Sunday, April 30, 2017

Large Alpha-Zoo Poster with Real Animal Pictures

FREE Alpha-Zoo Poster with Real Animals

After doing the blog post about our bookshelf, I noticed that the backside of the shelves was looking at bit blank.  See?

FREE Alpha-Zoo Poster with Real Animals

I searched the internet for a reading/book themed decoration idea.  My kids are just beginning to read, so I wanted to engage them at their level.  They love a Star Wars ABC book that we have and they love animals, so I though I'd combine the two ideas into a big animal-themed ABC poster.  I printed it at Staples and had them laminate it for me.  A couple of Command Strips later, and it was done.

FREE Alpha-Zoo Poster with Real Animals

FREE Alpha-Zoo Poster with Real Animals

FREE Alpha-Zoo Poster with Real Animals


Saturday, April 29, 2017

x as in fox (year 3, week 27)

This week was supposed to be the last of our continent-based theme weeks.  We were headed to Europe to talk about foxes and the letter X.  Unfortunately, I just couldn't get motivated enough.  The kids weren't interested and we just didn't get around to anything European or foxy.  Instead, we started planning our beach vacation and I worked on a bunch of blog posts related to that (so check back on Tuesday for the Travel Time post).

I did make a new printable for this week, though- a set of 3-part cards for European landmarks.  It uses Stonehenge and the Colosseum from the World Landmarks toob and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Arch of Triumph, Big Ben, and the Parthenon from the Around the World toob.  You can download the 3-part cards here.

- European Landmarks 3-Part Cards
- fox emergent reader
- 50 animals of Europe
- fox information booklet
- European countries and flags
- European animals 3-part cards
- European countries information 3-part cards (click for individual countries)

- western architecture blocks
- painting the continent of Europe
- castle building blocks
- coloseum building blocks
- writing numbers/letters in red sand
- roman arches building blocks

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dental-Themed Movable Alphabet

FREE Montesorri-Inspired Teeth-Themed Movable Alphabet

Early this month, I shared my Australian Movable Alphabet.  Once I had the format set up on the computer, it was too easy to make new ones.  My kids are very interested in the human body, so I thought a bones alphabet would help them be more interested in reading.  These cards can be used in the traditional Montessori movable alphabet way or could be used for a game of memory.

To download, click HERE.

FREE Montesorri-Inspired Teeth-Themed Movable Alphabet

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A to Z Bookends

These A to Z bookends are not a completely new concept.  I got the idea off of Pinterest when I ran across this Etsy buy.  I liked the kid-friendly idea of the apple and zebra, but thought that I could build my own using Safari Ltd animals.

I bought 5x7 wood plaques from the craft store and painted them with a spring green acrylic paint.  Then, I used 3M Command strips to attach the wood to black bookends.  Next, I painted 5" wood letters (A and Z) in baby blue paint.  Using a hot glue gun, I glued the Safari Ltd Wildlife Alligator and the letter A to one bookend and the Zebra and letter Z to the other bookend.  At that point, there was nothing left to do except to put them on our shelf!

If you like the look of the A-Z bookshelf but you don't want to make one yourself, you can purchase an already assembled one (without the animals) on Amazon.  This subtle superhero bookend would be really fun too.  An even easier bookend would be a mason jar of shells, scrabble tiles, glass gems, math counters or a terrarium.

I organized our books with colored dot stickers: orange for novels, yellow for science, green for early readers, blue for board books, and red for bigger books.  I have been amazed how much the sticker labels have empowered the kids to be able to put their own books away in their bins.  Before, the kids would scatter the books around the house and not know where to put them away.  Now, I've heard the kids giggle when they've realized that they know the "code" and can put the book away in the right place.  Our bookshelf is so much neater now!

Here it is all put together!  Our bookshelf has lots of room to grow, which I love.  The map on the wall is a placemat and is hung at child height.  The quote frame above it is from my Dr. Suess reading printables.

Special thanks to Safari Ltd for the animals to use in this project.  I love the way they look on our shelf and my kids do too!

My Other #HowiSafari Blog Posts

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Astronomy Books

We haven't done very much astronomy, but warm summer nights are a great time to get outside and hang out under the stars.  Dragonfly has started to become interested in the star pictures thanks to Moana, and I thought it would be great to provide her with some good books.  And, well, the boys are into Star Wars, so I think they'll enjoy this study, too.  Most of these books are on our wish list, but I'm going to start the list with one that we own.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Star Wars Themed Road Trips

It's almost May the 4th, which means it's time to start thinking about Star Wars!!!

I'm a bit obsessed with themed road trips.  Just check out my Piratezoodinosaur, and Frozen one as evidence.  In honor of May the Fourth, I present a totally nerdy Star Wars party on wheels.

To keep everyone from turning to the dark side, be sure to pack lots of fun, themed food and drinks.  From snacks to meals, Star Wars is the only way to travel.

- freeze Hans Solo in ice and use him as a cooler ice block
- light saber silverware
- teddy graham ewoks
- jelly beans
- grape light sabers
- graham crackers
- Bow-ba Fett-a Pasta Salad
- fruit snacks
- Princess Lays chips
- Vader-Aid
- mac and cheese lunch box
- Darth Vader sandwich bento box
- cucumber tie fighters
- BB8 lunch box
- light saber honey sticks and fruit

Keep your young jedi happy with lots of Star Wars themed activities, both from on the road and while you're stopped.  Don't forget to grab the Star Wars soundtracks to make every moment of your vacation epic.

- SW printable puppets
- glow stick light sabers
- printable activity pack
- SW visual dictionary
- SW Lego activity book
- movie soundtrack

{Rest Stops}
- Death Star beach ball
- SW football
- bubbles

- light saber fine motor activity
- light saber dive sticks

This, of course, can be anything from a themed t-shirt to a full costume.  Remember that comfort is key in the car, so chose wisely.

- #1 Dad tshirt
- Don't Mess with the Princess tshirt
- stormtrooper
- Rey
- Darth Vader
- Luke
- Leia

Monday, April 24, 2017

Environmental Print Labels for the Home

FREE Environmental Labels for the Home from In Our Pond
My kids are SO interested in words all around them.  They love to point out letters that they know and to make connections between parts of words.  They're desire to decode words inspired me to create these labels for our home.  There are 110 basic labels, but I'm sure the there are even more I could add.  I want to start with just "a few" so that I don't overwhelm them.  The goal is to make them rare enough to be noticeable, not one of thousands to overwhelm them.  I make four types of labels to match any font you'd like to use.  Click on each font name to download those labels.

FREE Environmental Labels for the Home from In Our Pond
Font Styles





FREE Environmental Labels for the Home from In Our Pond

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy 3rd Birthday, Blog!

I've now been blogging on this site for three years!  Here are a few blogging stats and a few things I've learned in the last few years.

Blogversery Posts

Monday- Fruits and Veggies 3-Part Cards

Tuesday- Flowers 3-Part Cards

Wednesday- Australia-Themed Movable Alphabet

Thursday- Our 2016-2017 Classroom

Friday- Australia unit


Number of Blog Posts: 483 published; 31 pending

Most Popular Blog Post This Week: Flower 3-Part Cards

Number of Blog Visitors a Month: 7,636 (up from 2,300 last year)

Most Popular Blog Post Last Month: Foster-to-Adopt Party Ideas

Number of Visitors Total: 78,167 (+46,000 from last year)

Most Popular Blog Post of All Time: QR Codes for Read Aloud Books

Number of Free Printables: 186 published; 7 pending (+61 this year)

Lessons from 3 Years of Blogging

1- I'm not a planner.  Or, I should say that I like to plan, but I'm bad at following through.  If you look over the past three years of homeschooling, you can see that I have long periods of time where I don't follow through on my plan or where I decide to break away form my plan and try something new.  For our fourth year of homeschooling, I'm not going to plan anything or possibly only plan a few weeks at a time.  My kids (especially Dragonfly) have so much drive for learning that I feel like between my creativity and their questions, we'll be fine.  I'm excited about where we might end up.

2- How to use InLinkz to organize.  I wrote a blog post about this, which you can read here.  I'm very pleased with the look of the blog right now.

3- How to plug HTML into my blogging script.  Makes me feel very smart and geeky.

Here's to another year!
Birthday Posts

Friday, April 21, 2017

k is for kangaroo (year 3, week 26)

We're studying the Australia this week!  We identified the big island on the map, learned about the animals, talked about the coral reef, and dreamed about visiting their zoo.

We tried some Australian foods this week.  We live in a very small town and our international food options are limited; however, I was able to find "Australian style licorice."  We tasted American licorice and then the Australian kind and compared them.  We also made "faerie bread," a birthday party tradition.  It is comprised of white bread, spread with butter, and then coated wall to wall with rainbow sprinkles.

This is also an official #HowiSafari blog post!  Safari Ltd sent us the Land Down Under toob for use in our homeschool.  We used the animals in a sensory bin, learned their names, and sorted them by type (marsupial, reptile, bird, etc).  Many of the Australian animals were previously unknown to my kids (our nearest zoo is eight hours away), so they really enjoyed seeing the little figurines.

We matched the Australian animals to the 3-part cards (free printable).  Dragonfly is getting really fast at matching the figurines.  She practiced reading some of the shorter words and identified some of the letter sounds in the words.  We got out our movable alphabet and matched the beginning letters.  When she gets a bit better at reading, we can use the movable alphabet to spell the animal names.

We watched videos about Australia and introduced the kids to the Crocodile Hunter.  They thought he was ok, but they prefer the Wild Kratts.  Dragonfly has been spouting facts from the Kratt Brothers about the different animals all week.

Blog Posts About Kangaroos
- Australian animals 3-part cards
- Australia-themed movable alphabet

- marsupial 3-part cards
- kindergarten unit
- 50 animals of Australia
- Australian biomes
- kangaroo life cycle 3-part cards
- parts of a kangaroo 3-part cards

- tea time
- fairy bread

- how a kangaroo is born
- what's inside an emu egg
- I'm a Platypus (audiobook)
- Wildlife Warriors: Koalas
- Australian Zoo tour
- Crocodile Hunter

Official HowiSafari Posts

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Our 2016-2017 Classroom

For some reason, I never got around to posting about our classroom at the beginning of the year.  On this blog-anniversary week, I have decided that this would be a great time to share our current set-up.

Like many families, we school at the kitchen table most frequently.  I'm not completely satisfied with our set up, but I like the elements on our wall.  Our kitchen bench needs to be repainted with washable paint.  I like the white but this white is always dingy and doesn't want to be clean.  With three little kids, white things that can't be washed are just not working.

However, we do love our plastic-covered wood furniture pieces that can be easily wiped off like our main homeschooling Elite cupboard.  Inside the child-lock is a treasure of resources for our homeschool.  I love that even the doors can be used to store and display stuff.  The wire baskets are from the dollar store and are held up with tiny cup hooks.  I use them for the stapler, tape, a glue stick, and other random little things that I don't want to lose.  Underneath, on the left side, is another cup hook where we hang a pencil bag of kids scissors.  Beside it is our AWANA schedule and a stack of post-it notes.  On the other side is my crystal lite pencil holder, some 3M sticky hooks with QR codes for audiobooks hanging off of them, and a few other random papers in a dry erase holder.

Over my summer organization project, it became very obvious that I needed a faster way to grab pencils (they were in a tackle box).  I modge podged yellow paper onto a crystal lite container, leaving about a half inch uncovered in the back.  Then, I stuck it onto my homeschool cupboard with 3M removable tape.  It is a little tall when the pencils get sharpened down a bit but I like how secure the pencils are in the container.  At least I don't have to worry about them falling out.

Starting at the top shelf, I have my school supplies tool boxes, which we use all the time.  It's my favorite organizational thing that I have ever done.  The tool boxes are held upright with a paper organizer.  I'd like to build a shelf system for them eventually.  The right side has our resource binders, a bit of paper and a few random things.

The second shelf has our work boxes and some other supplies on them.  The work boxes are paper drawers, which are another one of my go-to organizational favorites.  We haven't used the work boxes as frequently as I thought that we would, but I think we still will use them in the future.  My kids just aren't ready for independent learning yet.  The blue paper bins came from the dollar store and hold large paperwork.  The plastic shoe boxes have the sand tray, the number popcorn game, and a extra school supplies.  You can get different work box labels on my blog (black or white).

The third shelf is almost identical to the second.  The shoe bins hold our alphabet disks that a friend made, our pink tower, and our magnetic pattern blocks.

The bottom shelf has big plastic bins with books in them.  We're working on our setting up a bookshelf, but the majority of our books are still hidden while we learn to take care of the books we have out.  The shoe boxes have our Safari Ltd Life Cycle in plastic crayon boxes.  The other boxes holds printed cards that we aren't using right now and stickers.

Since I mentioned books, I think now is a good time to show off our latest homeschool furniture piece.  This is a 6-shelf hutch by ClosetMaid.  The bottom shelves are like 13" wide and the top ones are 9" wide.  We bought this one because we have a lot of oversized books.  I got these white plastic bins to hold our books, since we have a lot that would be difficult to shelf properly.  The bins are based on an 11" cube and are available in half (bigger bins) and quarter size.  I need to add some colored tags to the books to help the kids put the books back in the right place.   I love how the white bins blend into the bookshelf and look very tidy.

We have also commandeered a kitchen pantry for homeschool supplies.  This cupboard looks a bit disorganized, but it makes sense to me.  The top left shelf has black CD boxes which hold our altoid tin games.  On top of those is a blue bin of random stuff.  Topping that stack is our sensory bin containers and trays.  In the middle is the paper cutter, laminator, and a book I need to repair.  The right side has our play dough and cookie cutters.  The doors have important things that I don't want to forget I have like our "Where I Live" visual and some giant paper coins.  The second shelf is our science unit printables.

The big bin on the left is a bunch of random supplies for our units, bagged according to the theme.  The other big bin is containers, little trays, pitchers, etc, for Montessori-inspired practical work.  The small shoe box has duct tape, regular tape, and packaging tape (and a few pencils lest you think I'm too organized).  The little bin is essential oils- not the best location but kid safe inside the locked cupboard).  The glycerin is for homemade play dough and other sensory activities.

Lastly, our sensory bin supplies cupboard!  The top shelf is Safari toobs and sensory bin stuff.  On top of the substrate bin is my new binding machine.   On the bottom left is my unfinished crafts box.  All that stuff used to be all over the kitchen island.  I'm trying to keep the island cleaned off (it makes the whole house look cleaner) and to only get things out when I using them.  The blue bins are media boxes from Staples (here).  The bigger one is our DVDs and the smaller one is our device chargers and similar type stuff.  The black CD wallet is more DVDs.

Whew!  That was a long blog post!  I hope you enjoyed a glance into our classroom.

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