Thursday, August 31, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Eye Droppers

This post was originally published in January of 2013.

One of our favorite fine motor activities is using eye droppers . We have a couple of different ways we use them.

Here you can see the kids have a few different colors of water and are dripping them onto coffee filters. Once these dry, they make pretty circles to hang up.  


  In addition to how great this is for building fine motor skills, this also offers the opportunity to experiment and talk about why the water spreads. The water spreads on the flat parts first, but slowly it will climb up the higher parts. I love when I can add in a little Science to an art project. We were also able to talk about what happens when the colors meet and start mixing.

Another fun activity that I borrowed from their Montessori school is moving all of the water from one small container to the other. These are small bowls and while at school they use glass, these are plastic. The kids may be great at taking care of their equipment, but Mommy is a klutz and tends to break or get hurt with glass. This takes a lot of patience and really builds those finger muscles that will later be important for writing, typing, playing piano, using chopsticks, and many other things in life.


These red trays are great. I got them at IKEA when they were on sale for 1/2 of their regular price. The kids can open and close them and they are the perfect height for doing art work over the tile. At the top they have two circles for cups (or for marker lids) and one long tray that we use for markers/crayons so they aren't rolling over the kids paper.

I also have visions of eating breakfast in bed on one of these trays, but since I refuse to get up and make breakfast before getting back in bed I don't think it will happen. haha

Monday, August 28, 2017


After trying a few different sports over the summer, Sweet Daughter wanted to continue basketball. Here are pictures from her first couple of practices.

Yes, Daddy is one of the coaches! 

Have you ever tried to take a picture of 1st grade girls basketball practice?
Girls bouncing around and I was trying to stay off to the side and not let them see me taking a picture because more than one would stop and pose and I didn't want the coach to get upset!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Educational Apps for Kids

My kids don't play Pokemon Go, but many of their friends do. I have explained it to them and they don't seem interested. When they are outside they want to do something other than look at a screen. However, when they are inside they always wish they had more screen time!

Whether you love it or hate it - or don't know what it is - Pokemon Go is one of the most popular apps in the world right now. Here are some alternatives created intentionally to foster learning, making them a truly worthwhile time investment. For fun, and since Pokemon's from Japan, I'll count the 4 apps in Japanese - Ichi, Ni, San, Go!

Ichi (One): Have story time anywhere with the FarFaria App

 I like this app because kids can read quietly and be entertained wherever they are. It also gives the entire family access to thousands of books on an iPad, kindle, phone, etc, so there are options for all ages! Turn screen time into story time with this “Netflix for Children’s Books” app. It's great to be able to save books to the app so they can be read offline anywhere! For example, in a home office, at the park, in the car, and of course at bedtime. Great for: Ages 2-9 Cost: For a limited time, $19.99 (Save $20!)

Ni (Two): Improve reading skills with the Hooked on Phonics App

 Love Hooked on Phonics at much as I do? They've really brought this time-honored system to the 21st century with this amazing app. It has educational games to keep kids engaged at home or on the phone anywhere. I love that it syncs children's progress to all devices - so if dad is on the road he's up to speed on the kids' progress, and if you don't have the iPad around, you can just download the app, sign in, and have the kids pick up right where they left off. Seamless. Great for: Ages 2-8 Cost: For a limited time, $29.99 (Save $20)

San (Three): Learn coding skills with the browser-based Learn to Mod program

 Do your kids love video games and winning badges? Use that to get them coding! The Learn to Mod program is a browser-based software that teaches kids how to “mod” Minecraft with both Blockly and Javascript (neither of which I understand, but there you have it). The program includes hundreds of video lessons, puzzles, and quizzes that get kids learning this impressive skill while having fun. The cool badges keep them coming back for more, and even pique mom's interest. :) Great for Ages 7-13, girls too! Cost: $29.99

Go! (Four): Need help with homework help? Use the GradeSlam app and ask a tutor!

 Does your high schooler need help in a particular subject? Are you strapped for time to help with homework? There’s an app for that! GradeSlam provides 24/7 tutoring in all subjects to students in middle and high school, as well as college. With their award winning chat-based tutoring platform, your kids can access tutors anytime they (or you) need. This is a perfect supplement for subject matter beyond your scope, busy spells, and for when kids head off to college. For anyone gearing up their juniors for college entrance testing, this is a no - brainer. Great for: upper school to college ages, tougher subjects Cost: For a limited time, get a whole year for $99 (save $81!)

I hope I've expanded your digital horizons beyond Pokemon today! What apps do you and your family use? Comment below and share the knowledge!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Tummy Time

This post was originally published in March of 2011.

We started with tummy time a few days after they were born. You hear about how important tummy time is, but many people don't know why. This time helps babies develop upper body strength and neck control. As they learn to push up, turn their heads toward you, and roll over you can see the physical changes. What you can't see is the brain development that goes along with this. As babies learn body control, they are also learning to better use their brains.
 They rolled away from each other right after this photo.

When they first succeed, they are surprised. Then they need to figure out exactly what they did that caused the success. They are learning many skills at once so it's not surprising that after easily rolling over one day it takes a few minutes the next day to remember how to do this again. The more they are allowed repetition the more this pathway in the brain is cemented and it becomes easier - to the point they don't even have to think about it.
 Tummy time for everyone

Will babies eventually develop this without tummy time? Absolutely, but it will be later. There have also been recent studies showing that babies are having more neck problems from sleeping with their heads always turned to one side. Many parents complain about forcing their child into tummy time because their baby screams.
 We're not happy.

We went through this for about a week. We used many distraction techniques - bells, scarves, books, our dog, anything that would keep their attention. We changed locations and when all else failed would have them lay on us.
 Developing upper body strength
A little change of location

 Tummy time certainly didn't hurt them and the research proves it helped so it's one of the things we made time for every day, even after they could roll over. They need to keep building that upper body strength so they can learn to crawl, walk, push, etc.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Moore Escape Rooms

We love escape rooms. When we were given the opportunity to try out a new room to blog about, I was thrilled! We visited Moore Escape Rooms in Moore, Oklahoma.

They are tucked into the corner of a strip mall. The corner includes 4 businesses with a lobby in the middle. Parking was easy and Google maps led us there with no problems.

From the lobby area looking into Moore Escape Rooms

Of course they don't allow any photography in the room itself because that would ruin the fun for others. They have four different rooms, including one room for only two people that would be perfect for a date. We did The Art of the Heist room which just opened and allows for a maximum of six players. 

They've done it again.  The Marionette Brothers have struck their 4th art exhibit in as many months.  However, this time their heist didn't end so well! The brothers are in custody and won't be harassing anyone again; there's just one problem...
The artifacts are missing.
Without the artifacts there is no evidence for the trial, and of course, no exhibit.  It's believed the Marionette Brothers hid the artifacts somewhere in the museum, presumably for easy retrieval.  Follow the befuddling path of the crooks to locate all the missing items.  Discretion is paramount, and as such you will only have an hour to discover their whereabouts.
Can you recover the artifacts in time to save them and the museum?  Or have the brothers been pulling the strings all along?"

The room is wheelchair accessible and our kids didn't have any issues locating the clues. This room was more difficult than the last escape room we did at another company. The other one was designed for kids and it left us wanting more. This room was challenging and really had us worried we weren't going to make it. When we got stuck we could press the button and they would put a hint up on the screen that displayed the remaining time. We used all of the hints. There was nothing inappropriate for children, but most young kids would find it frustrating. I would recommend this particular room for ages 10 and up due to the difficulty of the puzzles. They had a couple of clues we never used so I'm not sure if we did it wrong or if those were just to throw us off track. So how did we do?

With just over 1 minute remaining we escaped! We loved the variety of puzzles and that we did it as a family. It is a cooperative activity, but it feels competitive as you are racing around which means we all enjoyed it.

 At $25 per person or $150 to book a private room this is a great way to spend an hour. I highly suggest following them on social media and checking their web page for when they have sales also. The only reservation system is easy and the woman working there was nice. They had a problem with the air conditioning in the building before we arrived and contacted us through email to let us know. We didn't change our plans and they had it fixed and the building cooled before we arrived.

Have you been to an escape room? What did you think?

*We were given free tickets to the escape room in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Read to Rover

Our library has so many amazing programs. This year we decided to try out the Read to Rover program. They bring in therapy dogs and the kids go in and read to the dogs. If you have any idea how much the kids love dogs and reading, you know this will go well.

Sweet Son reading to a dog and owner 

Sweet Daughter (sitting in the center of the photo)
Her dog was laying so nicely that the owner is actually sitting on the bench behind the pole.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Flying Homemade Kites

One of the awesome parts of our curriculum is that it connects everything. The language arts books align with the science and social studies curriculum and they include art and other types of learning in almost every unit. Here they were reading Ben and Me, studying electricity and magnetism, and used their artistic and fine motor skills to build a kite. These were nice kite making kids using a light weight cloth rather than paper.

Both kids pulling their kites 

Running through fields is pretty much a perfect school day 


So I didn't get any up close pictures of the kids or the kites, but this was such a fun lesson and we certainly picked a beautiful day to do it.

Friday, August 18, 2017

2nd Grade Curriculum Choices

I wanted to post about the materials we used in 2nd grade - i.e. The year you will see me start posting about now since I keep the blog a year behind.

Moving Beyond the Page - Language Arts, Science, Social Studies
Rosetta Stone - Polish
Life of Fred - Math
Khan Academy - Math
Typing Instructor for Kids - Typing
The Complete Elementary Music Rudiments, 2nd Edition - Music Theory
Sequential Spelling - Spelling
Private Music Lessons
Homeschool Band

Moving Beyond the Page we have been using for years and we used the 8-11 curriculum for 2nd grade. We did every lesson in every unit. The kids asked to take it slowly so we only worked from it 3 times a week. It lasted more than a calendar year, but they have grown up and learned so much.

With family in Poland, it is important the kids learn Polish so they continue to work through that. This year in addition to understanding, speaking, and reading it, they added learning to write in Polish.

Life of Fred Elementary Math Series - 1

Life of Fred is a series of math books. The kids were working their way through the rest of the elementary series and started the intermediate series. Since they are so far ahead of where they should be we only did 1 lesson per week out of these.

Khan Academy is a free online math site. The kids were required to spend 40 minutes per week (not all at once) working on math here. By the end of the year both have finished all of 2nd and most of 3rd grade as well as many skills from higher grades.

For typing we increased their goal speed to 20wpm. Our idea is once they can type 50wpm they can be done with typing forever. We are hoping they increase at a rate of 10wpm per year so they would be done with typing around 5th grade.

For music theory we are using the book that prepares them for the Royal Conservatory Music Theory tests. We have also added a private theory lesson for Sweet Son as he surpassed my theory knowledge and I couldn't help him answer questions any more.

We only work on spelling twice per week using Sequential Spelling. When we were just over half way through the first book they both took the new online placement test. Sweet Daughter scored half way through the first book - perfect! Sweet Son scored into the 3rd book so now he is doing his spelling online while she is still working through the first book with me. She will switch to online when she finishes the current book.

They take private music lessons through a local classical music school. Sweet Son is still studying piano with the teacher he has been with for a couple of years. He decided he doesn't want to do a performance test and that is fine. He is enjoying playing and learning. Sweet Daughter is in a group voice class and is doing well. She really enjoys the group class and having more people to interact with.

The kids are continuing with homeschool band, only now they are in the concert band instead of the beginner band. They are still the youngest, but have friends and enjoy it immensely.

Sports vary by kid and by season. Sweet Son strongly prefers solo sports such as swimming. Sweet Daughter strongly prefers team sports with a great deal of competition. With both kids doing different sports it feels like I'm constantly running around trying to get everyone where they need to be.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Twin Birth

Let's go back a long time. To the first few days Sweet Son and Sweet Daughter were alive. Awwww

Hi there! Hey!

They were both born just over 5 pounds each at full term

Our hospital dinner the night before we left the hospital. They provide food for 2 adults each day as they want to encourage both parents to spend as much time with the kids as possible. This meal was AMAZING.

Ready to go home for the first time

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Don't you just love it when kids sleep?

It's important to cuddle up to a good book... or books as the case may be. Most people put them down before falling asleep, but what fun would that be? 

Remember they do have their own rooms. They have their own space. They fight all day long that they want alone time. Then at night they get lonely. awww

Monday, August 14, 2017

I won a race! (kinda)

I have been running for awhile now, but I'm slow. It doesn't bother me that I'm slow. I'm impressed I am out there at all, however it is nice to finish before they start cleaning up. :)

This race I was doing well. I could tell my pace was better than I was expecting. As I came around the last corner a friend came out to run me in. At the finish line I see my family as well as other friends cheering me on. (Make friends with the people who run races and time races, etc - they are always the best at cheering!) I made a mad dash for the finish line. 

For the first, and only, time I placed in the top 3 in my age division. That means a second medal! This was given to me by a good friend which makes it even better. I wasn't even listening for my name, but was so thrilled to get this.

For those who are wondering how this is possible, it was a small race and there were only three people in my age division. Still I WON!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Free $10 for Curriculum!

Yes, I'm posting about Educents again, but this time they are willing to give you $10 to spend! If you aren't a member yet all you have to do is join and get the $10. If you are already a member, you can refer a friend and get $10 so there is something here for everyone.

They say that giving is better than receiving, but who says you can't do both? Educents just launched a new program that will help you AND your friends save money on innovative products that keep kids excited about learning. give10get10-affiliates
 If you're not already familiar with Educents - here's the scoop. Educents is the best place to discover new ways to make learning fun. Find innovative products and ideas created by a community of experts in education.

Innovative items that make learning fun:

Give $10, Get $10

If you're new to Educents, help me earn credit! I have a couple items on my wishlist I'd love to test out and share with you. Use my referral link to sign up. You will receive an email for $10 off your first order of $25 or more (adding some of the items above will fit the bill). Sign-up-now-button
 If you're already an Educents member, you can earn $10 for every friend who signs up and makes a purchase of $25 or more. Simply go to your account page and find your unique referral URL, scroll down to "Earn Edubucks by referring your friends" and copy the link.

A referral is sending someone you care about to someone you trust.

Invite your friends, your parents, and all the rock-star educators in your life! This deal will help everyone save a pretty penny on top products like the insanely popular Life of Fred or Times Tales.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Art with Babies

This post was originally published in February 2011.

I love doing art with kids. I think it is important to use a variety of textures and materials. I prefer process over product art. However, this post is about starting at the beginning. We started doing art when the kids were around 3.5 months old. This was the point they could hold a marker and were learning how to control it.

 Yummy markers
Sitting in Bumbo to color

Many people are surprised that I start with markers. Most people assume starting with a crayon would be better since it is less messy. If you are trying to avoid mess when doing art with children, then you aren't doing it the way I would. Markers are typically larger than crayons (there are always exceptions) which make them easier to hold. They will also mark on paper with very little pressure. If you lightly drag a marker across the paper you get a line. Try it with a crayon and most of the time you get nothing. The bold larger lines/marks are easier for babies to see and make sense of as they experiment. Babies will also put everything in their mouth. Markers have no taste and if they put the marking side in their mouth, the worst that will happen is brightly colored poop. Crayons being made of wax, taste good to young children. If you give them something that tastes good and tell them not to eat it you are fighting a losing battle from the beginning. This is why we start with markers.

 Look! My paper is still clean, but my tray and brother needed some color.
Can you draw two different things simultaneously?

I encourage the kids to only color on the paper, however as you can see that isn't what usually happens. That's ok because it all wipes off easily. It washes off clothes and baby wipes will clean it up off most surfaces. We don't use markers on carpet or near furniture. The markers are not kept out at all times. They are only brought out when I am right there to supervise. This is more important once they become mobile, but until they learn not to color on carpet, they aren't left out. As babies, we did art at least twice most weeks. That increases as they get older and have more interest and more variety. Most of the time, I don't have photos of them doing art because it's difficult to supervise and take photos. 

Marker on face, hands, arms, clothes, and some on the paper

One of the awesome moments of being a mom and/or teacher is seeing what a child is thinking when they finally get "it" - whatever "it" you are currently allowing them to explore. Here you can see my son as he realizes one end of the marker is special. He would touch it to the paper, pick it up to look closely at the paper, look back at the marker and try it again. After doing this multiple times, he started laughing. He tried using the other end and nothing happened, so he set it down and threw a fit (he was still a baby after all). I turned it back over for him and he started all over again. 

Discovering how a marker works