It should not be ignored or overlooked, and it's such a simple thing at this young age, that you may already be practicing this without realizing it!

Tonight, while my 4 year old son, Titus, was bathing, I sang with him the song of Zacchaeus (the wee little man). Afterward, I told him the story of Zacchaeus in about twenty sentences. I didn't talk down to him, but I did use age-appropriate words with plenty of details. I didn't ask for a narration, but when I got through telling the story, I sang it again. After I sang it the second time, Titus proceeded to narrate the story to me without prompting. He used about five sentences, including several details I told him. Some of the sentences he repeated word-for-word from my story. I was impressed.

Here are a few ideas and tips for practicing narration with young children:
  • Read to them while they are somewhat still - in the tub, in the bed, while they're eating.
  • Read Bible stories, poetry, nursery rhymes, and classics. Read magazines, newspaper articles, and your own books aloud - not directly to your young child, but within earshot.
  • Retell stories you remember - it will show that you also use narration in your everyday life and that is is a useful skill.
  • Do not use a baby-voice or baby words when telling a story or reading a book. You may simplify some words if you feel necessary, but do not talk down to your child.
  • Don't ask what your child remembers - ask, "Could you tell me the story now?" When your child feels like you are interested in being told a story, they are more likely to include details and make it interesting.
  • If your child needs prompting, you can prompt them. Try not to ask a question, but say something like, "And then the little boy..." leaving your child room to finish the sentence and perhaps continue with his narration in more detail than he originally intended.
  • Don't make it feel like something he has to do after ever story, every book, every nursery rhyme. Choose maybe one or two times a day for narration (assuming you read quite often to your child).
  • Try to say something positive after your child's narration. "You remembered exactly what happened in the story." "I love how you described the grandmother's coat." "I am so glad you included how Timmy felt when he lost his dog." 
How do you practice narration with your young children?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Reflections on Our Week(s)

Again, it's been several weeks since I've last posted. I've had good reason - we've been moving around towns and hotel rooms for the past few weeks. I'm very ready to get into a rental home and out of hotels! That should be less than two weeks from now. This has been like one long vacation, and I'm ready to go home! :-)

We have had the opportunity to see some beautiful parts of Pennsylvania, though. Right now, we're outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Rod had the day off Saturday, so we went to the Hershey Amusement Park. The three younger kids and I stayed for about four hours, riding rides and walking around. Unfortunately, it was cold and drizzling rain, so we left earlier than Rod, Mikaela and Eli. They stayed until closing (10 pm!) riding roller coasters over and over. They had a blast!
They thought it was fun to "meet" the candy-bars!

Another thing I'm getting tired of is eating out. We eat out all the time! I didn't realize I would miss cooking this much. I can't wait to get into a kitchen again! I have so many meals planned in my head to cook!
A nice breakfast at a nice hotel.

We are also ready to get back to schoolwork. The kids even miss it, although they won't readily admit it. Our routine has been thrown upside down these past three or four weeks. I've been printing, planning, and organizing for our new school year. We are going to be using a family curriculum for the older three (more on this later!). We will still be very Charlotte Mason inspired, as this lifestyle works for us. Silas and Titus will continue to use My Father's World. My kids have really missed schooling together, and honestly, I have missed it, too. It keeps things much more simple. Mikaela, being in 9th grade, will have a much heavier reading load than Eli and Mercie, but we will all be on the same page, spending more of our days together.
Mikaela and Eli at Hershey Park

Mikaela is in 9th grade, so I'm trying to get all of her classes and credits lined up. So far, this is what it's going to be:
  • American History (1 credit)
  • General Science (1 credit)
  • English (1 Credit) - this will consist of daily grammar and writing lessons
  • Algebra 1  (1 Credit)
  • Home-Economics (1 Credit) - she does this daily
  • Typing (1/2 Credit) - daily, but only about 20 minutes
  • Spanish (1/2 Credit) - daily using Rosetta Stone
  • P.E. and Health (1/2 Credit) - P.E. will be daily, with a weekly health lesson for her
  • Fine Arts (1/2 Credit) - this will be done twice weekly as a family
As of now, she is planning to go to Cosmetology school, but I want to have a really nice transcript ready in case she wants to go to college. I would much rather my kids go to a trade school and learn a skill they can use, as this is a much cheaper, quicker, and more practical option. However, if they want to be a lawyer, doctor, or teacher, college will be the route we take. I plan to write a post of my opinions on this topic sometime soon.

Mercie was too small for the big rides, and almost too big for the little rides. She still had a blast with her little brothers!
I have so many fun art projects lined up for when we start school again, so my 100 Days of Art Series will be worked on. Very excited for some of these!

Rod and I celebrated our anniversary on the 13th. We went out to dinner alone while a family friend (who works for Rod) sat with the kids at the motel. Mikaela does baby-sit for us, but I was uncomfortable with the area we were in. There were lots of people at the motel that made me uneasy, so I felt better with our friend being there! He took the kids to dinner, and Rod and I got to eat alone - a rarity! I also went to Wal-Mart and got my anniversary/mother's day present - a new wireless printer!

I can't wait to begin posting again about our actual schoolwork. How have you been?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

100 Days of Art: Day 3 - String Art

I've recently found a new hobby - string art! I've seen it all over Pinterest, and I love the look of it. This is one of the first I made. I made this for a friend's new baby girl to hang in her nursery. I figured I would add this to my 100 Days of Art blog project, because who said it had to be the kids art only?

  • wooden board (I used a pallet from WalMart that was about $9)
  • nails (I used wire nails, 16 gauge, 1 and 1/4 inch, about $1 a box)
  • hammer
  • string (I used embroidery floss, ordered from Amazon)
  • template (I found a clip art heart I liked, copied and pasted it into a Word document in the arrangement I liked)
What to do:

  1. Print a template, making sure it will fit on your wooden board. Cut apart if necessary to make it look good.
  2. Place the template on your board, and begin nailing nails in along the black lines. Your paper will stay in place after a few nails. Make sure your nails are as even as possible.
  3. When you have your nails in place, rip the paper off.
  4. Make sure your nails are even.
  5. Choose the color thread you want to use. Tie it off a nail, knotting it twice.
  6. Begin wrapping the string around the nails. There is no set pattern, just make it look how you want it to.
  7. Tie off the string on another nail when you're done stringing it. Trim off the excess.
  8. Enjoy your project!
It is such a simple project. It took me about two hours from beginning to end. The longest and most tedious part is the nailing! The stringing doesn't take long.

I've made several more of these. They are great personal gifts! I am making some to hang in my house.

Day 1: Learning to Draw
Day 2: Pyramids


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Reflections on Our Week(s)

It has been several weeks since a real update. I took a much-need hiatus from blogging! Now I'm back, and ready to start blogging several times a week again.

Currently, we are taking a few weeks off from schoolwork. Silas is still practicing his reading using "The Reading Lesson". We are currently on Lesson 7. He has been using My Father's World and the phonics lessons included, and doing very well! I just grabbed "The Reading Lesson" right before we headed off to Pennsylvania, so he could stay fresh with reading.

While learning about rain, Silas did a fun experiment that we have done before. We filled a glass almost all the way with water and squirted shaving cream (clouds) on top. He then used a dropped to drop water (colored with blue food coloring) onto the "clouds" showing how when clouds fill up with water, they get heavy and the water drops as rain to earth.


We took several family pictures on Resurrection Day, and I tried to get a good one of the kids. It's so hard to get five kids to all look the same way and smile at the same time! I can't imagine having more kids trying to get a good picture.

We tried! I am missing lots of pictures from this time period because *ahem* I dropped my phone into the lake, bought a new one, Eli dropped it and shattered the screen (and it had a tempered glass screen protector!), attempted to change the screen and destroyed the phone, and had to buy yet another phone. So I'm trying to get all of my pictures that I *thought* I had backed up onto Google.

I mentioned that we went to Pittsburgh Zoo in my post yesterday. Here are a few pictures. Mercie took all the pictures of the animals! She carried my camera around and had a blast.

How was your week(s)?

Monday, May 8, 2017

It's Been Awhile

My husband's job takes us all over the country. We were in Alabama, and now we are in Pennsylvania! We are about thirty miles from Pittsburgh. I have decided to let the kids have about four weeks off from school-work, because we are going to be staying in different hotels,making our way across the state from west to east for a month. 

Since we were less than an hour from the Pittsburgh Zoo, we decided to get a family pass. It was going to cost over $100 for our one-time tickets, and $115 for a family pass. I got the family pass, and we have been twice already! 

We also went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game last Friday night. Unfortunately, it started raining (and it was so cold!) after the third inning. We waited around for over an hour while the game was delayed. We figured they would rain it out, so we left about 9:00 and headed back to the hotel. The little ones were freezing, wet, tired, and hungry! We found out at 11:00 that night they started playing again! There's no way the little kids could have lasted that long, so I'm glad we went home. I'm not so glad we spent over $200 to watch 3 innings...but such is life! Eli, my 11 year old, went to another game on Sunday with a family friend who is working for my husband. He got to watch the entire game, and although the Pirates lost, he had a great time.

Hotel life is...interesting. Having seven people in one room has been a challenge! We have to eat out most of our meals, which is fun for the kids. We eat breakfast in the hotel room, and I've bought bread and lunch meat for sandwiches and some snack foods and drinks for the kids. We found a park nearby, but it's been so cold this past week! It's hard to believe we were swimming two weeks ago and now we are wearing jackets! We went from the highs in the 80s to the highs in the 50s.

I've been trying to lesson plan a little bit with my free time. Silas and Titus are both on week 9 in their My Father's World curriculum. I'm very happy with the Kindergarten and 1st grade curriculum. 

Mercie has completed six (I think) weeks of her 4th grade year. So far, here is what we like and don't like about her curriculum:
  • Mystery of History Volume 1: So far, we love it! The reading is just the right amount each day for her. We take turns reading sentences out loud. There's usually a map to complete each week, and we do a timeline and memory cards for each lesson. I try to find one book for supplemental reading each week, and she does at least one hands-on activity each week.
  • Creation Science (Christian Kids Explore): We like this, too. We are on Unit 2, and so far she has done some fun activities like fruit dissection and making constellations with star stickers.
  • Teaching Textbooks 4: She doesn't like this as much as I do, but I want her to finish it all the way. I think it's helping her, and she makes 95-100% consistently on her lesson. I love the fact that it teaches and grades, and she loves playing the games. 
  • Grammar Minutes: Takes her literally one minute to complete a page each day. Good for review, but there's not much teaching on each concept. She does one a day, and there is 100 "minutes" (pages) so she could finish fairly quickly.
  • Language Lessons for Today: We like this curriculum, but it doesn't take her long each day to complete. I honestly don't like it as much as I thought I would.
We have a few odd and end workbooks that we do, like a writing and another grammar workbook. We will be reviewing Readers in Residence for the Singles Review Crew (a branch of the Homeschool Review Crew), which I am so excited about! 

I'm planning our "Together Time" for when we began school again in a few weeks. We've been reading the Bible, reading a read-aloud, and praying. I'd like to incorporate more - art study, hymn study, poetry reading, learning Hebrew, and some oral language exercises. I've been pretty busy reading and researching some choices.

Have you missed me?