Monday, May 26, 2014

Ethan's Quilt ~ A Memorial Day Special

As per tradition at Christmas, we draw names for giving gifts.  This past Christmas, I drew Ethan's name, my sister's boyfriend.  I was at a bit of a loss, for quite some time.  It wasn't until I got the idea of a quilt, that my panic started to subside.  I had already made t-shirt quilts for my sister, brother, husband and myself.  Why not see if Ethan wants one too? 

I got the best surprise when asking if he wanted one.  He did and had been saving his old military uniforms for just that reason.  YES!  I told them to send me the uniforms and I would see what I could come up with.  It turned out better than I hoped for!

 Here it is; the finished quilt.  It is a queen size quilt.  The backing is black flannel.  It is a really warm, heavy quilt!  (My boys didn't want to give this one up either.  They have a harder time parting with quilts than I do.)

 Ethan kept a lot of his patches and I just started playing with them, piecing them together in different designs.  I knew I wanted to use them, and this one stuck.  I love the way it turned out.

Ethan seeing it for the first time! 

And just to give you an idea of how big it really is; Ethan is holding it up and my dad is sitting in the chair next to it!

This has been my favorite quilt to make so far.  Thank you Ethan, for serving our country and keeping us safe!

And thank you to all the service members and their families for sacrificing so much to ensure our freedoms! 

God Bless America!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Schooling through the Summer

I have never wanted to school through the summer.  This year though, I have had a change of heart.  Well, I have to do it since we are a little behind from our 2 month winter break.  I took time off during and after our move to get settled and re-evaluate our curriculum.  The kids and I are enjoying our new, living books.  It is nice having my busy boys excited to learn!

As the summer gets closer and closer, I am beginning to get more excited about schooling through the summer season.  First of all, it will be a good indoor distraction from the heat.  Everyone keeps telling us that once the temperatures get over 100, it's all the same.  Yikes!  Secondly, it has never been easy for my kids to get back into the school year after the long summer break.  I'm thinking the shorter breaks during the summer will keep them motivated and having fun.  Lastly, my kids learn daily, with or without school, so adding to their play will not only enrich them, but keep their minds sharp and yearning for more.  Learning should be fun and I am praying that my kids will continue to view it that way!

The type of learning we encounter at our house is through play, life experiences and living books.  I was struggling with thoughts of failure for a few days.  I didn't think my first grader was reading enough, working on spelling words enough, or getting grammar concepts down.  It was a waste of my time to entertain these thoughts.  Each child is unique and learns in different ways and at different speeds.  I am not failing.  When I see him get excited during his lessons, it makes my heart feel much better.

To help ease my mind, I did start a new writing journal for him.  I write him a short letter, a few days a week, and leave space for him to write his response to my questions.  I don't help him spell the words.  I ask him to sound them out.  He did not like this the first couple of times, but now he just jumps right into it.  He is having fun while working on his reading, penmanship, spelling and creative writing.  It is a win-win!

I had to put Dash from "The Incredibles" on the cover.  I created the cover in Microsoft Word.  It took me all of 5 minutes to pick the font, color, picture and print it.  He had the biggest grin when he first saw it.  Something a little extra to make it special for him!

Here is a sample of one of the letters I have written to him.  (I made the picture huge so you can read it all!) I go over his spelling with him when he is finished.  I don't make it a big deal if he spells a word wrong.  I praise him for sounding them out so well and then show him the letters he missed.

The few of the topics I have written about so far are summer trips, summer activities, birthday gifts for siblings, and movie characters.  It is fun to read his answers too!

Enjoy your summer, whether you are schooling, unschooling or just playing!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Marvel In The Beauty

I go through life, day to day, running from one thing to another.  I am planning the next day, crossing off my to-do list and racing against the daylight hours to get it all done.  But does it matter if I have a clean house?  Does it matter if I plan the perfect day of school?  Does it matter if my to-do list gets shorter?  Does it all really matter that much?

 I try to do it all.  It's exhausting.  I can't do it.  Not alone.

This new year has been a turning point.  I am searching out God and His word more than ever before.  I am learning the characteristics of God in an entirely new light.  Each day brings me to a new realization about who He is and how true His love is for me.  There is a new spark in my heart.  My soul clings to His promises and looks to Him for answers.  I read more of His word.  I trust in Him more and more.  I take out piece after piece of the worldly me and throw it away.  I'm making room in my heart.  I want to know my God more deeply now than I ever have before.

I am finding Him in the littlest and biggest of things.  A pink rose growing through a fence has a meaning.  It is God's way of telling me He sees me and loves me.  "Here is a rose just for you, your eyes, destined to be at this place, at this very moment."   

Never think He has abandoned you or forgotten about you.  He loves you more than you could ever fathom.  Look around and see how His creation speaks to you about His unending love.  It is written in the stars.  It is sung from the birds.  It is whispered in the wind.  You are His beloved.  He sacrificed his one and only Son so that you could live eternally with Him.  He is waiting with open arms for you to run to Him.  
Start running!

Friday, January 31, 2014

My Reluctant Learner

My first grader is what you may call a reluctant learner.  Sitting still and doing book work is not in his vocabulary.  He is a mover and a kinesthetic learner.  He is the exact opposite type of learner than me.  I am constantly coming up with new ideas to make learning happen that doesn't make school seem like it's only listening to stories and copying words, or doing massive amounts of math problems, etc., what he calls 'boring.'

Spelling words are a battle field.  I used to make him look at the word and spell it on a white board.  Then the next day, show him the word, hide it, use it in  a sentence and have him write it.  It was like this for the 4 days we do spelling.  Let me just say, he cringed when I would pull out the white board.  Obviously, this wasn't working for us.  I did the most logical thing I could think of; I went on Pinterest.  

I found some really cool ideas, but only one I could use that he would find cool as well.  Can you guess what it used?  Legos.  I changed a few things about the spelling game so it would fit my plan better.

My spelling words for this week
Here is what I did:

I used an egg carton and put it in the center of a blank sheet of white paper.  I had my list of 10 spelling words and they just happened to have 12 different letters.  (I am currently using the first grade spelling lists from Heart of Dakota's Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory.)  I assigned one letter to each spot.  When my list has more than 12 letters, I'll be adding the lid or another egg container to the game.  I then counted the frequency of each letter and put that many Legos in the corresponding spot.  You can kind of see the Lego man body in the letter "P" spot and the heads in the letter "H" spot.  I separated them so he could build a man as he correctly spelled the words.  I would say the word, show the card to him, use it in a sentence, and hide it.  He would then try to spell the word aloud, picking one Lego piece from each letter spot as he said the letter.  I helped him sound it out and show the card again when needed.  Then, I let him use all the Lego pieces to create his own whatever when we were done.  The first time, we only spelled the words aloud.  I am going to work into having him write each word as well.  I just want it to be fun learning right now.  

Let me tell you that he loved it! *insert "Hallelujah" song*  He wants to play it every day.  Now, I'm frantically coming up with new ways to use the game with other subjects as well!  I love it when school is tons of fun for the one who would rather play all day.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Explorers in the Making - Free Science Printable

Science is a favorite subject around our house.  Inventions, animals, plants, weather, we love it all.  Our new attempt at child-led learning is going well, and I am on the lookout for free resources.

Our studies started off this week with snowmobiles, since we watched the X Games.  We have looked at the first snowmobiles, the inventors, where snowmobiles are used, what people used before snowmobiles, and the weather and animals in those areas.  We pulled out our Birds, Nests and Eggs book.

My kids love this book.  We looked at the different birds and tried to pick out the ones that could live in the colder areas.  Then we went to the internet and googled bird range maps of Alaska, the arctic, northern United States, and other cold areas.  The boys wanted to see what birds are in Texas, so we looked at that map as well.

I found the San Antonio Audubon Society webpage.  It was a great reference and had a "Just For Kids" link.  In it, I found lots of free printables and a link to a kids magazine called "Wild Times" which is published in New Hampshire.  You are able to print off the different issues for your own use.  My boys loved it!  They are very age appropriate for lower elementary.  My first grader was able to read the majority of it and could complete all of the activities.  My preschooler loved the pictures, maze and matching in the first issue.  I am definitely adding this to my list of science add-ons.  Have fun exploring science!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Learning with Legos

As I am beginning to change our schooling to unschooling, I am trying to find new ways to incorporate learning through play.  Of course, I went on Pinterest to locate some treasures, and I found some ideas using Legos, which all of my children enjoy playing with.

I found some printables for creating your own Mini-Figures at Homegrown Learners and we had some creative drawing of historical figures and then make believe figures.  We then wrote little stories about the figures.  My 1st grader wrote a few words, but I didn't push too much since he was reluctant to pick up his pencil.  But he really enjoyed dictating a story to me and reading it out loud later to daddy.

 I also found a Lego board game that I printed off.  I made up the rules.  Lego men were used as the game pieces.  We played where each person started with 6 lego pieces and we rolled a die to collect pieces along the game board.  At the end, we built anything we wanted out of the pieces we won.  For my first grader, I had him build something before we start and then we roll 2 dice (for addition or subtraction practice) and add or take away pieces depending on what spot we land on.

This was my creation.  I had to have the Lego Man leaping into the hovercraft.  It's what he really would be doing.  I mean come on, it's a hovercraft!

Benjamin, my preschooler, working on his creation after the game.  He won many more pieces than I did.

I am definitely going to use this game again.  Not only did I get to incorporate math, writing, history and art into the day, I also had 3 happy children who asked to play the game again the next day.  That makes me happy!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Unschooling with the Wild Kratts

The latest craze at our house is Wild Kratts.  And I love it too!  It's a great show on PBS that teaches my kids about animals, and that is simply putting it.  I am always amazed at what they learn after one episode.  They learn about geography, weather, conservation, migration, botany, animal habits, food chains, camouflage...I could keep going, but you are seeing the point.

While deciding to move towards unschooling, I did a couple weeks of "school" based off of Wild Kratt episodes.  I let them start the day by watching an episode and then playing in their Wild Kratt outfits.  They have Creature Power Suits (that were a birthday party favor) that are awesome!

They also play with these Creature Pod Communicators I made for them.  You can get the print out for Aviva here if you want to make your own.  I attached elastic on the back so they could wear them around their wrists.  It's fun to hear them yelling "Aviva! Koki! Jimmy!"  They also affectionately call each other "Bro" and "Bro."  

After they have some creative play, I reel them in to make their own Creature Power Discs.  We started by picking a type of animal they wanted to learn about.  On this particular day, Benjamin chose snakes and Jeremiah chose sharks.  So we started looking through our big Wildlife Explorer Book of animals, among others.

This is Jeremiah's creature power disc of the King Cobra.  We had to find out the following information about each animal: color, size, where it is found and what it eats.  Then I let them tell me the special creature powers they would gain while using the disc.  They had a lot of fun!

Benjamin's Black Mamba creature power disc.  We added speed to the important information since it is the fastest snake.  

Laura's creature power disc: purple with a princess sticker.  That about sums her up!  

For the sharks, I printed off a hammerhead shark coloring page at Handipoints and asked the boys to design a Hammerhead Shark Submarine and then tell me what special functions it would have.  You can easily add in copy work of dictated sentences about his submarine or facts about the animal, creative writing, and math games.

They are requesting scorpion power next, so I have found myself a scorpion power disc, along with many others at It's All Fun and Games that I can print off to add to their collection of power discs.  I have VERY excited boys! 

I am going to be coming back to the Wild Kratts theme many times in the future.  It is a winner for us!

Go "live free and in the wild" with these fun ideas!  I hope you find them useful!

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