Thursday, November 24, 2011

A First "Bear"thday Celebration!

Several weeks ago I mentioned I would be posting some pictures from the first "bear"thday we celebrated a while ago, but it never seemed like I had the time to get said post together.  However, because this is Thanksgiving vacation for us and thus a break from school, I decided it was the right time to pull up the pictures and share them!  Enjoy!

These were the invitations made by the talented Andrea from "The Green Grass Grows" - an Etsy shop!  Ginger"bear" cookies were also given out with invitations.  :)

This was the hat I made for the birthday boy and one of his favorite bears holding it.  The mini banner in the background is another item I purchased from Andrea and it says "I'm GRRRowing Up!"

Upon entering the house, the guests were greeted by some stuffed bears on a table.  One was draped over this quote I love from Winnie the Pooh which I wanted to incorporate with the bear theme.

This was the "guestbook".  I had seen thumbprint guestbook ideas on Pinterest and loved how unique they were.  Thus I came up with a version for this little party - guests used brown ink to place their thumbprints on a mat around a copy of the birthday invitation (all to be framed later).  They then each drew a bear with their own thumbprints being the bear bodies and signed their names near their bears.  I love how it came out!

This was a moss covered number one on one of the tables with some balloons attached.  Just a bit of fun earthy decor!  

We had "bear"gers and other yummy bear themed food at the party!  These were some food signs.  :)

This is a picture of one of the "bear"gers!  :)

This is a photograph of the dessert table laden with cake and cupcakes of different flavors and colors set up on burlap cloth.  The frame behind them contains a collage of pictures showing the birthday boy when he was born (in between the letters spelling "THEN") and the birthday boy as he is now.

Here is another view of the table.  I swirled two flavors of cake together to make the wooded look you see for the stump.  The outside of the stump (dark part) was pure molded chocolate.   We also included some cupcakes made to look like toadstools and some made to look like two ponds with some fish jumping in and out (red swedish candy fish).

For favors, I made Hibernation Preparation bags for each family because visiting bears should never return home hungry, right?   The fun mix inside included honeycomb cereal (for honey), swedish candy fish (for fish),  and spiced gumdrops (for berries).

I'll leave you with one of my favorite parts of the birthday planning and decoration - the birthday boy's very own first "cub"cake (that was one of Andrea's brilliant ideas)!  :)  The cupcake container is one of the Wilton bear ones (I posted a link below if you are interested).  :)

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving FUN!

This week was a particularly light week in terms of schoolwork as our family was preparing for a vacation, and I was recovering from eye infections. However, we did manage to squeeze in a few fun activities....

My daughter enjoyed fingerpainting....with pumpkin pudding!!! Yep, if you have never tried it, you should. It is fun AND delicious! Although ours was a seasonal flavor, any variety will do! :)

I saw this idea on Pinterest or on a blog somewhere a while back and decided to try it. First we collected some colorful fall leaves. Then we glued and stapled them to a sentence strip creating our very own fall harvest crown!

This is our handsome little turkey! His tail feathers are made up of different things I had in my cupboard: flax seeds, lentils, etc. We then added his body on top and some fun accordian fold legs. Dashing, isn't he? ;)

And here is our melted crayon turkey!   I printed a coloring page from the internet, peeled the paper back from some old crayons, lit a small tea light and showed my daughter how to carefully melt the crayon and then color with it before it hardened up again (which seemed to be rather quickly). Once she got the hang of it, I think she enjoyed the experience. Please note that this is a CLOSE supervision activity if you are doing it with small children!!

And last, but not least, FEATHER PAINTING!  Yes, it is just what its name implies - you paint with a feather, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went!  Hey, we did a lot of turkey stuff so I figured this might be fun to try, and I love the colorful result.  :)


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Homeschool Theme of the Week: Thanksgiving & Native Americans!

One of the positives of homeschooling is the amount of things I learn as I teach and prepare activities. :) This year, I have discovered so many interesting details and facts about Thanksgiving! We spent a good deal of time one week on the Pilgrims and now have spent some more time learning about the Native Americans involved in the story.

When reading about the Wampanoag indians, I learned they would make belt and headband designs from purple and white shells.  Thus, one of the first things we did was to make a purple and white headband.  Here is a picture of mine (top) and my daughter's headband (below).  If you would like to make one too, you can download the pattern for free here.

 I also decided this seemed like a wonderful unit for encouraging my daughter to learn how to perform simple hand weaving (only we used paper to make our indian basket). After some guidance from me, she just took off with this and did a terrific job!

To make our woven mat into a basket/purse, I simply folded one end up a bit, glued it in place, hole punched the edges and added some jute.  :)

I saw a cute activity on Pinterest involving bubble wrap and indian corn and thought we would try it as well. Unfortunately, I could not find some small bubble wrap, so I improvised and glued some cheerios to a piece of cardboard. We then painted the cheerios and stamped the paper. This seemed to work just fine for us and when they were done drying, my daughter cut out the corn shapes, and we glued the corn and leaf pieces together to make our very own indian corn!

What better place to store our indian corn than in our very own handmade indian bag/basket?  :)

Another of our activities was to make a real purse from suede.  I found a kit at our local hobby store and helped my daughter complete it!

Of course, good books are a must, and we learned SO much from reading some of the ones below!  :)

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Homeschool Theme of the Week: Thanksgiving & Pilgrims!

My daughter and I had very different plans for the last small pumpkins upon our table.  She insisted we make more pumpkin houses with them, but I was able to convince her to wait as I thought she might enjoy what I had planned for them.  I was right!  :)  She was smitten with the little Pilgrim pumpkin people we made, and I don't think I've heard another peep about pumpkin houses (although it is probably only a matter of time).

As an extension of this activity, we brainstormed appropriate names for our pumpkin Pilgrims (I believe we finally settles on Loving-Merciful for the boy and Sarah-Love for the girl) and also spent a little time thinking about what we might ask them if they were REAL and could answer our questions.  It was neat to see what her little mind came up with!

One fun thing we learned during this theme/study was what the Pilgrim children would use for writing purposes.  Instead of a pen or a pencil, children used quills and made ink by mixing mud, water, and charred wood.  Intrigued, we decided to try it for ourselves. 

 My daughter used our homemade ink and our homemade quill to copy a Bible verse (I gave it a try as well - the word "complaining" is my handiwork).  After this exercise, we decided we were thankful for pens and pencils!  :)

This teacher's website has some great Thanksgiving ideas - her class must have so much fun!  One such activity I really liked and decided to use this week was to give my daughter a paper trunk (the teacher used paper suitcases for her class) and have her write and draw inside what she would have taken on the Mayflower for the long journey to new lands.

Her items of choice:  clothes, toys, and pillows.  Hmmm, I think if I were to do one of these - maybe I would have to use some of that precious trunk space for chocolate.... ;)

Part of our week was spent completing "A Pattern Block Thanksgiving" which is a book that I designed and made.  It took a bit of work and by NO means is it perfect - but it was a fun idea!  :)

If you are interested in downloading a copy yourself - I have made it available for $2 on the Teachers Pay Teachers site here.

I ended our week of learning by surprising my daughter with a fun-filled day of Pilgrim pretend play & activities.  In one of her workboxes, I placed a letter I had written informing her that she was going to pretend to be a Pilgrim girl named "Patience" for the day, and then I detailed what her Pilgrim family looked like (a baby sister name Joyful, a brother named Determination - and trust me, this name really fits him, etc.).

Another workbox contained a list of her Pilgrim chores for the day as well as some costume items to help her get into character - as if she needed the help... ;)  Of course she was very pleased, and had fun performing her role and completing activities...

She began her Pilgrim day by mending her apron and helping me make homemade bread.  For the mending portion, I gave her a real needle and thread for this and she LOVED it!  I had left a very small part of her apron undone so she could finish it herself and I think she felt pretty accomplished when she was done!

One thing we learned this week was how the children sometimes made mattresses by stuffing linen bags with feathers or pine needles, etc.  So here my daughter is stuffing a "mattress" (it is a pillowcase) with pine needles.  The mattress was a good size for baby Joyful (a doll whom my daughter had to help tend as well throughout the morning).

Of course a trip to a nearby stream or brook was required for some fresh water to use for washing clothes.  Thus, I put our hose a little ways from the house so my daughter would have to walk a bit to carry her bucket to and fro.  As you can see in the above picture, Determination was living up to his name as he tried to help with the washing.

I put one of our pumpkins and a toy corn in what remained of our garden from spring and had my daughter "pick" vegetables from the garden.  She also picked some real oregano which we used to make a concoction to put on a scrape/cut that Joyful somehow sustained.  I did not have the kind of herb growing which we had read about in one of the books so I guess you could say that oregano was a stand-in.

That evening we enjoyed our homemade bread and homemade butter - yum!  A wonderful ending for my little Pilgrim's day!  :)  

Recipe for homemade butter:
1.  Pour heavy whipping cream into a sealed container (the amount is up to you).
2.  Optional:  add a pinch of salt.
3.  Shake!  Shake!  Shake!  (It may take several minutes of hard shaking before you see results but just stick with it!)

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Homeschool Theme of the Week: Scarecrows!

For those who have been wondering if I will be posting Thanksgiving activities anytime soon, the answer is - YES!  I had not planned to post those until next week but will try to speed up the process so I can post something earlier for those of you interested in ideas for your own class or homeschool.  Until then, please enjoy our humble scarecrow theme and activities...  :)

We made these guys to go along with our wooden spoon scarecrow activity (see pics below).

Cute, are they not?  And easy to make - just paint some clothespins black, add black feathers, wiggly eyes, and a paper beak.  Yes, I know crows don't have orange beaks.  However, my daughter pointed out that if we made the beaks black, they would be hard to distinguish from the rest of the crow body.  So, orange the beaks remain.  :)

Here is our very own small scarecrow we made from a wooden spoon and one of my daughter's doll dresses.   I attached a craft stick (popsicle stick) to the wooden spoon to make the arms, and we dressed her and stuffed her.  :)

Isn't she lovely and friendly looking!  Even the crows seem to enjoy her amicable presence!  :)

This was our "crow" (as in "exult") can.  We wrote down all sorts of things my daughter is able to do and at least a couple of skills that she has not quite yet achieved.  The ones she has already accomplished, we glued to the can.  The skills which we are still working on are being held onto by the crows until she proves she has mastered them at which time we can add them to our "crow" can and rejoice together!  :) 

This type of thing might be a good activity and eye-opener for a parent and a child (especially for one who is struggling) of how accomplished the child really is.  Sometimes we forget how far our children have come and how much they have learned - it is good to be reminded (for both parent and child).  :)  By the way, not all of what we wrote on the can is academic (I can play nicely, I can do my chores, etc.).

My daughter is not often called upon to write her last name, so this is an area I know needs a tad bit more practice.  Thus, the crow is hanging onto it for us until we can happily add it to the other mastered skills on the "crow"can.

This was a fun accordian style book  made from paper bags and snippets of items (I was inspired in part by this gorgeous blog:  Each page contains a descriptive sentence stating what the reader sees.  The final page - the surprise - is that all of these items have come together to make a scarecrow (BTW - I believe all those black squiggly lines are crows flying away).

Scarecrow Pete is a really cute story we read about the friendship between a boy and a scarecrow.  The scarecrow helps to instill in the boy a passion for reading as the two embark on imaginary adventures with the help of many wonderful books!

This activity became an extension of that tale.  I call it "scarecrow painting" because the point of it is to wrap up a bunch of straw, raffia, etc. and use it to paint with (pretending you are a scarecrow painting with your arm - your arm is the brush).

In this case, we talked about where Scarecrow Pete might like to go if he could get down off of his pole.  My daughter thought the beach would be a good destination for him, so we pretended she was the scarecrow painting a picture of where he would like to travel.

This was a watercolor painting my daughter made.  We then did some texture rubbings of things and used the rubbings to cut out a small scarecrow, gluing him to her picture.

This is a picture of one of the stories we read and also of our fun little pointer for the week!  Basically it is a small autumn pick and we just use it for a calendar pointer (or anything else which might need to be pointed out).  

We have several different "pointers" which range from decorative picks to fun eraser toppers on pencils.  I try to keep them somewhat seasonal, and it just seems to add to the excitement of a new theme when I pull out a new pointer.  (Picks are great because if you get them for sale at your local hobby store, they are SOOO inexpensive.  I think this little scarecrow only cost $.50 to $.60!!!)

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