Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Geography for Preschoolers

Older Toad is studying world geography but I'm finding it a bit hard to come up with fun things for younger Toad. We have a large collection of plastic animals and a world puzzle that shows animals in their home habitats.

Put them together...


you've got world geography for little ones. I did buy the Australia Toob because we had no marsupials or any other animals from Australia in our collection. I intended to put it in our luggage when we moved on to Australia but I pulled it out early for this. They've done this activity together several times and it's fun.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Please Tell us About Your Country - Ireland Edition

Here is the link to the original post to see what this project was about.

The Irish Embassy was kind enough to send:

  • A road map of Ireland. This map had advertisers on it and one that might be of interest to homeschoolers is Walton's music.

  • A booklet designed for kids called Friends in Ireland.  This was the popular one here.

  • A larger booklet called Ireland in Brief.  Both booklets are well illustrated. 
Go raibh maith agat

Monday, August 27, 2012

Boy's Life Archive

Image Source:

 "The Wayback Machine"

This is really neat.  It's got all the back issues of Boy's Life Magazine.  The back issues have great how - to's.

And most people know by now Neil Armstrong died this week.  I didn't know he was an Eagle Scout.  My boys love going to the Kennedy Space Center and when I told them the news they said, "Who?"  When I reminded them of the pictures they saw of the first footprint on the moon and his famous 'mankind' quote they said "Oh, Wow."  I'm sure his accomplishments will continue to inspire other generations to "Wow".

Here's the link to one of the longer profiles about him from Boy's Life.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Journey to the Center of the Earth

We are listening to Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth for our current audio book.  Audio books are currently required in the car.  In the beginning I got them to calm the car arguing.  They've done that, but now their also a source of stress as they HAVE to be on.  It's still better than the arguing.

I like using audio books as vocabulary stretchers.  Last year, I got the actual book and used the illustrations from it to make puzzles.  I did a post about that here.  Those were fun but the last one sat around a long time before I could convince someone to use it so I thought I'd try something different this time around.  Toad's reading vs. writing abilities are not even in the same league so I've worked up some vocabulary worksheets that are heavy on comprehension but light on writing.  Perhaps you could use them too.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Etiquettes pour une carte du monde

We are studying French for our foreign language so I try to adapt some of the activities we do in English to French.  The basics of world geography seemed liked a good activity to do in both languages.  I worked up map labels below that mirror Montessori Printshop's free Globe, Continent and Ocean Map Labels.

World Map Labels French

Friday, August 24, 2012

World Geography Luggage Week 1

So what were we doing for our first week of homeschool? Well our luggage was packed with a lot of fun stuff.   It will take longer than just this week, but here's what we focused on this week.  We also did the 'regular' stuff like spelling and math.  We're using All About Spelling and Life of Fred respectively for those subjects.

Flat Stanley's Original Adventure - This is so popular I've had to make a 2 chapters a day rule otherwise it would have been read already. Homeschool Share has a fun little lapbook for free here that we're doing (check their whole list, they have tons of nice free lapbooks).  The Flat Stanley website is supposed to have a PDF for teachers to download but it won't download for me.  I did print out two of their Flat Stanley's to add our lapbook.  I taped the hands together to make two mini books, one for describing Stanley's character and one for a recap of the book in Toad's words.

Montessori Continent cards - This was a free download from Montessori Helper.

Montessori Landforms cards - This was a free download from Montessori Materials.  I'm supplementing this activity with a few worksheets from a Scholastic download, Success With Maps, grade 3.  Until 8/27/12 they're having one of their $1 sales.

Cartography book - This was a download I paid for from Montessori Print Shop.

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne - We always have an audio book going in the car and this is what we started this week.

World Map Labels - This was a free download (Globe, Continent and Ocean Map Labels) from Montessori Print Shop.

For the record, I don't laminate everything we work with.  It is extra effort and expense but I was expecting to use many of these things all year and wanted them to last.  I also went to the effort and expense of labeling and putting all our various projects in their own envelopes.  I would like things to be better organized this year than last.  I'm trying to provide a format for Toad to keep his work clean and organized himself.  So everything has it's place.  Hopefully, it's also easier for me to store and find when we need to pull it out again too.  I used regular manilla envelopes and printable Avery labels from the office supply store.

Below was some of our reading for the week.  I chose the DK atlas because I liked the layout.  There's many out there that are good.  Our family didn't have one so it was a need.  Steve Jenkins has many great books illustrated with handmade papers.  If you haven't seen his work, pick one up.

It was a good week!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Modern Art II Reading LIst

Hegel's Holiday by Rene Magritte

Tomorrow is open house at homeschool coop and I'll be previewing one of the classes I'm teaching, Lets do Modern Art II.  The class is designed to showcase 1 artist each week with a few slides of that artists work and then the kids do their own art in the same style.  I try to represent a diverse group of artists covering the movements after impressionism, women artists as well as men, artists from many countries as well as give the kids a good mix of art media to build their skills.

I try to keep showcase day to crayons.  Teachers share rooms for coop day so I get families who aren't expecting messy art supplies, lots of little ones and lots of in and out so no one can really finish a project.  A sample of the above, Hegel's Holiday by Rene Magritte, will be out and I'll give them the suggestion to draw objects that sort of go together but are put together in weird ways.  A glass holds water and an umbrella keeps it off you - they're both associated with water but here juxtaposed very oddly. 

Below is the reading list I'll be handing out.  This is not required reading I just like to give the kids ideas in case a particular artist really interests them.  The books are ones that are available through our public library system rather than a complete list.  The kids in the class are 5-8 years old.  Sometimes there's no kids resources available for a particular artist so I suggest an adult art book or don't provide a suggestion.  For the better known artist there are several choices.  I try to provide a balance of biographies, art books, storytelling and inspiration.

The artists we're covering in this class:
Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, M.C. Escher, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau, Alexander Calder, Andrew Goldsworthy, Louise Nevelson, Frida Kahlo, Margaret Preston, and Diego Rivera

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Parthenon out of Unit Blocks

Open house for our local homeschool coop is Thursday.  I signed up to teach two courses, one of which is Appreciation of Architecture for 8-11 year olds.  I like to have an activity out at open house that supports the class.  Thursday it will be build the Parthenon out of unit blocks from only a photograph.

For this building you'll need the following unit blocks:
(8) Quad unit rectangles
(1) Long wide road plank
(20) Medium round columns
(8) Double unit rectangles
(8) Roof joists

You can of course design the building with a different blocks.  This pattern uses approximately half the number of columns of the real building.  It seemed like an easy way to think about the scale.

I've attached the cheat sheet.  At open house all the blocks will be laid out randomly and they get a large picture of the Parthenon.  They have to put the building together just by the photograph.  

The book below, Block Building for Children, is a great book for exploring architecture with blocks for kids.  It does not have patterns for specific buildings but rather, building types.  It has a Gothic cathedral, not Chartres specifically, for example.

If you're considering buying blocks, they're expensive but a great resource.  They are used virtually every day at our house.  I bought some of ours from Barclay Blocks.  The quality was very good.  On their website here, they have photos of projects and here, they have drawings of famous buildings to inspire you.   Happy building!
Parthenon Directions Blog

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Schultute - 1st day of 1st Grade

Schultute are German and it's the special package you get on the first day of first grade.  They stuff theirs with school supplies and candy.  We stuffed ours with maps and snacks.

I got this idea from Wondertime magazine which is no longer being published.  The small cutting instructions are theirs.

First I painted a sheet of white poster board in a way I thought he'd like.  I used another blank sheet as a template following the magazine's instructions.

We homeschooled last year, but this first day of first grade feels more like our intro to homeschooling.  Our school district has a lottery for their magnet and fundamental (read better) public schools.  Last year we didn't get anything in the lottery and decided to homeschool until first grade when there's eligibility for the county gifted school.  This year we made the lottery for the gifted school but decided against going.  It was a hard decision as there's no guarantee  we would make the lottery in any future grades however, the school is a ways away.  It would 3 hours of round trip travel every day.  The school is only 18 miles away but with driving to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, doing the bus route, getting to school and then reversing the process it would be an extremely long day for a 6 year old, who is not very mature for a 6 year old at that.

Not having the option to see friends during the week, do sports or any extra activities for older Toad as well as younger because of the long  schedule made the decision to homeschool an easy one for us.  We really appreciate the flexibility that homeschooling offers.

 It's going to be a great year!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Luggage for International Travel

In addition to passports you of course need luggage for your travels. We made our passports, here's the link for that how to.  Now that the luggage is done they went inside.

Come Monday morning, Toad's luggage will get filled with fun stuff for his travels.  This is how we made the luggage to take with him.

I started with an ordinary shoe box.  My husband has enormous feet and coincidentally needed tennis shoes so I saved the box and reinforced the seams with duct tape.

Then the whole thing got painted brown.  It took several coats.  After that dried, Toad painted the corners with metallic brass paint to look like metal corners.

We went to the thrift store to pick up two belts.  He really liked the metal tips and of course they didn't have two in the same color but he could thankfully care less.  I poked two holes in the belts and several holes through the cardboard so that he could sew the belts to the box.  Now he can pick the box up by the belt and they don't slip off and it's easier to fasten them too.

Lastly, we put on the luggage labels.  The labels really made the project.  Without them it was just a cardboard box painted several strange shades of brown.  If you don't want to buy labels you could make your own.  This was one of the Dover books that had 53 labels in the book, we used 52.  Putting them on was fun too because older toad was great about sharing with his brother and talking about the places on the stickers was a great intro to more geography.

He's excited to see what's going to go in his box...

Friday, August 17, 2012


If you're going to be an international traveler, you're going to need a passport.  We "leave" on Monday for our international year and neither of the boys have passports so I made some up for our trips.

I bought blank ones from Rainbow Resources for under a dollar so that was worth the time to not assemble it.

Satori Smiles blog has this post on how they made their passports.  They used a PDF that was a Five in a Row PDF.  I used their photo page, added the specific info, printed it on full sheet printer labels, cut it out and stuck it in.

I scanned the first and last page spreads of my current passport, printed those out and put them in theirs too.

For the interior, I printed out small labels that said 'Visas' and put them at the top of every interior page.  My first passport had that with the arrival and departure section but I left that out for this.

So now for every country we visit they can get a passport stamp.  The above mentioned PDF has some blank ones you can use.  Also, Oriental Trading Company had some nice looking passport stickers as well as passport kits but I didn't need that many.

I was planning on using the blank labels again and printing them out.  Flickr has a whole section started by someone associated with Lonely Planet of passport stamps organized by country. The diversity of stamps is I think part of the fun.   I can use those and change the dates.  I bought a cheap office date stamp or I can do it on the computer.

So now we just have to pack our luggage...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Peeper Show

We had a friend over this week for a playdate and the 3 boys hosted a "Peeper Show".  It involved shouting "Ta Dah" and letting the peepers fly out of your hands.  It was too cute.

The red roof you see in the background is our chicken palace.  It was donated by Ira at Urban Chicken Tractors to the 4H chicken program.  We won the lottery for it at the State Fair and were thrilled - the peepers like it too.

4H is gearing up for the year all around the country.  Here is the national website or contact your local county extension office for more information.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Art Cart into Science Cart

This little cart used to be our art cart. I did a post here about where all the art supplies went.  I worked some magic on it and now it's our science cart.

I really like that it consolidates all our strewn out science equipment. The microscopes have not been getting enough use and I'm hoping having them more in view will inspire us.  I inherited the dissection scope and the compound scope has gotten more use up to now, but we have plans.  It's a bit of a work in progress and as our year in science progresses I'm sure we'll do some rearranging.

Organizing everything also helped us spot some shortfalls. We added a compass, a flexible measuring tape, a set of dual metric and imperial measuring cups, a bug box, and a bug field guide. We got the bug field guide from the Xerces Society.  They have some good fact sheets on their website about bees if anyone's working on a project on that.

Our favorites from the resources basket:

The boys love the guides that fold since they're light and they can carry them in their backpacks.

If you've got a favorite science tool that you use all the time and it looks like we're missing it, please add it to the comments box since I'm looking for suggestions.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Please Tell us About Your Country - UK edition

Here is the link to the original post to see what this project was about.

I thought I'd start with this country just to get the not fun stuff out of the way.

We got a letter back from the British Embassy and they were not helpful.  Perhaps with the Olympics they were overtaxed but they said they were not able to provide any materials.

They sent a form letter that suggested looking at the following websites:

I'll keep the posts coming.  It was a fruitful project overall but my good English name got me nowhere.

Friday, August 10, 2012

We Built This Linky

In celebration of getting my Gothic architecture curriculum up on Currclick, I created this link up as a repository for all things kids and architecture.  If you've done an activity, reviewed a book, visited a place, or done anything else related to kids and architecture please add it to this link up.  Be sure and add a WE BUILT THIS button to your blog to help spread the word.

Photobucket Photobucket

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Birthday Books for the Library

Older toad just had his birthday as you've heard, and we have a tradition of collecting books for our local library in lieu of gifts.  The library asked us to beef up the biography section.  People were very generous and here's the diverse list.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Gyotaku is the Japanese art of fish printing.  Older toad's actual birthday was on a weekday this week and daddy took some time off work to do this project with him.  My husband lives to fish so of course fish art is a perfect fit.  These fish were in the freezer left over from fish printing I taught at an art camp earlier this summer so there was some variety - Lookdown (above), a Glassnosed Skate and a Lane Snapper is what they chose.

Here are the steps:
First make sure your fish is very dry.  Once you've decided which side to print, remember prints are always reverse, paint it on top of a scrap paper.  This initial painting is messy so scrap paper keeps things cleaner.  It's traditional to use only black.  We like to use colors.  This day involved printing on shirts and rice paper so we used fabric paints and regular acrylics.

Next do a scrap print.  It helps to warm up, figure out the tricky parts on the fish you're printing, and gauge the right amount of paint to apply.

Sometimes it takes a couple scrap prints.

When you're ready for ones you might keep, paint your fish again.  It can be neat to do the fins in a different color.  The eye is always done last with a brush.

Now carefully move your painted fish to your clean printing space.  Spread out it's fins so they will print distinctly.  We like to use old baby diapers or other rags for a printing space because you can gently push the spines on the fins into the fabric to hold them in place. 

Now put your paper or shirt on top of your fish gently.  Rub gently over the entire area to be printed.  Like putting on stickers, start in one spot and gently move across.  Pay special attention to the fins and the edges of its body.

Now gently peel up your paper or shirt from one corner.  Hopefully you're thrilled with your results.  If not, that's ok, just try another one. 

If you don't have access to live fish several companies sell rubber replicas for prints.  I like Acorn Naturalists in CA.

Their work for the day.

Here are some resources if you want more information.

Allen Memorial Art Museum
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Kennedy Center

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gothic Cathedral Architecture

My curriculum is up on Currclick!  The photographs are all ones I took on my travels in Europe.  You can see it on the Currclick website here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Modern Pentathlon

Older toad turned 6.  There's a whole other post about the passage of time in there, but his party this weekend was fun.  In the spirit of the Olympics, we set up a modern pentathlon course.  You're probably wondering what modern pentathlon is.  It's 1 day to compete in fencing, shooting, show jumping, swimming and running.  Here's the link for the governing body.  The real event is coming up this last weekend of the Olympics.

Of course you start the Olympics with the lighting of the Olympic torch.

Rather than arm the kids with guns, we made the Olympic rings out of pool noodles.  The black one is spray painted and all of them are made round with a stick in the hole and a duct taped seam.  I made targets out of paper, they had a bucket of water tinted with tempera paint and a squirter.  They needed to try and get every target with one reload.  This idea I adapted from a Parents Magazine article you can find here.

Next we moved on to fencing.  I thought actual swords would end up in tears so we made small swords and put them in the sand.  Another set of pool noodles needed to be tossed on to the matching colored sword.  It was actually pretty hard.

Spot was trailered down to the beach and was the mount for all the athletes.   He's a steady Paint.   It was timed with penalties for dropped rails.

Swimming allowed everyone to cool off.  They had to swim out to a bouy and back.

Like in the real event, they finished with a run.  They were all winners so everyone received a gold medal (a gingerbread cookie with hard icing and gold sprinkles)

A great celebration of sport!

Friday, August 3, 2012

US Cultural Exchange Package

We're participating in a US cultural package swap.  We just got our parcels out.  This is what was in them.

Older toad wrote a note with some things he wanted to say about our family and where we live.
We made soap (I forgot to put that in the picture) and 3 part montessori cards of all the tropical edibles in our yard.
Some squished pennies from those machines in our area that the toads love doing.
A placemat from the Columbia Restaurant that has some Cuban recipes on it.
Linger Lodge Road Kill Menu.
Temporary tattoos and a rack card from the Pier Aquarium.
A map from Lowry Park Zoo.
A Visitor's Guide to the Tampa Bay History Center.
A Visitor's Guide to The Museum of Science and Industry.
A Family Activity and Map from the Dali Museum.
An exhibition card for the St. Petersburg Crochet Coral Reef.
Booklet for the Chihuly Collection.
Discover Bays and Estuaries from Project Wet.
Boating and Angling Guide to Tampa Bay from the Florida Marine Research Institute.
Fishing Lines a beautifully illustrated fishing guide.  If you'd like to download your own copy go here.
An info sheet for Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE).

We're looking forward to seeing what we get.

Thanks to Melissa at Chasing Cheerios for setting this up!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tropical Edibles - 3 Part Montessori Cards

This is part of a cultural exchange packet we signed up for. The posts are out of order, but I'll do the full packet tomorrow. Hope they make you hungry! Tropical Edibles

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Free Classes for Homeschoolers

This is the third and final installment on my series on ways to save money in the homeschooling process.  The first, general post is here, the second post of free media sources is here.

It's actually harder to find free content for younger kids.  Some universities are moving towards offering free courses for no credit which is great but not everyone is ready for that.

Multiple Subject Areas
Currclick - They usually have a selection of free courses every term such as chess or book club
CyberLearning - A project of the National Education Foundation.  
I mentioned Open Culture in my free media list.  Their list of 500 free college courses is here.
Check with your state also.  We have the Florida Virtual School which is free to FL residents.
Free World U - I've used their flashcards before.

Math and Sciences
IXL Math - This is a paid service if you want the full suite of features.  They do allow you to do up to 20 math problems per day for free and you could work through the whole year that way if you wanted.
Khan Academy - Offers learning opportunities in math and finance mainly (they are branching out into humanities more).
NASA digital learning environment - NASA has so many amazing resources.

Finally, don't forget your local public library.  They are a great resource and probably have some of the Great Courses in their collection which are normally quite expensive.

I would love to expand this list focusing on the elementary level.  If you have any resources please leave them in the comments section and I can update the post for everyone.

Happy learning!

Update Oct. 2012
Check out these too:
Academic Earth 
Education Portal
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