Crafting Play – Cultivating Learning

Utilizing the magic of dramatization in learning.

Drama, drama, drama. Yup, that would aptly describe our crazy home. And I’m not just talking the pull your hair out because life is driving you crazy kind of drama, although we get our fair share of that, too.

Over here, we’ve found that drama is a great way to maximize the enjoyment and retention of whatever we are currently learning about.On any given day if you were to stop by, you would frequently find kids dressed up and playing hard. What is so cool is that while they are playing (and I make a mad dash to the kitchen to pull dinner together) they are reinforcing what we’ve been reading about.

As we read books, sometimes the kids will zero in on something and run grab an item around our home that can stand in as a prop. I’ve found that a key prop or costume piece goes a long way to cultivate this learning through play. And this doesn’t have to be crazy expensive or complicated. Oftentimes, one small item coupled with their imagination is enough to transport them into many a historical epoch.

For instance, when we were learning about the Revolutionary War, the boys noticed that each of the soldiers had a cartridge box slung over his shoulder. My youngest knew where my stash of purses were kept and remembered that little black purse that I’d held onto for over 20 years now. That’s right folks, I’m the sentimental person that has kept my first ‘purse’ all these years. That little black leather purse was a constant companion for my little guy as he traveled from battle to battle.

To this end, we oftentimes try to utilize our crafting to maximize dramatic play. That was the case when we were learning about Joan of Arc. Book after book revealed her marching into battle with her white fleur de lis banner.

So we set to work cutting up an old sheet into a pennant shape. I didn’t even bother to hem the edges. I care about those things, but the boys certainly don’t. I simply made sure I folded over the edge big enough to go over our PVC pole that the boys already had sewed a loop. We’ve even been known to use fabric glue if I’m too lazy to pull out the sewing machine.

Next, we set to work making a stamp. We had some crafting foam from an earlier craft they made at someone’s home and we re-purposed that for our fleur-de-lis stamp. I simply printed off a picture from the internet and set about cutting it out with an exacto knife. I didn’t feel quite comfortable turning them loose with that sharp little tool at that time, but the boys have definitely upgraded to using exacto knives now (with mom’s ample warnings). The boys found an unused bobbin that could be used for our handle because I’m all about not making any unnecessary trips to the store.

And then, their favorite part – stamping away!

The result? “JON of Arc” making a courageous stand to free France from the English and help Charles VII claim his throne, over and over and over again! All it took was creating a flag and letting it fly!

What We Are Reading (March/April 2017)

Books we are reading: March-April 2017

I don’t know about you, but I am always curious to see what people are reading. I know I am not alone because on more than one occasion I’ve had friends or acquaintances over who I find browsing my bookshelves or my book stacks.

So I thought, I’d give you all a peek at what our family is reading right now!

I am not a neat and tidy, read one book at a time kind of person. I read as I’m inspired and hop between several books. Here are a few that I have recently finished or am currently working on. A friend posted back in January that he had made a goal of reading 50 books in 2016 and was increasing it by 10 books in 2017. I’m a competitive type person and having a goal to hit seemed like just the incentive I need to get me reaching for a book instead of my phone when I have spare moments in my days. I’m keeping track of my book count in Evernote (my digital brain), so I can track my progress. As a busy homeschool mama, I’m including chapter books that I read aloud to the kids on this list. I don’t consider this cheating because it is time spent reading great books and I’m not listing the copious amounts of picture books like Fancy Nancy books that my 5 year old has been requesting lately. My goal this year: at least 50, aiming for 60.

Mom’s Reads

Lost & Found – I loved this memoir from my friend, Kendra Fletcher and wrote about it here.
The 5 Love Languages of Children – Understanding love languages really helped in my marriage and I’m excited to zero in on each of my children’s love languages and learn how to show each of them love better.
Different: The Story of the Out-of-the-Box Kid and the Mother Who Loved Him – I’m excited to dive into Sally Clarkson’s newest book on celebrating, understanding, and loving our “different” kids.
A Wife’s Secret to Happiness – It’s been a while since I’ve read a marriage book and this one is hot off the press!
Amazing Grace – William Wilberforce is such an inspiration. In addition to working to end the slave trade in the Great Britain, his life long goal was a Reformation of Manners. I too desire to see a reformation of manners here in the 21st century. By manners, this doesn’t mean etiquette, but more importantly a return of civility, empathy, and pursuit of justice and compassion, hence my Knights in Training book. I heard about his life goal last summer when I was in the midst of writing my book and it was such an encouragement to me. Now I want to read the whole story.
The Screw Tape Letters – I’ve tried a few times before and ended up doing a combination of reading this and listening to an audiobook version. Thought-provoking.
Transparent: How to See Through the Powerful Assumptions that Control You – Just started this. I’ll need to finish Screwtape Letters first so I have mental bandwidth to read and think about this one.
On my Kindle: The Benedict Option – reading this and discussing with friends!

What the Kids are Reading:

We are learning about the Age of Exploration right now. Here are a few of the books we are reading relating to that:

We started out reading about ships, sailing, and navigation!

By Star and Compass: The Story of Navigation – We enjoyed this vintage read aloud. I had to laugh when I went to grab a link to it, because Amazon is listing only one used copy for sale if anyone wants to fork over almost $9,000. It was good, but no where near that good.
Dare the Wind: The Record Breaking Voyage of Elizabeth Prentiss and the Flying Cloud  – Oh my, I love this story. We read it several times! We enjoyed reading of her tenacity and understanding of navigation that helped set a world record. My favorite quote: “A true navigator must have the caution to read the sea as well as the courage to dare the wind.” Inspiration for life!

I gathered a stack of navigation related fiction books and let each boy pick one.

Carry On Mr. Bowditch – We did this as a read-aloud a couple of years ago and I was surprised with the excitement to read this again. My oldest read it twice in the last couple of weeks and my middle read through it once! It was interesting to see how their understanding and increased age heightened the enjoyment of this story. I love this character’s insatiable desire to learn. In a world that disdains learning for the pure enjoyment of it, I love giving them stories like these!
The 290 – This was a stretch of a book for our topic, but it was a book about sailing on a ship, so we went with this Civil War era story.
The Kings Fifth – another stretch. This book is about a young cartographer and how he travels with the conquistadors to the new world. I chose this book because he was sailing, there was a map-making component, and I love all things Scott O’Dell. I have one son who is OBSESSED with the story now and wanting to buy this book for all of his friends.

We’ve also started reading about the Vikings. Here are our favorites!

Leif the Lucky – I love D’Aulaire. This was an enchanting book that we read aloud.
Vikings: Children in History – The Vikings have pretty violent history. I loved this book that focused on life as a viking from a child’s perspective. I didn’t have to worry about editing out stuff for the five year old.
Sword Song – My 12 year old is loving this historical fiction book.
Raiders from the Sea – This was a fun fiction book that my 10 year old chose to read.
Voyage with the Vikings – We love Imagination Station books and my 9 year old was thrilled to read this again when I assigned it to him!

 

Here are some books they are reading just for fun!

We have joined the Green Ember craze and the boys are officially obsessed.

My 10 year old cannot stop talking about The Prince Warriors and has read it twice since his Mima gave it to him.

Giving the Gift of Books!

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Books make for wonderful companions. They inspire and inform. They take us to exciting places and give us a taste of new experiences. I love to have bookshelves full of good books that we read over and over again!

And now it’s that time of year when I start getting gifts for the people that I love. At the top of that list are books, of course. From now until Dec 8th you can get $5 off a $15+ book purchase at Amazon using code GIFTBOOK at checkout.  I’ve loved using these codes from Amazon to order the books I had on my list. {affiliate links used}

If you are needing some inspiration, here are a few of our favorites!

Picture Books

Building our House! by Jonathon Bean. I think Greta had me read this to her twice a day for at least a month. It finally landed a spot in our permanent library.

This is our Home, This is our School by Jonathon Bean. Turns out the author of one of my favorite picture books was homeschooled growing up. If you homeschool, this book deserves a place on your shelf. Your kids to read about other kids living this kind of life (the class bully was priceless) and as a mom, you’ll appreciate (and laugh) at his recollections from his childhood. Learning can be messy and this book reminded me to take a big breath and embrace the chaos.

Chapter Book Current Favorites

Dangerous Journey – We’ve read this book probably at least a hundred times. The boys love it. It inspires us to live out this crazy faith walk with its beautiful prose and amazing illustrations.

My Side of the Mountain – This childhood favorite of mine is now a favorite for each of my boys. They’ve all read it multiple times!

The Tripod Trilogy – I discovered this when I was in that tween age and it became a childhood favorite that my kids now love. This series is very well written and it was my first encounter with a literary “Christ-figure.” If you end up reading this, be sure and start with the Trilogy. He wrote a prequel afterwards called When the Tripods Came” that isn’t as interesting unless you’ve read the series first. I compare it to reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe before reading The Magician’s Nephew. You’ll enjoy the prequel far more when you have context.

Swallows and the Amazons This is  a delightful book that my sister gave (along with two more in the series) to my children last year for Christmas.

I love books and referenced great books in each category for my gift guides that inspire learning.  Here are a few more of our favorite books!

AdventureBooks

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Gifts that Inspire

ChristmasBooks

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31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

For more ideas see my 31 Day Series on Gift Guides that Inspire Learning. Nearly every one features the best books to capture the imagination and promote learning about history and science! I love to give the grandparents Christmas ideas that relate to what we will be learning about the following semester. It is a win-win because the grandparents get great ideas and they are gifts that inspire the imagination and foster a love of learning!

We are clearing things out and rearranging over there. I’m super excited to put up our teepee again as a permanent reading nook. I can’t get over how much they’ve grown since I took this picture…

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Stories that Inspire our Children to Live with Purpose

Listening to The Cat of Bubastes!Time seemed to fly by on this particular trip downtown because we were all swept up into the drama of our newest audio adventure, The Cat of Bubastes.  I heard audible sighs as we arrived at our destination and the boys realized that we would need to put the story on hold. Even Greta was disappointed. There is nothing quite like a good audio book or audio adventure to help these longer trips just speed by and with good reason; stories have a profound impact on our lives. Narrative is powerful because it inspires a sense of purpose. As I watch these kids of mine grow so quickly, I’m reminded of the importance of helping them catch a vision and realize that they are here to make a difference in the lives of those around them.  As we listen to these adventure stories, my boys minds are swirling with a world of possibilities.

I’m not sure if it can count as “work” since I enjoy it so much, but I work hard to find great stories to introduce to my children. We love to read aloud – both chapter books and picture books. After several years without, we are ever so thankful that our van now has a working CD player because it means we have lots of opportunity to enjoy stories on the road. Sometimes it is an audio book from the library, other times it is one of our audio dramas!

We love the audio adventures from Heirloom Audio. These tales are high on adventure, always provide some humor, and yet have important lessons to impart. The newest one, The Cat of Bubastes opens with a young prince marching into a life of slavery in Egypt. Instead of being consumed with anger or destroyed by depression, he resolves to make the best of it. Despite the horrible circumstances in his life, he perseveres and lives with integrity.  He becomes a slave in the home of an Egyptian priest who is kind and gracious.  This man reminds his own son to treat others with love and respect, because you never know what life holds for you and when situations might be reversed. And indeed, this story is full of intrigue and mystery and yes, roles are indeed reversed as they encounter the one true God and the cost that comes with following Him.

My boys need to see that no matter their circumstances – whether in times of triumph and success or in your darkest days, that we can live lives full of purpose. We all need reminders that we do not know what the future holds. We need to see that by being faithful to what we are called to do in the moment that we can play a role in the grander scope of history. As Christians, we are regularly reminded that we are called to play a role in the kingdom of God. Stories like these remind us of the everyday opportunities we have to be faithful and how God can use those moments to make a difference. The grand sweep of narrative has the power to inspire us to live a life of purpose, even and especially in the midst of challenges that people oftentimes face. It does so by providing a safe place to deal with the emotions that come with the triumphs and struggles in life. There is a wisdom that comes only with experience that allows one to truly appreciate and understand life from a big picture perspective, but I’m a firm believer that reading about the lives of others infuses our own life with more wisdom and long-term thinking than we would have without them.

And that would be why I let them read while they cook or listen to stories when they do their chores.

And this is why our audiobooks and audio dramas continue to play an important role in our family life. Oftentimes, they’ll listen to one while they build with their legos.  The older two boys received mp3 players for their birthdays this year and love to clip that baby on and listen to a story while they do their chores. I smile and am thankful for the gift of good stories and the lessons they are learning from them.

We love our Heirloom Audio CD’s. I’ve written about them before. The Cat of Bubastes does not disappoint! It is a beautiful story that will inspire everyone to persevere, to be loyal to friends, to remember that God has a grand plan, and that we are called to play a role! It is a welcome reminder that we are called to live with purpose.

 

Trey doesn’t know it yet, but he will get his own MP3 player for Christmas. This one is our favorite. We like that the sports clip, the variety of colors so each child knows which one is theirs, and the lack of wi-fi capabilities that allows us as parents to set what goes on them.  When Greta gets older, they even have a pink one!

{Disclaimer: While we have listened to and loved these audio’s for a few years now, I was sent The Cat of Bubastes for free and compensated for my time invested in putting this post together. All opinions, as always, are solely my own. Please see my disclosure for more information.}

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Our Secret to Surviving Long Road Trips

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Anyone have some long road trips planned for this summer? We don’t, but that’s only because we clocked about 60 hours in the car at the end of last year…  Surviving with your sanity intact is imperative.  Being ready and willing to do it again is the cherry on top.

I want to share our biggest secret to surviving long road trips and doing so screen-free!

A few years ago I wrote a post about Creative Travel Ideas for Young Kids. When my kids were little, I took as much care with preparing for a road trip as a general would planning an invasion. For our really BIG trips (6 hours to California) I loved to do an hour-by-hour countdown with special activities to pull out along the way.  And when we would fly, I’d break my little to no screen-time rule to let them watch a movie.  I figured that being stuck in a metal box in the sky was NOT the place to be for a melt-down or restless child, so we’d sedate them with a movie which was a special treat for our screen-deprived children. I broke that tradition a few years ago when we flew over the same weekend, that I had agreed to participate in a national “Screen-Free” week. I lived to blog about it later.   But even with the movie my kids would watch on our trips across the country, I was still careful to pack special toys or books to occupy them during the remainder of the flight.

Everything has eased up since then. Now that the kids are older, I throw a few things in a tub for the car, being sure to pack some special items to occupy the 4-year-old and we set off.  Only now we live in Texas where you can drive A.L.L. D.A.Y. and still be in Texas.  Anything under 6 hours is now considered a quick road trip because it takes 15 hours to get to see my family and 9 hours to drive and visit my hubby’s family.

While the kids are older and better able to sit still, we’ve honed in on the BEST way to pass time in the car…  Audio books and audio dramas!

Our absolute favorites, hands-down, are the audio dramas from Heirloom Audio. Have you heard of them? Listened to them? If not, you seriously need to check them out!  This is the newest venture from the former producers of Adventures in Odyssey! The boys received their first one for Christmas 2 years ago.  They fell in love with In Freedom’s Cause, which takes us into the life of William Wallace. He was an amazing man of faith and conviction – a true hero that I love introducing to my boys.

Last fall, I shared about how sick I had been and how we fell in love with In Lee in Virginia which was the perfect companion to our study of the Civil War. We loved them so much that I packed a portable CD player in our aging minivan on our road-trip that we took around Thanksgiving because our CD player in the car was broken. You would not believe how quiet a car full of kids could possibly be as they strained to hear the story from my portable CD player. Thankfully, we had a new-to-us minivan for our 15-hour drive to Arizona. Yes, 15 hours of me with 4 kids as we departed for Arizona for a couple of weeks before Rich joined us at Christmas.  Yes, that was the time we drove ALL DAY and were still in Texas…

We survived, thanks to hours of these audio adventures!

In recent weeks, as we’ve simply been driving around town, we’ve been listening to one of their newest adventures, The Dragon and the Raven. After listening to it one weekend, my middle guy surprised me with this little impromptu note on Monday morning…

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He’s especially excited to now jump into the book that inspired the story that I just happened to have on our bookshelf and was hoping he’d read this summer! #win

Let’s Give Them Access to Real Heroes

The more I look around at what the world has to offer our boys by way of entertainment, the more I’m sold on reading great books to them, exposing them to these kind of heroes via audio dramas. Boys need heroes.  Girls do too, but in an age where boys tend to be adrift without a sense of purpose, I’ve found that filling our boys minds with the stories of brave men who have gone before, performed heroic deeds, made a difference in this world is so very important. These accounts inspire my boys to want to make a difference too. They inspire them to apply themselves to the work of learning and growing up so that they too can make a difference in their culture, in the world they will be thrust into.  And with how things are going, we are in desperate need of modern-day heroes, people who have firm convictions, people who are willing to live selflessly to serve others, to serve a greater good and to draw people to the truth and the One who is Truth.  And I love to watch the role that these audio dramas play in this unfolding of their going from boys – to – men.

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So if you are looking for a way to make the hours in the car just speed by, if you are looking to inspire your kids with some amazing real-life heroes, and you want something they will want to listen to over and over again, then check these out. I’m sure they will become favorites in your home and car, just as they have in ours!

If you would like to order the series now click here.

With this special package you will get:

  • All four audio dramas (The Dragon and the Raven, With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom’s Cause, Under Drake’s Flag –there are 2 copies of each audio drama so that you can give one to a friend!)
  • Study Guide and Discussion Starter Sets for each audio drama
  • Award-winning soundtracks from each audio drama
  • Poster Art from each audio drama
  • Four limited edition Henty Collector Coins
  • ALL of this for only 79.95 !!!

Here are the details:

Recommended Ages: 6+ (some intense action and war scenes, complete with sound effects)

The Dragon and the Raven
Historical Setting: Alfred the Great, 800’s AD, England
Lessons: Mercy, Courage, Faith,
Duration: 2 hours

In Freedom’s Cause
Historical Setting: William Wallace, 1290’s-1305 AD, Scotland
Lessons: Persistence, Courage, Humility, need for God’s guidance
Duration: 2 hours

Under Drake’s Flag 
Historical Setting: Sir Francis Drake, 1500’s, England
Lessons: Courage, Conviction, Character, Faith
Duration: 2 hours

With Lee in Virginia 
Historical Setting: Robert E. Lee, Civil War – 1860’s, United States
Lessons: Loyalty, Freedom, Human Dignity, Honesty, Faith
Duration: 2 hours

{Disclaimer: While we have listened to and loved these audio’s for a few years now, I was sent The Dragon and the Raven for free and compensated for my time invested in putting this post together. All opinions are solely my own. Please see my disclosure for more information.}

Introducing Children to the Wonder of Prenatal Development

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Mommy, mommy!  Look at my blood.

My breath caught in my throat as I heard my daughter screaming this while running in from the backyard. Normally tears accompany blood, but this girl of mine is tough, real tough.

I exhaled, as a quick look assured me she wasn’t leaving a trail of blood; she is simply filled with wonder…  Wonder at how she was made, wonder at the miracle of pregnancy and making connections with what she looked like while in my tummy with what she can see now.

A few weeks ago, my friend Danika Cooley’s new book, Wonderfully Made, arrived in our mailbox.  I hadn’t really talked to Greta about that since there was no obvious reason to do so.  But she has been full of questions for a while as we see pregnant ladies at church or at our weekly park day!  She is at the age where she is asking all kinds of questions about babies and how they bake.  And with her aunt having a little girl this summer, those questions are not going away anytime soon!

Since I know that many of you have new babies coming or already snuggled in your arms, I wanted to share about this book with y’all.  I’m a firm believer in giving our kids accurate, age-appropriate information.

This book definitely fits the bill. Kids who read and comprehend the material in this book will understand more than most of the college students who took my Human Anatomy and Physiology lab at the university. {I was amazed at the responses my students gave on my reproductive anatomy and physiology quizzes.  Apparently years of sex-ed taught them next to nothing about pregnancy, even questions as basic as where does the baby develop… }

The beautiful thing is that this isn’t a book about someone else’s pregnancy.  Nope. This book delightfully connects our children with their own development. It takes you back down what would be memory lane if we could remember and gives us nearly a week by week look at development.

Here is the page that Greta was referencing when she noticed (again) the veins she could see on her hands.

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This book is perfect for every child, but I can see how it would be extra special and a fun resource to have around if you are expecting a baby and want to bring your older kids into the wonder of it all since they could easily reference the book at each stage of your pregnancy.

For us, we are content to simply be filled afresh with the wonder of being wonderfully made.

Challenges of blogging... When your son plays with the settings on the phone...

Pregnant and/or looking for hands-on ideas to learn about pregnancy and fetal development: I shared about what we did here!

 

Giving away my favorite preschool resources

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“Mommy, can you do something with me?”

It’s a common refrain that I’m hearing these days.  Instead of simply making sure my youngest doesn’t get into trouble, we’ve transitioned quite fully into the phase where she is wanting to do “real school” and participate in every tiny aspect of our days!  I know I’m not alone with having one or more kids in this phase, so I thought I’d share about some resources that I’m loving right now.

I thought it would be extra fun to give away a copy of each, so be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post!

Here are three areas where I need to have something special for my preschooler!

Together Learning!

The power of finger plays for preschool learning!

I love things that bring us together as a family.  We start our morning together for something we’ve come to call, “Circle Time.”  We pray, sing, and read together. I love focusing some of this time on my youngest and bringing my older kids into the process of investing in their sister’s life. I used to try to think of a preschool song or finger play that I could add into this mix, but oftentimes would either forget or end up doing the same old songs each day.  That’s when I decided to get a little strategic and my Finger Play and Preschool Song cards were birthed.

Preschool Finger Play and Song CardsA must-have for every mother of young children: 30 amazing finger plays and preschool songs right at your fingertips!

Want to know the easiest way to develop important preschool skills in as little as 5-10 minutes a day?  Sing songs and do finger plays with your kids! There was a reason why our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did all kinds of finger plays with us.  It is a fun, natural way to learn most of the preschool skills needed in order to be ready for more formal learning.  It’s a painless way to learn how to count, develop their vocabulary, cultivate phonemic awareness and work on those gross and fine-motor skills.

We have just loved using these cards each morning in our home.  While I love this “vintage preschool” resource for my youngest, I’m amazed at some of the conversations I’ve had with my other kids.  My littlest loves this special time each morning when we focus on her!  We pick out a song or two and sing.  It’s been fun to watch her develop the dexterity and fine motor skills to really do all of the hand motions for the Eensy Weensy Spider.  While I sort of miss the looks of concentration she would display when trying to wiggle her fingers while simultaneously raining them downwards, it is now fun to watch her utilize all the motions with a look of triumph.  The improvements in her pronunciation and vocabulary have been fun to witness, too!  This will definitely continue to be a tool that we’ll utilize every day in our home for a while longer.

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I also have a coupon code for you!  You can utilize the coupon code “SPRING” to receive $2 off good through the end of March!  If you purchase a card set and then win the giveaway, I’ll send you a complete refund.  No excuses, right?

 

One-on-One Learning!

One-on-one time with each of our children is so important and naturally Greta sees me working with each of her brothers on math and spelling/grammar each day and has started inquiring about doing “school”, too.  I’m a firm believer in not rushing academics, so unless they are showing clear signs of readiness (like when my middle taught himself how to read at 4.5), we don’t start reading instruction until 5 or 6. But I do strive to make them feel included. While I have a couple of math items that I pull out during math time and a whiteboard and marker that she can use to follow along during spelling lessons, she wants a lesson of her own.  I have limited time and to be honest, think that many of the “preschool” activity books out there simply aren’t necessary.  But I do love Basic Shapes

Basic Shapes for Beginners

My friend, Heather Gruetman who blogs over at Growing Hands On Kids, is an occupational therapist by trade.  She put together Basic Shapes for Beginners * for families to utilize to have a fun way to develop the important fine-motor skills needed to start writing.  While I used to research this kind of thing with my oldest, I love that I have an easy-to-use resource now with my youngest.  In our home, we teach our kids how to read by teaching them how to spell first which explains why we are always talking about “spelling.” My littlest calls this “my spelling” and asks to do it all the time.  I’ve done a few of the activities informally up until now, but we are systematically working through a little bit each week and she loves this special time to do “school” with me!  (I don’t do this every day, but try to hit it once or twice a week for a quick 10 min lesson.)

You can purchase the ebook (PDF format) from her website or get the Kindle or print version at Amazon.

Basic Shapes for Beginners eBook

 

Something to Occupy Them!

I love items that they can play with that don’t require active adult supervision.  I keep a box of these items that only come out during “school time”.  Favorites include: Lauri Fit-A-Space, watercolors, pattern blocks, and of course puzzles. Here is my favorite new addition!

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I wrote about falling in love with these Kwik Stix last fall.  Whoever invented tempera paint in a stick deserves an award and certainly receives the thanks of mothers everywhere!  I keep thick paper and these sticks in a drawer next to our dining room table and Greta joins us during our table time almost everyday to create works of art.  There is little to no mess.  In the name of complete honesty, Greta did dig her fingernails into the paint stick once and then proceeded to wipe that off on her clothes.  But there is no way I could give a 3 or 4 year old regular tempera paint and let them at it while I tackle a spelling lesson with someone else.  They’ve just come out with neon colors which Greta loves because there is hot pink and a pretty lavender purple in the mix!  My artist boys of course couldn’t resist organizing our classic and neon colors according to the colors of the rainbow! And our metallic kwik stix set is due to arrive this week! I love that you can now buy the classic, neon and metallic colors all as a set now!

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Find ideas and inspiration for using Kwik Stix on their Pinterest page and follow them on social media.

 

  Facebook  Pinterest

I’m excited to give away a copy of each of these resources today to help a fellow mama out!

What’s included?

** Preschool Song and Finger Play Card set (ring included)

** Basic Shapes: Hands-on Pre-Writing Activities

** Kwik Stix Classic and Neon set

You can enter below to win this great set!  Giveaway ends Monday, March 28th, night at midnight. (for U.S. mailing only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Some affiliate links are used in this post – full disclosure here.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Read-Aloud Time

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So you want to read aloud to your kids more…  You understand how important that can be

Where, oh where do you start with growing those precious times of reading aloud to your kids?

Here are 6 ways to cultivate your read-aloud times!

1. Keep it Short, Do it Regularly
The key to making a habit of reading aloud to your kids is ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE!  If your kids are young, or you haven’t done very much read aloud, you’ll also want to keep those time periods short as you get started.

Plan times into your day for just sitting down and reading. In our home we start the day on the couch and end the day reading to them in bed!    This is a great place to start.  From there you can add reading for longer periods as they grow to enjoy those special times!  During these hot summer months, we enjoy sitting around in our damp swimsuits, under the fan with a good book!

2. Plan Strategically for Books that Stretch Them
For books that might be a bit of a stretch for my boys, I’ll read during lunch or at bedtime.  Lunch time reading has been especially beneficial as we’ve transitioned into reading more ‘informational’ books that don’t have a story involved.  With tummies being filled, they were happy to listen  and ask questions.  The downer with this is that I end up scrambling for time later to wolf down some food.   So obviously, we don’t do this all the time.  Chapter books at bedtime work beautifully because they are always looking for any excuse to stay up just a bit later and my younger one’s don’t mind the lack of pictures as much.  We love to hear ‘just one more chapter, please!’

3. Go with Your Child’s Interest
Picking books that your pique your child’s interest is a great way to nurture the desire to read and be read to.  This is very important with a reluctant reader/listener when you are wanting to boost your read aloud time.  Does your child like horses?  Find some stories centered around horses.  Do your active little boys like battles?  Find some engaging picture books about knights or the revolutionary war.  Meet them where they are at and pull them into the beauty of reading.

4. Be Willing to Cut Your Losses
Sometimes you start a read-aloud book that you are sure everyone will enjoy, only to find it dragging…  A wise mama will sometimes choose to cut her losses and move on to something else. I give a book 3-4 chapters and if it hasn’t captivated interest, we put it aside and find something different.  Our goal is to raise children who love books and sometimes that means giving up. If you are anything like me, sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to not finish something.  So consider this post your “permission.” I will say that sometimes it really does pay off to persevere.  We just finished The Swiss Family Robinson.  It took us MONTHS to read.  Yep, that’s right.  It had a really, really slow start and the only reason we kept with it was because one of my boys kept asking to return.  We are all now thankful that we persevered.  On the other hand, no one has asked me to pick up Cheaper by the Dozen which was a book that our family gave up on.

5. Choose Well-Written and/or Beautifully Illustrated Read-Aloud Books
Never under-estimate the power of a good picture book.  When I find one with beautiful illustrations and a captivating story line, we will enjoy it over and over again.  Picture books are not just for the really young.  A good picture book will delight any age.  While my kids enjoy the Froggy books, I can only handle them in {very} small doses.  The kids find that those kinds of books ‘need‘ to be returned to the library quickly while the more interesting or creatively illustrated books tend to stick around much longer.  I’m always game for a Tomie dePaola book (like the one’s I’ve mentioned herehere and here) or Robert McCloskey (written about here and here).  In the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing lists of my favorite authors/illustrators and some of our very favorite books!  In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed the book suggestions in Honey for a Child’s Heart and at Simply Charlotte Mason (picture books or by grade level) if you are hankering for some good suggestions right now.

6. Pull in Books Relating to What You are Learning About
Much of our read aloud time is centered around interesting fiction books that relate to what we are learning about!  You can do this no matter what curriculum or educational approach you use and it really goes a long way in not only creating interest in reading, but increases interest in the subject at hand too!  If you check out my collection of blog posts on children’s books we love, you’ll find many examples where we’ve done just that!

How does read-aloud time work in your home?  Would you add anything to this list?  I enjoyed reading some of your ideas on the benefits of reading aloud and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ‘how to’ of this as well.

 

Related Post:
Sweet Rewards of Reading
Benefits of Read-Aloud Time
Why You Should Read the Same Book Over and Over Again

 

Why play is so powerful: Easter edition

Reading and playtime.  They are two powerful forces that shape our minds and tug at our hearts. Read great books to your kids and you ignite the imagination. Encourage play and you take that imagination to a whole new level that cements learning into long-term memory.
When it comes to the Easter season, I love encouraging both.  It is a season when we pause and reflect.  It is a season when we pull out those magical picture books that will invoke powerful emotions and memories for the rest of their lives.  It is a season when we slow life down and carve out time and opportunity to play.
This year, we’ve added new inspiration.  I discovered this lego-like set depicting the Last Supper about this time last year. But we were in the throes of packing up a home and moving across the country.  So I dropped it into my Amazon wishlist and waited patiently until this year.  We surprised the kids a few weeks ago and it’s been a huge hit.
After lunch dishes were washed, we gathered at the couch to read one of my childhood favorites on the Last Supper, The Bread and the Wine, and then embarked on the building…  It gave us a chance to talk about some of the details of this account.  It prompted the boys to try and figure out which minifig represented each disciple.  I’ve caught them quizzing each other as they play.  Learning to name each of the 12 disciples of Jesus was not on my radar for things they would learn from this toy…  Once again, I’m amazed by the power of play and the bunny trails it leads us down.
Play and learning about Easter week...
In the quiet moments when boys are playing outside, I’ve caught Greta studying the scene too and shared it over on Instagram.  Her pace is a little slower as this is new information for her.  And this is why this little scene will grace our side table for the next couple of weeks.
Seeing… imagining… embracing…
The power of play on full display.
And yes, we give this new toy, two thumbs up!  It will be cherished each year when we pull it out, play, and remember…
More Easter related posts:
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FruitofSpirit30
** Affiliate links used. Full disclosure here. **

Why It’s So Vitally Important to Read-Aloud to our Kids!

Important reminders of WHY it's so important to read aloud to our children!

Reading aloud is an honored tradition.  Reading together is such a special and intimate activity that we get to do with our children. But with so many things competing for a family’s attention these days it is easy to put it on the back burner.

Despite my best efforts, I’ve noticed that I tend to wax and wane with the amount of time we spend reading aloud together. When I find myself in one of these read-aloud slumps, I find it so helpful to review why it’s so important.  I’m a WHY person and often if I just review my why, I’m quick to re-engage.  Am I alone in this???

There are so many benefits to reading aloud.  One of the best gifts we can give our children is shared experiences with books!  The benefits are numerous and profound.  Let me share a few with you.

Reading aloud, EVERY.SINGLE.DAY, is so important because it:

1. Promotes Relational Intimacy

  • There is something so special and intimate about curling up with your child/children to read a good book.  When tempers are short and we are on edge with one another, I frequently turn to reading aloud.  It is amazing how it calms everyone down and gets us to a place where we can address what is going on in our hearts.

2. Feeds the Imagination

  • The imagination is a powerful tool in the learning process. Reading aloud feeds and nurtures this as everyone is transported from the couch into the story at hand.

3. Cultivates an Interest in Books

  • There is something magical about sharing the joy of reading by communicating pleasure in the story.  This goes a long way in growing an interest in books.

4. Develops a Taste for a Variety of Good Literature

  • As parents, we have a powerful opportunity to shape their taste for good books and a variety of different KINDS of books.  This can be key, especially as children get older when introducing them to literature that might not be something they are naturally drawn towards.

5. Increases Attention Spans

  • Drawing them into the story helps to focus their attention for increasing lengths of time.  This not only helps with reading, but with many other areas of their lives.  This can be especially important for those really active children.  I’ve found that busy hands make for focused minds.  As such, I’ll often give my boys paper to doodle on, play dough or pipe cleaners/wiki sticks.

5. Builds Phonemic Awareness

  • Reading builds phonemic awareness and an understanding of the general cadence of our language.  Phonemic awareness is simply being aware of how sounds combine to make words.  This is such an important precursor and ongoing strengthener of reading skills.  Reading to our children introduces them to words and draws them into listening how they are put together.
  • An early childhood longitudinal study found that children who were read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness.  Imagine the effect when we read to our children daily!

6. Builds Vocabulary

  • Reading aloud is one of the most powerful ways to build our children’s vocabulary.  The size of a child’s vocabulary when they start formal academics is the single greatest predictor of school success or failure.  The words they know before this point determine how much of what is taught will be understood.
  • Once they begin reading, personal vocabulary either feeds or frustrates comprehension.  And that leg-up in vocabulary will keep them at an advantage as material grows increasingly more complicated.
  • Even as kids get older, research has revealed an increase in vocabulary acquisition by 15-40%.  So it is important to KEEP reading to our children, even after they can read on their own.

I’m just getting started…  I’ll continue on with some tips on ‘how’ to help your children enjoy the read-aloud times more, talk about the importance of different types of books and anything else that comes up!

readaloud

More on this topic:

Reminders and a Why…  I definitely need them.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Read-Aloud Time!


Tea-Time Talk and Popcorn Reading

Top10EasterBooks