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Websites for Homeschoolers…or for Anyone!

12 Apr

I’m not sure if I’ve ever technically been considered a homeschooler, but I do know that even before my kids were born, I never intended for them to wait until they got to school to start learning.

Their entire short lives (they’re 4 and 6), I’ve stocked up on educational supplies, created lesson plans, and scoured the internet for craft ideas.  We’ve made countless trips to museums and zoos, attended story time, and sought out just about every educational opportunity at our disposal.  Long ago, I also turned our office into a “classroom”—so maybe I am a homeschooler at heart!

Part of our "classroom" at home

Now that my son is in kindergarten full-time, and my daughter is in preschool part-time, I don’t need to put so much thought into planning out educational activities for them.  But I don’t think I’m capable of leaving everything in the hands of their teachers – it’s just in my nature!  I like to be involved as much as possible, which also includes volunteering at their schools whenever I can.

So from time to time, I still hit my favorite homeschooling-type websites for ideas on lessons, activities, crafts, and other ideas for fun things to do with my kids.

Check these out – I guarantee you’ll be inspired!

www.notimeforflashcards.com – craft ideas, book suggestions, and songs from a homeschooling mom

www.confessionsofahomeschooler.blogspot.com – activities and downloads from a homeschooling mom

1plus1plus1equals1.blogspot.com – lesson plans from a homeschooling mom

belladia.typepad.com/crafty_crow – art activities for kids of all ages

www.artprojectsforkids.org – art activities for kids of all ages

www.preschoolexpress.com – activities and printouts for preschool kids

familyfun.go.com – crafts, activities, and recipes from Disney’s Family Fun magazine

sippycupcentralmom.blogspot.com – crafts and activities from a homeschooling mom

www.schoolbox.com – educational supplies

www.learningpage.com – lesson plans and worksheets for various ages

www.worksheetlab.com – free printable worksheets for preschool and Kindergarten children

I like to have as much of a role in my kids’ education as I can.  Much of the time, education comes in the simple form of fun.  My kids won’t be little forever, and I want to fill up our time with as many enriching activities as possible to create a lifetime love of learning!

Merry Thriftmas!

17 Nov

My daughter with autism has 27 teachers, aides, therapists and bus drivers who interact with her on a daily basis. My son has 16 teachers from school, church and various activities. With Christmas around the corner, I’m trying to think of creative ways to stretchy my giving dollars so that everyone feels the appreciation they truly deserve.

Last week, I caught my dad chucking a bunch of old sheet music; his mother was a piano teacher and church organist. I snatched the weighty stack out of the recycle bin.

“What are you going to do with these?” he asked.

“I’ll think of something,” I said with a slight shrug.

Here’s the something thanks to google and the design guru behind the blog “Primp,” I have inspiration! Behold!!

Vintage Sheet Music Wreath Tutorial

I thought a vintage sheet music wreath would be a perfect addition to my evolving piano room. This one turned out similar to my first book page wreath. It was a very fun and addicting project, made with supplies purchased from either the dollar or thrift store. Total cost= $5!

Here’s what you need:

  • foam wreath
  • cream ribbon
  • glue gun
  • vintage sheet music
  • masking tape
  • a small cup

Let’s get started.

You could use any size foam wreath but the only one the dollar store had the day I went was this really wide one, so…

I just cut it right in half with a knife.

If you buy a thick one like me, just save the other half for when you want to make another book page wreath. Trust me you will–they’re addicting.

Wrap the wreath with a wide ribbon, glueing occasionally as you go. Or you could skip this whole step, especially if your wreath is white or cream.

This one was made out of florist foam and flaked every time I touched it so I definitely wanted to wrap it.

Now tear out about 50 pages of vintage sheet music. This is where it gets really fun. Once you get the idea of how to form each sheet into a cone shape it goes really quick.

This is how you do it:
Take a sheet and place your fingers on the two corners on the long side of the paper.

Keep your left hand still and with only your right hand wrap that corner around.

Continue to wrap in a forward motion.

Twist.

Twist.

Twist.

Keep twisting.

Now twist your left and right hands in opposite directions to tighten the cone.

You can twist a lot to make a skinnier cone or twist less and leave the cone opening bigger. Then secure with a small piece of masking tape.  I used a combination of skinny and big ones.

Once you have a big pile of these you are ready to glue.

Put your cup right in the middle.  This will help you get a nice size circle opening in the center.  You can vary the cup size depending on how big or small you want the opening to be.

Go all around the wreath hot gluing a single layer of cones to the wreath form.  Don’t worry if there are spaces or if it doesn’t look perfect, this layer will be covered up.  Continue with a second layer.

Hang using a piece of ribbon or fabric threaded around the back of the wreath form.  Right now my wreath hangs simply from a small nail but I envision it one day hanging in the middle of a shabby door or gate hung just above the piano.

Melt a Rainbow

15 Sep

I saw this really cool painting/art thing on pinterest.com the other day, and decided to give it a try.  It looked easy enough – a bunch of crayons glued to the top of a canvas (in rainbow order) and then melted so the colors are running down in a big drippy mess.  I had to try it!  I showed my kids a picture of it, and they were really excited to try it, too.

A friend of mine (who also happens to be a kindergarten teacher) made one of these on an old chalkboard, using an embossing gun for the heat.  It turned out great!  But as I had neither an old chalkboard nor an embossing gun (what is that, anyway??), I had to improvise.

It's already beautiful!

I bought a large piece of black foam board at Target and a 64-count box of Crayola crayons.  The kids helped me line all the crayons up in rainbow order the best we could.  (Initially, we took out all the browns and grays, but ended up adding them in at the end of the rainbow, to fill in the board a little better.)  The only color I didn’t use was black, since it wouldn’t show up on the black foam board.

Once all the crayons were laid out, I cut off the extra bit of board at the end, so the width of the board was exactly the same as the crayons.  Once my kids went to bed, I got out my hot-glue gun and got going.  I glued all 63 of those little suckers on there, and of course I faced them all neatly where the “Crayola” label was showing.

Ready for the sun

As I mentioned, I don’t have an embossing gun.  A hairdryer might have worked, but I decided to use something even more readily at my disposal – the blistering sun!  After a cool snap last week (the temperature got all the way down to the 90s, wow), our highs in North Texas have gone back up over 100 degrees.  Today was projected to hit 107!  So all I did was lean that board up against my fence – on top of an old sheet so it wouldn’t get the grass all yucky – and wait.

Getting drippy

It didn’t take long at all.  After about half an hour, the blues and purples had started dripping.  My son was with me, and we both felt like we were catching a rare glimpse of something magical!  Another hour or so later, and it was definitely done – maybe a little too done.  I think I probably should have brought it in sooner.  The crayon wrappers were mostly empty shells, and the hot glue on one of them even melted and it fell off the board!  (Like I said, it’s HOT here.)

After round one in the sun

But even if it’s not “perfect,” it’s really cool.  A beautiful, melted rainbow, that my kids and I made for about six bucks.  And now we have a beautiful piece of art that we can hang in the house!

And the most amazing part, according to my son, is that the white crayon didn’t melt at all.  Not a drip.  I tried to explain to him about light colors reflecting heat and dark colors absorbing it, but his 5-year-old eyes sort of glazed over.  But even if he didn’t understand it, he still thought it was cool.

After another round in the sun - blobby but really cool!

I Made This!

22 Jun

My friend and fellow More than Mothers writer, Lori, recently took a plane ride with her son, who was less than a year old.  It was a short flight, but she was worried about keeping him occupied.  I thought about how much kids (of any age) love other people’s toys, and decided to provide her with something to entertain him.

For this same trip, Lori also asked me if she could borrow my kids’ snack dispenser – the kind that has the flaps over the opening.  Little fingers can easily reach in for a snack, and the flaps prevent major spills.  Simple and efficient.

While I was looking for the snack holder, BAM!  I had a brainstorm.  What if I could make a similar container for toys??  And just like that, off I went…

First, I cleaned out a canister of french fried onions.  Then I hit the dollar store, where I bought a package of several rolls of brightly colored electrical tape.  I made cute little stripes of different colors all the way up the can.  With a steak knife, I cut flaps in the lid.  I scoured my house for toys that were big enough not to be choking hazards for an infant, but small enough to fit through the flaps.  I ended up with a car, a shaker, a scarf, a plastic cookie, a ball, and a few other small toys.  I finished up by putting several cute stickers on the bottom.  And voila – my own prototype for a new toy!

While it was definitely the cutest baby toy ever, the real test would be whether the baby himself liked it.  The verdict?  He loved it, as did his 18-month-old buddy.  We’ve got a winner here!

Recycled Crayons Craft

15 Jun

A friend of a friend told me about this simple craft about a year ago.  It’s been on my list of things to do and I never got around to it until recently.  With the weather hitting the high 90s, the crayons my kids left in the car were no match for the heat.  They melted all over the inside of a pencil box we keep in the car.  Sometimes it takes an act of Nature to motivate me!

I did what I could to scrape the bottom of the pencil box.  I peeled all of the crayons and broke them into pieces.  The girls helped me, although they quickly got bored of the peeling part.  We put the piles of crayons in a disposable muffin tin.  (I wasn’t sure what the crayons would do to a non-disposable tray and I didn’t want to find out!)

I then put the tray in the oven set to 400 degrees for about 5-10 minutes.  You’ll know when it’s ready because all of the big chunks will be completely liquefied.

Once the crayons are completely in liquid form, I cooled them for about 5 minutes.  I then stuck the entire tray in the freezer.  It took about 20 minutes to freeze them.  Once they are frozen, you can remove them from the freezer and pop them out of the tins.  Leave them on the counter a few minutes and they’ll go back to room temperature.

*One useful tip is to try and fill the tins as high as you can.  If they aren’t filled, the crayons will be thin and will break easily when the kids color with them.

Make Your Own Frozen Yogurt Pops

1 Jun

I came across this recipe a few years back in Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious.  A friend of mine had recommended the book for my picky eater.  There are a TON of great recipes in it, a few of which I use regularly.  The idea of this recipe book is to discover new ways of hiding fruits and veggies in other dishes, thereby amping up the healthiness of the dish.

Every summer, I make these frozen yogurt pops.  They are quick and simple, healthy and delicious.  The kids can even help in the process!  Don’t worry if you don’t have popsicle molds.  You can always use ice cube trays (just remember to cover them with plastic wrap) and stick toothpicks inside for sticks.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups plain lowfat yogurt

2 cups frozen berries thawed in the microwave for 1 minute (I always use fresh berries and they work fine)

½ to ¾ cup of confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the yogurt, fruit, and sugar in a blender or (large) food processor and process until smooth.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.  (Deceptively Delicious notes that each popsicle is only 100 calories, and contains less than 1 gram of fat!)

They taste delicious on those hot Texas summer days!  If you prefer more of a popsicle as opposed to a yogurt you can always just pour juice into a mold and freeze.  My mom used to let us freeze Kool Aid in ice cube trays for a fun and tasty summer treat!  I think I’ll even try to use the juicer this summer and freeze some of our favorites for popsicles!

Free Kids’ Crafts at Lakeshore Learning

25 Feb

Lakeshore Learning, an educational store in Dallas, offers FREE kids’ crafts every Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm.

Upcoming crafts:

February 26: My Very Own Storybook

March 5: Mardi Gras Mask

March 12: Show Your Colors! Peacock

March 19: Rainbow Wreath

March 26: Brilliant Butterfly

For the Lakeshore Learning website, click here.

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