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Monday, October 31, 2016

Introducing J.O.Y!

7 more Mondays until Christmas!

Guys, I held off falling down the rabbit hole as long as I possibly could, but I have failed.  We are now the owners of an Elf.

Not an Elf-on-the-Shelf, but a Kindness Elf.  I got the idea for the Random-Acts-of-Kindness (RAOK) elf from Orthodox Mom.  I thought it was a perfect way to encourage good behavior in the kids, while still having elf-shenanigan fun.

Hallmark Elf from Amazon
I bought my elf from Amazon, and she arrived recently.  I love how sweet and cuddly she looks and that she's made of washable fleece.  I added wire to her arms and legs to make her more position-able.  We named her J.O.Y. to remind us that real happiness comes from putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.

 My kids are 5, 4, and 3, and have been talking about Christmas since September.  I think this is a great year to add Christmas tradition.  Let's hope that I have the perseverance (smile).

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas

8x8 and 2x2 mini JOY prints
- 40 RAOK list (Orthodox Mom)

- Christmas Acts of Kindness calendar (Cool Mom Picks)

- colorful candy gift printables (Creative Capital B)

- good list of ideas (Tickles to Giggles)

- popcorn on the redbox (Pinterest)

- 100 Act of Kindness for Kids (Coffee Cups and Crayons)

Elf Printables and Crafts

- rocket ship (Sweet Paper Trail)

- twister game (Frugal Coupon Living)

- props and a calendar of activities (Glamorous Project)

- mini coffee cups (Learning as I Sew)

- hot cocoa stand (Inspiration Made Simple)

- 1:6 scale miniatures (Etsy)

- J.O.Y. printable signs (In Our Pond)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

a is for alligator (year 3, week 7)

It was so hard to find activities for alligators!  For some reason, the majority of the world believes that alligators and children don't mix- I wonder why? (wink).  Dragonfly requested alligators, and they were our first reptile study of the year.  We also focused on the North American swamps.

This week, we learned that alligators are reptiles and compared reptiles to what we know about mammals.  We watched videos where alligators were fed and talked about how they are apex predators and carnivores.  We learned that a group of alligators is called a "congregation," and watched a Wild Kratt's episode about how crocodiles care for their young.  One of our videos told us that alligators have 80 teeth (reminds me of Jurassic World- "we need more teeth") and counted groups of 10 to get to 80.  We even watched a video where a man was training his hatchling.

This week was one of my predetermined #HowiSafari campaign weeks, so we got to play with a toob of Alligators.  We used the hand-painted figurines to create a sensory bin.  I used about a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and water to make a muddy swamp.  The water smelled so good, cleaned up easily, and added so much to our Alligator toob.

- alligator science pack
- graphic organizer
- SNAP game

- alligator small world

- alligator farm
- kids holding an alligator
- training a pet alligator

Monday, October 24, 2016

30+ Advent Calendar Ideas

8 more Mondays until Christmas!

It's the week before Halloween, but I have Christmas on my brain already (don't worry- I haven't started decorating yet).  Today, I am considering Advent Calendars, Christmas Count-downs, Advent Wreaths, and the like.  Usually, people start their Christmas-preparations on the first of December, which is only five weeks away.  A month seems like a long time, but it's not if you plan on crafting a fun countdown.  I've found lots of ideas for you to consider.  There are so many on here I like that I have no idea which one I'm going to make for my own family.

I hope you enjoy the lists and happy crafting!

Jesse Trees to Make

During the last few years, we've been using the Jesus Storybook Bible to walk us through the ornaments of the Jesse Tree.  The ornaments take us through the major stories of the Old Testament and shows us how the whole Bible points to Jesus!

- Print and Color Ornaments (Do Small Things With Love)

- Jesus Storybook Bible Prinable Ornaments (Kelleighratzlaff)

- Printable Scripture Cards (I Should Be Mopping the Floor)

- Jesus Storybook Bible Devotions (In Our Pond)

- Jesse Tree Project  (Wild Ginger Dolls)

- Felt Ornaments (Mandy Pelton)

- Nativity Calendar Pattern (Etsy)

- Jesus Storybook Bible Cards (Faith Gateway)

- Names of Jesus Signs (Today's Fabulous Finds)

- Adult Coloring Names of Jesus Ornaments
      (A Lively Hope)

Please pin at original sourse
Countdowns to DIY

If a Jesse Tree isn't your style, I also found a bunch of other types of countdown.  Most of these are non-religious.

- Shoe Holder (Simpy Kelly B)

- Wood Block (A Day in My Life)

- Winter Activities (All Things Simple)

- Christmas Movies a night (Pinterest)

- Snowman Circle Calendar (Inspiration Made Simple)

- Story a Night (Simply Sara)

- Jesus-Centered Book-a-Night (Jessie Weaver)

- Magnetic Gift Tins (Twig and Thistle)

- Candy Canes (Jean's Crafty Corner)

- Kind Deeds (Happier Homemaker)

- Christmas Angel (Wellness Mama)

- Truth in the Tinsel (website)

please pin at original source
Advent Wreaths

My early elementary years were spent at a Lutheran school.  It's where I did a lot of Bible memorization, learned the hymns, and was introduced to the advent wreath.  I've had a soft spot in my heart for Advent Wreaths since those days.  There is something very special about lighting a candle every day.  Here are a few ideas:

- DIY pipe cleaner wreath (When Running Amok)

- hand print wreath (Adventuresome Family)

- Pillar Candles (Jolly Good Gal)

Advent Calendars For Sale

If crafting isn't your thing, I found a bunch of different styles and type of Advent calendars and Christmas countdowns to buy!

- Jesus Storybook Bible book (Amazon)

- Drawer Treat Countdown (Etsy)

- Lego City (Amazon)

- Cubie the Snowman Treat Countdown (Etsy)

Please pin at original source
- Melissa and Doug Wood Tree (Amazon)

- Tabletop Village (Etsy)

- No Room in the Inn Nativity (Amazon)

- Jesse Tree Flat Ornaments (Etsy)

- Playmobil Christmas on the Farm Set (Amazon)

- Wood Cut Out Number Ornaments (Etsy)

- Peaceful Prince Chocolate Calendar (Amazon)

- Rustic Gift Countdown (Etsy)

- Stained Glass Nativity (Amazon)

- Countdown Sign (Etsy)

                                                            - Names of Jesus Word Ornaments (Family Life)

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

h is for horse (year 3, week 6)

Dragonfly requested this unit.  I was very surprised how little I found for ideas and printable specifically about horses.  Maybe eventually we'll do a popular subject- but not next week 'cause we're talking about alligators.

I was sick over the weekend and very weak on Monday, so we didn't start homeschool.  The kids watched the new Ice Age movie about six times.  Fortunately, we did find a few things in the movie to talk about in a homeschooling way.  There is a scene with an electrical storm, positive and negative charge, and static electricity.  We talked about those concepts a bit.

Then, we watched a bunch of Youtube videos about how and why germs make us sick and the importance of washing our hands.

The kids practiced their engineering skills by playing with duplos all day.  Dragonfly also did a few math worksheets for the first time in two weeks.  I saw how good the break was for her brain, because she was better able to grasp concepts that she had been struggling with.  And, she drew a very nice number two, which has been a challenge for her since we started school this year.

AWANA day!

We watched a few funny horse videos on Youtube.

It rained all day and the kids hibernated, sleeping in late and then taking extra long naps.  It was SO nice for Mommy, but we didn't do any schooling.

We finally had a big homeschool day!

The kids loved their horse sensory bin!  The "grass" is dyed rice mixed with a bit of regular rice.  I love the way it looks!  There are a few foam apples in the bin and a whole toob of Safari Ltd Horses!  The toob came with 12 animals, plenty for each child.

We also used the horses to make footprints in play dough.

The "Uncover a Horse" book is from Amazon.  We have a bunch of books from this collection and love them all.  It's so fun to look at all of them at once and compare the different systems between species.  Great for a "Science Girl" (Dragonfly).

For math, we counted m&ms and did some basic addition and subtraction.  Dragonfly also did a math worksheet and used the horses on a 10-frame.

Blog Posts About Horses
3-part cards for Safari Ltd horse toob
m is for milk theme unit (farm)

horse lapbook
parts of a horse cards

Montessori-inspired horse unit
horse sensory bin

Follow my FARM Pinterest boardhttps://www.pinterest.com/inourpond/h-is-for-horse/ for more ideas!

I thought I'd slow off my fall decorations, just for fun.  I'm a heavy-duty Pinterest-er but not a very good decorator.  Still, it's the little touches that make a house a home.  Maybe it will inspire you to buy some mini pumpkins and call it decorating (wink).

Top- Chalkboard sign from Target Dollar Spot.

Middle- the window by the kitchen sink.  Three mini pumpkins from the grocery store, a wood sign, and our silverware.  Perhaps eventually, I'll get around to putting the printable for the jar labels on the blog.  If you're wondering why the middle one is plastic, it's because we've broken way too many glass jars.  The knives are just heavy enough to make the glass crack (sad day).  The sink caddy is one of my favorite things in the house.  It holds the soap, a bottle brush (back when I used bottles), the sink plug, and has a place to hang the dishcloth!

Bottom- our coffee area (to the left of the sink).  The jars (mismatched as they are) hold our coffee, tea, and extras (marshmallows, white chocolate chips, hot cocoa mix, mini chocolate chips, etc).  The mugs came from World Market.  I really like that they stack and are so colorful. The printables came from here and here (and a bonus one about October)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tough Toys for Tough Kids

Green Toys Tractor vs John Deere Tractor
There are only 9 more Mondays until Christmas!

My boys are tough on toys!  Very few toys last long in our house.  Sometimes, it's a good thing that the toys have a short lifetime.  Other times, you just need toys that will last.  The toys on this list of "tough toys for tough kids" are the gold standard of excellence.  Most of them are not extraordinarily expensive, but they have all survived months of rough play.  Any of these toys would make great gifts for tough kids!

Green Toys
Green Toys Dump Truck from Amazon.com
I honestly can't believe that I've never written about Green Toys (GT) before!  We have loved GT for years and have had nothing but good experiences with them.  My boys are rough with their toys and will disassemble a lesser toy in minutes.  Not so with Green Toys trucks!  They last!

Green Toys are made with recycled milk jugs, in the USA.  We love that- but what we really love is their customer service!  When my boys finally do break a wheel, I only need to email the company, and they will send us replacement toys for free!  I know of no other company with that sort of guarantee.  If you're looking to make your toy dollars stretch, there is no
better investment than Green Toys.

Green Toys Airplane from Amazon.com
We love our red and yellow dump truck, our pink and purple dump truck, the firetruck, the regular plane and the sea plane and the helicopter, the train, and the bus.  All of these toys get played with frequently and most of them get played with every day.

The "Alice" tractor in the picture is our latest Green Toys addition.  It's been in the house for two months.  The John Deere tractor has been in the house for 2 weeks.  The "Alice" on the GT's tractor was added by my mom to make it match great-grandpa's tractor.

Green Toys makes other toys besides vehicles.  We don't own their play food sets yet, but I like the dish set.  The farm and fire station are cute, too.  Green Toys is adding new products all the time.

Green Toys are newer on the toy scene, but Duplos are a classic.  We played with them when I was a kid, and my mom still has a huge bin of them at her house.  They're made by the Lego company, but are larger than Legos to make them safe for younger kids.  The smallest Duplo block is about one inch cubed or so.

We love the Cars and Planes sets, as well as the generic first cars set.  And, of course, you can never have enough boxes of bricks.

On my list is a larger toy box for our Duplo collection.

Safari and Schleich Animals
Schleich zebras from Amazon.com
I have written a lot about how much I love Safari animals.  For a long time, we only bought Safari toobs (mini animals) and bought Schleich figurines for our large animal collection.  In a lot of ways, Safari Ltd animals are a lot like Schleich.  They both make large, plastic figurines that are quite durable for tough kids.  Our animals get left outside, have been run over by the car, take baths, play in the mud, get brought to bed, and are well loved.  I'm including them together, because they are both quality toys, and we buy them both.

Schleich animals are atomically correct, so it's easy to tell the boys from the girls.  They can also be found in families which is very great for kids, like this herd of zebras or this pack of lions.  Schleich has mammals, dinosaurs, and reptiles.
Safari Ltd Bubblebee for Amazon.com

Safari makes miniature toobs, life cycle sets, and larger figurines both real and fantasy.  We love the detail of the Incredible Insects bumblebee and the texture of the dragons.  The kids have many of the Safari animals on their Christmas lists.

I could probably come up with a few more good toy brands for tough kids, but I'll leave you with this list for now.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fall Break 2016

I set up our schedule this year to allow for a one-week break every 3-6 weeks (depending on the calendar).  This week was our first break since school began, a chance to catch-up with things, a time to reflect and reassess, a space for appointments and housework, and a week for fun blog posts.  It was so great to take the time and not feel guilty about what the kids might be missing.

Gymnastics Day!

Blog post- Rules for Gift Giving

Homeschooled at the pediatric dentist.

AWANA day!

Blog post- 20+ Themed Salt Writing Trays

House cleaning day.  Got rid of stuff and organized the house for fall.

We had a nice break, but I need to work on getting more done for the household during our time off of homeschooling (wink).  I enjoyed blogging this week as I hadn't done since school started.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

20+ Salt Tray Ideas for Writing Practice

Updated- April 1, 2019 to add more graphics and more salt tray ideas.

My blog post about the apple pie writing tray is one of my most popular.  I wrote that post over a year ago, so I thought that it was in need of an update.  Here's a collection of more than twenty salt tray (sensory writing) ideas from around the web.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Rules for Gift Giving

10 more Mondays until Christmas!

Thanks to Pinterest, parents everywhere are simplifying that Christmas gift giving event with "rules."  Some people chose the "gold, frankincense, and myrrh" 3-gift rule.  Others go with the four-gift rule: "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read."  But, why stop at four?  Here's twenty more "rules" that you could employ for your holiday shopping.

1- something to play (instrument, video game)

2- something to learn (instrument, game, kit)

3- something to make (craft, art, kit)

4- something to write (journal, book-in-a-year, notebook, stationary)

5- something big (car, trampoline, bike, couch)

6- something to cook/bake (cookbook, kit, coupons)

7- something to watch (movie, video game)

8- something for listening (device, earphones, music, audiobook)

9- something cozy (blanket, sweater, cocoa mix, pillow)

10- something to eat (gourmet food, favorite snacks, mix)

11- something useful (vacuum, blender, tie rack)

12- something for growing (Bible, devotional/help book, garden supplies, growth ruler)

13- something small (jewelry, sd card, chapstick)

14- something sweet (homemade treats, favorite candy, local honey)

15- something cheap (candy, $ store items, gum, altoids)

16- something plastic (gift card, toy, tupperware)

17- something geeky (device, fan-gear, computer stuff)

18- something old (heirloom, regift, antique)

19- something to smell (tea, coffee, candles, essential oils, perfume)

20- something homemade (baked, made, knitted, crafted, sewn, constructed)

Here's how the 4 gift rule worked in our house last year.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

c is for camel (year 3, week 5)

We had a death in the family, so we took this week as a vacation. I wrote two bereavement posts: one on books and one on funeral preparations.

Still, we did talk a bit about camels.  We talked about their key features, that they are mammals, how they survive in the desert, and where they live.

The one official "school" thing that we did this week was to play with our Safari Dromedary Camel.  We named the parts, and then tested the wide foot in sand vs a "pokey," skinny foot.  The wide foot is perfectly designed for walking in the sand.  Thanks to Safari Ltd for allowing us to participate in their #HowiSafari campaign.

Dragonfly also spent some time writing with a paintbrush in the sand and having quite a pretend with the camel and the "hot snow."  She couldn't imagine a place with hills of hot sand.

Blog Posts About Camels
- 10-frame printable

Printables About Camels
- parts of a camel
- camel notebooking pages
camel informational reading
desert/camel science notebook
- Egypt printable pack
- 3-part cards for Safari Ltd's Egypt toob

Ideas for a Camel Unit
- Exploring Egypt unit
- Egypt sensory bin
- wood block pyramid
- how to mummify
- grinding spices
- Egyptian sensory bin with camel
- digging for spelling words
- hieroglyphic writing tray

Friday, October 7, 2016

Preparing Your Kids for a Funeral

"I AM the Resurrection and the Life" by Frank Holl (1872)

We have been walking through the "valley of the shadow of death" this week.  I wrote earlier this week about some books that we've been reading.  Today, I'm blogging about preparing your kids to attend a funeral.

1- Talk About It
From the announcement of the person's death to years from now, conversations about death need to be a normal part of your family life.  Kids need to know that they can ask you questions and that you're not afraid of their tears.

2- Read About It
Earlier this week, I posted a list of books for kids about death.  Our collection has been very helpful for addressing different aspects of death and mourning.  We've especially been enjoying Tear Soup and making up our own batches of pretend soup.

3- Prepare For It
As well as mentally and spiritually for the funeral, I think its also important to prepare your kids physically for the funeral.  I took the kids shopping for black clothes and explained to them how black is the color of mourning and respect in our culture.  The very act of buying new clothes can also help to set this time aside as special and different from the rest of life.  If you can afford it, it might be nice to have your kids buy flowers to place on the graveside or to put in the casket.

4- Have an Exit Plan
Little kids are unpredictable!  One day, they may behave like adults and sit through an event without a problem and some days they act like kids.  Some kids may be able to handle other people's emotions better than others.  I have one kid who will probably need a break from the funeral, which is why we've created an "exit plan" for him.  We have a room set up at the funeral with a few toys and activities, a place where he can be a little wild or loud or cry.

5- Follow Up
Grief is a long process, and it doesn't end at the funeral.  Be prepared to talk about death for many more months or even years.  Be open to their tears and questions.  Continue to bring out the books and the memories.  Welcome the process, and help your kids to embrace the end of life as part of life.

Let Evening Come
by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
Shine through the chinks of the barn.
Moving up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
As a woman takes up her needles
And her yarn.  Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
In the long grass.  Let the stars appear
And the moon disclose her sliver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den
Let the wind die down.  Let the shed
Go black inside.  Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch.  To the scoop
In the oats.  To the air
In the lung.  Let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
Be afraid.  God doesn't leave us
Comfortless, so let evening come.
(This poem was read at the funeral)

Additional Resources

- Books about Death for Kids

- Funeral Vocabulary 3-part Cards

- Why You Should've Taken Your Kids to that Funeral

- Workbooks for Kids about Death

- Little Kids and Death (attending a wake)

- Helping Your Preschooler Cope with Loss

- Best Funeral Foods

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Books About Death for Children

No one likes to think about death, but when tragedy strikes a family, it's so helpful to have a list of good books on hand.  In Our Pond

We recently experienced a death in our family.  In an effort to walk with our children through their grief, I've been compiling a list of books that deal with death, loss, and heaven.  I hope this list is valuable and conforting to anyone who reads it.

The Voyage to the Star Kingdom
This book was written to help a real child deal with the real loss of her two sisters.  It's an allegory about terminal illness, death, heaven, and family reunions.  I haven't read it, but it's on my list.  I particularly want to keep this one in mind for families who are grieving children.

God Gave Us Heaven
From the author who brought us cute, conversational books like "God Gave us Christmas" and "God Gave Us You."  This theologically light and gentle book focuses on the practical questions children have about heaven, reassuring them over and over that "heaven will be full of everything good."  It's a bit long for preschoolers, but is a good introduction to heaven for kindergartners.  My kids enjoy this cute book.

Tear Soup
This book can be taken at multiple levels and would be suitable for ages 5 and up.  The grandma suffers a loss and mixes herself up a pot of tear soup.  Through the story, the reader is walked through the stages of grief and given permission to grieve their own special way.  This book is very popular with therapists, and would be good for multiple types of loss (death, disappointments, adoption, etc).  I keep it in my mind often for myself and others.

Heaven for Kids
I love Randy Alcorn's books, but I haven't read this one yet.  He's a pastor, a theologian, and a grandpa, so I trust that his book will be Gospel-centered and gentle on children.

This is a secular book about how everything that lives has a lifetime.  Things begin and they end.  I haven't read this book either, but I wanted to include it on the list for those who may be looking for a non-religious book about death.

What's Heaven?
This book was recommended to me by another mom.  I haven't read it yet.  It is another question and answers book, using subjects that the authors real children, grandchildren, and nieces/nephews have asked her.

There's a Party in Heaven
This was also recommended to me by another mom.  I haven't read it yet.

The Jesus Storybook Bible- A Dream of Heaven
My kids read this storybook Bible with their dad almost every night.  I don't know how many times they've gone through the whole book.  At the very end is a wonderful summery of Revelation, told in kid-friendly language.  We own this book in multiple formats, and I recommend it to everyone who is looking for a Bible storybook.

Pin for Later!
No one likes to think about death, but when tragedy strikes a family, it's so helpful to have a list of good books on hand.  In Our Pond

Saturday, October 1, 2016

e is for elephant (year 3, week 4)

I was pretty excited about this week of Mommy School.  We were doing an easy theme- elephants and the African safari.  But, our week didn't go at all like we had planned.

Gymnastics class!  And we didn't go again.

We had a family emergency, and ended up taking a last minute road trip.  When we got to our destination, the car broke down.  Fortunately, my sisters stepped up and helped me with the children and my other family members took care of transportation and the vehicle.  It was a good, hard day.

The car was at the auto shop all day, so we stayed in the city with my family.  Dragonfly got introduced to the Magic School Bus tv show and loved it.

AWANA day!

We made it home from the city in time to go to AWANA.  We were exhausted, but I'm glad we went.  The kids got their vests and got credit for their memory work.

I struggled today with wanting to sleep/rest, clean/organize, or homeschool/catch-up.  I had so many things for us to do for "elephant" week, and I'm a bit disappointed that I couldn't do all of them.

Daddy was home.

Blog Posts About Elephants
- 10-frame printable
- parts of an elephant cards
- safari sensory bottle
- g is for giraffes
- photo safari
- giraffe measuring busy bag
- safari spelling words

Elephant Printables
- elephant anatomy poster
- free Africa unit
- African animals in camouflage

Elephant Ideas
- peanut sensory bin
- spooning "diamonds"

- giraffes for kids
- zebras for kids
- elephants for children

Youtube Books
Why the Elephant has a Trunk
Why the Giraffe has a Long Neck