Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Everything Stays on the Tray!

Moon Dough on the tray!
When my youngest was two, I became so excited by the idea of sensory bins. Thank you Pintrest!  I made the colored rice, the mood dough, and bought the kinetic sand. All three kids were so happy!  It was quiet and I read. 

I thought it was the answer, until I noticed the mess on the floor and table.  I didn't think the hour of clean up was worth the half hour of read aloud. 

A few weeks later, I was reading about Montessori methods.  I noticed the trays they were using for their works. Although I could not see my children doing the same works, I decided to apply the same concept and re-vamp sensory bins.

I use a container similar to this for moon dough, water beads, and kinetic sand.  This is just the right amount to play with and it stores easily, as they stack. They also fit nicely on a tray. 

I have a cheap, plastic tray for each child, that they must use in order to use a sensory bin.  My trays were about $1 at Ikea but I have seen them at Christmas Tree Shop, Walmart and other retailers priced similarly.

Kinetic Sand with some tools is a favorite!
My youngest has understood from the age of 3 that everything has to stay on the tray.  Yes, it bears repeating and reminding a million times.  Everything stays on the tray! 

If, I see the sensory items straying off the tray, I remind them.  If it continues, they loose the sensory bin for a few days.  Although that happened at the beginning it hasn't happened recently.

I am now a super, cool mom when I give my child Kinetic sand, water beads or Play-doh at the kitchen table!  This is really just how to squeeze in extra reading time with toddler! 

The kids are used to using the trays now, so they use them all the time, on their own. Mom win! 

A few weeks after using the trays consistently, I added in the child sized broom and dustpan as part of the clean up routine.  Honestly, the amount on the floor is minimal and it reminds the child to clean everything up when they are done.

I was so convinced of the ease of sensory bins that  I gave water beads, moon dough, and colored rice to a friend for her toddler. Unfortunately, I forgot to give her the trays! I told her about them, but I did not purchase them for her. She left the sensory bins on the porch for her daughter to play with and it was mess!  (see first photo!) 
Who wouldn't want to dive into waterbeads?

The amazingly brave mom persevered and tried the last colored rice sensory bin on a tray. It has been a success! Now there is a happy mom making dinner and a happy toddler playing near here! 

People of all ages love the feel of sensory bins, so train them now to use trays and it will be a joy for years! 

Just remember and repeat: Everything stays on the tray!  Then, enjoy a good half hour of quiet kids!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Celebrating Reading with The Green Ember

For all of you fans of The Green Ember by S.D. Smith, and reading in general, you will understand the excitement of throwing a party to celebrate a book.
I originally got the idea from who else, but Sarah Mackenzie at the Read Aloud Revival.  Members there have access to a guide on planning a party for celebrating books and reading.  I had read the guide before we ever read The Green Ember.  I kept meaning to look at it again but the kids came up with so many ideas, I never had to. 

Posters made by my 7 year old and 9 year old.
Easter decorations "dressed up" as Pickett and Heather.

My real motivation in having a party was to inspire my son who doesn't love reading.  He LOVES The Green EmberHe cannot wait for Ember Falls, the sequel, to be released.  To keep his interest high, we will celebrate while waiting, lest the enthusiasm wanes. 

All three kids were thrilled about having a Rabbit with Swords Party! Their ideas were incredible!  This brainstorming lasted several days and I must say, it was my favorite part.  Imagine a more creative and magical book narration infused with some logistic and trouble shooting. 

I wanted some of my children's friends to have a shared experience of loving a book, so they were invited.  The one stipulation to the invite was that you must read the book to attend.  I was amazed that 4 families got the book just to attend the party. 

I held the party at a local park because I wanted easy clean up and space for the kids to play.  I also knew that would limit my clean up and set up time. 
Felt sashes with inflatable sword, star seek and patches!
Birds of Prey

As each child arrived they were given an inflatable sword and a sash with belt.  This was a huge hit because they all felt like they were in costume!  Those sashes were my favorite part.

Around the park, we had hung orange balloons with brown construction paper wings taped on, as a way of simulating The Birds of Prey.  Although we had planned a Helmer obstacle course around those balloons, that did not happen.  Instead, the kids ran at the Birds of Prey, swords drawn,  screaming the oath!  It was like being in a real battle from the book, at least that is how the kids described it. 
Can you feel the excitement of fighting a Bird of Prey?

We each made a star seek with grosgrain ribbon and popsicle sticks.  They didn't soar, as they kids hoped, but throwing them downhill, helped create that illusion. 

Heather and Pickett relay
My favorite game created was a Heather and Pickett relay race.  A team of two ran to a roll of toilet paper.  There they wrapped "Heather's arm".  They ran back to where they started with the toilet paper to wrap Pickett's leg. Then, the two ran together, all bandaged up, to the finish line.  Need I say that this was a huge hit?

To my horror, most kids had never played pin the tale on the donkey before.  Of course, we had The Green Ember version of my own making, pin the sword on Pickett.  
Pin the Sword on Pickett

After each game, the children received a patch like Blackstar (aka: a home printed sticker).  These were added to their sashes with much pride. 

I kept the food simple.  There was rabbit food of carrots, broccoli, and berries.  We also had peaches with honey on a sweet bread.  For a main dish we enjoyed cheese and bread from Lord Rake's quarters, also known as pizza. 

In all reality the party was simple. We had an idea to have a King Cake with a green ember inside, but instead we gave everyone a green ember at the end.  If we had more time, money or energy, we might have done some guild activities, like planting seeds, making a stained glass window for Light Hall with tissue paper, or spinning a story. 

The purpose was to make reading more magical and create a shared love of literature amongst my children and their friends.  In that, we were totally successful! 

We now have friends who can't wait for Ember Falls to be released and already asking when that party will be!

While they are waiting, some kids have hung their sashes proudly and begun to read on their own, the books which inspired the festivities!   MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

This post contains affiliate links, but as always that does not influence my content or honesty. If you use a link I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you, so thank you for your support!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Shakespeare Inspiration!

Inspired by the AMAZING webcast Sarah Mackenzie at the Read Aloud Revival Membership site hosted last night with Ken Ludwig, I have to write about enjoying Shakespeare with children. 

For those of you who don't know who Ken Ludwig is, his resume is long and distinguished to put it mildly. What makes one fall in love with him though is his passion for Shakespeare! 

In 2014, his book How to Teach your Children Shakespeare  was published.  Since then, the number of children learning and quoting The Bard at home has exploded!  Ken has taken a topic, which for some parents and educators, has seemed dated or unattainable and shared hands on techniques for making the greatest playwright of all time come alive for the youngest children. In an age when the art of memorizing by heart has been all but lost, Mr. Ludwig shows how to memorize the most famous of Shakespeare's words.

As you can tell, I am a fan of the book.  My children say their favorite thing we do is memorize Shakespeare.  Why? 

"It's fun to say!" - daughter, 4
"Everyone is so impressed!" - son, 7
"It sounds better than anything else!" - son, 9

Who can argue with that? 

Already a fan of the book and comfortable with Shakespeare myself, I was uncertain if the Read Aloud Revival's webcast would even be worth my time.  IT WAS!  It was worth the membership price for the year!

If you ever have a chance to hear Mr. Ludwig speak about Shakespeare, take it!  His deep love for the words and stories was mesmerizing; every word and motion, cadence and inflection, was a passionate endorsement for the extrinsic value of the Bard for everyone. 
Ken Ludwig
Ken Ludwig

To say Mr. Ludwig is inspiring would be an understatement!  He not only shared his love of Shakespeare but many practical resources for parents on how to impart that same love to their children, as he has done! 

I wish Mr. Ludwig would create an online Shakespeare course for everyone!  He truly could light the world afire with his love of Shakespeare!

But, how do you teach Shakespeare to children?
I will give an example from our own experience with A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I always wanted my children to love Shakespeare as I do, but memorization of it was not something I even contemplated.

We listened to Jim Weiss's wonderful retelling in Shakespeare for Children, as an introduction. By listening to an award-winning story teller, like Jim Weiss, explain A Midsummer Night's Dream, even my daughter who was three at the time, knew the story and characters well.  I also picked up a few story versions from our local library.  As I was not overly impressed with their retellings, I just left them around for the children to look at the magical pictures. 

We are fortunate enough to have Cincinnati Shakespeare Company near us!  Each summer they do free performances of  A Midsummer Night's Dream.  These productions are not only magical because of the lovely outdoor settings, but laugh out loud hilarious!  Of course being outside, allows for younger children to wiggle around and for everyone to enjoy a picnic dinner while watching.  Last year, my kids said seeing this show was a highlight of their summer!

This year we added Mr. Ludwig's memorization of Shakespeare to our together time.  A few times a week, we said a few lines from A Midsummer Night's Dream, as outline in How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. They have learned 4 passages this year and recite them constantly!

I have heard many times, "I can't wait to see A Midsummer Night's Dream again this summer and hear how they say this."

Be still my heart!  Who can argue with any of that? 

This post contains affiliate links, but as always that does not influence my content or honesty. If you use a link I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you, so thank you for your support!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here: The Homeschool Convention

Yes, the Homeschool Convention Hall can be the gates of an Inferno for a homeschool parent.  But why? 

For Sale: All natural & organic perfect SAT Scores, classic literature, strong character development, essential oils, mathematical genius, musical appreciation and every important historical event in a beautiful, easy-to-teach, game format your kids will love in one boxed curriculum!

Found: Sore feet, gray hairs, headaches, worries, games of all sorts, every math manipulative , wide eyes, expensive refreshment, pushy sales people, excitement, hope and fears for the future. 

It's funny and true.

How does the Convention Floor make you feel?  Inadequate?  Worried? Possibly idolizing a curriculum or expert? 

For a moment, consider more of what is written on the entrance to Hell. 

(The Inferno, Canto 3,Ciardi translation)

Is that curriculum and unrealistic expectation paving your way to a City of Woe? Are you overbooking with co-ops, activities, or subjects?

Although God has not forsaken you, have you forsaken your children for a curriculum, process or ideal?  Have you forsaken the ideals in your heart by covenanting an ideal presented in a sales pitch?

The way to eternal sorrow.  WOW! This one struck a cord. 

Do the plans you set out pave a way to eternal sorrow, or at least a year of sorrow? How?  Buying that 3rd grade curriculum when you know your child hasn't mastered 2nd grade? Are you expecting that your child must master ideas set out by someone who doesn't know them as the individual they are?

If we do not accept ourselves and children as the unique reflections of God that we are, we are doomed to sorrow.  We will constantly feel jealous of the other Pintrest boards and parents who seem to have it together.  Seek the joy in knowing you and your children have special talents which are a mere reflection of God.  Relish those.

Maybe the sacred justice is our personal lack of peace because of our lack of faith.

Abandon the hope of finding an answer here on the convention floor.  The answers for your homeschool do not lie in a speakers' inspirational words or opinions.  The answer is not found in a box of shiny, new math or reading curriculum.  The peace and confidence can only be found within your own personal revelations; revelations of what you and your children are truly capable of and what you were made for. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Rabbit Schooling Sloths

If you have not seen the hilarious trailer for the new Disney movie Zootopia, you can see it here. 

We have all had that feeling while waiting in a line! The genius is making the humor here so relatable. 

After laughing through the trailer several times, my opinion changed and I almost cried. 

I can be a fast-talking, excited, energetic person, much like Officer Hopps. I am enthusiastic to teach and share what I know with my children.  Yet, how often do I feel the same frustration when I am excited to lead a lesson and miss the journey?

Have I felt the frustration of a child writing slowly? Are they not answering a question I am convinced they have an answer to?  Do they seem more interested in their Legos than what you have to say? YES!

Maybe I am the one missing out on the beautiful journey!

The moment when Flash the Sloth's face lights up at getting a joke, that is what we all live for!  He is adorable, in that moment and the frustration of moments ago melts away! We all thrive on the moments when our child's face lights up with excitement, joy, understanding, or love.  If we are always the busy rabbit, we might not slow down to guide a child to these moments of lighting up. 

Am I taking the time to let my child's face light up?

I know some kids will share that joke immediately like Flash did.  Do we react like Officer Hopps with a dreaded look and sigh?  Or do we see the shared joy?  Do we see that moment when the shared knowledge or joy has now truly become the child's own by being able to share it?  Do we embrace it?

When I was re-watching the trailer, I noticed it is less than 2 minutes into the clip before Flash the Sloth gets the joke.  That's not very long. Are we all on such a fast paced schedule that someone whose face can light up a theater in less than 2 minutes is being missed? 

Maybe tomorrow I need be more like the Sloth and less like the Rabbit and enjoy the journey.