Photo Series: Hiking At Devil’s Lake

Photo Series: Hiking at Devil’s Lake. Location: Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo, WI. Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

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Homeschool Workboxes and Streamlining Our Schooling

 

Our main goal of homeschooling in these early elementary years is simple: Be Productive.

For me, being productive means using your brain and your hands together to solve a problem or to do work. Also, you typically have something to show at the end of the day from your hard work; even if it’s just a beautiful tapestry of stories about your experiences that day. Whether it’s playing pretend indoors, spending time outside, crafting things, reading books, cleaning something, playing games, or doing formal “school work”; your days should be spent in a productive way.

The “formal” subjects we sit down and do together are reading, language arts (grammar, narration, and copy work) and new math concepts.

This is what we use for reading: The Ordinary Parent’s Guide To Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise
This is what we use for math: Math-U-See
This is what we use for grammar: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise

For all the other subjects, I’d been at a loss over the past 6 months as to how to work them into our daily lives in a way that felt organic and child-led (and that also required little effort from me on a day-to-day basis). I knew the subject matter that I’d like us to cover, but the days all seemed to go by so fast that we were hardly even mentioning other subjects over the course of a week. To be 100% honest, our quick moving days had nothing to do with having truly enriching experiences and EVERYTHING to do with my kids spending most of their days arguing to what felt like an eternity. It got to the point almost every day where I’d throw up the white flag by 1pm and practically launch the iPad at them if it meant they would JUST BE QUIET for a few solid minutes. Not ideal. From this, the workbox idea was born. I put together 10 subject-based workboxes for the girls to use during our school days and anytime we needed to have quiet time. And this mama needs some quiet time, y’all!

Before I began assembling, I wrote out all the different subjects that we would like to cover over the course of a week (or even a month). From there I thought about the type of materials that made sense being grouped together (totally based on our own life structure). Finally, I thought about work that I knew my 7 year old could work on independently. After all, the whole point of these boxes is to streamline our days and encourage self-directed schooling as well as independent work. Here’s where I landed:

For the First Grader:

-Spelling & Writing
-History & Geography
-Nature
-S.T.E.M.
-Art and Music
-Logic
-Handwork

For the 4 year old:

-Preschool Sensory
-Preschool Handwork
-Preschool S.T.E.M. and Logic

I put in enough work to cover us for a month. If it gets done in a day, great! However, if it’s the end of the month and nothing has been touched, then I plan on asking myself why. Was it not engaging? Too challenging to do on their own? Was there just not enough time to get to it and should we roll it over into the next month? Foundational things like math, reading, spelling, and writing work will get rolled over from month to month. Success in these subjects comes from building a solid foundation. It’s OK if it takes you 11 months to get addition down pat. It’s not a race. If writing is not something that interests a 7 year old this month, it might be a thing that brings them joy next month. Our science, art, history, geography, nature, and even handwork (crafts) will change each month. For our family, these subjects just feel more organic when they follow along with the changing of the seasons.

Once we get to those upper elementary years and middle school years I imagine our days will shift more into the realm of “This is the work you need to get through by
the end of the week” and I’m hoping that our years of using workboxes will help usher that in somewhat seamlessly.

Here is a more in-depth look inside each of the bins for this month:

S.T.E.M:

Snap Circuits

Learning Wrap Ups

Design Squad Global Balloon Car Prompt (with all materials present and in a ziplock bag)

Flextangle Paper Toy from Babble Dabble Do

-Math worksheets that are “review” (not new subject matter that we need to sit down one-on-one to go over)

For more ideas on S.T.E.M. projects for kids, check out this Pinterest board

Logic:

Rush Hour Jr.

Sudoku Puzzles

IQ game

-Mazes

-Connect The Dots

-Brainteaser Puzzles

For more ideas on Math and Logic projects for kids, check out this Pinterest board

Nature:

Field Guide of Rocks and Minerals

-Rocks and minerals

Montessori 3-Part Cards from Playful Learning’s Teacher’s Lounge

Nature Anatomy (our absolute favorite nature resource right now)

-Nature journal

Watercolors 

For more ideas on Nature-Inspired projects for kids, check out this Pinterest board

Spelling & Writing:

Bananagrams

-Seasonal Vocab Words

Magnetic Poetry for Kids

-Notebook & Pencils

-Dry Erase Board & Marker

-Spelling Worksheets

For more ideas on early literacy projects for kids, check out this Pinterest board

(and for writing projects to inspire kids, check out this board)

History:

-Geography Workbook

Little Passports

-Picture Books (based on book recommendations from Story of the World and The Well-Trained Mind)

-Maps

For more ideas on History projects for kids check out this Pinterest board

(and for Geography projects check out this board)

Art and Music:
Faber-Castell Paint By Number

-Book About an Artist (ex: Starry Night PBN = book about Van Gogh)

-Coloring Pages

-Drawing Books (Loving THIS one right now)

-CDs

-Picture Nooks

For more ideas on art projects for kids, check out this Pinterest board

Handwork: (this bin will most likely be worked on together until she can do the activity on her own)

-Yarn and nitting needles

Melissa & Doug Friendship Bracelet Kit

-Craft books

For more ideas on craft projects for kids, check out this Pinterest board

Sensory: (I keep this bin in the kitchen for ease of cleanup)

-Cloud Dough (4 cups flour : 1/2 cup vegetable oil)

-Mini Marshmallows

-Winter-themed figures I found around the house

For more ideas on sensory play for kids, check out this Pinterest board

Preschool Handwork:

Peppa Pig Lacing Cards

-Color by Number by Faber-Castell

For more ideas on preschool projects for kids, check out this Pinterest board

Preschool Stem and logic:

-Mazes

-Puzzles

HABA Animal Upon Animal game

Melissa and Doug Pattern Blocks (plus some additional board layouts that I printed off the internet)

-Connect The Dots

-Basic Math Worksheets

For more ideas on Preschool S.T.E.M. projects for kids, check out this Pinterest board

This is still brand new for us, so I’m guessing there will be lots of adjusting and recalibrating over the next few months. My plan is to spruce up the boxes each week, and do full changeovers at the start of every month. As mentioned before, we operate in a very seasonal way, so to me learning about snow and the arctic makes sense for January, but doesn’t make sense for April. As our bins change with the seasons, I plan on posting updates with ideas and peeks inside what our bins look like for that month.

*The boxes themselves came in a set of 5 at Costco. They are 15×15 and perfect for holding all our supplies. They are currently still available at my local Costco and possibly yours too.

Want to see what our January Library List looks like? Grab your own free PDF copy HERE.

Picture Books for January and a Free Library List!

For January, we are embracing the frigid temperatures of Wisconsin and diving into a stack of picture books that relate to all things cold! We have been dealing with temps well below zero all week and desperately trying to stave off cabin fever. To kick off our new year right, we are also participating in the Read Aloud Revival 31-Day Reading Challenge! It’s only day 3, but I’m totally floored by their newfound motivation to grab a book and read! It doesn’t hurt that there are various rewards given along the way. For us, we are using experiences as the main rewards for the girls; a trip to Starbucks for 10 days in a row of reading and a family trip to the bowling alley after a full month is complete!

Our December was so crazy, and with 2 unexpected bouts of sickness, we definitely didn’t make reading a big priority for the month (aside from our nightly read aloud of The Family Under The Bridge). I am so excited to be hitting the ground running in 2018 with this challenge. Definitely check it out if you haven’t done so already. The Read Aloud Revival has become my go-to podcast for homeschooling and for great book recommendations. I highly recommend it.

This month’s themes are: The Arctic & Antarctica, Penguins, Polar Bears, Snow, Dogsledding, Animals in Winter, and Knitting!

Our main chapter book for the month is Mr. Popper’s Penguins. We are flying through Mr. Popper’s Penguins at a much greater speed than I anticipated, so I think we’ll follow it up with Eve of the Emperor (Magic Tree House Merlin Mission #12) by Mary Pope Osbourne and the companion nonfiction book: Penguins and Antarctica by Mary Pope Osbourne

Click the image below to grab your own copy of a January-Themed library list! Print it out and use it the next time you head to the library with your kids!


 

 

 

 

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Backpacks For Those in Need

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I am on a mission to hand out as many backpacks filled with useful items to the homeless population of my community before the end of the year.

A few months back, I was driving through Madison and stopped at a red light where an older man was holding a cardboard sign. He looked like he was in his 60’s. His hair was carefully combed back. He stood holding his sign, and I couldn’t help but noticed the deep sadness in his eyes. I looked around the car quickly, but I had nothing useful to give him and felt truly terrible for it. I finished up my errands quickly, drove to the neighboring second hand store, and bought some items (plus a backpack in good shape) that I could hand to him when I drove by him on my way home. When I reached the intersection where he had stood 30 minutes before, I didn’t see him. I headed back home with my filled backpack in tow; unable to push aside the feeling that I really needed to not only give this backpack to someone who truly needed it, but I also needed to put together more backpacks and try to reach as many people as I could before winter set in.

If you too feel called to assemble a pack, and hand it out to someone who needs it, here are some ideas of useful items to include
backpack-kit-2

What to include in your kit:

-warm socks

-warm hat, gloves, and scarf

-a long sleeve thermal

-hand and body warmers

-reusable water bottle

-pen and small notepad

Personal Care Items:

-deodorant, small soaps, baby wipes

-tampons

-toothbrush and toothpaste

-small flashlight

-Emergen-C, electrolyte tablets, instant coffee pouches

-Hard candy or mints

-comb and mirror

-small first aid kit

Food Stuffs:

-granola bars (not the crunchy ones)

-beef jerky

-trail mix

-banana chips

-sardinesbackpack-kit

Places to find your items:

-Goodwill and other second hand shops

-Dollar Tree & Family Dollar

-Walgreens & other drug stores (check weekly ads to see what the best deals are)

-your own closets and cupboards! You’d be surprised how much stuff a family accumulates over the span of a few years.

Other things to offer:

-cash or gift cards to (especially to places like Subway or McDonalds

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This video, a part of a docuseries produced by Bustle, really struck a chord within me. I first saw it floating around Facebook a few weeks back, and it’s definitely something worth sharing again:

Imagine what would happen if we all took the time to help one person who needed it.

No matter how much you give, you will feel like it’s not enough

Let me not become so consumed with my own existence that I forget how lucky I have it. Let me not get so caught up in the hustle, that i forget how to give gerneously.

Let me not get so caught up in my brand, in my planning, in my quest for success that I forget how silly it all seems to someone living with nothing. This whole creative entrepreneur life is a blessing beyond words.