Category Archives: Homeschooling Activities

Embracing a simple summer…..

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“Mom….just ten more minutes to ride my bike”…

“Maybe later”.

“How about you play barbies with me in the basement?

“Maybe later”.

Maybe later….maybe later (sigh)……I can’t tell you how often I’ve used this phrase with my two youngest. I’ll tell you….the “mom guilt” is strong. Strong because, as parents, we constantly are reevaluating our decisions and the life that we are providing our children.

As hard as my children work during the school year, I need to work just as hard to make sure that we “live it up” in the summer. I have spent the past three weeks thinking about this….and all these questions come to mind:

Are my little girls getting the same childhood as their older siblings?

What happened to the simple joys of childhood?……and can I get that back?

If I am going to demand hard work during the school year, I will have to let my kids just “hang out” for the summer…..

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I often think back to the days of creek jumping, and endless picnics. When my oldest wasn’t yet schooling, we filled our days with endless fun. She was too young for school and still too young for structured activities, so our day included afternoon walks with leaf collecting and puddle jumping. I sat in attendance for many a puppet show, or “culinary experience” from our play kitchen. Life wasn’t too “busy” to just have fun and “play” with my children.

And yet…..my little girls fall second to the three older children and their academic success in homeschooling. I know I need to find the balance for this coming fall, but for now…I can plunge right into summer with this simplistic mentality.

So…I made a few phone calls. No piano lessons for the summer. No dance class. Nothing that would require the kids and I to have a schedule.  Two vacation bible schools and one overnight camp…but that’s it. The rest of the summer is totally up to us!

It means late night and late mornings.

It means extra snuggles at bedtime and cuddles in the morning.

It means staying late at the pool and grabbing takeout for dinner.

It means last minute playdates with friends, and endless nights on the porch.

So….how exactly will we spend our summer? I’ve got a few ideas……

So I have decided to include a printable of some simple summer suggestions here:

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It’s my first free printable!  Trust me as I learn how to perfect these…they will get better. haha

Take a few minutes to print off that printable and let your mind start sailing off…..

So that you can enjoy having beach days and surfing parties:

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Or maybe your kids can ride in a space ship…made of table chairs…

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or stay in your pajamas and play….

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Life’s too short to spend your summer driving kids around to activities. Spend your days cuddling in the sun, and picking yummy fruit.

Spend your summer days reminding your kids how make fun YOU ARE!!!

Allow yourself to “slow down” and soak in the laughter of your children.

God bless,

Tammi

 

 

 

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Homeschooling: Starting off a great year!

Blue plaid jumper…

Brown leather “Eastland” loafers……

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“Little kid Tammi”….haha

When I was a young girl, I used to love getting ready to go back to school. Laying out my Catholic school jumper, I dreamed of playing “pig” with the girls and being chased by the boys.  I was so eager to see all the fun the school year would bring. I remember, excitedly, writing my name on all my composition books; gathering up my tissues boxes; and standing in a line at the local AMES store to purchase my 4 reams of paper. (My mom would make all four of us kids purchase the maximum number of paper reams for the 25 cent deal…haha)

As a homeschooling mom, I would never want to deny my own children some of those beloved traditions, so here are a few things that we like to do for the kiddos on the morning of their first bi-weekly homeschooling co-op.

  • Print and laminate class signs…..

We always take a picture the morning of co-op on the front porch. Its a mad scramble to get the pictures done before breakfast and still get out the door in time. The children are so eager to start their day and reunite with all their friends. image

  • Everyone gets a new outfit…complete with accessories!! This year, the hubs joined me in hitting up the stores on Labor Day. I will not bore you with all the details but suffice it to say that Miss Missy and Mini Me entertained all the Old Navy patrons with several musical performances while they utilized the dressing room. (Never a dull moment)

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DDD was happy to hit the boys section of Old Navy with his dad. Neon green is his current “phase”…….and after countless shopping trips where he “loves everything” and then never wears what I buy him…..I handed this duty over to dad. The hubs doesn’t have my “discount diva” “clearance rack queen” mentality, so DDD was thrilled to have less restrictions on his clothing choices.

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This beauty fell in love with this adorable skirt from Old Navy and we found this cute hairband at the Claire’s in the mall. This picture is just a reminder to me of how quickly time goes by.  Sweet Pea is growing up so quickly…..what a beautiful flower that we are watching unfold.

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The Fashionista helped me “discover” the store, Crazy 8. She found this adorable sundress and paired it with a cute sparkly headband to match her personality.

We were able to purchase both the little girls dresses as well. Crazy 8’s is now my new “Gymboree” since that store moved out of our mall. I love the bright vibrant colors that they carry. And no…they are not paying me for this “plug”, I just can’t help but share great attire for kids!!

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Serving a fun breakfast.

This year it seemed like none of the kids really wanted to eat a big breakfast. I love to make something quick and yummy like blueberry muffins or cinnamon rolls. However, this year they were more than happy to eat a bowl of their favorite “sugar cereal”….which was an awesome treat. So…bring on the “Fruity pebbles”…dyes and all. haha.

Creating a name tag listing of all their classes…… To be able to assist my children with getting to their classes, I wrote up and laminated simple class schedules to be worn around their neck. This helped my children to get to the correct places while I was teaching classes myself.  If one of my kids weren’t sure what class they had, one of the moms could grab their “tag” and check it. It was a huge relief for this mom. For some reason, Mini Me has taken to biting on the corners of hers…(palm to face).

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Special love from daddy….. 

This was from the hubs last year. He had me get them donuts and juice and he left them a cute note for when they woke up. They loved it….but….this is totally characteristic of the “awesome dad” that he is.  However, trying to eat a little better this year……the hubs decided to just send them off to co-op with a “kiss”. As he planted a kiss on each one of them, he threw a few Hershey kisses in their lunch box. I wish I had captured it on video…it was precious.

Every fall, we embark on a new journey of homeschooling. This year we have no babies….no toddlers. We have purged our school room of barbies and legos and have added puzzles and more books. Our house is physically ready for school….although our hearts may be basking in the summer sun.

Oh well……Let’s do this!

Welcome 2015-2016 School year!!!!

God bless, Tammi

Summer Reading!!!

Summer Reading is in full swing here at our house!

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And we are loving every minute of it.

(This picture shows the pool that included a “swim up” library…)

“Can we get an armful of books, mom?!”

“Sure!”

“Can we read two books at one time, mom?!”

“Sure!!!”

The library is definitely one of our favorite places to visit during the summer. And there are few things I love more than cuddling up on the couch with a new library book and a hot cup of tea.  Unless, it’s cuddling up with a cute wee one and a fun read aloud book.

We have our personal favorite “go to” authors that the kiddos love. For the past few years we always get out some of our favorites from Keiko Kasza….like the Wolf’s Chicken Stew:

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or  Badger’s Fancy Meal…..

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Even the older kids will crowd around the couch to hear one of these books read.

We keep a nice big basket on our fireplace to house all of our library books and to contain how many missing books we have when they are due. Let’s just say I am sure there have been “community rooms” fully funded by our family library fines.

So…although I have some children that LOVE reading….aka “Turn off the flipping light and go to bed”….I also have children that I have to bribe to read. DDD loves reading Captain Underpants and Diary of a Whimpy Kid but forget any real form of literature. Sweet Pea loves reading….from the classics to Babysitter’s club. The Fashionista has a tougher time with reading and so this summer is about getting her excited about challenging herself. We are trying to move her beyond Junie B. Jones. haha.

Now….I have been known to come up with great incentive programs that leave me with a lot of work to do.  However…….I have learned that the simplier the better…..both for me and the children.

Intro….our Summer Reading Program……

Goal: to create a system that creates enthusiasm for reading and is easy to maintain.

I found these great Reading logs for the younger two girls.

I write the name of the books that I read them and I let them color them in.

FREE Reading Logs Kids Can Color - This Reading Mama

Once their whole sheet is colored (30 books), I take them out for ice cream. I have showed the hubs and the big kids how to fill these forms out in case they read to the girls.

The older children need a little more incentive since they are reading chapter books.

So for them I found these great reading “chains” that we are working on. They each received a $5.00 Rita’s gift card for finishing their first book…and a $5.00 gift card for each 5 books they finish.

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The name of their book and the date gets placed on these strips of paper and then stapled to make a paper chain.

I simply place these someplace that the kids can see them often. For us, this was on the door to our basement. This allows the little ones to continue to color in their reading logs and the big kids to add to their reading chains.

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So with half of our books due back on Wednesday, we will be renewing and grabbing new books this week.  Thankfully,  I created a “recommended” book list for each child which we take to the library and they get assistance, from the librarians, with finding their books.

Here’s to more literature in your life!!!

God bless,

Tammi

Taking a “peek” inside our homelife……it’s a wild ride.

What is it like to homeschool 5 kids during the day?

Random….funny…..never a dull moment around here.

It’s also the greatest, most draining, incredible mission.

I’m so thankful that on friday..we will end another school year successfully.

These pictures speak for themselves…..

Enjoy this little “peek” into our home life….

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Lord, thank you for another year to have them home with me. Another year to see their goals surpassed and their weaknesses strengthened.

Bring on summer!!!!

God Bless,

Tammi

Help!!!! Homeschooling with Toddlers……

Homeschooling……(deep breath)……

How do you do it? How do you manage to teach all those kids?

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Mentally….I’m answering with all kinds of snarky comments. What I am thinking about is some of the events of my past weeks….how some days I feel like I could write a book on the beauty of homeschooling. You know….when I’m at my daughter’s piano recital and she “nails it”, and I know how much work she puts into it. Or when I hear one of my kids use a vocabulary word, “dude…what is that FOUL smell!???” Love it!  Or when I wake up and decide that we have dominated our school week and so..we’re going ice skating today!

Then….there are the epic fails…… teaching one child Math, while watching the 3 year old throw a linking cube in her mouth, and diving after her before she chokes. Or the time my son was practicing mandarin on the computer, while my oldest was rehearsing House of the Rising sun for the twentieth time on the piano, and I’m sitting on the bathroom toliet on the phone with Comcast customer service just to avoid the screeching toddler who just wants to know “If I can have a cutie??!!!”

Multi-tasking at its finest. Some of those moments are flask-worthy. Listen…no judgment here.

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When my oldest was four, and my son was almost two, I decided to begin my homeschooling endeavor. As a former teacher, I was so excited to begin this process with my daughter. I had it all planned out. She was going to be an avid reader. She would be a mathematical genius. I would start her at 4 years old so she could be ahead. I mean….I was a teacher. I mean…I knew what to teach and how….Why wouldn’t I delve right in??!!

It was my two sisters in laws, whose daughters were already being homeschooled, who gave me some great advice…..

“Don’t push her too hard. She has plenty of time to do school and workbooks. Just have fun.”

And Wow….I had no idea how tough it would be trying to school her with a 2 year old, and a baby!!! Boy was I glad I had taken their advice. Sweet Pea was a natural learner. She loved to memorize songs and sing. We bought tons of puzzles for her to do. She loved the huge workbooks from Walmart that she could do when she wanted. And….we spent TONS of time at the library. We took advantage of storytime at the library and spent plenty of time “exploring” outside.

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Fast forward 6 years, and Sweet Pea is now very independent in her school work. She has become an avid reader, and school comes very easy for her. However, I have a 2nd and 3rd grader who need my assistance, and two little ones who want my time too. So….I thought I would share some of my favorite “go- to”s for my littles during school time:

*BTW, I am not currently being paid to endorse these products. But…let’s be honest. I would only endorse products that I love anyway. haha.

However, I happen to hit up all my mom friends for advice and product referrals, so why not offer my advice when I can…right??!!

Highlights Hidden Picture Books

These books were a gift from Grandmom one year and they are amazing!!!

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Miss Missy LOVES these. Especially the pages where they give you a sticker to place down over the “hidden object”. She just turned 3 in November and I had no idea how quickly she would do these or the how much she would love these.  You can also go online and let some of the bigger kids do these…

http://www.highlightskids.com/hidden-pictures/interact

Aquadoodle

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I’m a huge fan of Aquadoodle. All you need is some water and a paintbrush and they will be entertained for a while. Then, you can just leave it out to dry while you move to the next task. No colors to bleed onto your floor and if you have multiple paint brushes, you can have more than one child involved.

Games

Our family loves games. It only takes 10 minutes for a quick game of family hide-n-seek. Some times I have sent Miss Missy on a scavenger hunt to find me 5 “orange things”, or 5 things that make the “b” sound. These are great ways to review skills while working with another child. We have also practiced counting while doing jumping jacks and hopping around.

Reading Log

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I just picked this up on Friday from our local library but I’m sure you could make your own. I love to read to the “littles” or have some of their siblings read to them. For every book they have read to them, they get to color one of the little pictures on this page. After 100 books (or a page), they take this back to the library for a prize. They were super excited to add their first four books on Saturday night! After their first five pages (the booklet is 10 pages long!!!), we will go out for some ice cream!

Puzzles

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If we are not reading, Miss Missy is always wanting to do puzzles. She can put a puzzle together very quickly, so thankfully….. grandmom always gives us a few for Christmas. Our favorites are any Melissa and Doug ones! Puzzles are terrific for working on their fine motor skills and teaching them to see the greater picture.

Books on Tape/CD

I’m a huge fan of books on tape or CD…especially if I have to be in the van for most of the day. It’s a great way to let the little get some “reading time” in while taking the older kids to an activity. When I go to the library, I make sure that I get 1-2 books on CD. If I remember, I try to grab an additional copy of the book so we have less fighting over who is going to “turn the page”…haha. I keep these in the van so I don’t have to remember to return them. It also lessens the chance of me losing them.

Refrigerator Magnets

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I love refrigerator magnets! All of my kids have enjoyed hanging out with me in the kitchen and this is one of the best uses of their time. I recently bought these large bright letter magnets from a teacher store. (pictured on the fridge behind Miss Missy).I love the versatility of these. I can help Mini Me create words with them, and yet Miss Missy likes me to quiz her on the various letters. She loves to practice her name and try to put letters together to make words.

The two magnetic devices pictured below have been in our family since we had Dirty Dog D. Each one of our children have enjoyed learning the songs about counting, letters, and colors through the magnetic DJ. Placing different letters in the fridge phonics device allows them to work on letter sound and distinction. I highly recommend both of these.

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Leap Frog Fridge Phonics

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Leap Frog Magnetic DJ radio

Dry Erase Boards/ laminated sheets

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For kids there is just something fun about using a dry erase marker and having the fun of doodling and then erasing. I like to purchase kindergarten workbooks and then laminate certain pages to be able to use over and over. I often do this with letters, numbers, and some matching items. The dry erase board below is often used for our older children but the little girls like to use it to draw pictures!

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I am also a big fan of playdoh!!!!! I throw down a dollar store tablecloth…..and we are set. I can use this time to review Catechisis with the older children around the table, while the “littles” play with playdoh!

So…these are my “go to” activities for dealing with toddlers. I hope you have been inspired to try some of these ideas with your little ones!  In my opinion, the biggest lesson is to remember that our toddlers are like sponges. They soak up so much from their environment and their other siblings. Try and provide moments for them to be mentally stimulated…….but make it fun!!!!!

Hoping your homeschooling days are successful!

God Bless,

Tammi

It’s coming!!! Snow day prep….chasing wine style!!!

I love snow days!

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I love watching the magical white fluffiness fall from the sky!

I love bundling up my kiddos for the 30 minutes of outside time..haha. Well….the big kids last a little longer than that.

And I love the shear excitement of planning for the snow to fall…teasing the news coverage about the actual accumulations that will far verses what is predicted.

I remember, as a kid, getting up early and waiting for the snow closings at the bottom of the TV screen…getting lathered up with Vaseline on my face to handle the chilly wind as I ran outside with mix-matched mittens. I remember waiting for the right moment to “accidentally” knock my little brother face-first in the snow….hahaha….

great memories….but the joy only gets better as a mom.

So…here’s what went on this week and today to get ready for the snow tomorrow:

Laundry

Momma is doing TONS of laundry today…like 3/4 loads so I can chill out tomorrow. Gotta make sure we have plenty of our favorite sweatsuits, and comfy blankets cleaned for cuddle time. We will spend the next few days in fluffy socks and sweats so we need to make sure everyone is set! Plus…I want to be able to go sledding too, so I’m maxing out my work for today.

Grocery Run

The kids and I hit the grocery store on Sunday for the essentials: milk, eggs, bread, cereal. But when I got a text from the hubs offering to make a quick grocery run on his way home from an appt….you better believe I hollered…”heck yeah!” We need two cans of condensed milk (for snow cream, of course), a few boxes of hot chocolate mix, American cheese for grilled cheeses, and momma needs more ….Prosecco!!!!

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I definitely see these in our future!

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Library Run

The kiddos and I hit the library on Friday to grab a few new books. Right now, the Fashionista is plowing through the Junie B. Jones series, and she begged me to load her up.  The littles are enjoying Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter Collection.

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There is nothing better than being cozy on the couch with a new book after playing in the snow. We were delighted, as well, to see these new little friends there too! Looks like they have no worries with the upcoming snow!

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Work-less meals

Snow also means pulling out the good ole crockpot! Whether I am going to be sledding or reading 20 books to the little ones, I won’t have to be caught in the kitchen. So the next few days will be about making use of the crockpot. We will wake up to some apple cinnamon oatmeal, and then dinner with include this awesome balsamic chuck roast! I might have to add in this chicken taco chili that one of my girlfriends had on her FB today too.

Family Time

Nothing says snow days like family time! There will be plenty of time for family charades, movie nights and board games! The hubs has been teaching the kiddos the games of Monopoly and Risk. They are loving it!

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 Whatever you do….live it up!!! The snow won’t be here for long!

Before we know it, we will be basking in the sun!

God bless,

Tammi

St. Cecilia…pray for us!

St. Cecilia

St. Cecilia….patron saint of music..pray for us!

Here are a few way to celebrate her feast day:

  1. Tell the story of St. Cecilia!
  2. Have a dance party! These are BOUND to happen almost daily but this one will be planned. What a great way to remind our children about the joy of music and what it does to our hearts.
  3. Attend a concert. My daughter has been taking piano for a few years and my son just started guitar. This would be a great day to have them give our family a small concert. Taking out small maracas or tambourines help the little kids get involved.
  4. Coloring Pages! I love to let my kids color pictures of saints. Often times, this is a great opportunity to pull out the watercolor paints and let them use a different kind of media. Catholic Heritage Curricula has a few beautiful coloring pages on their website. I couldn’t get the image of their St. Cecilia picture but you can find it here.
  5. Recognize friends or family who have her namesake. My little niece has been named after St. Cecilia. Today we will give her a call and recognize today as her “feast day”.
  6. Have a special treat/food for the occasion. These treats by Lacy at Catholic Icing are awesome. Seeing as my kids have had enough “halloween candy” for a while, we might try and do something similar with club crackers and cheese sticks.

Happy Friday!

God Bless,

Tammi