Saturday, August 8, 2015

Back "Choo" School Time!!! (Train Theme)

Alllllllll aboard for a new school year!

I decided to surprise the kids with a train theme this year - pictures below.  Many of the items shown below (signs, tickets, etc.) can be purchased through my TPT store!  The entire set is only $1.50, but I will be offering it FREE for ONE day next week.  I will be posting the information on my Facebook page so check there if you are interested.  :)


Breakfast set-up in the "Dining Car".  I was very excited to find a battery operated engine that fit with the train set we already had, so I was able to surprise the kids with a train that actually moved around the tracks!  :)  I posted a link to one at the bottom of the post in case other moms out there have been searching for the same thing.

I also printed out "Sleeping Car" signs (not shown) and posted them on their bedroom doors during the night.



The mats are construction paper.  I purchased the caboose cups, train pencil toppers, and engineer caps (yes, they even had PINK) through this website.  The whistles came from the Dollar Store (Tree?).


I opted for an easy breakfast this year.  My kids love cereal because it is not something they get on a regular basis, so I surprised them with cereal that had princesses on the front (Frozen) and a cereal with Star Wars on the front (strangely enough - my kids have not seen Star Wars but still really like it).  


I made a train track (black and silver duct tape) which led to the school room.  I also made a simple cardboard train out of some empty boxes and an oatmeal container (wrapped with black paper).  The kids handed me their tickets, and I punched them with a hole punch so they could board the train (the train was too small for both, so we had to do this one at a time).




 They arrived at "Education Station" right on time for the first day of school!


This is a photo of our morning meeting board which usually seems to change every year depending on what worked last year or new needs this year!  :)


First day snack time was a success!  Found this cute idea here and used it for our snack time.  They enjoyed eating freight!  I even threw in some items we wouldn't normally have (candy, bunny grahams) because it was a special occasion.

After reading "The Little Engine That Could", we completed this activity.  I folded a sentence strip accordion style and glued the pictures of an engine and a caboose onto it (engine at the front and caboose at the back).  I let the kids paint or draw train cars on each fold (my littlest didn't quite get his on the folds but still had fun).

I then had them write (or dictate to me, depending on ability) things THEY can do on small Post-it notes.  These then became "freight" which they could add to their cars.   More "freight" could be added during the day as they came up with more ideas of things they are capable of doing.

Found this great idea here.

Inspired by the many fun things I saw on the website "play-trains.com", I put words on tracks and had the kids make sentences or simply practice reading sight words by setting up the tracks and using a train to guide their reading one word at a time.


For my eldest - I used Latin words she was learning.  The Post-its are "stations" and the Smarties are "freight".  If she could translate the word when she arrived at it, she was allowed to add that station's freight to her car.  If she couldn't translate the word, I would give her the translation but NOT the freight.  She had to go back around the track again a few times until eventually she had successfully translated all the words and collected all the freight (enjoying every last piece of it for a job well done).  

 Another fun activity we found here.  Set up words and crash into them! 

For my littlest who is just beginning to form words, I had him first form the word in front of him so he could see the letters from left to right.  Then we set them up vertically.  

Notice the Latin words set up on the side showing an older kid option (Latin words or harder spelling words, etc.).  The red blocks have Latin endings which make it easier to build a Latin word quickly.
I cannot remember where I saw something similar to this or I would give credit, because it was what inspired our snack freight train.  The kids added their "freight" to each car (celery).  The stations were their mouths so after the freight was picked up, their trains headed to the stations.

My eldest needed to review some math facts, so I wrote them on the train tracks.  Great way to practice each fact on the way to our school room.

We read "Freight Train", and the kids made their own colored trains using small sponges for the cars (inspiration here). I then gave them a bin of "freight" to add to the cars.  Each car carried the letters (freight) which matched its color.

Before we threw out the sponges, we decided to try showing a speeding train  motion together by brushing the sponges along a paper.  This went along with the "Freight Train" book as well.
What child doesn't enjoy playing with vinegar and baking soda?  Inspired by what I saw in this post, I decided we would make some bubbly colorful "smoke" of our own.

Mr. J enjoyed rolling the dice, adding the numbers together, and placing that many puffs of smoke above each train engine.  We found this activity and many more here.

If trains are not your thing, you might be interested in our back-to-school theme from last year (frogs - "Leap Into a New School Year")!  Blog post here and frog theme items for purchase here.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Hoppy" last day of school!

The title says it all (and went along with our first day theme for this past year)!  I couldn't let this day pass by without sharing a little bit of it with you!


Breakfast:  green lily pad pancakes with a tangerine flower and chocolate chip "flies".  We also had homemade whipped cream available for those who wanted/needed it.  ;)  

Once the last assignment was turned in for the day, I told the kids to get into their swimsuits and meet me in my room.  This doorway was what greeted their little eyes.  Through it was a pond I created for their playing pleasure!



These were my homemade lily pads (I cut up a leftover green vinyl tablecloth and glued the pieces to the lids of plastic containers).  The flowers were just some cheap pretend flowers I found in our box of spring things.  :)


A pond wouldn't be complete without some creatures, right?  I included a container of ducks, plastic flies, plastic frogs, and frog tongues (party blowouts).  They had so much fun!

After splashing in the pond for a while, we headed out for a dinner of burgers and fries followed by dessert at home while watching a movie.  It was a cozy way to end our day (and school year) together!   :)










Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Happy "Ballet"ine's Day! (Happy Valentine's Day!)

We recently attended a ballet Valentine's Day party!  This is a picture of the card I created for Miss A to hand out.

She helped me attach the ponytail holders to the hugs ("O") part, and she decided to add some chocolate kisses to the kiss ("X") places as well.

Other ways to use these versatile cards:

*Color in the "XOX" and pass them out just as they are.

*Add a ponytail holder to the "O" part and pass out (see picture for example of this).

*Add a ponytail holder to the "O" part and chocolate kisses to the "X" part (see picture for example of this).

*Add a chocolate hug to the middle of the "O" and chocolate kisses on top of the "X" portions of the card.

Find the card here!

Interested in other ballet inspired cards?  Here is another post showcasing a card I made last year (that file also contains one that can be used as a party favor for birthdays).

Happy Valentine's Day!  :)


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

100th Day of School!

I know, I know.  I said I wasn't planning on posting much the next few months as I attempt to rest and hopefully better recover from an ongoing health issue.  However, it was the 100th DAY OF SCHOOL, ya know?!  I couldn't just let that go by without a peep, right?  I'll make it quick though - promise.

Our theme was "Snow excited for the 100th DAY OF SCHOOL!"  Yes, you read that correctly - I decided to incorporate winter into our fun day mix (it is January after all).  

The picture above shows the sign that greeted my kids that morning (I also hung some snowflakes above the table).


Hunting in the "snow" (flour and salt mix which I later turned into play dough) for 100 cents!

Once they found all one hundred, I traded the pennies for a dollar bill (actually, I gave each one a dollar because that's just sooooo much more impressive than splitting the cents and each only getting $0.50).

Our themed shirts.  :)  Several days beforehand, the kids and I stamped one hundred snowflakes and snow dots on these.

This picture also shows one of the crafts they made - a snowball necklace with one hundred snowballs (beads in groups of ten).  The groups of ten are separated by some snowman face beads (just wooden beads I painted to look that way).

I was inspired by this post to make a surprise snowy breakfast.  I also made a "100" out of a sausage link (the number one) and pancakes (the zeros).


This was a craft where the kids glued one hundred snowballs (cotton) and one hundred snowflakes to a mural depicting a snowy day.


A game where the kids had to wear a snowman nose and try to keep a balloon (snowball) in the air until we counted to one hundred by tens.


Yum!  The kids helped me count to one hundred as we made a snowy snack mix for our 100th day (we would switch snack pieces after every group of ten we dropped in - ex. 1-10 macadamia nuts, 11-20 yogurt raisins, 21-30 bunny crackers, etc.).

We ended the day on a sweet note by making igloos with one hundred mini marshmallows (using white frosting as glue).  Let me just say, this wasn't as easy as I first thought it would be - but it was tasty!  :)

(Not shown but noteworthy - I issued a snowball challenge to my kids and husband.  I told them that if they could design/create a catapult that shot a snowball one hundred inches or further, they would all get a prize.  I am happy to report that they rose to said challenge and earned their prizes!)

If you are celebrating your 100th day milestone now or soon -  a huge CONGRATULATIONS to you and your kids!  Hope it is "snow" wonderful as you make new memories together! ;)


Saturday, January 3, 2015

December in Review and Looking Ahead...

December was a bit of a rough month for us as we all came down with something over Thanksgiving, and it just seemed to hang on for weeks afterward.  :(  However, we still managed to slip some fun in  after everyone began feeling better.

We enjoyed a life-size game of Candy Land (sort of) with a friend who came over.  In order to move ahead to the spot listed on the card they picked up, the kids would have to answer a review question (depending on the child it could have been a math fact, historical question, sight word, etc.).  This worked well for catering it to the different age levels.

(By the way, the target on the door is what my son uses for his bow and arrow practice and is not related to the Candy Land game.)

In an effort to have the kids encourage each other, I made it clear that they could not enter the "Land of Sweets" (our own little twist since we were also having a Nutcracker movie day) at the end of the rainbow walk until everyone had arrived.  Once the kids made it there, they were allowed to enter through the candied door and then headed to the kitchen where a small (but delightful) tasty spread had been laid out for them.


They feasted on cupcakes, nuts, and warm peppermint milk while watching a movie to end our fun day together.

We also managed to sneak in Gingerbread Day before Christmas!


After breakfasting on a gingerbread puffed pancake, the kids visited "The Little Gingerbread Store" where they practiced some math in a fun setting.   They enjoyed buying all sorts of items for decorating their paper gingerbread figures...

And had fun putting it all together!

Later in the day, we cut out gingerbread cookies and the kids decorated them.


We ended the day by putting together a gingerbread village kit the kids had chosen.  Let me just say, I had not anticipated the many steps involved where my help would be needed (call me naive).  My dear husband sweetly stepped in, so I could make dinner.  The evening might not have ended as well if he hadn't.  By this time, my son was showing signs of being "ginger breaded" out so my daughter ended up doing most of the decorating herself and did an amazing job!  :)

In addition to the above activities, we enjoyed days of making cookies, visiting family, and trying to stay on top of school work (talk about a juggling act).  I love Christmas, but it sure is a busy time of year.  

Speaking of year... the new year is upon us!  :)  After much, much, much deliberation it looks like I will be taking a several month blog break (although I might slip in a post or two).  Plagued by a major health issue,  I am hoping that a few months in low key mode will help my body get back to where it needs to be.  In the meantime, if you have not hooked up with "The Nature of Grace" Facebook page, you may want to do so as I sometimes post updates and other little tidbits there.  

Wishing you all a very happy homeschooling new year!






Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving!

Happy day-before-Thanksgiving!  :)  Here are a few pictures of things we did this month:
The little surprise my kids found on their desks the first school day in November.

I created a cranberry bog of sorts in my bathtub and the kids had a blast pretending to harvest cranberries.  Prior to this activity, they watched some short online videos about the process.

I made a featherless turkey and the kids had fun creating feathers for him out of pattern blocks.
We used the same turkey when I sent my son on a sight word hunt (inspired by this post).  His job was to collect the missing feathers, tell me the words, and add them to the turkey.
This was a picture my daughter drew by looking at a picture in a book.  We then glued goldfish to the paper showing how the Pilgrims learned about planting fish with their seeds (inspired by this post).
We also enjoyed hours of pretend play after reading about the Pilgrims.  Our Mayflower was made using two folding tables and a brown vinyl tablecloth.  The mast was a tall box wrapped in more brown vinyl and fitted with a makeshift PVC pipe frame to which we attached our white vinyl tablecloth sail.  We used a sound machine with "storm" and "ocean" sounds on it to make the journey seem more realistic as well.


Here is "Humility" mixing medicine made from real sage leaves, cornmeal, and lard (vegetable shortening was what we had on hand). 


This was our own little settlement complete with fence, fire, garden patch and house.  :)  Isn't it so fun looking?  If I had had more time, I probably would have tried to figure out how to add thatch to the roof.  Oh well.  The main thing is our little Pilgrims looooved playing in here with their babies, fixing leaks, hunting, etc.


I leave you now with a photo of the mini Thanksgiving feast that our kids and their little friend enjoyed together at their settlement.  Our homemade bread is spread with homemade butter!  Yes, I know there is controversy about popcorn and whether it was truly offered that first Thanksgiving - but we opted to have it.  :)

Side note:  Instead of plates, Pilgrims used trenchers.  I really wanted to find some trenchers but eventually had to settle for buying some mini cutting boards (see picture above) instead.

Happy Thanksgiving!