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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our Class Pets

A new school year means new class pets, especially when you have a science-minded family.  I have been researching "self-feeding" ecosystems for several months and decided to put on together for our classroom.

I started with real lake silt from a nearby lake.  The silt contains microorganisms, which help keep the ecosystem stable.  The grass pieces came from the same lake, but I want to replace it soon with duckweed or a similar aquatic plant.  The plant matter provides oxygen and food for the ecosystem.  Next, it was time to add the animals.

From our local pet store, I added four live animals.  The male guppy as been named "Bubble Guppy" after the TV show.  The two shrimp and snail haven't been named at all.  In our ecosystem, the fish provides the waste matter for the shrimp and snail to eat.  The snail and shrimp will also eat algae, dead plant matter, and bits of fish food.  I think the only thing I will need to add to the tank is a bit of fish food every once in a while.  I also have the necessary supplies to do half-tank water changes as needed.  This is an experiment for me as well as for the kids.  We'll see what happens.

Last summer, our pet was a tree frog.  You can read about the things we learned from him at this blog post.  Next summer, I'd like to grow tadpoles.  Or perhaps hatch butterflies.  Oh, so many fun possibilities when you have a nerd family.

Follow my Pond board on Pinterest!

Update: The system failed!  Frowny Face!  Perhaps we'll try again another time, but Dragonfly is really pushing for a frog again.  Or chicks- she's flexible.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

v is for vulture (year 3, week 3)

Yet another unpopular unit for kids!  This week, we studied "v is for vultures" in Africa.  We have two more weeks in Africa before we take our week break for school.  Then, it's off to a new continent!

Gymnastics class!  We had car trouble, so we couldn't go.  The kids were so disappointed.  Shortly after that, I began not to feel well, so it worked out.  The kids woke up extra early because they were so excited.  They were very tired all morning and took good naps.  I'm so glad that my kids go to a school that allows them to nap everyday!

The kids worked on their shoulder strength by drawing pictures on our new chalkboard.  The board came from Home Depot already blackened, and my husband made the frame.

We talked about the food chain today, using the illustration of grass as the producers, zebras for herbivores, lions for carnivores, and vultures for scavengers.  The kids found it very interesting that there were animals that ate other dead animals.  We also talked about the reason for scavengers and how they clean up the earth.

We watched some videos on Youtube that showed vultures in Africa chowing down on dead stuff (linked in the resourced below).

AWANA day!  The car wasn't fixed so we couldn't go.  We were all very disappointed.

For math, we stepped back from our workbook and looked at some of the concepts in a different way.  We watched a bunch of the time-telling videos from Primary Theme Park as a whole group.  Then, Dragonfly and I got out our homemade clock (free printable) and she worked on putting the numbers on the clock in the right order.  I grabbed some c-rods to represent the minute and hour hand and we worked on some "o'clocks."  I saw a light in her face when she made the connections between her workbook, the videos, the clock on the wall, and our learning clock.

After the lesson, it was really fun to see her apply the information.  She didn't want to take a nap today because she was afraid of missing AWANA.  I had told her what time we needed to leave, so she asked me the time.  I told her "two o'clock."  She replied, "Two o'clock.  Three o'clock.  Four o'clock.  There are a few o'clocks until we have to leave."  Then, she fell asleep.  Even though the math wasn't quite there, I was very encouraged to hear her doing the counting on from two.  It was also neat that she understood that o'clocks were a significant amount of time.

I introduced the i-spy bottle to the kids and let them take turns individually with finding all the animals.  I had them fill out their boards with minuscule marshmallows (like the kind from the hot chocolate pack) and then they got to eat them once the board was filled.  The bottle was an instant hit and got carried around and looked at a lot this week.

We homeschooled at the doctor's office.

We homeschooled at the grocery store.  Dragonfly practiced her number identification with the isle numbers and prices (although we haven't started doing money yet).

Blog Posts About Vultures
- 10-frame printable
- letter scavenger hunt bottle
- letter V hunt printable
- nesting African food chain

Vulture Printables
- Kindergarten unit on Kenya
- Africa Proverbs Copywork

- vultures eating zebra
- vultures eating hippo and crocodile attacks

- Handa's Surprise
- Handa's Chicken
- Why the Vulture is Bald
- We All Went on Safari (a counting book)
- We're all Going on a Lion Hunt

Friday, September 23, 2016

Rainforest Review Game (Editable)

FREE Customizable Rainforest Game from In Our Pond

I made this rainforest game to be used for many years by making the "paw print" cards fully editable.  I plan on laminating them and using wet erase marker to add whatever information we need to review.  Perhaps one day, we'll be working on sight words.  Another day it might be science facts about animals.  We could write multiplication problems, letters, or anything else we need.  I intend to use a dice and little toys (perhaps the Safari rainforest toob animals) as our game pieces.

The free 2-page game is available for download here.

FREE Customizable Rainforest Game from In Our Pond

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Literacy Scavenger Hunt Bottle

FREE ABC Scavenger Hunt Bottle Printable

The idea for a letter i-spy bottle has been around for a long time.  I saw lots of ideas on Pinterest (listed below), but none using Safari's Good Luck Mini Wild Fun Pack.  For this week's #HowiSafari blog post, I'm featuring a Safari themed literacy bottle.

FREE ABC Scavenger Hunt Bottle Printable

First, gather your Safari mini animals, something to use as a filler (usually a grain or something similarly small), and an empty plastic bottle.  Depending on your literacy focus, you could add mini letter tiles, letter beads, or words written on cardstock.  You might also chose to add more animals or objects and challenge the student to write the animal's name from memory or to mark it off on a worksheet.

FREE ABC Scavenger Hunt Bottle Printable

For my preschoolers, I chose to make a Letter Safari Bottle.  I added yellow lentils, letter tiles, and Safari's Mini Animals to a Smart Water brand plastic bottle.  I chose not to glue on the lid, and I'm glad that I took the risk.  After playing around with it for a while, I decided that the beads were too heavy for the substrate and didn't make a very good i-spy bottle.  The kids weren't ready for a full-alphabet scavenger hunt anyways, so it worked out.

FREE ABC Scavenger Hunt Bottle Printable

Free Printable- recording sheet in either color or black and white.  The children can either mark out the letter with either a counter (rock, coin, bean, etc) on the colored copy or they can color in the letter on the b&w page.  The recording pages that I made for the popcorn letter games would be useful in this activity as well.

FREE ABC Scavenger Hunt Bottle Printable

As the kids get older, I plan on adding words to my Safari literacy bottle.  I made this word safari printable for that purpose.  Either the words or the pictures can be added to the bottle and then matched with either the words or the pictures on a recording sheet.  Even non-readers could match pictures to pictures.  Fluent readers could be asked to match words to words.  The pictures came from one of my favorite Teachers Pay Teachers shops, Educlips.

FREE ABC Scavenger Hunt Bottle Printable

I dumped out the letter bottle and added the mini picture from my printable.  The kids really enjoyed seeing the 3D  Safari mini animals while they hunted for the 2D pictures.  I glued the picture to their match so that there was no wrong side to the pictures.  This made it a lot easier for the kids to find the animals.  The bottle also created some good discussion and vocabulary building as we talked about the different animals.

Dragonfly is begging me to let her play with the little animals, so I think a sensory bin is next.

FREE ABC Scavenger Hunt Bottle Printable

Safari's Good Luck Mini Wild Fun Pack are just the right size for an Altoid tin.  For our summer road trip last summer, I made the kids a safari small world for them to play with in the car.

And that's how we Safari!

More Ideas From the Web
- vocab bottle and matching book
- synonyms for cold bottle
- floating glow-in-the-dark words
- sight words

FREE ABC Scavenger Hunt Bottle Printable

For more #HowiSafari Ideas- follow my Safari Ltd board on Pinterest!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Nesting African Food Chain

FREE Nesting African Food Chain Printable from In Our Pond

This next week at Mommy School, we're focusing on vultures and scavengers.  Like my gorilla unit, it's been tough to find activities or ideas for this theme.  I ran across the idea of a food chain from a different ecosystem, and decided to make one for Africa with the vulture at the top.

This is a very basic, four-step food chain, suitable for kindergarten or first grade.  The four steps are producer (grass), herbivore (zebra), carnivore (lion), and scavenger (vulture).  The printable is set up so the student can make a tube of each animal (cut out and glue at the shaded section).  If the tubes are stacked smallest to largest, it gives them impression that the one on top has eaten the one below.  I think my kids will enjoy the "magic" of the process.  I'm planning on printing on cardstock.  Alternatively, the pieces could be attached to toilet paper rolls that have been reduced to be different sizes.

Visit the blog on Saturday to see how the completed project (v is for vulture post).

To download the file, click here.

FREE Nesting African Food Chain Printable from In Our Pond

Saturday, September 17, 2016

g is for gorilla (year 3, week 2)

Last week, we focused on the entire globe as we learned about apples.  This week, we're narrowing our focus to Africa, where we'll stay for about a month.  Our theme this week was on monkeys and apes (and some lemurs).  I was surprised how hard it was to find information or resources about this topic.

Our weekend was very busy.  We went to a county fair with my parents and sisters, where the kids rode lots of rides.  We stayed for the rodeo, which meant a late night for everyone.  The next day, Dragonfly went fishing for the first time with Daddy and Grandpa.  On the way home, our car broke down.  With all the event of the weekend (and the crowds), we started the week tired and behind.

Gymnastics class!  That's pretty much our entire day.

Dragonfly did 2 math worksheets today.  She's doing very well with her concepts and is still enthusiastically desiring to move ahead.

We tried a new thing with handwriting, where she traced in pencil words that I had written with highlighter.  It was very fun and easy to see both my writing and hers.  She wrote her full name and some words from our science lesson this week (gorilla, ape, etc).  Then, I had her draw a picture of something related to the words.  She started with a tree, then added sky, a river, a waterfall, grass, flowers, and a giraffe.  This was the first time that she has ever tried to tell a story with her coloring.  She enjoyed it and is asking to do it again (I'd like to do it once a week or so).

We homeschooled at the dentist today!  One of the kids' had a cleaning, so we all had to go.  The dentist showed the kids a teeth model and explained cavities to them.  I think we need to do a teeth unit in the future (because of interest).  Perhaps during one of our "break" weeks this year.

We also started AWANA (Bible club) today.

We finally got to monkeys and apes!  I showed the kids pictures of the animals from my monkey and apes printable.  We sorted the primates, then matched the Safari toob animals to the cards.  I had hoped to do a sensory bin with them, but it just didn't happen this week.

Dragonfly did another 4 lessons in her math workbook.  She loves math and science!

Daddy's day off.  The kids napped and played while the grown-ups "got stuff done."  It was a very productive day- but not very scholarly.

We will do our Interactive Notebooks on Saturday.  Maybe we'll get a sensory bin put together, too.

Update- here's what we did for our science notebook this week:

Blog Posts About Gorillas
- rainforest review game
- 10-frame-printable- monkeys and apes 3-part cards (printable)
- sorting monkeys and apes
- making teen numbers

- Curious George pack
- Curious George lapbook

Gorilla Ideas
- gorilla hand print comparison
- monkey clothespins
- barrel of monkey game
- banana grams CVC words
- barrel of monkey activities
- Good Night Gorilla book ideas

- all about animals: gorillas
- apes and kids (fun)
- wild monkeys (species)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

a is for apple (year 3, week 1)

The kids have been begging me to start "Mommy School" for weeks.  I've been holding them off as I've prepared and to build the anticipation.  At last, the time has come.


This week, we started gymnastics.  All three of the kids are in the same class.  They all wished that they could do gymnastics every day, and have been very good at practicing what they learned.


Daddy had an extra day off so we gave ourselves an extra weekend day.


Wednesday was our first day of school. We started with some carpet time, then moved to the table to work on our notebooks.  Dragonfly colored a booklet of the world's continents, while the boys colored a letter A with pictures of words that start with short "a."

 We ate green and yellow apples and talked about the parts of the apple and the tastes sour and sweet.  After naps, we took first day of school pictures!

We practiced laying out our rugs for carpet time and rolling them up again.  One of my children is showing perfectionist tendencies about his rug.


We had a rotation this morning with different activities that each child got to try.  They practiced their scissor skills and strengthened their fingers with play dough, which they rolled into snakes and cut.

They also played with a cinnamon-scented sensory bin.  The substrate is oatmeal with a big sprinkle of cinnamon.  The red pompoms were for counting, and the letter "a's" were used for practicing "ahh" sounds.

Dragonfly practiced spelling her CVC "at" words with me, which she did very well at.  She felt very empowered to see that "at" always made the same sound but changing the beginning sound changed the word.  The CVC word cards came from Miss Giraffe.  The letters are from Amazon.

During their "work with mom" time, the boys played with the Bucket Balance and counted "green apple" glass stones.  They enjoyed the feel of the stones and the pouring and dumping aspect of the activity.

While we were doing school, our free toys from Safari Ltd arrived.  While I did my #HowiSafari photo shoot, the kids enjoyed turning through the catalogue.  There was so many good conversations and "reading" happening!  I think every item in the book is now on their Christmas lists.


One of our Back-to-School traditions is to make apple pie.  Today was the day!

Dragonfly got to use a knife for the first time to cut apples.  She was very happy about the opportunity.  She did great- and there was no blood.

Other Apple Posts
- homeschool year 2
- homeschool year 1
- apple theme pictures/posters
- apple scented writing tray
- wormy apple busy bag
- the Big Apple 3-part cards

Apple Printables
- apple vocab poster
- roll and pick math game
- apple tree alphabet match

More Apple Ideas
- apple ring donuts
- orchard sensory bin
- apple experiment

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Even More Themed 10-Frames

This blogger is very honored to be part of Safari Ltd's blogger campaign #HowiSafari!  I'm going to be posting twice a month about the ways that our family uses Safari Ltd products in our homeschool.  The following is my first Safari sponsored blog post:

Last week, I posted a bunch of fun, themed 10-frames.  I just couldn't stop adding to the list, so here are a bunch more!

Firstly, I did spiders, which I think are pretty cute.  We're planning on using them for our spider unit this spring, but they would also be appropriate for Halloween.  If you want to go 3D, you can use plastic spiders like these.

Our back-to-school tradition is to focus on all things apple-y for the first week.  We make pies and sauce, sample different apple varieties, and to lots of apple-themed activities.  I made this set of apple 10-frames in honor of that tradition.  The PDF comes with a 20-frame game board and two sets of apples.  The apple pieces could also be used for patterning and addition problems.  If you wanted to go 3D, you could use these mini apples to add some extra fun.

For Thanksgiving, I made a 10-frame turkey pack.  Alternatively, you could use these plastic pumpkins as counters.

Of course, I couldn't leave out Christmas.  I love peppermint and thought it would be so fun to use peppermint candies as counters.  The file also comes with 2D counters and a 20-frame board.

Lastly, I made a dinosaur 10-frame set.  The PDF contains a 20-frame and 20 warning sign counters.

I'm very excited to use Safari Ltd Carnivorous Dinosaurs toob animals as counters as well.  We rolled a 10-sided dice to see how many dinos we should add to our 10-frame.  The dinosaurs stood up well on their own.  What you can't see in the picture is the little hands who couldn't wait to touch their new acquisition.  Dragonfly was very excited to tell me all the dinosaur names.  The details on the toob animals is so well done that she had no problems identifying them.  For the moms who need a bit of help learning the dinosaurs, Safari provides a key on their website.

My kids were very excited to look at the catalogue Safari Ltd sent us with the toob of dinosaurs.  I think every single one of the figurines is on their Christmas list now.  It was very fun to hear them excitedly turning through every page and describing every animal.  The catalogue can also be found at the Safari website.

We're very excited to be partnering with Safari Ltd in their How I Safari campaign.  Check back soon!


More Safari Ltd Ideas on Pinterest!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Montessori-Inspired Addition Board

FREE Montessori-Inspired Addition Board Printable from In Our Pond
It is my belief that you can never have too many math visuals and manipulatives.  This Montessori-inspired addition board is yet another one to add to the pile.  The free printable features an 8.5x11 "addition board," and two sets of numbers.  The blue number bars go on the left and the red number bars go on the right.  The white numbers should meet in the middle to show which numbers are being added together.  The board shows the total.  The 2D model will store easily in a page protector or math resource notebook.

To download the free printable, click here.

FREE Montessori-Inspired Addition Board Printable from In Our Pond

FREE Montessori-Inspired Addition Board Printable from In Our Pond

Monday, September 5, 2016

Kindergarten Curriculum 2016-2017

This year, we're adding some "real" curriculum to our homeschooling year.  We're going to continue our science-based themed weeks (more on that in another post), but we're also going to add some reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic books.  Dragonfly is very excited to start kindergarten.

I had originally planned on using a curriculum for phonics, but Bullfrog (hubby) and I decided against it.  We're going to use the resources that we already have in the house and on the internet to guide us.  I also intend to make use of audiobooks and read-alouds from Youtube.  Of course, we'll continue to do lots of chapter book reading as a family.

I really like the Charlotte Mason idea of using copywork to teach handwriting, grammar, punctuation, etc.  The copywork allows the child to practice meaningful handwriting without having to think of a subject to write about.  I'm sure that we'll do some Scripture copywork (maybe in relationship to the Awana verses she'll be memorizing) and probably some inspiring quotes.

I have also gathered a variety of writing materials to encourage Dragonfly to explore handwriting in different ways.  We have a sand tray, chalkboards, and white boards for "non-permanent" practice.  The "official" copywork will probably be on kindergarten-level lined paper or in a picture journal notebook.

I've been doing Bible copywork for my own edification, so Dragonfly has been seeing my write in cursive.  She's been pretending to do "Loopy Writing" and has already learned several letters just from imitation.

We're going to use Horizons Kindergarten math this year.  Horizons uses a spiral approach and pretty colors that should keep the interest level high.  It amazes me that Dragonfly will go from only a basic understanding of numbers and values to exploring the numbers to one hundred, place value, addition, subtraction, money, and the clock- all in one school year!  I'm really excited to see her learning and to use all the homemade math stuff we've made.

What About the Boys?
The boys will be 4 and 3 this school year.  I'm mostly going to have them work on letters and phonics sounds with these Alphabet coloring pages.  They will also do some number and shapes work with dollar store workbooks and free printables off the internet.  I'm sure they'll join Dragonfly for math games and, of course, will be doing our science themes with her.  This year, I really want the boys to focus on their fine-motor skills, which will mean lots of play dough, coloring, cutting, etc.  I'm sure that they'll also do lots of sensory bins and even more unstructured play time.

We're also doing gymnastics and Awana this year.

See Also
Science Notebook Plan
Work Boxes and the Daily Five
School Supplies List

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fun Themed 20-Frames (math)

FREE Themed 10- and 20- Frames Printable for Elementary Math from In Our Pond

One of the math focuses for kindergarten is identifying the numbers between zero and twenty.  The 10-frame and 20-frame help children gain number sense and apply what they know to addition and subtraction.  A cheap, easy way to make 10-frames more fun is to change up the "theme" of the counters or the board.  I intend to use a lot of 3D objects, such as I spoke about in this post (and this one and this list).  However, 3D objects can take up a lot of room, so I decided to make some 2D printables.  And now, I'm going to share them with you.

Note: I'm going to be referring to 10 and 20 frames interchangabely.  The printable comes with a one-page 20-frame, which could be cut to make two 10-frames or four 5-frames.  I just don't want anyone getting confused.

FREE Themed 10- and 20- Frames Printable for Elementary Math from In Our Pond

If Africa, safari animals, or the zoo is in your lesson plans, then these printables are for you.  In this file, you'll find 10 and 20-frame boards and four kinds of animal counters (elephant, vulture, camel, and gorilla).  You can download the PDF here.  These "Good Luck Mini" elephants or mini monkeys would be really cute as counters as well.

FREE Themed 10- and 20- Frames Printable for Elementary Math from In Our Pond

I suppose that technically I could have put the camel and the vulture with the "desert" pack, but I decided to stick with "American Desert" animals for this printable.  The PDF includes a desert board and two types of counters (lizard and owls).  If 2D isn't your style, you could go 3D and use these owl buttons as counters.

FREE Themed 10- and 20- Frames Printable for Elementary Math from In Our Pond

And yes, owls probably belong in the woods as well, but I have my packets separated by the continent/habitat that we'll be studying as a unit.  Therefore, the "woods" printable contains only the fox and the rabbit.  Or you could use these adorable fox buttons to make your 10 and 20 values.

FREE Themed 10- and 20- Frames Printable for Elementary Math from In Our Pond

The ocean PDF contains four different counter themes: octopus, sharks, fish, and dolphins.  It would be really fun to use the Safari sharks toob animals as counters, too.

FREE Themed 10- and 20- Frames Printable for Elementary Math from In Our Pond

These Rainforest animals are the Great Panda and a tropical bird.  Additionally, you could use the 3D pandas from Safari Ltd or the animals from the rainforest toob.

FREE Themed 10- and 20- Frames Printable for Elementary Math from In Our Pond

For game play, I bought a set of polyhedral dice (I also found this jumbo set which would be great for kids).  I'm going to have the kids roll the 10-sided dice to decide how many to add for the 10-frame and the 20-sided dice for the 20-frame.  Alternatively, we can roll two dice together and add the numbers.  I also found a 30-sided dice that we can use for a 30-frame or for higher addition.  If technology is your game, you can also buy a number generator app.

Most of the graphics come from my favorite clip art producer, Educlips.  The spider and spider's web came from My Cute Graphics.

My 20-Frame Printables

Ten 10-Frame Ideas from the Internet
- turkey cards (free)
- lego block frame and pieces (idea)
- giant 10-frames (idea)
- popcorn ($)
- bugs (free)
- eyeballs (idea)
- pumpkins (free)
- 3D container frame (idea)
- real people as counters (idea)
- snowballs (free and $)

FREE Themed 10- and 20- Frames Printable for Elementary Math from In Our Pond