Saturday, August 17, 2019

"Invalidated" - A Homeschooling Family's Dream Turned Upside Down...

Many of you may have benefited this summer (and past ones) from the Bunch O Balloons (Zuru) invention which allows children to fill up a large quantity of balloons in an incredibly short amount of time.  Not only do the balloons fill up, but they drop off already tied and ready to go.  Absolutely BRILLIANT!  Parenting, at least during the spring and summer months, just got a little bit easier (or a lot depending on how many days per week your children ask you to fill and tie their water balloons for them).

What many of you may NOT know is that the inventor, Josh Malone and his homeschooling family,  have been battling in courts over a period of years now.  The issue?  His hard work and achievement were targeted by others who wished to steal his design and benefit from it.  You'd think that his patent would protect him, but you would be wrong.  It borders on the ridiculous what this family has had to endure in order to try to protect and fight for his invention. 

The patent he worked so hard for is pretty much pointless.  While courts sided with the Malone family, the large company trying to steal Josh's design took their argument to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) trying to prove that one cannot know when a water balloon is "substantially filled" as Josh's patent claimed.  Incredibly, the board sided with the large company and said they could now copy Josh's design.  And if you think this is an isolated incident...well, I'd just encourage you to take a deeper look at our country's PTAB (the film below contains some alarming statistics and information). 

It is a tragic story but one that should really be heard as it illuminates a very broken patent system.  Did you know that while the United States once used to be a leader in the patent system, we have now apparently dropped to number 12 in rank behind other countries?!  What this is beginning to mean for many inventors is that they might be better served by taking their inventions to another country for protection and development.   I don't know about you, but I find that quite disturbing.  And it is happening now.  Inventors are being faced with these decisions.  How many medical and technological advances might be lost to other countries if ours allows this sort of behavior by the PTAB and larger companies to continue?

Consider the time that our inventors spend in courts trying to protect their patents instead of investing those years in more inventions which benefit our society.  Quite honestly, if you were an inventor, do you  think you would even want to invent something again after having your other patents marked as invalid when a larger company sees a profit to be made and takes their arguments to the PTAB?  And what of the expenses involved for inventors, especially if they have to go to court and/or the PTAB (at which point, they could be looking at hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars needed to keep fighting). 

"Invalidated" is a film which exposes what the Malone family and others have had to endure and is well worth watching and sharing!  We benefit from the ingenuity and creativity of inventors.  Isn't it time we supported them as well?

Note:  If you have an Amazon Prime membership, I believe you might be able to view the film for free.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

5..4..3..2..1..Blast off!!! Back to School Launch (Space Theme)!

BACK TO SCHOOL ALREADY?  No, we are not starting school right now.  This just happens to be what we did last year.   It was a great theme, and I wanted to share some pictures with you while I have a little bit of free time this summer.

The party plates, tablecloth, straws, etc. were purchased at a store, but there are SOOO many options and great things online when it comes to the "space" theme (see links below).  The placemats are black paper with designs I drew on them using a silver marker.  I then had them laminated.   The sign is one I made myself (the flames coming out of the rocket are red tissue paper).

To make the NASA shirts, I purchased some NASA patches via someone on Etsy and put them on plain white shirts.  If you buy some patches that are not iron-on, you can sew them or use fabric glue. 

A space-themed background greeted my kids that first school morning.  The black star clustered paper was purchased at a store (I think it was Hobby Lobby), and I believe I bought the planet cut-outs online (see link below post).

Of course we always like to include something yummy for breakfast.  Special cereals are a treat for our kids so these worked into our theme perfectly.

After breakfast, it was time to take some first day of school pictures.  I made them each a sign with their grade level printed on it (but blacked out for pics). 

The kids spent some time exploring the other areas of the house as well.  This was the moon corner (more black star paper for the space background) where I used gray party tablecloths on the floor with light paint to create the surface of the moon effect.  Speaking of the moon - we also had a "moon" snack (rice cake with cereal and sliced bananas for craters).

This seemed to be one of the more favored areas of the house for a while.  The space shuttle was painted on a white vinyl party tablecloth.  On one side was "Mission Control" and the other side acted as the inside of the shuttle with a cockpit.

Here's a picture of the cockpit inside our "shuttle".  I created this AND our Mission Control Center using tri-fold school project boards with control panel pictures glued on.   Control panel pictures can be purchased here for 99 cents!  I also added some other little pictures I found online.  I hot glued some toggle switches on (these and others can be purchased pretty cheaply on Amazon - see links below).  One of the best features though was adding lights (kind of hard to see but really added to the effect).  I did this by punching out small holes in the boards and sticking small poster lights through them.

 Here is a close-up of the cockpit.

 This is a picture of our Mission Control Center.

Of course, we had our usual treasure hunt for school supplies hidden by our homeschool elf (note that this time we caught him with them on the moon!).  

We ended our day with a build-your-own-planet-pizza bar.  Mmmmm!

If you are able, I recommend a visit to NASA as well.  We ended up having to travel to that area for medical reasons this past year and visited NASA while there.  It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!

Linking up here this week:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Just wanted to share a quick Valentine's idea for any little ballerinas out there.  I made these using heart lollipops and then used hot glue to add some tulle.  :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

We are 100 days COOLer! :)

While I have been taking a bit of a blog break - or maybe a really, reeeeaaallly long one - I found I had some free time on my hands for a few evenings and thought it might be fun to jump back on for another post.  However, I'll be keeping the wording to a minimum (unless you take the old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" literally).

This year, our 100 day celebration came during a bit of a rough patch of illness for us.  We'd been cooped up, and it just seemed like a bit of excitement was in order...


We'd already completed a winter themed 100th day at least 2-3 years ago.  However, my kids seemed to be really lamenting the lack of snow this year, so I felt it might be time to have a "snow day" once more. 

 Cover each activity with a snowflake once completed!

What an easy way to incorporate 100 with these melting snowman kits!  Simply give them 100 seconds to build a snowman and then enjoy the wonder of watching it melt...

Snowman necklace with 100 white beads!

Toss the "snowball" in a cup and add the numbers.  First child to reach or cross over 100 wins!

This was a more time consuming activity - consider yourselves warned if you attempt this at home.  I had each child lie down in a snowball fight pose (except for the youngest who stood against the wall) and traced around him/her.  They then painted themselves and broke open a bag of 100 cotton balls (snowballs) which they glued to the mural.  We actually ended up opening two bags because one just wasn't enough!

We counted out 100 cotton swabs and the kids used them to make snowflakes - even our toddler was able to participate in this one with a bit of help.   

Snack time!  We counted out 100 items (usually in groups of ten such as 10 pretzels, 10 yogurt covered cranberries, 10 mini rice cakes, etc.) and created our own snow mix for munching. 

It is hard to tell, but these melted snowman pictures are puffy and came out so cute!  We made the puffy paint by mixing roughly equivalent amounts of white glue and shaving cream.  It can be a lot of fun as long as the children are old enough to realize it should not be eaten (or you are sitting right next to your toddler).

Spelling practice - the kids practiced spelling snow/winter words in whipped cream.  Yes, our toddler enjoyed participating in this one as well!  The whipping cream was on top of brown (unbleached?)  wax paper.  This was definitely a finger-licking activity!  

Note:  Make sure you do this one AFTER the shaving cream painting above to avoid confusion regarding what can be eaten.   If you do them in reverse order, you run the risk of a toddler assuming that if you can eat one puffy whiteness first, the other is fair game as well.  

Happy homeschooling!  :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Girls' Club

Today is launch day for Sally Clarkson's new book "Girls' Club"!  Co-authored with her two daughters Sarah and Joy, it focuses on cultivating friendships among women and how powerful such bonds can be.  If you have been struggling with loneliness, wondering how to cultivate friendships with other women - this book may provide just the direction and encouragement you need!

As a homeschooling mom of four children (including special needs), I have had my share of ups and downs.  Often I have found encouragement AND inspiration while reading one of Sally's books, listening to one of her podcasts, or by reading one of the posts on her blog  I highly recommend her to other homeschooling moms (and moms in general).  Her ideas, understanding words, and kindness point me towards Christ and the powerful mission he has given me:  the mission of motherhood (also the title of one of her books). 

For moms struggling to find time to research great composers, artists, and great books for children, she also provides amazing resources on (this is a paid membership account).  The site includes resources and podcasts that are meant for encouraging moms as well (such as scripture studies, etc.), and the forums are a great resource for moms to share, encourage, or ask questions of other mom members.  Highly recommend this as well!  :)

As always - happy homeschooling!  :)

Monday, August 8, 2016

WILD About A New School Year!!!!

It's that time of year again - back to school!   We're a little WILD about starting a new year.   :)

I recruited a few of our stuffed friends to help celebrate the first day in an appropriate fashion.

The sign is available through my new TPT Wild About A New School Year (WANS) pack.  You'll notice as you read further that many other activities we worked on this past week also came from the WANS pack.  For those interested, there is a link to the pack near the bottom of this post along with some very exciting, special news AND a giveaway.  

The monkey sign is from Mardel.  The vines I made by twisting kraft paper.  

Breakfast was cereal that morning - an extra special treat for our family.  I was able to find some cereal boxes with wild creatures on them.  I also added some paper leaves, so it looked like they were hiding in a jungle.

I hesitated to spend any money on the safari hats, but they were on CLEARANCE (at Michaels).  I am so glad I bought them though, because the kids LOVED them and used them quite a bit.

As for the other items, I bought the sticky frogs in the party section at Walmart.  We had binoculars already, so I just pulled them out for my little safari kiddos.  The bookmarks and "Safari Adventure Journal" covers are a part of the Wild About A New School Year (WANS) pack.

Yum!  Jungle juice (actually just some healthy green juice I purchased at the store)!

This was the "bridge" leading into our learning jungle.  I used more kraft paper to make the "ropes".  I cut up unfolded cardboard boxes to make the "boards" for the bridge.  

You didn't think I would just let my kids hop across the boards without making them work to get over to the jungle, did you?  One color was for my son and the other for my daughter.

Once across the bridge, it was time to go exploring.   I used several vinyl tablecloths (about $1 each at Walmart) for this jungle.  

It is kind of hard to see, but a blue one is covering the door to our school room.  I cut it into strips to make it look like a waterfall.

I also bought a jungle (or rainforest?) sounds cd on Ebay and had that playing in the background.  I could not find the same one on Amazon but posted a link to one below that might be similar?

I hid creatures (like those in this picture) inside our little jungle which gave the kids an opportunity to use those trusty binoculars.  They loved pretending to find animals hiding out in the foliage.  The animal pictures I used are part of the Wild About A New School Year pack.

This was the tangled vine mess that greeted my delighted children when they walked through the waterfall (I used party crepe paper).  At first they tried to maneuver their way through it, but eventually they just joyfully crashed through the vines.  Come on, you know you'd do the same... ;)

After chopping through vines, they found that our homeschool elf had taken off with their school supplies once more this year, so they spent some time hunting him down via clues.   The homeschool elf pattern comes from my book "The First Day of Homeschool" (link at the bottom of this post).

I usually wrap some school supplies for the kids and throw in an extra little wrapped treat or some unexpected items.  It is definitely not necessary, but I think it makes our first day of school that much more exciting.  I think I bought this wrapping paper at Michaels.

Lunch time in the jungle!  I sent the kids on their merry way with safari packs.

Behold a teaching experiment for me this year!  I wanted a way to make it easier for the kids to find which activity we would be doing each day related to our week's theme (hopefully making it something they could do more on their own).   There is a shelf for each day, Monday through Friday.  

This set up gives me a spot to organize the items according to which day we plan to use them.  At the end of the week (or during the weekend), I just fill up the shelves with the items for the following week's theme.  When Monday rolls around, we are pretty much ready to go!  :)  

This is an IKEA cabinet with movable shelves.  I think it is BESTA?

We learned about rainforest layers, and the kids worked at building one on a tinier scale.  

This was the "Safari Peek-A-Boo" book (part of WANS pack) we made together.  The kids really enjoyed picking out just the right wiggly eyes for their creatures!  

This was a poem I created to go along with our first week of school and our theme.  The kids used highlighter tape to highlight rhyming words and subbed in jungle sounds of their own at one point.  

I know some parts are blurry, but sadly I had some concerns about other bloggers or teachers grabbing it and using it as their own without purchasing the WANS pack (it is a part of).

This was a cute craft idea that was inspired by this blogger's pirate theme.

Graphing animal crackers inspired by

We spent some time measuring "vines".

This blank "Monkey Match" worksheet is also part of the Wild About A New School Year pack.  I filled it in using math facts for my kids.  Others might want to use it for rhyming words, digraph words, etc.

Do your kids like magnets as much as mine?  If so, they might enjoy the "Bananagains" game (WANS pack).   

Tape a monkey to a magnetic wand or tape/glue magnets to the back of it and drop it on the paperclip pictures of bananas.  The number your monkey picks up (gains) is recorded on your goal sheet and added to the previous total (you have to remember to write the math sentence or you lose your bananas).  First player to reach the goal is the winner!

What would a jungle theme be without exploring some of the different items we get from a rainforest?  I created this punch board using some empty applesauce containers glued to a board.  I put different items (we get from a rainforest in some way) inside each and covered them with tissue paper.  The kids would poke, punch, or peel back the tissue to see what item was in the cup.

This is a picture of our morning board at the END of the first week of school.  As you can see - it was a busy one!

As promised, a lot of our activities were ones I created for my new Wild About A New School Year pack which can be purchased for $2.50 in my TPT store here.

Hope you all have a grrrrrrreat year of homeschooling!  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lesson Theme: Transportation!

Whew!  We have had a rough September so far (travel, unexpected bad news, illness and loss of a loved pet, etc.).  However, I wanted to make sure I posted at least one of our themes for this month before October sets in!

This is a shot of our morning board.  We made some word webs for our transportation topic and sorted vehicles according to land, water, air types (I believe I saw this activity on Pinterest but do not remember where).

I bought one of these at Mardel and posted it outside the classroom door.  The idea was for the kids to stop before entering the classroom and either read sight words (Mr. J) or translate Latin words (Miss A).

This was another Mardel purchase, and I posted it near our dining area.  I wanted the kids to practice their math facts before eating.  I color coded the facts for each child so he/she would know which ones to practice.

I turned some stickers into a graphing game.  We would roll the dice and graph what came up.  The stickers are on small green Post-it notes, which made it easy to remove and play more than once.

I found this cute poem here (along with other transportation idea gems), and we made a stoplight to go along with it by gluing tissue paper behind the cutout circles.  Inspiration for the stoplight can be seen here.

Speaking of stoplights, this was part of lunch one day.  I toasted the bread and cut out the circles using a round cookie cutter.  The red "light" is tomato.  The yellow "light" is cooked egg (whipped up an egg and poured some in the circle to cook while the bread was toasting in the skillet).  The green "light" is avocado.  

We played a memory game with some road signs and then added them to a city we made.  Inspiration came from this post.

Another fun idea for this activity is to have the kids practice giving directions to each other using the words "left" and "right" as they use small cars to visit different buildings or deliver items.

We read "If I Built a Car" and then practiced building our own lego cars (inspired by this post).

We painted with car wheels (inspiration here), but I added a twist by giving the kids driving directions.  The kids had to dip the car wheels in paint and then drive from one letter's house to the next until they had completed the word.  Then they would use a different color paint for another word, etc.  Mr. J practiced sight words while Miss A practiced some spelling words.  :)  We did this over a few days so that the paint would have time to dry (didn't want them crawling over wet paint to get to a letter).

Lest you think we only focused on land transportation, here are a couple of water activities we did as well.  We performed a "sink or float" activity with a variety of materials.  

Based on the data collected from that experiment, we chose what material might float the best and made a small boat with it (see boat in activity below).  The sail is made from cloth and craft sticks. The bottom is a foam meat tray that a grocer was sweet enough to give us.

Loved this foil river idea.  I added a twist by putting cards with words by the river.  The kids had to either read the sight words (Mr. J) or translate the Latin words (Miss A) as the boat sailed along.  The idea was to race the boat to see whether the child would reach the end of the words (and river) first or whether the boat would be the winner.

This was an easy cute craft inspired by this link.

While I had intended to do more with air transportation, life got in the way.  Those on Facebook already know that we had a beloved pet pass away after a very expensive and emotional week of caring for her during her mysterious illness (which we now know was probably a very aggressive form of cancer).  

While we are glad she is no longer suffering, it was hard on the family to lose her.  I basically cancelled school the next day and spent that time grieving and desperately trying to pack everyone for a trip we were scheduled to take the following morning.  

So, while we did not do many activities or crafts for air transportation, we DID actually go to an airport and fly on an airplane which I consider a pretty cool grand finale for our transportation theme!!!  :)