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Monday, September 10, 2018

Homeschool Year 2018-2019 Curriculum Choices

I wanted to finish the first week of homeschool before I wrote about what we're doing this year.  I'm still not entirely sure what all we'll be learning and what resources we'll be using, but I'm excited to see what happens.  This is my fifth year of blogging, so I'm calling it our 5th year of homeschooling; however, my oldest is only seven.  Ok, here's what I know so far.

Dragonfly is seven years old and has recently become very girly.  I'm not sure what happened, but my rational, fact-based "science girl" is now an emotional, fantasy-loving dreamer.  She's been moving away from playing her brother's games and has discovered unicorns, Barbies, and ponies.  She's learned how to braid and has started to care about hair styles and crafting.

This school year, we're focusing primarily on the 3Rs.  For handwriting, we're using A Reason for Handwriting, which is a workbook which includes writing out Bible verses.  Although she's not reading yet, the handwriting is bringing in a lot of sneaky word learning, and I'm sure she'll be reading by the end of the year.

We're not using a specific curriculum for reading, but I have a lot of resources in the home including some that I have made like the Rainbow Reader sight word tracker.

For arithmetic, we're using Horizons, which she is able to do nearly on her own.  The math workbook is another sneaky way for her to practice reading.  I also intend to add in some interesting theme units according to her interests.

Skimmer is six this year, and still very excited about vehicles.  He has a large collection that he hauls around everywhere in a bin.  He particularly loves cars that have sound and spinning wheels.  This summer, he learned how to ride a bike without training wheels and has mastered the monkey bars.  He's always moving.

This will be Skimmer's first year of formal learning.  Like his sister, he's been working on the 3R's with a bit of extra emphasis on fine motor skills like cutting with scissors.

For handwriting, I was planning on using A Reason for Handwriting, but I discovered that he needs a bit more pre-writing practice before writing letters.  I found a free printable of Pre-Handwriting Worksheets from 3 Dinosaurs, and he's doing great with them.

Like her sister, we were planning on using Horizons math, but then I found something more fitting- Brick Math!  It's a series that teaches math concepts up to fifth grade using Lego bricks.  The kids have just discovered Lego this summer and play almost every day.  He's going to be so excited!

I will be adding phonics into our day later in the year.  I want to work on his attention span, fine motor skills, and handwriting first.  I have Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons book which we might use later.

Tadpole is five years old and is my bug boy.  He spends a lot of time looking for bugs, chasing them down, holding them, and studying them.  He's appears to not be afraid of anything, and is always calling his sister for a snake, lizard, or frog hunt.

At least for the beginning of the year, Tadpole's schooling is just like his brothers.  The boys enjoy being "on the same team," and have done well taking turns with my time.  It's a bit of a juggle to set up one boy with an activity to do something with one of them and then to switch back and forth all morning.  I'm hoping to be a bit more organized in this area soon, but luckily I have a large cupboard of items to throw at them.  They're always happy to poke holes in a box (pencil grip practice) or destroy something with scissor.

I have no idea what our homeschool year will look like this year, or what my blogging will look like either.  In previous years, I tried to plan out theme units and then blog about those unit every week.  I know that I won't be doing that, but I think it would be good to do some sort of weekly review.  I have a few printables to get on the blog, some new homeschool resources to tell you about, and lots of pre-Christmas posts.  Check back often and keep me moving forward.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Guar Gum Grinch Slime

Dragonfly and I have been having so much fun exploring the awesome slime chemistry from Little Bins for Little Hands.  At least a few times a week, we test out a new recipe and get our hands dirty together.  It's great bonding time and mess-free (yes, really).

A few weeks ago, Little Bins posted a brand new slime recipe involving guar gum.  This plant-based, gluten-free food thickener is perfect for making glue-free slime.  Dragonfly couldn't wait to test it, so we ordered the guar gum from Amazon right away.  Fortunately, the other ingredients in this slime are the normal ones for slime- food coloring, baking soda, and saline solution- so we already had them in the house.

I noticed from reading the post on Little Bin that we use more guar gum than they do.  She uses 1 teaspoon of the powder, and we used 1 tablespoon.  The larger amount made it harder to incorporate into the water (we used 1 cup of warm water), but it did make a very stretchy, juggle-ly slime.  It was very fun and is cheaper per ounce than using glue.  Try it out for yourself!

And if you love making slime like I do, you have to check out The Ultimate Slime Guide book.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

School Supply List for Homeschooling

It's back to school season again!  Or as homeschoolers like to call it "NOT-back-to-school" time.  Social media is full of posts, memes, and videos complaining about how expensive school supplies are for traditional schoolers.  Few people think about what homeschoolers need for their education.  The home-school combines all the classroom needs and all the student needs into one big list.  The homeschool should have it all!

The Basics

Like all school children, homeschoolers need fresh pencils, lots of glue sticks, scissors, and other ordinary supplies.  Take advantage of Back-to-School sales to get good deals on crayons, pens, and notebooks.  Unlike most school kids, homeschool families should also grab a few hundred sheets of computer paper for all the printables, a new Instant Ink compatible printer with free ink, and lots of liquid glue for slime experiments.

Click on the Picture to Visit the Post

Math Class

One of the best parts about homeschooling is being able to have access to all the math manipulatives and visual tools whenever you need them. I am very tactile when it comes to math, and always did better when I could see and feel the answers. I'm so glad my kids don't even have to ask to get out the Cuisenaire rods, money, or counters. Be sure to check the Target dollar spot for flashcards, learning clocks, mini erasers (counters), and more.

Click on the Picture to Visit the Post

Science Class

If I ever had a homeschool classroom, I'd fill it up with science stuff.  There are so many categories of scientific experimentation and exploration.  I'd have microscopes, petri dishes, chemistry sets, and cabinets full of specimens and models.  Like math, science is better if it can be touched and seen. instead of just read.

Click on the Picture to Visit the Post

Phonics and Literature Class

It's no secret that homeschoolers love to collect books.  I usually buy mine on Ebay, at thrift stores, and on Amazon.  I also recommend magnetic letters, spelling games, and other things for reading practice.  I also like to grab some new Audible books for quiet time and for read alouds.

Click on the Picture to Visit the Post

What's on your list?  What would you add?

Any experienced homeschoolers want to dispute it?

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Monday, August 13, 2018

When Life Give You Lemons... Fun Lemonade Ideas for Kids

Next Monday (August 20) is National Lemonade Day!  It's a perfect day to celebrate the end of summer and to raise a sweet and sour glass to many summers to come.  For homeschoolers and teachers, I've included many books, activities, and other things to help you turn the day into a learning adventure.  This post was so much fun to make, and I hope you enjoy it!


Book!  Books!  Books about lemonade!  Most of these are early reader ones for elementary kids.  Some of them even include math concepts!

Sensory Play

Lemons are so cheery that they draw you in for playtime, plus they smell amazing!  As well as drinking lemonade, your kids might enjoy pouring and dumping lemon-scented rice, squishy yellow play dough, or making a lemon explode.


Drinking lemonade isn't the only thing you can do on Lemonade Day.  You can also eat amazing lemon-y foods!  Don't eat the chapstick, though.

Poke-a-Dot Blueberry Lemonade Popsicles // Mama, Papa, Bubba

Pink Lemonade Rice Crispy Treats // Thrifty Jinxy

Earth Day Lemonade // Paper and Glue

Lemon Sugar Scrub // The Thrifty Couple

Maple Syrup Lemonade // Mama, Papa, Bubba

Sunny Lip Balm // Sugar Spice and Glitter

Honeydew Lemon Slush // Amanda's Cookin

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate // Ruffles and Rainboots

Have a Lemonade Party with your friends to toast the end of summer!

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Go Back to School with Instant Ink

We recently got an Instant Ink compatible printer for our homeschooling.  I had been putting off buying ink on our old printer for several months, not wanting to put out the money to purchase new cartridges.  Then, I heard about a great deal on a new HP printer.  For the price of two cartridges for the old printer, I bought a brand new wireless printer with 10 months of free ink!  I've wanted a wireless printer for a long time, so it's even more perfect.

The printer is part of HP's Instant Ink program, a subscription service where ink is automatically sent before you need it (amazing!).  When you sign up for the program, you chose how many pages of printing you think you'll use a month- 30, 100, or 300.  Every month, your printing allowance starts over.  When the cartridge gets low, HP automatically sends you new ink.
Never run out of ink again!


- Big, Big Savings!
        check out the list on the right

- The Ink Gets Sent Before You Need It
        never run out again!

- Wireless Printing
          anywhere in the house or from your phone

- Suspend or Cancel At Any Time
         no penalties (possible bonuses for returning)


- Pay Every Month
        whether you use it or not

- Limited "free" pages
        must pay for additional pages

- must have wireless internet
         printer doesn't come with a USB

Update- One Year Later

We LOVE our Instant Ink Printer!  It's so amazing to always have ink in the printer when you need it, to print from anywhere, and to get FREE ink!  It's the best thing we've ever bought for our homeschool classroom.  Now, we just need a similar service for printer paper.

As well as the codes listed above, try adding- FREEINK, SAVE50NOW, 3FREEINK, SAVENOW50, HPINSTANTINK4U.  The more you stack, the more ink you get for free.  Also, make sure you sign up for the most pages at the beginning when you'll get them for free and then bump your subscription back down when the months run out.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Outrageously Amazing Toys for the Backyard

A few months ago, I did a post on making your backyard a paradise for kids.  In that article, I listed mostly homemade outdoor toys.  Today, I wanted to focus on manufactured toys.  My kids would love to own any of these amazing products.

Can you guess which one was Dragonfly's (age 7) favorite?  Six-year-old Skimmer's pick?  Or Tadpole's wishes- in his four-years of experience?  Which one would your kid chose?  Comment below!

These are the best, most envy-worthy toys for the under-10 crowd.  Put any one of these toys in your backyard and impress your friends with how much you love your child.  A gift guide from In Our Pond.
MOUNTAIN CLIMBER- Work on hand-eye coordination and strengthen muscles

AIRPLANE TEETER TOTTER- The best part is the propeller

RIDE-IN JEEP- Vehicle for your 6-year-old

WATER SLIDE BOUNCER- My kids' dream summer water experience

CEDAR PLAYGROUND- This is the ultimate swingset

POD SWING- Great for sensory seeking kids

CABIN PLAYHOUSE- Adorable for pioneer play

CLIMBING DOME- Monkey around with this structure

TRAMPOLINE- My sensory-seeker would jump all day

CATERPILLAR TUNNEL- Crawl through the tunnel and peek through the windows 

BOUNCE HOUSE- Be the party all the time!

GIANT CHESS- Get your whole body involved in this classic game

TODDLER ROLLER COASTER-  What toddler doesn't want to ride their bike down the slide?

Monday, July 16, 2018

S.T.E.M. Toys for Kids

Everyone is talking about S.T.E.M. right now and schools are spending extra time focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  As a homeschool parent, I love that my children's exposure to these subjects can be through playtime.  My kids loved helping me put together this list of amazing toys that spark curiosity and teach great concepts.  They're wish list is now a whole bunch longer.

DNA BUILDING TOY- I think I've wanted this toy for most of my life.  It's on my list for the near future.  I can't wait to explore the amazing traits of DNA and RNA with this toy.

BUTTERFLY HABITAT- Growing a caterpillar into a butterfly is also on my wish list.

EXPERIMENT KIT- This looks like it would be a good set for homeschoolers as it contains a bunch of different experiments.

MOLECULE BUILDING SET- Build molecules and learn about basic chemistry.

FLOATING MAGNETS- A simple toy that allows kids to explain the power of magnets.

NEWTON'S CRADLE- An object in motion will stay in motion... test it with this toy.

CRYSTAL GROWING KIT- Explore molecules by growing crystals.

BUG NET- Send the kids in the yard to catch bugs for studying.

STRAWBERRY DNA EXTRACTION KIT- Extract and analyze fruit DNA with this kit.

FOSSILS-  Set of fossils for collecting and studying.

VOLCANO- This classic science toy is a must in every home.

SMITHSONIAN MOTOR WORKS- We picked this toy up at a yard sale and are anxiously waiting for the kids to be old enough to build our own engine.

CODE AND GO MOUSE- This is a coding game for preschoolers.  Move the tiles to make the mouse move as the cards show.

CAN ROBOT- Turn an ordinary tin can into a simple robot.

SNAP CIRCUITS- We also have a set of used snap circuits that we're excited to grow into soon.  Put the pieces together to create complete circuits and make things happen.

HEXBUG SCARAB- This little robots look amazing.

CODE-A-PILLAR- Take off and snap together pieces of this caterpillar to code him to do different things.  There are even other pieces to buy and add.

DOT PROGRAMMABLE ROBOT- Use your tablet to make this robot do different things.  It can even fly.

KINDLE FIRE KIDS EDITION- There's so much for kids to do and learn on a tablet.  We love our Kindle Fire and especially the kid-safe "Freetime" mode.

LEARN TO SOLDER KIT- My husband solders pretty often.  This toy for teens teaches an important part of computer and robot building.

ROCKET- This classic toy should be done at least once by every child.

NANOTECHNOLOGY KIT- Explore nanotechnology with a series of experiments.

PROGRAMMABLE ROBOT- A different type of robot.  Looks interesting.

LEGO BRICKS- I don't think it's possible to have too many plain Lego bricks.  We've been working on our collection.

BRAIN FLAKES- Use these interesting plastic pieces to build all sort of things.

MAGABUILDER- These magnetic tiles hang out together to create.

WITKA MAGNETIC BARS-  Build towers and bridges with these magnetic rods.

MIDDLE EASTERN ARCHITECTURE BLOCKS- Even the youngest kids can learn to appreciate architecture with these neat blocks.

BRIDGE BUILDING KIT- Explore physics with this bridge kit.

CITY PLANNING TOY- Pretend to be an architect with this city planning kit.

K'NEX FERRIS WHEEL- K'nex have a reputation for making cool engineering toys that really work.  It was hard to pick just one.

STRAW BUILDING KIT- What could you build with a simple straw and a few connectors.

TAKE APART AND BUILD CAR- Early elementary kids can practice using tools as they build this car.

LINCOLN LOGS- For over 100 years, this toy has been an imagination-inspiring toy.

MARBLE RUN- Build a maze for marbles and experiment with physics.

FRACTION CUBES- Explore fractions and find equivalencies.

STACK AND COUNT PARKING GARAGE- This is a counting toy for preschoolers, but it could also be used for basic addition and subtraction facts to 10.

SUM SWAMP GAME- I keep hearing good things about this game.  It's on our list.

CASH REGISTER- Make calculations and count money with this toy.

ABACUS- One of the oldest math tools, the abacus continues to be a great learning tool.

WOOD TETRIS PUZZLE- For a screen free was to play tetris, check out this game.

PATTERN BLOCKS- A stable in classrooms, these tiles are good for patterns, fractions, symmetry, and more.

TANGRAM PUZZLE- The possibilities are endless with this ancient Chinese game.

RAINBOW BLOCKS- There's something so beautiful about this toy.

GEOMETILES- These pieces snap together to create 3D geometric shapes.

BASE 10 BLOCKS- Another classroom classic, which help kids understand many math concepts.

COUNTING COOKIES- Pretend play disguised as learning!

PRIME CLIMB GAME- Multiply and divide to win this game.

GEOMETRIC SHAPES- This set shows the why behind geometric formulas.

MATCHING AND COUNTING EGGS-  Match colors and numbers with these plastic eggs.

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Montessori-Inspired Ant Life Cycle 3-Part Cards

Montessori-Inspired Ant Life Cycle 3-Part Cards // In Our Pond // Great for homeschooling or classroom work, these free printable cards encourage scientific exploration, memorization of the life cycle, and comparisons between insects.

Summertime is a great time to learn about ants.  Whether they're crawling on your food at a picnic or in your kitchen, your kids will probably have lots of questions about them.  Grab an ant farm, a couple great books about ants, and a Safari Ltd or Insect Lore life cycle set and start answering their questions!

Our family loves the life cycle sets from Safari Ltd or Insect Lore.  They're so awesome for learning about insects and other animals.  I made these Montessori-inspired 3-part cards that match the toys, which are a great expansion for sensory bins or as part of an ant learning theme.

Montessori-Inspired Ant Life Cycle 3-Part Cards // In Our Pond // Great for homeschooling or classroom work, these free printable cards encourage scientific exploration, memorization of the life cycle, and comparisons between insects.
Click on the Picture to Download the Printable

Print two copies to use in the traditional Montessori way, leaving one set of cards whole and cutting the other set of cards a part.  The 3-parts of the matching cards are the whole card (picture and label), the picture card, and the label card.  Students can match the three parts to each other when they are first learning or can match the picture to the label, using the whole card as a control to check their work.

Cards can also be used to practice spelling, encouraging students to label the pictures with handwritten labels, moveable alphabet tiles, or salt tray writing.  The students could also use the cards as a resource for writing their own short story or non-fiction report about ants.  What other ways do you use them for learning?  Comment below!

My children enjoy bringing out all our life cycle sets and comparing the different stages.  The Safari Ltd and Insect Lore sets are so detailed that it's easy to see each insect's body parts.  With all the adult insects in front of your child, ask them to point to the thorax of each insect or to count the legs.  Point out the unique features, like the stinger on the bee, the colors of the butterfly, and the needle nose of the mosquito.  Grab some good books, look up some videos on Youtube, and just keep the learning going!

Check out all my Montessori-inspired 3-part cards by clicking on the picture below and scroll down to see all the available life cycle sets.

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Montessori-Inspired Ant Life Cycle 3-Part Cards // In Our Pond // Great for homeschooling or classroom work, these free printable cards encourage scientific exploration, memorization of the life cycle, and comparisons between insects.