Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!  We pray:  Thank you, God, for the rich abundance of family, friends, faith and all of the rich abundance that we have experienced this year.  It matte and faith we have enjoyed this year.  And we are also thankful of course, for the wonderful community of folks we have met online to learn from and share with.

May all be filled with gratitiude today and all year through... welcoming blessings great and small!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guest Posting at Size Tracker

Sibling hugs after scarecrow building last month -- one way we re-use clothes that we are ready to purge.
We've been busy with homeschool get-togethers, play dates, Thanksgiving preparations and being present in the moment, so I have not been taking many pictures nor posting much this week.  I will get back to fun and informative, picture-filled posts soon.  In the meantime, I wanted to share that I was asked to guest post over at Size Tracker recently.  If you're headed into a seasonal clothing sort in preparation for the winter weather or in the spirit of pre-holiday out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new ideals, you might find my Kids' Clothing Management post helpful

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More Giveaway News...Plus a Freebie Geography Curriculum Album

I absolutely love Karen Tyler and the online Montessori course she offers through A Montessori Marketplace, so I was very excited when she generously donated the best Thanksgiving Giveaway for one Sensational Homeschooling reader and a wonderful Geography curriculum freebie for all.

Check it out:

One Lucky Sensational Homeschooling Reader will win a free seat that Karen has reserved in her next Worldwide Montessori class!

The class begins December 1st!  To win, simply "like" Sensational Homeschooling on Facebook and then leave a comment at the Giveaway post.  (Use name (at) server (dot) com format for Internet safety reasons.)   The winner will be announced over Thanksgiving weekend!

And for all?

Karen Tyler has granted permission for Sensational Homeschooling to share her Montessori Geography Curriculum with all of readers!  Get it through the link at the giveaway post!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Giveaway News: Soft Clothing and Hartley's Life With 3 Boys First Annual Holiday Giveaway!

Here I go again, lessening my chances of winning something I would really like because I cannot help spreading word about great things:

Soft Clothing and Hartley's Life With 3 Boys are offering their first annual Holiday Giveaway!

There will be 2 Grand Prizes (one for boys, one for girls), and will each include the sensory friendly items that focus on fine motor development, dramatic play skills, sensory integration, creative expression, auditory exploration, and of course, fun!  Ooo, what a gift that would be for Christmas (and tucked away for birthdays, Easter and other days this year, too!)  We hope we win.  But, if we don't, we'll be happy if you do.

Check out Hartley's blog for entry details and a photo that will make you start wishing, "Pick me! Pick me!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Follow the Child - Eagles

A tip for the day: Follow your child to ensure enjoyable learning!

In today’s society of outcome-based education it is easy to get wrapped up in standards, planning lessons to provide evidence that goals are being met. Likewise, in our fast-paced world, it can be challenging to wait – to let things unfold as they will. That is why I am constantly reminding myself to follow my children more often than I lead them. Their interests guide their learning so much better than my pre-panning or a boxed curriculum ever could. And, while I know that it is still important to pay attention to learning guidelines (and will be even more so as the kids get older), I truly feel that by that following my children, I encourage deeper learning. Their interests, explored through a variety of media in both spontaneous and, later, planned, activities provide so much learning!

Take this progression, for example:

Luke was interested in elephants, so we began reading up on them, including them in our lesson activities and going to the zoo more often.

During one visit, the kids became amused by a cougar sleeping in a tree. While we were reading the posted information about the cougar, we noted a poem:

Eyes in the front, I hunt.
Eyes on the side, I hide.

Later, when discussing our zoo visit with Daddy, the poem came up. Luke and Nina began testing the theory by asking about many animals, looking at pictures of some – classifying predators and prey. Eventually, they came to eagles. We had no picture of an eagle handy, so we youtubed some.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed some eagle documentary clips on youtube and learned quite a bit about eagles from them, which they continue to enact in their dramatic play.

Luke also began observing the anatomy of eagles more and more, and wanted to make his own eagles. He did this spontaneously using playdough. He also worked on many eagle drawings, with Nina following suit.

So it was learning about eagles unfolded and continues to take shape. Facts. Anatomy. Classification. Dramatic play, Fine motor activities. Gross motor activities. Field trips. Inquiry-based learning. Art. Reading. So much has sprung from following the kids’ interest. It reminds me to slow down and leave space for such things to happen. I encourage you to as well.

How can you follow your child today?

This post is being shared at Helpful Homeschool Hints. Enjoy the other tips there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Hallway Duplo Game

<-  Nina jumps her duplo bricks down the hallway while Luke slithers his.
 How can you mix gross motor skills, fine motor skills, manners, following directions, using descriptive language, feeding the sensory diet and encouraging creativity, all while redirecting “wired” post-dinner behavior?

The Hallway Duplo Game!

We made this up the other night when the kids’ evening craziness was demanding some directed, ye full-of-movement play.  Here’s how to play:

  • Sit at one end of the hallway with a container of Duplo blocks.  Have the kids bring empty trays down the other end.
Nina shows off her trays
  • Then, have the kids come to you to request a specific color, size, number or shape block, using good manners.  For example,  “May I have a yellow one, please?”  Or, “May I have three long ones, please?”
  • Reply in the affirmative, but with a gross motor challenge as a stipulation.  For example “Yes, you may, but you must crawl/run/hop/slither/turn/jump/skip.”
  • Then, the kids move in that way up the hallway in order to add the Duplo’s they requested to their trays.
    Luke drives part of his share down the hall.
    • For extra fun, make the number of directions equal to the number of bricks they request.  For example, the request, “May I have a red one?” gets a single command response, such as, “Sure, please jump it back down the hall.”   But, a double request such as, “May I have a blue one and a yellow one?”, gets a double-command response, such as, “Of course!  Hold them in the bottom of your shirt and hop like a kangaroo.” And, a triple request, such as, “May I have a person, a long one and a black trailer one?”, gets a triple-command reply, such as, “Absolutely!  Hold them high up towards the sky, take two giant steps and, then, jump then spin the rest of the way down the hall.”
    • When all the Duplo’s have been requested, observe the creations on the trays at the end of the hallway and continue with some free play.
    Nina's Ship
    Luke's Farm
    This game proved very successful for us!  The kids focused their energy with giggles and smiles, while working age-appropriate skills, practicing habits (how to ask for things politely and how to listen and obey Mommy's words) and getting sensory input (particularly proprioceptive through all the different ways they moved and vestibular through lots of spinning commands).  Meanwhile Mommy and Daddy benefited from the the kids' transition from wild behavior to directed movement to calm, but creative, free play.

    Focused and having fun.
    And, with the way Nina and Luke chose to play the game independently after playing it with Mommy, we know the game is a keeper!

    "Nina,may I have a...?"
    Success!  Calm, kind play together...
    We hope you enjoy it, too, and look forward to hearing about your own post-dinner focus-and-fun activities.  Please share in a comment.

    works for me wednesday at we are that family(We're sharing this at Works for Me Wednesday.  Please check the lins there for lots of wonderful ideas.)

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Thanksgiving Time Play

    <-  Luke has been asking Daddy to spend countless hours drawing and coloring Native Americans, Pilgrims and animals with him lately.  

    Thanksgiving Time is upon us, and we have started celebrating.  Not only did we particpate in a fantastic Thanksgiving luncheon with our Our Lady Queen of Saints homeschool group yesterday, but we have been enjoying much free, creative play as well.

    The luncheon was full of delicious food, great company and fun planned activities.  While Jack snoozed, nursed or smiled away in the arms of folks that wanted to hold him through most of the afternoon, Luke, Nina and I thoroughly enjoyed all the food and fun. 

    We gave full concentration to place mat weaving before joining in a scrumptious potluck meal, where - yay! - the kids were not as picky as they usually are about food and - double yay!- did surprisingly well waiting for their turn to go up to the potluck buffet line and using their manners.  After eating, while I helped with clean up, the kids enjoyed some older-peer-led storytime and, then, I went in to read big book after big book, before Luke and Nina decided they wanted to join in the marshmallow-toothpick structure building activity.  What fun and creativity at that table!  Then, it was time for traditional kid play -- batting balloons at one another, running and laughing with You-Can't-Catch-Me, playing Duck Duck Goose, racing about outside with Freeze Tag.  What a blessing to see children of a wide range of ages playing one game after another -- coaching each other at times, teasing at others, enjoying at all times.  It reminded me of long afternoons of neighborhood play from my own childhood -- a scene that seems all too rare these days with overloaded kids' schedules, planned playdates of close-in-age children and structured playtime with larger groups. 

    I so appreciated both the planned and the spontaneous play of yesterday's Thanksgiving luncheon.  What a delight to see kids of all ages interacting with such joy during with scheduled activities as well spontanous ones.

    And speaking of spontaneous fun, there sure has been a lot of it around our home lately.   For example, the other night, while Daddy did the dinner dishes and I nursed Jack, Luke and Nina busied themselves doing this:

    What is that, you might ask?  The kids' idea of an Indian costume.  Ever since becoming enamored with Little House on the Prairie, they have been enjoying settlers-and-indians dramatic play.  Add Thanksgiving books into the mix, and Native American theme has taken over. 

    Yep, that's our creative young man, complete with towel loin cloth and headband-and brush headdress:

    And, let's not forget the marker face paint nor the fireman and doctor dramatic play props turned bow-and-arrow for hunting:

    What a laugh Daddy and I had at this kid-created get-up and what fun the kiddoes had with their dramatic play!

    Draw Write Now, Book 3: Native Americans, North America, Pilgrims (Draw-Write-Now)It was followed by what has become a nightly tradition here:  Luke asking Daddy to draw and color piles and piles of Pilgrims, Native Americans and animals with him, which Luke and Nina then cut out to make file-folder scenes like the one pictured at the top of this post.  In doing this, Daddy, a reluctant artist, is getting better and better at depicting whatever Luke requests demands he draws, especially with a little help from our Draw Write Now books.  And, Luke?  Wow!  He amazes us with his artistry...

    But, all sedentary activities before bed, never work for our kids.  Nina loves her bouncing and Luke needs his sensory diet input.  So, we continue to come up with guided play activities, too.  Such as a recent hallways Lego -transfer-and-building activity we did (which I will post about soon) that ended in --what else? -- creative play with this:

    That is a wagon, like the settlers used. Can't see it?  Look closely:  A re-purposed bird feeder filled with stuff, pulled by a farm animal and led by "Papa".  Oh, how we marvel at the imaginations of our children!

    What fun and imaginative play has your family been enjoying?  Do leave a comment to share and also, head on over to Childhood101 to enjoy the We Play links there.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Cheddar Chowder Time!

    At this time of year, I always get a hankering for chowders.  One of our favorites is Cheddar Chowder.  It's such an adaptable recipe.  You can add in extra vegetables; toss in ham, chicken, sausage, hamburg and any kind of seafood (except clams, which just don't work well); and swap out parts of the milk for yogurt or other dairy products you have on hand.  And, the measurements need not be exact.  So, it is a perfect recipe for the kids to help with -- and that will help them practice practical life skills with success!

    Here's how:

    Work on Washing and Scrubbing by cleaning:
    • 4-5 medium potatoes.
    • a few stalks of celery (to equal about one cup, chopped).
    • a few carrots (to equal about one cup, chopped).

    Then, if old enough, work on Peeling by taking the outside layers off:
    • 1 medium onion (to equal about one cup, chopped).
    • the carrots that have already been washed. 
    If too young to use a peeler, observe and learn or help by placing the peelings in a bowl for composting.
    Then, work on Chopping/Cutting
    • the potatoes, celery, carrots and onion mentioned above.

    And, now, try some Measuring and Pouring by putting
    • about 1 cup of each of the the vegetables mentioned above in a pan along with
    • 2 cups of water.
    Set the pan on the stove top and cook the vegetables until just fork tender, not mushy.  (Do not drain the water from these.)   Meanwhile, work on Grating:
    • 2 cups of sharp, white cheddar cheese.
     And, focus on Slicing by cutting:
    • 2 tablespoons of butter off a stick, which should be gently melted in a pan over low heat.

    At this point, revisit Measuring and Pouring  while adding Stirring by putting:
    • 1/2 cup flour in with the melted butter, stirring it in, before adding
    • 2 cups of milk, slowly, stirring all the time to avoid lumps.
    Then, add the cheese to this mixture, letting it melt in, but keeping the temperature low since boiling will make the chowder a gloppy mess.

    If you want at this point, add salt, pepper, cooked meat/seafood, soft vegetables (such as spinach, lefotver broccoli, etc.)

    Finally, practice Mixing, by stirring the potato-vegetable-water mix and enjoy!

    This post is being shared at One Hook Wonder Montessori Mondays.  Check out the links there to be inspired by other Montessori-friendly activities and ideas.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Quiet Time Delight: Reading Our Bedtime Chapter Book to Brother

    Little House on the PrairieLast month, when we went to Nana and Papa's, one of our audio books was Little House on the Prairie.  Upon our return, Luke asked if it could be his next bedtime chapter book.  And, so it was that we began reading Little House daily (albeit, with some of the less-than-friendly for three- and four-year-old parts edited out.  You know, the talk about massacres and whatnot.)

    Well, one day, when Jack was sleeping in another room while Nina, Luke and I attended to play, learning and chore activities, I suddenly realized Nina had disappeared.  Where did I find her?

    Reading Jack a bedtime story!

    Yes, Big Sister could not resist going in to wake Jack, because she realized he hadn't had a story before sleeping.  What a delight it was to witness them "reading" together.

    Missions and goal of loving others, not to mention developing a love for literature, for that day -- check!

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Computers and Imagination

    I had to laugh earlier this week when Luke and Nina got busy one morning with file folders (one of their favorite and most frugal crafting materials that become just about anything with a small dose of imagination!) and quickly made these:

    "What are they?" you might wonder.  Why, laptop computers, of course.

    See, here's the start button:

    And the volume control:

    And the screen saver at the top:

    What fun they had playing with these!  And, how their self-directed craft made me realize three things:

    1. Even if we have a mostly screen-free home from the kids, perhaps Mama spends too much time in front of a computer screen when the kids are about.  Why else would they be making their own computers?
    2. My children's attention to detail is certainly not something I need to worry about.  As they described their computers to me -- even Nina's which was less elaborate -- they hit on many key components.
    3. Imagination (and necessity) truly is the mother of invention.  Daily, I delight in how my children demonstrate inventive thought and action when motivated by their own desires and needs.  I pray as Mike and I contribute in our parenting and homeschooling journey, we always remember to key into this, using the kids' interests as springboards for lasting learning and growth!
    Imaginative use of file folders turned out to be a finer thing in our life this week, providing a frugal form of entertainment (for Mom and kids!) and skill-building (fine motor control, storytelling, dramatic play, etc.)  To see others' finer things and frugal ideas, please share at Finer Things Friday and Frugal Fridays.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Road Crossing Safety Song

    What am I thankful for today?  The fact that I was able to take this picture, which, although not the best photo ever, symbolizes the great gratitude for me -- having my children safe at home!

    I am also grateful for the simple song which has been helping my children remember important road crossing procedures:

    Stop, look and listen.
    Hold a hand to cross the street.
    Look left, right, left.
    Then, use your feet.

    I adapted this song from one I used to sing years ago with kids at a daycare.  Why?

    Well, on Halloween night, just as the kids and I finished our brief, but exciting neighborhood trick-or-treating excursion, one of our children went from standing right next to me on the sidewalk to running across the road just as a car came along.  It was one of those slow-motion, heart-stopping moments as I screamed one child's name while clutching my other two, listening to the oncoming car screech to a halt -- all the while praying and running to protect the child who I thought I might lose...

    Praise be to God and all our guardian angels kept us all safe enough to take the above picture during our Autumn Color Walk just days later!  The car missed that child by the merest of distances and I recognized that we needed to review street safety procedures.

    We spent the remainder of Halloween night watching kids' road crossing safety videos on you tube and role playing street crossings where we pretended to hear or see cars coming and where we did not.  As a part of these role plays, we sang our Road Crossing Safety Song over and over.

    And since?  We have used our song nearly every day and I continue to thank God and our guardian angels each time my children stop, look, listen and take my hand.  It is such a simple, yet vital procedure!

    What are you thankful for today?  Do share at Thankful Thursday along with us.  And, please leave a comment below with your own favorite safety songs, games and resources.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Thanksgiving Countdown Cornucopia

    The other day, Luke and Nina told me that since it is November and Thanksgiving is coming, it is time to make a cornucopia on the kitchen wall again.  What were they referring to?  The "God on the Kitchen Wall" Thanksgiving Day Countdown Cornucopia that has become a little tradition for us.

    In the past, we have had such fun cutting and counting to make one and enjoyed counting days and blessings as we did that we will definitely be doing it again this year -- albeit starting a week late!

    Here's an excerpt from our Wonder and Will blog post about it in case you want to borrow the idea while we are busy making a new version of it!

    Praising God in November

     Most would agree that gratitude is vital habit of a happy person.   We certainly believe this is true!  And so began the first of our kitchen “bulletin boards” two Novembers ago when Luke began to show an increased interest in coloring everything in sight – including the kitchen walls!  Instead of letting frustration overcome me, I decided to shape his coloring interest into a lesson in gratitude.  Thus, I made a paper bag cornucopia and printed out a bunch of fruit and vegetables pictures from various sources online.  I then wrote, “We thank God for…” on the cornucopia, and each day, the kids colored a fruit or veggie picture to post on it.  On each piece, we wrote something that the kids, Mike or I was grateful for, or simply whatever word popped rolled off the kids’ tongues.  The art-in-progress that developed served almost like a Thanksgiving Advent calendar, and I was ever-grateful that coloring on the actual walls ceased (at least momentarily.  Nina later passed through the same stage. Praise God for Magic Erasers!)

    works for me wednesday at we are that familyGiving thanks on the wall works for us.  What works for you this Wednesday?

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Learning through Play Is No Mystery with Alphabet Mystery

    What is this hodge podge of letters you might ask?  It’s child-directed learning!

    Yep, over a month ago, Luke grabbed the book Alphabet Mystery by Aubrey Wood and Bruce Wood when we were at our local library.  A quick glance through it told me I’d be returning it soon.  The book just didn’t look like it was going to pass Mommy muster for books we let hang around too long – it appeared somewhat twaddle-like with bright, bold animated alphabet letters and a silly plot.  How wrong I was!  The book ended up earning its place in our home for not one – but two – library loan periods. 

    Why?  Well first and foremost, the kids loved it and, as I witnessed how they used it as a tool for learning, I learned to as well. 

    Alphabet MysteryOnce the kids had read Alphabet Mystery once,  they often asked me to cuddle with them, turning to the opening illustration of the book to sing and chant the alphabet – pointing at all the corresponding letters in bunk beds and giggling, “Where’s X?” – the letter that went missing and started the mystery referred to in the book’s title.  Later, the kids also figured out that, while the entire alphabet is printed in both capital and lower case letters in the front inside cover of the book, it is printed without the “x” at the back.  So, they merrily went about flipping from front to back, pointing, naming, chanting and laughing about the missing "x".

    All this a-b-c practice sure paid off, too:  The morning before we returned the book to the library, Luke sat busily putting two-part ABC puzzle pieces together in a long snake. I did not notice until he was done that he had made the snake of them in alphabetical order.  Since I had no idea he could do that, I asked him how he had learned his alphabetical order so well.  He answered by grabbing ABC Mystery book and proudly showing me its inside jacket.  Hoorah!

    And, along with the alphabetical order play, there was phonics fun, too.  In the story, the letters each choose a gift from a castle treasure room for the letter owner Charley’s mother.  The gifts pictured in the illustration each begin with a different alphabet sound, providing some fun matching and phonics practice (and a potentially great connection for the Montessori-style object boxes I am still intending to make!) Plus, the kids and I noticed that the letters that spoke in the book often used words that started with each letter’s sound, such as “ ‘This is terrible!’ Little t said,” or, “ ‘Stop!’ Little s shouted.”  Such a clever, little detail the authors chose to include in the text for readers to discover.   And, how my kids love discovering things...

    And, to use books as the catalyst for play... Indeed, the Alphabet Mystery wasn't in our house but a day when Luke started asking us to help him draw and cut out letters so he could put them – and some pencils – to sleep in various “beds” near his and Nina’s bunks, making up dialogue and stories as he went.  Nina jumped right into the imaginative play.  And, oh, how cute it was to find both of them eagerly checking their letters' "bunks" in the mornings to see if any of the letters had run away in the night!

    And what a pleasure all the spontaneous fine motor fun was – not only with the drawing, coloring and cutting out letters, but also with playing with various puzzle and magnetic ones.  For weeks, the kids took to periodically making or finding letters to play with.  They used many to make words or act out mini-dramas.  One day, Luke even made an entire family of x's -- kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss!  Mommy felt so loved!

    And, I admittedly felt a bit silly.  Why?  Well, during such industrious play, the kids got ample practice using their pincer grasps and maintaining fine motor control all inspired by a book I initially thought was "twaddle".  Silly me!

    Thus it was that following our children through their Alphabet Mystery explorations proved a delightful catalyst for learning.  It also reminded me that although sometimes, we parents think we need to get the “best” books and materials or join the “right” programs and classes in order for our kids to learn, this simply isn’t true.

    A random library pick, plus some paper, scissors and writing utensils, teamed up with a generous dose of imagination, cuddly reading times and ample time for play to unfold and you know what?  Learning happens naturally!

    What surprisingly good books have you read with your children lately?  How have you witnessed learning in their play?  Do share in a comment.

    This post is being shared at Childhood 101’s We Play, where the idea that play is the “work” of children and helps them to learn and make sense of the world they live in is celebrated each week.


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