Friday, May 20, 2016

Scribbled Toes

The other day I was painting my freshly cut toenails a bright California pink when my three year old came bouncing over, his still chubby cheeks jiggling with each step. He stared intently at my hand as it swiped another glossy coat onto my big toe, fully enthralled with the process and precision. I could see the gears turning in his mind. Why is mommy putting this on her toes? What is it? What does it feel like? Why do mine look different?  So many questions present on his face. His brow furled before he sped off with purpose into the playroom, and I directed my attention back onto my toes, trying hard to be as still as possible to avoid touching my skin with the brush. After the last swipe I leaned back in my chair in satisfaction with a job well done and opened my Kindle to read while I waited for my nails to dry. Within seconds my boy came bounding back into the room, all big eyes and white teeth, and planted his foot right next to mine with proud assurance. My immediate reaction was jumping to the side so he wouldn't ruin my perfectly painted nails and exclaiming, "Watch out! You will mess up mommy's toes!" But he stood there stoic as a statue, just waiting for me to notice the treasure that he had brought. I relaxed a bit and looked down to see ten small, stubby toes with nails scribbled with waxy color. He shoved out his hand to reveal his paintbrush of choice, a crisp, new crayon and exclaimed with three year old gusto, "Rainbow!". It was only a fraction of a second, but it was enough time to contemplate my reaction. In his world, coloring those toes was a serious accomplishment, an independent feat of creativity that I could've either dismissed completely or absolutely reveled in. So I reveled. His tiny toes, imperfectly scribbled with the colors of the rainbow, were Beethoven's 5th. They were Van Gogh's The Starry Night. They were Shakespeare's 18th Sonnet. They were his masterpiece, and if I hadn't already painted my own toes, I would've colored them too. Because it is these little moments that I live for. It is these little snippets of time that will pass by quicker than I can blink unless I can recognize them, grab onto their tails and pull them back to me in order to hold on long enough to remember. Sometimes I don't have the right reaction; the adult in me wins and I miss the moment and it is forgotten. But I am trying to be more present because I know that one day I will long for those little moments again. I will long for scribbled toes.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Our Baltic Cruise to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn and St. Petersburg!

We are home!! Wow, what a wonderful week we have had! We got to experience our first cruise and four new countries. It was a whirlwind, but overall a very relaxing vacation. I have finally organized all of my photos and finished drafting this post, so here we go!

Our cruise through MSC was to set sail on May 7th from Kiel, Germany, about a six hour drive from our home. We decided to arrive the day before and stay at a hotel so we wouldn’t be rushed the next day. We got a room at the Comfort Inn, which is in a great location and was quite comfortable. We went to dinner at an AMAZING Thai restaurant right across the street from the hotel and then walked around the city afterward searching for ice cream. The shops that lined the main street we walked along ranged from clothing to convenience stores.

The next day we did not have to be at the ship until 3:00, so we slept in a bit then drove close to the port to find some lunch. We ate at a little café that looked out over a small harbor. The boys got waffles with tons of sugar slathered all over them because...vacay.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Tons of FREE Phonemic Awareness and Sight Word Resources!

Hey everyone! Recently I came across an amazing site for parents and teachers alike to help support reading growth, and I would love to share it with you! is chock-full of resources to help teach phonemic awareness, sight words and to foster fluency. Everything is free, including their full phonemic awareness curriculum, words lists and game printables.

As a teacher, I constantly got questions from parents on where to start with enforcing reading skills. There was a huge desire to learn the right progression, how to go about introducing concepts and keeping up with them afterward. This site is a wonderful place to start in gaining an understanding of the progression of teaching reading skills. It is simple, easy to navigate and walks you through the steps to building solid reading skills. All of the games listed include materials needed (usually very few), a video of how to introduce the activity, and the printables needed. You can find both Fry and Dolch sight word lists in ready-to-print PDF files as well.

Summer is just around the corner, and there is no better time to start checking out reading activities that you can incorporate at home to help your child continue to grow over the break!

You might also want to check out these prior posts on reading:
21 Ideas to Help Your Child Learn Letters and Letter Sounds
Specific Techniques to Help Improve Your Child's Reading Skills

Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Tulips, Windmills, Cheese and Wooden Shoes

This is our last year  here in Germany and our last chance to see the tulips at Keukenhof, so we decided to take a quick weekend trip to Holland!


We left early Friday morning and drove the 5 hours to Kinderdijk to see some of the last preserved windmills in the Netherlands. Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage site and contains 19 working windmills that date back to the 1730s. We learned a lot about what exactly the windmills were (and are) used for, the lives of the millers that lived in and worked on them, and even the various "languages" that they used with the sails of the windmills. It truly was fascinating to learn about them. Such a feat of engineering during that time! Rain and wind cut our stay shorter than we had liked, but we still got to tour inside one of the windmills and walk along the canal.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What We've Been Up To in March and April!

Well, I meant to post last month, but what are you gonna do? We've been busy the last two months with butterflies, plants and wrapping up all of our units!

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My oldest has finally completed all of the units we began in October! He has completed US Regions, middle school chemistry, The Hobbit and The Giver, and Latin and Greek Roots! It all kind of ended around the same time, which worked out quite perfectly.

We closed out chemistry by learning about endothermic/exothermic reactions, and acids, bases and pH levels. It was fun exploring the acids and bases together. I ended up making a universal indictor solution using red cabbage because I didn't have a pre-made one in the science materials I had accumulated. It was super easy and worked great.

Monday, March 28, 2016

How to Revolutionize Your Math Instruction Using Khan Academy

At a very young age we knew our son had a gift for understanding mathematical concepts with ease. It is a huge gift, one that I was not blessed with, and it thrills my heart that he does not struggle like I did at his age. It was exciting to see him be taught something once and understand it for the long-term. It was cute to watch him sit at his chalkboard learning FOIL with his dad at four years old. But it wasn't until he hit second grade that the reality of just how much he needed differentiation in math truly set in. Simply put, second grade math was much too easy for him, and classroom math moved much too slowly. And because of this, he started getting bored and frustrated. He not only understood things easily with math, but he had a passion for it. We tried to get him moved to third grade math, but there was too much concern from those in the placement meeting about logistics (third grade was located in a separate building). Instead, they decided to try out doing third grade math using Pearson Success Net, an online program that went along with the math curriculum. But that didn't get started until around the new year, and only a month or so later the school's subscription to it expired. So, we coasted out the rest of the year and decided to homeschool starting the following year. And here we are.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

What We've Been Up To - February

This will be short and sweet since it's already March. I don't want to get too behind!

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Since realizing my son has sensory processing issues, we've been able to pinpoint specific areas he needs more help in. I decided to focus mainly on these physical areas rather than the more academic ones, although we are still doing some of that. He is very proprioceptive-seeking, so I took one of the rugs out of our learning space and got a few more things from a yard sales page that I thought might help him, including tumbling mats, a little sit scooter, a tunnel, some ankle weights and a Bilibo spin chair. He is definitely more responsive to these things. I find that when he does this type of physical activity, he is more focused when I try to do a sit down activity or read to him. In fact, it's worked so well that we moved his speech appointment right after his OT appointment, and he is doing very well with it. I thought it would be too much, but he responds better and seems more focused when we do it this way.

So first, these mats are awesome. I didn't realize how much you could do with mats! My friend is moving and was selling these mats and I grabbed them quickly. He tumbles on them, but we also play "break out of the house" where I stand it up and confine him (he LOVES it) and then he has to 'break out' of the house by knocking it down. I usually stand in front of it and offer some resistance. It's one of his favorite things to do with the mats. I would say his absolute favorite things to do with the mats, though, is to roll up inside and while I am putting pressure on it, try to squeeze out. He is always wanting to do this!

I basically sit on top of the mat and he squeeze out. He will do this over and over again.

I also got him this tunnel. He doesn't use it as much as I thought he would, but he likes it.

 I put together a valentine sensory bin, although that was a lot of stuff. lol I went a tad overboard, y'all. I ended up taking out all of the other stuff so he could just play with the rice.

Much better!

He loves this activity. I have many different droppers, and he likes to try them all. 

I'm excited because little man is finally able to count to 10, and he's starting to identify numbers. I ordered this little thing on Amazon for $15, and he really likes it. Doesn't quite get the concept of the dots yet, but he will. 

He actually liked doing this, although it took a few days for him to agree to try it. I found the template for this heart one here. I also found some other Valentine's Day themed pattern block mats from Playdough to Plato.

I'm also really excited because I can finally play a game with my boy! I went to a speech workshop at his school and they mentioned playing Candyland, but to manipulate it for my son's needs. We had tried playing this game in the past and it usually got too frustrating for him. I never thought about taking out the 2 step cards and the cards with symbols on them. He doesn't understand those kind yet, so I separated out all of the single space cards and he played an entire game with me! Without melting down! This is HUGE. There were times he got frustrated, but he was able to get back to a calm place after a few moments and continue playing. Y'all have no idea how huge that is. 

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I was really excited to start The Giver with my oldest. It's totally different from any book he's read. We first talked about dystopian vs. utopian societies first. Let me tell you, this book has brought up a lot of great discussions. It's the first time he is analyzing his own society to something different. But I will say - this is funny - I totally forgot about the 'stirrings' in the book. So the main character, Jonas, is twelve, and at one point he has a dream about a girl where he wants to bathe her. He's embarrassed and talks to his parents about it. They mention that he had his first 'stirring' and he needed to begin taking pills to keep them from happening. So we got into a very scientific discussion about the human life cycle and how certain things work. Not too specific yet, but the basic gist. It was actually a great discussion! But it totally took me by surprise because it has been a looong time since I have read this book and completely forgot about it.

I really liked the chapter response packet I used for The Hobbit, and the same seller, Joy Sexton, has one for The Giver as well, so I snatched it up and put it into a binder. You can find it here. The packet includes so much more than the response pages, but I am mainly using it for those.

I also wanted something a little more in-depth than just response pages. So I found this awesome Depth and Complexity Companion by Got To Teach that has been wonderful for starting discussions and introducing ethical issues to my 9 year old. They are more open-ended, critical thinking questions and a slight step up from our last novel study. I just put each sheet for each chapter behind the response page. I don't have him write the answers to these since we are pressed for time, but I use it more as topics to discuss and jot down the things he tells me. Maybe later I'll have him write some on his own, but I like how it is going right now. If you aren't familiar with the the Depth and Complexity icons/model, check this out.

On his own he's been reading Lord of the Rings and is now almost halfway through the first book. He's really enjoying it!


My son finished the 5th chapter in chemistry and aced his test, so we will be moving onto the final chapter in March. I asked him if he is still loving chemistry and he emphatically said yes, so now I'm trying to figure out what we will go to after this. I'm thinking we will do some branching out in other sciences and then come back to chemistry later on if he is still interested. Sadly, I only took pics of some of his work, not any of the experiments we did. I'll be sure to take more in March since it's all about chemical reactions.

I liked this because it connected it to real life!


This month my son finished another region study, the Northeast! I love this because he can do it on the days when my youngest is not in preschool and at home all day or when we're at his appointments. You can find the link to where I got these lapbooks here. He has two more left and then we'll begin American History!


He is still working in Algebra 1 on Khan Academy (I SWEAR my next post will be about Khan. I've already got it started!). He's doing ridiculous things. I am just so amazed with him. And to think the gifted teacher at his old school didn't think he could handle THIRD GRADE MATH. That's another story for another day. But here is an example of what he is doing right now. Blows my mind, seriously.

We're still working on finishing up Greek/Latin roots and when he gets through the last two sections we'll move on to specific middle school grammar.

That's about it, I think!