Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Ballerina Valentine and Homeschool Party Suggestions!

Who says homeschoolers miss out on party days?

Not I.

We have THREE valentine parties this week - count them one...two...three!  Can you believe we could have actually attended FOUR - but I had to draw the line somewhere, ya know?

Well, actually we now only have two remaining as Miss A celebrated one today with her ballet class.  

For said special occasion, I created these for her to hand out to her fellow ballerinas.  

Pssst.  You want to know a little secret?  The tutus on the card are....SCRUNCHIES!  

How perfect is that?  A little ballet bun bling, anyone (with alliteration on the side.  Can you tell I homeschool...)?

I picked these ones up at the Dollar Tree (3 for $1).  Miss A colored the leotards on each card to match.  
Don't we make a great team?  :)

I plan to make another card in the same format that could be used for ballerina party favors as well.  I'm hoping to get that out next week sometime, so pin this link now if you are interested!  

For those new to homeschooling who are worried their children might be missing out when it comes to school parties, here are some valentine party suggestions:

1.  Have a party with your family!  Plan to exchange homemade valentine cards and let kids decorate a mailbox or paper sack for each person in the family.

2.  If you are part of a homeschooling group, check within the group to see if others might be interested in having a valentine event. There's a good chance other moms would love to meet up for coffee while their kids enjoy an afternoon together passing out cards and sharing a fun snack.  

3.  Have a small party with just a few of your children's friends.

4.  Do you live in a remote area?  Do you have internet access (you probably do if you are reading this)?  Try scheduling a time when family or friends can hop online and chat, skype, etc.  Let your kids make a valentine card or valentine story to read or show them.

5.  Minister to someone this Valentine's Day!  Hand out carnations or roses or cookies to elderly residents at a nursing home.  Surprise a widow with a love package - flowers or cookies or a gift card to order out that night, or an invitation to your home for the evening!  :)

And most importantly, have a happy, grace-filled homeschooling week!  :)


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Saturday, January 25, 2014

100th Day of Homeschool!

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated our 100th day of homeschool this year!  Woo hoo!  The end is in sight!  ;)

This is the table runner I made by just writing on a long piece of paper from the kid's drawing roll.

I also made them some simple shirts with buttons and rick rack (glued on with fabric glue) in honor of the occasion.  The certificate was a freebie I found here.

The celebratory breakfast consisted of sprinkle pancakes with whipped cream on top and MORE sprinkles!

Hey - why contain the excitement of the day to ourselves?  Why not share the joy?

That's exactly what we did - by passing out 100 pieces of candy.  Well, actually I think we only made it to ninety-seven or something like that before we had to head back home.  But the kids had fun and lots of people received an unexpected piece of candy that day (while Mommy completed errands).

Mission accomplished (mostly).  ;)

We headed back home where the kids enjoyed fishing 100 mini M & M's out of a container filled with cereal (organic fruity o's).

We then made necklaces (or snakes depending on your child's point of view) with the cereal pieces.  

We also attempted to find different ways to make 100 cents in 100 seconds.  (This activity we did a few times - 100 seconds isn't a whole lot of time to work with, after all.).

I was the bearer of good news that each child would be given a dollar (100 cents) to spend at the Dollar Store (Tree)...

and the next day, the kids concluded their celebration by purchasing one toy each with their dollar bills.  :)   Fun times!  

Happy 100th Day of Homeschool/School to you other mommies and teachers out there!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry (belated) Christmas and Happy (belated) New Year!

I must say that this Christmas season did not turned out exactly as planned.  Illness, cancellation of a highly anticipated trip, more illness, ice storms, a middle of the night emergency sending my FIL to the ICU, and other difficult issues cast a bit of a pall over the holiday joy.

As if that were not enough, Christmas Eve I locked myself and my kids out of the car in a parking lot.

About that time, as I was standing in a store waiting for the locksmith to arrive with two little ones at my side, I found I just couldn't muster much Christmas spirit.   Fortunately for me, God was about to use my circumstances to point me back in a "Christmas" direction I had not really considered much before but now found myself in a perfect position to contemplate.

Shortly after the car incident, I was truly blessed with a reminder (via this wonderful article) of two simultaneous views regarding the very first Christmas - one earthly and one heavenly.  

That time of life for Mary and Joseph was full of difficulty and unexpected trials.  Our hardships, though nothing compared to theirs, suddenly gave me a unique perspective into what they might have felt that first Christmas as they suddenly had to leave their home and ultimately ended up in a stable the night Mary gave birth.  Not ideal for any pregnant woman, and I would imagine distressing for Joseph as well - a far cry from the joy we anticipate during the Christmas season now.  

However, in contrast, how the heavens must have rejoiced that night!   Salvation and hope for mankind had finally arrived in the form of a tiny newborn!  I wonder if the angels could barely restrain their anticipation as they watched the events unfold and were allowed to be a part of it by declaring to the shepherds what had happened in Bethlehem.  

Thus, instead of feeling despair at how this holiday did not turn out as planned, I was awed by an alternative glimpse into that first Christmas.  :)  It was a wonderful reminder of how God is present and always working out His loving will, even when we cannot see it with our earthly eyes.  

Now, dear readers, lest you fear we experienced little fun this season,  I want to set the record straight.   We DID have plenty of enjoyable moments amid the setbacks, and I thought I would share a few things from December...

Here is a glimpse of our advent calendar this year.  I made this using some leftover square envelopes which my daughter and I decorated with a red marker.  I then stacked them up on the wall in Christmas tree form.  

We set out milk, cookies, and a letter to St. Nick on St. Nicholas Day...

and the following morning made the exciting discovery of full stockings and a reply from St. Nicholas!

For those of you who don't know our family traditions, we let our kids know from the beginning that Santa Claus was once a real man who was known for showing God's love through acts of kindness.  We also let them know that he is NOT alive today, BUT that we still love to pretend (after all, God did give us imaginations!).  St. Nicholas Day is when we do that "pretending" (putting out milk and cookies, etc.).   

I like this because it gives the kids a chance to enjoy Santa Claus for a day while also encouraging them to consider the historical man's example of showing God's love to others.   It becomes yet another great activity which ultimately points them toward the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Gingerbread Day is a special time I plan close to Christmas.   (You'll have to forgive the poor coloring job on the sign - my printer ran out of red ink so I was trying to compensate by coloring in the browns and reds myself).

This year we started out with gingerbread pancakes for breakfast.  Here is the before picture...

and one of the after pictures.  (I used a cookie cutter to cut the shapes out of pancakes).

Later in the day, I sent the kids on a hunt for individual paper gingerbread men I had hidden.  They would exchange the gingerbread men as they found them, for candy to use when decorating their gingerbread house that afternoon.

Speaking of gingerbread houses, here is a photo of the finished project.  I thought they did a great job!  But I AM their mom so maybe I am just a teeny tiny bit prejudiced.  ;)

For dessert that night, we also had homemade gingerbread stout cake with lemon cloud frosting (kind of a combo of two recipes).  It was delicious!!!  (Sadly, I have no picture of it).

Another evening, I surprised the kids with a Christmas movie night in our bedroom.  They feasted on white chocolate peppermint popcorn while watching some Christmas shows and then camped out in our room for the night.  

We had some other fun things we did together, of course - wrapping presents, reading Christmas stories, baking Christmas cookies, passing out candy canes to strangers in lines, etc.  However, I did not take pictures of everything.  :)  Some days are like that - you just set down the camera and enjoy the moment.  

And on that note - may YOU and YOUR family have a wonderful new year filled with treasured moments, reflecting on God's love and special gift of Jesus Christ - Savior, Hope, and Light of the World!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lesson Theme: Fall, Squirrels, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Time for me to play blog catch up!  Here are some fun things we did for the fall season!

We read about why leaves change color and made a simple book as a visual retelling aid.

I traced a leaf pattern onto paper and two plastic sheets (on top of it) as well, stapling all together.  The kids colored the leaf outlines on the plastic with green, while the leaf at the bottom reflected fall brilliance of their choice.  Then...

The kids pulled back the first plastic sheet (and green leaf) revealing a little more of the fall color beneath it and practiced explaining about the process of chlorophyll fading as the leaf detaches from the tree.  

They then pulled the final plastic sheet (and green leaf) away, leaving only the brilliant fall colors behind as they explained how a tree stores extra sugar in the leaves and the sun changes that sugar into pigment (which is hidden by the chlorophyll).  Fascinating stuff!   (FYI - there is a bit more to it than just that, but you get the general idea.)

A great book to consider for learning more about the process is "How Do Leaves Change Color?"  (see link below).

This was a writing activity we worked on together.

What would fall be without some fun mini pumpkins to decorate!

Squirrels took center stage for a while as well this season as you'll see below...

We tasted different nuts and graphed our favorites.  The squirrel markers are made of felt (each of us made one and placed it above our favorite nut).  :)

These are some acrylic candle gem acorns (?) that I found on clearance at Michaels.  These were great for sorting and counting activities!

We used REAL nuts to spell words...

create designs....

and make patterns! 

We also used the nuts to play a "finding game".  The kids were the squirrels, and I hid some nuts under the "ground" (a piece of paper).  To find their hidden nuts, the kids would turn over math fact cards, solve the problems, find those numbers on the ground, and dig through (I cut some slits in the paper to help) to find their nuts!  

This was a fun and easy craft we did together.  The kids used their fingerprints to make a squirrel and an acorn (details added with a pen or marker) on a small strip of paper.  I glued thin magnetic strips to the other side (one behind the acorn and one behind the squirrel), and voila.....

A MAGNETIC BOOKMARK!  :)  They turned out so cute - not to mention handy!
(For those unfamiliar with magnetic bookmarks, when you fold them over your page, the magnet snaps together - squirrel on one side and acorn on the other - holding your place on the page.)

This little guy was actually part of another unit but he fit in with squirrels so well (because he is one) that I added him to this post.  This is just a baby sock ( see, you CAN do something with those socks which are missing their matches) I turned into a squirrel puppet by cutting some holes for the fingers to fit through and adding wiggly eyes and a pom pom tail.  Our little friend was part of our reading area and helped the kids by turning pages, listening in, etc.

Last by not least, we made some of these little guys.  I printed out a squirrel picture online and we added felt to the tail to make it soft.  Pom poms would have been SOOO wonderful for this, but I didn't have enough in the right color, so I had to improvise.  They still came out cute though.  :)

What is that crazy stuff sitting in the bowl?!?

Well...it has to do with Thanksgiving.  :)  

My daughter still remembers when I had her pretend to be a Pilgrim.  She loved it so much that she wanted to do it again this year.  What can I say - it WAS fun (you can see more on that post here)!  So I surprised her yesterday morning with a Pilgrim girl costume and list of chores.  

But what does this have to do with the bowl?!

Well, that was one of our activities for the day - dying some cloth a different color using beets.  The cloth will be a little pinkish reddish washcloth for "Joyful" - a doll we are pretending is the family baby.

What other things did "Humility" (I love giving my kids new names when they pretend to be Pilgrim children) do yesterday?

She helped with dishes, took care of Joyful, cleaned the hearth, helped make "ink" (charred wood, mud, and water mixed together), used a quill and ink to complete some of her schoolwork, helped with laundry, cleaned walls, helped with the animals, helped clean up the kitchen and other rooms, practiced Pilgrim manners at meals, and helped dye cloth!  Whew - busy day, and tomorrow will be another one!  But she loved it!  :)

I leave you with a picture of "Humility" cleaning the hearth in her new Pilgrim attire.  


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lesson Theme: Apples!

I know, I know - posting about apples in November?!?  Better late than never, right?  

I think we did this theme in September if that gives you any idea of how far behind I am in posting our thematic activities.   ;)  I believe we also stretched this theme over more than one week.  (I've been doing that with more than one theme lately too which is one reason you may not see items posted every week anymore.  I like to wait until we have finished up a theme before writing about it.)

Are you ready to see a few of the things we did?  Of course you are!

So sit back, relax, and pretend it is September - okay?  ;)

Here is a multi-dimensional chart I made to go along with an apple thematic packet I bought.  This is just an enlarged and embellished version of the chart in the activity pack.  :)  To make the apple, I basically just squished up some red tissue paper and glued it to the middle of my chart.

We tasted several different apples (how can anyone not with the astounding variety out there, right?), and I wrote down describing words the kids came up with for each category.

The kids then chose some words from our large chart and completed the smaller charts that came in the packet.  You can see one example of the small chart in the middle of the picture above.

The packet came with many other fun games, activities, a graph, etc. as well.  We spent a good amount of time just on the items in this packet.  Here is a link if you are interested in purchasing it.

Adjectives came in rather handy for another activity where we took turns hiding different apples inside a bag.  We would write three words that described the hidden apple on a small whiteboard.  The other people would then have a chance to read the words and guess which apple was in the bag.  

Miss A also spent some time using her investigative skills to find the different parts of an apple.

AND we practiced our fractions by reading the book "Apple Fractions" and doing some hands-on fraction work with our own apples.  We used this book last year, and I HIGHLY recommend it.  Not only is it informative, but I think it does a great job of illustrating fractions AND inserts a fun element by depicting little elves working hard at the process of dividing apples into the appropriate number of pieces.  

I was delighted with it last year and found myself delighted with it AGAIN this year (and folks, mathematics is not my thing so if a math book can charm me that much two years in a row - well, let's just say I think it is a worthwhile book to have in a homeschooling library).  There's a link below if you are interested in purchasing your own.

This was one of my favorite activities:  an apple collection book!  I printed out several poems, songs, etc. about apples from a site online, and the kids cut them out and pasted them inside pages of their books.

The cover was made from cardboard (maybe a box of cheddar bunnies?) and painted red.  I used a corrugated cardboard piece for the stem, and we completed the "apple" look with a leaf.

Ah, but perhaps the most fun part was the fuzzy green velvet (ribbon) worm we glued in the book to act as a bookmark - complete with wiggly eyes!  When the worm was not "working",  he could peek his little head out of the hole in the cover.  :)

We read stories about apples and looked at apple recipes.  We then chose a recipe from one of the books and made apple pie.  The picture above was a retelling activity of sorts where my little "chef" explained how we made our apple pie.

Speaking of apple recipes, we also made some of these delicious beauties.

And (in keeping with the charm of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie") if you bake an apple pie and make caramel apples, chances are you'll need something to drink to go with it!

Happy "belated" September everyone!  :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Ballerina Ball!

Recently, we arrived at that wonderful time of year again when I must figure out how to throw a fun party for Miss A while trying to stay within a budget.  Actually, it was much easier this year than I thought it would be!

The theme of choice?  A Royal Ballerina Ball.

Knowing how time is a precious commodity for many of us mothers who are the event planners, caterers, bakers, etc. for our families, I thought I would post what I did with some links.  Hopefully, this will provide a shortcut of sorts for like-minded moms on a budget who don't have a lot of time for online searches!  :)  

For starters - we did not have to buy our invitations this year!  We found them FREE along with piles of coordinating party items (also FREE for download) here.

They are cute on their own, but can be embellished as well (which is what we did).  

This wreath is made of feather boa and more tulle (check for sales on spools of it at craft or sewing stores).  

The ballerina hanging in the center is a Christmas ornament (often craft stores like Hobby Lobby will start putting these up halfway through the year AND start having early sales like 40% off)!  :)

Instead of serving a full meal with fourteen little girls - we served cake (homemade and decorated) and ice cream.  The figurine at the top is a miniature doll that I hot glued to a skewer.  

Bonus - if you are careful (try running under hot water), you can remove the figurine from the skewer and it becomes a little extra gift at the end of the party!  This can also be done with Christmas ornaments and it becomes a yearly keepsake - something for her to hang on a Christmas tree each year to remember that year's birthday!

I cut some shiny pink paper and tulle to wrap around water bottles for each girl.  I also used some pink vases I found on clearance and wove long pieces of remaining tulle along the center of the table.   The faux flower petals were another clearance find (I think I found them right after Valentine's).

For our craft, we made ballerina boxes.  What is a ballerina box, you may ask?  Why, a box for putting your ballerina items in, of course (ballet slippers, fancy hair clips, etc)!

I found these pink and purple sparkly boxes at Michaels for only $1 each (I think they are actually school supply boxes)!  I also bought a package of "jewels" for the girls to use when decorating their boxes.  A silver permanent marker worked perfectly for writing the name of each little girl on her chosen box. 

What's a party without a game, right?  I searched and searched for a ready-made Pin the Tutu on the Ballerina pattern or game but failed to find one.  Soooo, I made my own ballerina pattern, and long story short, she is also now available in my TPT store for only $1.50!

The pattern is pieces of the above ballerina which can be cut out and put together on posterboard OR cut out and used to trace around on posterboard or another surface.  The pieces are black and white so each family or birthday girl can decide how she would like to color her ballerina (I also included a blank face template in case someone wanted to make the face differently than the one I drew above).  

The girls also watched some ballet AND practiced ballet moves.  I LOVED the video we bought for this - just the right fun mix!  See link below the post).  

Once the crafts and activities were completed (and food eaten) - the girls settled in to watch a Barbie ballerina movie (we checked with moms beforehand to make sure this one was okay with everyone) and munch on pink-coated popcorn.  

After presents and the movie, it was time for our ballerinas to head home.  We sent them off in royal ballerina style with gifts of "jewels".  Each bag was made to look like a ballerina leotard complete with tulle tutu.

Our parting sign:  

"Thank you for sharing this special day with our prima ballerina.  You are "tutu" kind!

(P.S. - speaking of tutus, one thing we did NOT do but ALMOST did, was to provide tutus for all of the guests.  I found a place on Amazon that sells a dozen for around $16 total!   That is only about $1.33 each!  I posted the link below as well if you are interested.)