Our story illustrations.

Here's part of the illustrations. The story is one I tell often, and I wrote the beginning on butcher paper so the kids could illustrate it.

Ever since my son has been old enough to ask for stories, I have told a series of stories called “Prince Nicholas stories.” Shockingly, they are all about a prince (Nicholas) and his adventures in the forest, ocean, lake, stream, pond (and so forth) that are in the area behind his castle in a land far, far away. When his sister was born, the stories included a “Princess Abby” character so the prince and princess are doing things together in the stories.

Every story starts off the same way: Once in a land far, far away there lived a prince and his name was Prince Nicholas. He had a sister named Princess Abby. They lived in a big gray castle made of stone with King Daddy and Queen Mommy. One day……. and there the stories start to differ.

So for today’s creative lesson, I thought we would start a new Prince Nicholas/Princess Abby story and have them illustrate it. I got out some butcher paper and wrote our traditional introduction down in 4 sections. One section ws the intro (in a land far, far, away). One section was about Prince Nicholas. One section about Princess Abby. The last section about the castle and mommy and daddy. Then I gave them crayons and they went to work.

Nicholas is illustrating a story I wrote. He drew a picture of the prince in the story to make it look like him since the prince's name is "Prince Nicholas."

Abby just scribbled. Nichols told her she could color the first part – and amazingly she followed his directions pretty well. But Nicholas got to draw all the faces, crowns, and castles. He made a brown castle (because he didn’t want to use the gray marker), and put brown bushes outside the castle (because he didn’t want someone to have to water them). He also drew a tall red barn so that the horses and cows could be really tall and have a place to live.

Why would we do something like this?

First, it is a way to use their imagination. Young children have great imaginations. Getting used to putting the ideas they see in their heads when they hear a story onto paper is a great thing for them to learn. It is all about being able to communicate their mental images. This is a story I tell them; it has no books and no preconceived images. So this is a good story to start from.

Second, it is a way for Nicholas to see how words work to make a story. He can talk and carry on great conversations. He can recite whole movie plots, statistics about space, and more. But to actually see how words tell a story is something he is still working at. We read books, but those stories are already put together. This is a spur of the moment, made-up story that he gets to participate in developing.

Third, it is about reading comprehension. He helps me read the words in order to draw the pictures. This means he has to understand what the words are combining to say. If he tells me that he wants to make the castle brown instead of gray because he wants to use the brown marker, he is still showing he understands that the story says the castle is gray. Just the fact that he felt the need to speak up and justify his choice of color for the castle (I did not ask him, he volunteered the information) means he understands he’s doing something different from the story.

He’s not a great artist, but I put this up on our wall with pride. We will work on the next part of the story tomorrow, and continue until we finish it. I can’t wait to see the whole thing.


Easter stickers.


I love sticker crafts. My son doesn’t really like to draw, so stickers let him create in a way that coloring doesn’t. In addition, my 16 month old daughter will play with stickers if I let her. So sticker crafts let us all do something fun together.

When I was last at Target they had these big foam eggs for $5 for a pack of 10. They also had some Easter themed stickers to go with the eggs. So I got them all and we made Easter decorations.

Don’t get me wrong, dying eggs can be fun. But with young kids it gets so messy. Plus you have to hard boil the eggs and then eat them all. So making sticker eggs a kids all the mess, cooking, and resultant eating that has to be done.

Stickers. Great things. They help with motor skills (have you peeled the backs off foam stickers lately of peeled ago or peeled stickers off a sheet) – mainly fine motor skills like pinching. They also allow kids to. Rebate beautiful patterns and decorations without having to be able to draw. Stickers allow allow of creativity for kids who aren’t really good at art.

And our Easter eggs are now all decorated and over the house. I do love decorating my house on the cheap. It makes me not feel bad about throwing things away at the end of the season and gives me more space in the garage because I’m not storing things.

Check out my “guest contributor” post.

I’m a guest contributor over at “The Homeschooling Blog.”

Here’s a link to my first post:http://www.thehomeschoolingblog.com/2012/03/question-based-learning.html

I’m really excited about this opportunity to contribute to the wider homeschooling community. I want to thank everyone there for giving me this opportunity!


Placer Nature Center

Placer Nature Center is located in Auburn, CA. It is a great place geared towards helping parents and children learn about the outdoors. They have homeschool classes, classes for educators, and parent/child exploration days. They are also open to the public.

They have a ton of picnic tables, bathrooms, hiking trails, and various indoor exhibits. They also have a frog pond (where they pulled out some pond water so we could play with tadpoles) and a garden. There are some clearings that were fun to collect sticks and build things in. And yes, since it is outside in the foothills there is poison oak.

We went to their Saturday parent/child class. We got there late but no one minded. They welcomed us and we jumped into learning about frogs, then about the way water flows from snow to usage and then back through evaporation. We saw a real beehive and some baby trout. We went walking through the garden and hiked a small trail (my 16 month old did it too!). They helped us use their microscopes to look at various slides and let Nicholas assemble skeleton of animals. It was a blast.

It was a great adventure to do as a family. We got to do some guided learning about things that we didn’t really know. We had helpers to make sure my kids didn’t kill the tadpoles while playing with them – because if left to our own devices I would never have done that. And then we got to hang out and walk around and enjoy nature. It was a fabulous family learning activity. I would go back anytime. In fact, we are headed back for their April class.




Our paper mâché experience.

It has been raining for most of the week and my kids were getting cabin fever. So to alleviate this condition, I decided to throw a paper mâché party in our garage for anyone in the neighborhood who wanted to come.

My first an smartest decision was to lay down a tarp in the garage. Everything, including all spills and leftovers, were on the tarp. Best decision ever.

The kids came and we did paper mâché. Some it was their first time and some it wasn’t. They did designs like princess hats and regular balloon shapes. We use construction paper since there wouldn’t be time for everything to dry and then paint it. We used glitter.

It was a blast to watch all the kids (ranging from 16 months to 8 years) play and do art. I had a ton of fun.




The importance of a stage

We had a talent show at church on Friday night. I entered my son, along with a few other kids, into the show. They were going to sing “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed” and do the dance to the song.

So we practices the song a bunch. He was really excited and did well with the song in practice.

I spent Thursday night making ears and tails for the little monkeys.

Then comes Friday. We got there and practiced to the music on my iPod. The kids laughed and danced. Then we got everyone’s costumes on and practiced again. The kids did less singing and more jumping, but that was fine.

They did great with the performance. They all got up there and did their thing. While it might not have been the most artistic performance, it did get them up in front of a crowd and doing something. It gave them confidence to do it again.

Learning to be on a stage is hard. It can be scary. Starting kids young gives them a chance to not be scared and to enjoy being on the stage. Stages are important because, at some point in time, everyone has to be on one. Even if the stage is simply a presentation.

It was a good learning experience for Nicholas and a fun thing for the moms to see.



All about me and the letters R/S.


Today is preschool day! Well, it is my day to teach our preschool co-op. The theme for this week is “all about me.” I have the letters R and S for Tuesday and T for Thursday.

I found this great site with handwriting and letter practice sheets. It lets you pick, out of a few options, what the letters are for. I decided that R is for rocket and S is for snake. Since all 5 kids are boys, those are good choices. It is better than some of the practice sheets where R is for rainbow. The boys just laugh at things like that and then it is hard to get them to focus on practicing their letters. They really like to laugh at rainbows because one of the boys has an older sister who likes rainbows. Therefore, rainbows are for girls. It really does pay to know who you are teaching.

I also like to make sure we include some math. So I use this set of counting sheets on the days when I am teaching. We are doing the harder ones in the sets now. I pick 3 of the sheets and scatter them throughout the morning.

That is it for our traditional book work things. Onto the fun stuff.

Since the week is “all about me” we are making “all about me” books. The book is simply 2 pages of paper, folded in half, and stapled. On the front I wrote “All about me.” Then the kids are going to write their names (they can all do this). On each page their is a prompt. They will get to make a drawing for each prompt. The 6 prompts are:

1. My favorite color is…

2. My favorite toy is…

3. My favorite food is…

4. My house looks like…

5. My family looks like…

6. My favorite thing to do it…

They will have to draw something for each prompt. We shall see how this goes.

I also have some other activities in storage in case we have extra time: I cut out squares of paper that I am going to have them glue onto paper in the shape of snake. I have stickers of farm animals they can put onto paper once they draw a farm. And most of all, I have sugar cookies they can decorate and eat.

This takes 2 hours? Yep. And here’s why: I do an activity between each sit down activity. Our day will really go like this:

Circle time

Freeze dance

Letter tracing – letter R

Active songs

Letter tracing – Letter S

Hide and go Seek

Snack time

All about me books

(extra activities)

Free play for the last 15-20 minutes.

That’s the plan for our day tomorrow. I certainly hope it works out.


Our solar system obsession

We are having a bit of a space obsession – a solar system obsession really- in our house. I’m perfectly happy to enable it.

For our lesson we got onto NASA’s website and looked at pictures of all the planets. The I wrote out each of the planets names and Nicholas did it too. That was the long part of the lesson.

After that I asked him if he wanted to draw or make a solar system. He chose to make one. So we picked an appropriate piece of scrapbook paper as a background – it was black and glittery like the galaxy is. We used Pom-poms for planets. I wrote the name of each thing on paper and Nicholas cut them all out. So the we glued the sun down and glued the tag with the word sun next to the big yellow Pom-Pom. And we won’t through each thing in our solar system. It was awesome!

Nicholas got to practice writing and reading, skills like cutting and gluing, and did it all while learning about the solar system. He soaked it all up and can tell you all about Jupiter, saturn’s rings, and Mars being like Earth. It’s amazing what kids can learn at this age.


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