Literary Advent Calendar

Yes, it is the time of year to expect Christmas posts!  I am always looking for a fun way to count down to Christmas.  We’ve tried drawers fill with treats, a chalkboard santa, and we have a wooden santa with number blocks.  However, using books is my favorite advent activity to date.  I came across this idea on Pinterest and we tried it last year for the first time.

The idea is to wrap 24 Christmas books and place them near the Christmas tree.  Each day, the family opens one of the packages and reads the book inside.  Last year, I numbered the packages so that we would end up with The Polar Express or Twas the Night Before Christmas on the days closest to Christmas.  That got confusing.  This year, I think I will just wrap and let the boys choose a book.

What I love about this is that you can not only read old favorites every year, but you can also read some new stories as well.  I have two different lists of Christmas books pinned here and here.  Because we also stress the importance of Jesus, I have a mixture of nativity based stories and santa based stories.  As you can see, the library is my friend!

 
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This is a tradition that I love.  We tend to mix our own books with library books.  One suggestion is to look for some lesser known books from the library so that you don’t run the risk of not being able to renew them if you haven’t read them before the due date.  I’ll write a later post about the books we plan to use this year.

What is your favorite advent activity?

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Fun ways to practice spelling

Now that I am homeschooling a 2nd grader, I have found myself diving into the world of spelling.  Being a former English teacher, one would think that would be easy.  Not so much.  I have an extreme dislike of memorization as a learning technique.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for memorization in learning; however, I do not like memorizing facts, lists, etc. as a means to learning without a deeper knowledge.  With that being said, I taught at a school that required spelling tests and memorization.  I watched middle and high school students memorize spelling words for the test but be unable to spell them 2 weeks later.  I didn’t want that for my children.

Because A-Man reads well above his grade level, it is difficult to find spelling words that challenge him.  We have a spelling workbook that I am guessing is a 3rd or 4th grade level.  We work through 1-2 pages a week. He gets most of them, but there is the occasional word that trips him up because of a tricky blend.  A-Man is very active so I limit our workbook type work so he doesn’t explode at some point during our school day!

In order to mix things up, we play hangman with the spelling words.  It helps him see the word being built letter by letter and he remembers how it is spelled.  He loves this so much he put a hangman board game on his Christmas list!  T-Man gets involved by erasing the dry erase board and guessing letters (usually the letter A).

Today, I came across another spelling activity that seemed intriguing.  123 Homeschool 4 Me has a Connect Four spelling practice worksheet.  I was skeptical because I have downloaded or checked out many worksheet packs that are supposed to be for a specific grade level and I have found them to be a bit easy or a bit too advanced.  This is geared for grades K-4.  

Each worksheet has a favorite character on it (Little Mermaid, Cars, Star Wars, Merida, etc.).  The child writes ten spelling words for the week and then choose 4 activities to complete to make a row, like the Connect Four game.  The suggestion is that once the row is made, the child receives some sort of reward.  I haven’t decided on my feelings about offering a reward but I definitely like that this is another fun way to practice spelling words.  

Some of the activities are very simple (write in a complete sentence) and I may create some more interesting alternatives.  Use 4 words in your penpal letter may be a bit more exciting and applicable. Overall, I do like this activity and will definitely plan to use this or tailor it to meet our homeschool’s needs.

What fun methods do you use to practice spelling?

Our favorite Thanksgiving craft

Each year, I have a huge list of holiday crafts that I plan to do with the boys.  Each year, we only get to a handful of those crafts.  Mom has lofty goals sometimes.  But in that comes a blessing.  I find that the crafts that we do get to are ones that we all enjoy.  Sometimes the crafts I find look great, but the idea is that we all are able to complete them.  In my search, I have found one craft that I love repeating.  

I first made this craft when A-Man was around 3.  I don’t remember where I saw it but I am definitely not claiming to have come up with this on my own.  It is a shoeprint Thanksgiving turkey.

It is super easy to do.  
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The first step is to have your child put on a shoe.  

Trace your child’s foot onto construction paper or cardstock while they are wearing the shoe.  This will be the turkey’s body.

Have the child cut out their footprint or you can cut it out.  Let them decorate the body with crayons, markers, other pieces of construction paper for face features, and/or googly eyes.  We LOVE googly eyes!

Once the face is complete, cut feather shapes out of construction paper/cardstock/scrapbooking paper of varying colors. The first time I did this craft, I used different patterns of scrapbooking paper. This time, I used construction paper and let the boys choose the feather colors they wanted.

Once the feathers are cut out, have your children write one thing that they are thankful for on each feather. It is fun to see how their answers differ from year to year.

It is important to not guide them in what to say so their responses are authentic. Believe it or not, they’ll have the major components (family, friends, etc.) on their list.
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It was fun doing this with T-Man this year because he could articulate some things to put on his feathers. I did have to rephrase the term “thankful” so that he knew what I meant. I also had to offer guiding questions like: What people are you happy to have? What things are you glad to have?

Don’t be bummed if you get left off the feathers. I did! It just happened that we made this craft while Daddy was out of town for the week so Daddy made it on T-Man’s feathers but not Mommy! Remember the authentic thing I mentioned above? Yep, that’s about as real as it gets. I didn’t even lead him to say Mommy (even though a tiny part of me wanted to!).
You can even make this a family craft by having the grownups make one too! I love making mine with the boys.

Which Thanksgiving crafts are favorites in your house?

Advent Activity List

Can you believe it is almost that time of year?  Before you get lost in the sea of crazy shoppers and “unbeatable” deals, remember to take time to celebrate the season.  This is my favorite time of year.  It’s not because of the presents or the sales, but because of the joy of lights, and decorating a Christmas tree.  Seeing the joy on my children’s face as they see Santa out and about.  Talking about the birth of Jesus.  Hopefully, snow!  Whether you do Santa or not, you can still have fun celebrating the season.  I love that this list blends the whimsical with the true meaning of the holiday.  I personally believe there is a place for both.  So enjoy this Ultimate Advent Activity List from The Mad House and feel the joy of the season.

Fun Mom, Please!

Has anyone ever gone through an entire day and wondered how you interacted with your children?  If you have, it doesn’t make you a bad mom.  We all have those days when the “to-do” list seems insurmountable.  But it’s not only the “to-do” list that gets us.  It’s the overwhelming amount of technological gadgetry that is at our fingertips.  Last week, my husband was out of town from Sunday morning to Friday night.  I made a point to spend time connecting with both boys since it was just me.  Even so, I had to take and make phone calls and do work.  Finding the balance is what really matters.

As part of our week, I took the boys out to lunch twice.  During one our lunch dates (where we all had ice cream sundaes) I noticed a mom sitting with her daughter.  She apparently had the same idea.  The other thing I noticed was that her phone never left the table.  She spent a large amount of time doing something on the phone.  I mention this story not to judge this mother, but to remind myself that I don’t want to be in that position.  It is so easy to grab the phone to text, check email, log into Facebook, or just surf the net.  How many times do we post a picture or stellar status update and then constantly check back in to see if anyone has liked or commented?

As I was responding to a friend’s message on Facebook this morning, I can across a post that was titled 47 Way YOU Can Be A Fun Mom.  Naturally, my interest was piqued.  As I read the article, I was touched.  Not so much by the suggestions, but by the idea that we have to sometimes read about how to be a fun mom.  We all have it inside of us; it’s just that adulthood sometimes stifles our playfulness.  My goal this month is to make sure that I am present for my children.  Yes, I have work to do.  Yes, I have things to clean.  Yes, I have phone calls to make and bills to pay.  Yes, I have errands to run.  Yes, I have school to plan. But I also need to remember that sometimes those things can wait just a little bit longer.  Logging into Facebook at multiple times during the day isn’t necessary.  Being present and interacting with my boys IS important!

Here is the post that I mentioned and I do like some of the ideas on here.  However, remember that following your child’s lead can speak volumes and doesn’t require extra money or planning.  They are young for such a small season of our lives that it would be dreadful to wake up one day with a teenager and realize that some of these moments have passed us by.  Have fun and be silly!

 

thirdrow (I also saw this picture on Facebook this morning and I thought it was fitting!)

Flannel Board Fun- Letter A

When A-Man was a preschooler, we used the Letter of the Week curriculum.  If you are unfamiliar with this free preschool resource, you should really check it out.  Each letter has a series of songs, fingerplays, and poems.  At the time, I decided that the fingerplays needed a little bit of a makeover.  So instead of just using fingers, I created flannel board pieces.  

This is where my handy dandy laminator and hot glue gun came in handy.  I would choose one or two of the fingerplays that could be adapted with printable pieces.  I dove into my word processing program and created printable pieces to accompany the rhyme.  Each piece was laminated for durability.  In order to make them compatible with the flannel board I made, I hot glued a piece of felt to the back. Voila! 

My flannel board was super easy as well.  I bought a trifold cardboard science fair display board such as this one.  I cut the two flaps off of the side and hot glued them to the back for added support.  I then bought a yard of flannel from Wal-Mart and hot glued to the cardboard.  I even had some extra flannel to used for other crafts. Super easy flannel board that I still have!

So, for the letter A, this is the rhyme that I converted to flannel board pieces:

The Ants Go Marching

For this one, I simply created ants and cut them out and laminated them.  If you want to go the extra mile (which I did for some other rhymes), you could also create the accompanying items (thumb, shoe, tree, etc.).  When you get to the end of each verse, let your little one “knock” the ants down to the ground.  Both A-Man and T-Man loved this part!

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I’ll be sharing my flannel board rhymes for each letter so keep an eye out for them!

Tuesday Freebie (Focused freebie)

This Tuesday freebie is a little different than my past posts.  Usually, I list a bunch of different freebies that I have found around the web.  However, there is one freebie that I have been meaning to blog about and this is a perfect opportunity.

Since I am a former English teacher and an English major, I love anything that has to do with literature.  I came across this wonderful literature unit during the summer.  During my planning, I knew that I wanted to assign books for A-Man to read during the school year that had to be read a chapter at a time.  If I don’t assign them this way, he will read through the entire book in one sitting.  This is what he generally does with pleasure reading!  When I saw these printables, I knew they were perfect.

A-Man starts out with the story prediction sheet.  Then for each chapter, he chooses a new vocabulary word and completes the vocabulary builder sheet.  He also completes the chapter by chapter summary sheet for each chapter.  This allows me to make sure he is comprehending what he is reading since he reads quite a bit above grade level.  I can challenge him while also making sure he is taking his time while reading to absorb the main components of the story.

When he finishes the story, he identifies the main parts of a story and also identifies a character to break down using the character traits sheet.  He ends the book with choosing a project.  I don’t want him to regurgitate the story in the form of a basic book report so I have some sites on Pinterest that offer alternative ideas for book reports.  So far he has made a comic book and a movie poster.

Thanks to Meet Penny, the graphic organizers have offered me a streamlined way to assign reading activities.

By Mistake Pear Cookies

There is a wonderful local farm that offers CSA shares.  We did it for a while and then took a break.  Last month, we decided it was time to become CSA members again.  It is so much fun to sort through our farm fresh produce.  I feel like a kid in a candy store. 

The Saturday in question began like every other CSA pick up Saturday.  We got to the farm and picked up our share.  We sat in the car and gazed through the plastic at all the wondrous yumminess.  There was a small bag tucked down in the larger plastic bag and at first glance my husband and I identified the contents as fruit.  When we got everything home, I commented that the fruit looked like figs.  Hubby seconded that affirmation and we deemed them to be figs.

This sparked a furious scouring of Pinterest for fig recipes.  I immediately thought of homemade fig newtons but I had to see what else was out there.  I even made a fig recipes board on Pinterest. I came across this recipe for fig cookies.  My normal procrastination set in and I finally got around to making the cookies about two weeks later. 

I got everything ready.  I decided to substitute almonds for pecans because that is what I had on hand.  I got the dough ready and set it aside and prepared myself for the moment of truth.  I have never cooked with fresh figs before so I was excited to cut into them.  I grabbed the knife and sliced into the first delectable…pear?  Yes, I cut into a pear.  But where are the figs, you wonder?  Well, we didn’t have figs to begin with.  My untrained eye falsely identified these little pears as figs.  So I had to wonder what to do.  I had a recipe for fig cookies, the dough was prepared, and I had pears.

I did what any self-respecting person would do.  I chopped up those pears and threw them in the dough.  I mixed it up and prayed for the best.  The smell was delicious and I thought that a pear cookie would surely be yummy, right?  The first batch came out and it was all I could do to let them cool enough to taste one.  When I did, I was not disappointed.  They were downright yummy.  I let the boys sample them and the verdict was a resounding thumbs up.  They didn’t even notice the chopped almonds that I added! (They tend to have an aversion to nuts in baked goods.)

 

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So there you have it: By Mistake Almond Pear Cookies.  Follow the fig cookie recipe linked above and substitute pear for the fig and almonds for the pecans.  Pure yumminess and it seems like I did it on purpose!

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Tuesday Freebies

I have compiled a few freebies for you today.  Enjoy!

Here’s another set of BOB printables from 3 Dinosaurs, Royal Baloo, and This Reading Mama.

Free math software download from Free Homeschool Deals

Expanded pumpkin printable from Two Teaching Mommies

2014 Blog Planner from Confessions of a Homeschooler

Here are some freebies from Currclick:

Turkey File Folder Pack

Turkey Play Dough Mats

Monster Roll and Cover

The Gingerbread Man Unit

Five Little Speckled Frogs Totbook

School and Chore Charts

Free lapbooking templates

Here are some Kindle freebies.  Be sure to double check the price because most are only free for a limited time.