Monday, February 18, 2013

President's Day Homeschool

Happy President's Day to you all!

I'd like to share with you bit of the fun that we're having on this special day. For many, since most schools use this week as February vacation, this day goes relatively unnoticed because no one is in school to plan some special activities. But not here! Since we are "in school" this week, and since Mama happens to be a former social studies teacher, we are learning about many of our presidents today. Take a look and join the fun!

I found a great list of ideas from Deb over at Living Montessori Now, and I began the day with one of the free printables she recommended in her list. We used these president coloring pages, and a penny toss math graph, letter to the president activity, presidential sequencing activity, and white house building craft all from Cortney Bystrom's free learning center pack.

Making our penny toss graph- so exciting to see if heads or tails "wins"!

Writing a letter to the president with some thanks and words of advice :)

President photos from the Teachers Pay Teachers site, which we glued onto stars and then put in chronological order
Here is what our Montessori shelves looked like this morning:

They included:

A "P" is for "president" craft which involved me cutting out some P's from white paper, and providing red and blue crayons plus some patriotic stickers for decoration.

The top shelf includes some relevant books, but next year I'll make an effort to hit the library before the big day. We had several time period books, and a great historical atlas, but next year I'd like to include more simple biographies on specific presidents.

The top shelf also includes an invitation to play by making Lincoln's log cabin out of Lincoln Logs. (The kids had no idea about the connection of the toy's name to the president until today, and they were amazed!)

Other shelves include:

Some cutting practice which will do double-duty because we need 44 stars to which we'll adhere presidential pictures, and then put them onto a clothesline in order. I provided a template with no outline for my kindergartner to practice with,
 ...and stars with outlines for my preschooler.
 I copied the pictures we're using for the star presidential sequencing activity, and created quick cards for my kindergartner to use with his letter tiles.
 The kids are continuing to work with patterns, so I provided this simple craft stick pattern activity with homemade index card red, white and blue templates for them to replicate.
 This basket contains an invitation to make their own monuments using play doh. I included several photos from "real life" monuments so they would have an idea of what each memorial looked like.
 Then I decided that since I had printed the pictures, I should type out the names and make a few quick nomenclature cards too. I recommend laminating cards for future use, which I did after these photos were taken.
 My toddler worked on sorting red and blue pasta (I couldn't figure out a way to really make any pasta white, since I only keep brown rice pasta in the house).
 My kindergartener and preschooler also used the beads and hundred board to make and place some of the numbers they saw on the president photo cards.
 We practiced "p" is for "president" using the salt tray (although I used some blue sand because I had it on hand).
 My kindergartner is exploring the US map, and together we found Illinois, Virginia and a few other relevant states to our lessons today.
 My kindergartner also did some penny math with some coins and a few worksheets that I had on hand.
We'll be working on our star president clothesline for the whole day, but I'll be sure to post pictures on my Facebook page when we're done.

Want more inspiration? Check out my US History and Presidents Pinterest Board.

I'm linked up to Montessori Monday!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Activities

I just got into the groove this year and we partied hard to celebrate St. Valentine's Day here at the Simple Little Home! As usual, I balked at the consumerism associated with the holiday, and opted instead for fun, themed school, snacks, games and books. Every child here today (we had a few extras, in addition to our three kids) had a great time and I didn't purchase a thing for the event... except a watermelon. But I would have bought fruit for snack anyway, so I'm not counting that.

Would you like to see what we did today?

We began by making old fashioned, gluten free oatmeal with honey from our bees and a few berries cut into heart shapes on top. I haven't posted about this just yet since Lent came so early this year, but we've given up processed food and sugar again this year, so all of our V-Day treats were going to be gluten free, organic, and whole food. I will share more about our Lenten journey as the week progresses. (You can check out last year's journey and menus here, here, here and here.)
Next, we discovered (as I was getting out my materials for the day) that our metal heart cookie cutters could be used as themed metal insets! As I mentioned today on Facebook, Montessori students use the metal insets for pre-writing practice, and they can also be used for size comparisons.
 We did a few printable activities from various sites (check out my Valentine's Pinterest board if you'd like lots of free printable links), but kept "seat time" to a minimum today. We intended to have some fun today, and that really meant following the (excited!) lead of the children.

Next, we had snack. Below are our fruit kebabs: watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberries cut into hearts with grapes in between to secure them. I also served plain Greek yogurt, and drew a small heart into it with the juice from a few squeezed raspberries.

 After our bellies were full, we headed outside for some snow painting, Valentine's Day style. I filled old spray bottles with food coloring and water (powdered watercolor paint is much better, if you have the option on hand), and cut a heart from poster board. We used both the cut heart and the outline as stencils and sprayed our "paint" all over the snow to create fun V-day hearts all over the snowbanks in the yard.

 I will continue to use this snow stencil activity (hel-lo Saint Patrick's day shamrocks!) because it was just too much fun for all ages.

A note: if you choose to do this activity at home, I recommend that you encourage your kids to take off their mittens first. I have never had a problem washing some errant sprays out of coats and off faces, but mittens tend to take a beating during this activity, especially from younger kids who are just learning to use spray bottles.

By the time we came in, we were hungry, so we had lunch. Heart-shaped grilled cheese on homemade bread, with heart apples, celery, strawberries and tomatoes. I also served pink juice (strawberry Naked juice), but forgot to include it in the picture. :(
 We hunkered down for a half hour, as we always do post-lunch, to read some V-Day books.

The silence didn't last for long because we immediately started another game: Heart Hunt. I cut 20 small construction paper hearts (in contrasting colors to any of our household decorations) for the kids to hide and find. This game was so simple, and was such a hit! We added rules as we went: whoever found the last heart got to hide them in the next round, and older kids had to help a younger child find a heart after they found five on their own. I loved that it was a team-building experience: we all worked together to find the 20 hearts collectively.
When we finished with that game, and the toddler was up from her afternoon nap, we spent some time in the schoolroom. Although we typically do our schoolwork in the morning, the flow of the day demanded that work which required us to sit still be done after some of the more (exciting) activities were complete.

For more information on the composition of our Valentine's Day shelves, read this post from yesterday. We...

Our afternoon snack looked like this:
That's watermelon shaped hearts, air-popped popcorn and a pink smoothie made from plain yogurt, our own honey, and strawberries and raspberries from the farm that I pulled out of the freezer. (I love making smoothies from frozen berries because the liquid they produce as they defrost is perfect for coloring the drink with no artificial food coloring.)

I think that's it! Daddy and Ben (6) went to check on a few of the beehives in the afternoon since it was such a warm day, so the girls and I made each other a few more simple valentine cards. We used the quiet hours in the evening to take baths and play, and after our dinner (oh yes, more heart food!) everyone was ready for a good night's sleep.

With the kids in bed, Garrett and I stole some time alone, with a bottle of old vine zinfandel and a homemade beeswax candle, to talk and reminisce. We both commented on the time in our lives when Valentine's Day would have meant large price tags and fancy dinners, and that we are so deeply grateful for our new celebration of the holiday. We talked love- real love- all day long, and none of us bought each other a single thing. Garrett made me breakfast this morning to show his love, and each family member made one another a special card. Ben showed his love to his sisters by sharing his Lego, Ava showed hers by helping Ellie with her dress up outfit, and Ellie showed hers by declaring "hippy vayentime!" to all within earshot. I gave my typical hair mussings, shoulder squeezes and lap sessions to all, but lingered a bit more on this special day. That's what it's really about.

Such blessings we have been given, such treasures we enjoy. On this day of love, I hope that all of you have someone(s) to love, and to receive love from. After all, that's what it's all about, right?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Montessori Shelves

I stole a bit of time tonight after my little ones were in asleep to set up their Valentine's Day shelf for tomorrow's big day. I don't promise good pictures, since I was taking them so late and haven't doctored them at all, but I do promise some pictures.

This year I used only materials that I had on-hand to create the learning space. I used many of the classic Montessori materials that coordinated with the theme (you'll see the pink tower and the red rods, for example), but I added a few other fun things from the craft closet as well.

Come back here or to my Facebook page tomorrow because I'll be posting throughout the day about all the other activities we have planned that didn't make it into my Montessori shelves post tonight. I promise fun and laughter! (Think scavenger hunts and themed foods...)

Here's the set up, as of tonight:

We did the "H is for Heart" activity from I Can Teach My Child earlier in the week and put our results up on the bulletin board for a festive touch. The kids were so proud and I really loved the activity right along with them. The sunshine is leftover from an old bulletin board theme, but I love it so much (the children cut it out from old finger painting projects) that I simply don't ever take it down.

The books are our own, pulled out and put on the shelf for the occasion. The sign, though difficult to read in this picture, reads "Happy Valentines Day!"

You can't see the windows well in this photo, but I decorated both school room windows like this, earlier in the week:
In the left corner of the shelf photo, you can see our new felted heart mobile. I used this tutorial from The Magic Onions, and simply put the finished product onto a fallen tree branch. The children created all the hearts, with finishing touches and ribbons from mom. The collaboration was beautiful and we are thoroughly enjoying the ease of felting lately! I bought the wool roving and felting needles from Bella Luna Toys.

The pink tower and red rods are in the shelf mix this time around since their colors are irresistible for a V-Day theme, plus I used the red knobless cylinders to create this work:

(In case you can't tell, I traced the knobs into the shape of a heart, and the little ones will try to assemble it just so.)

Other works in this presentation include a popsicle stick pattern work, with some idea cards that I made with markers and index cards;

a small clothespin attachment work (the small clothespins are really quite a challenge for little hands, so if you give this a try at home you might consider using large pins for littler hands);
 a button spooning transfer work;
a pom pom spooning transfer work for my toddler;
a number sequencing work on foam hearts (I may also do some hop-to-the-number type games with this tomorrow);
some themed lacing cards;
and some large wooden color sorting work for my toddler.
To that I will add some selected printables (letter mazes, size gradations and cutting practice) from the V-Day Preschool Pack from Over The Big Moon.

Check out my Valentine's Day Pinterest board and my Montessori Moms Shared Pinterest Board for more inspiration!

Happy learning!

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