Tag Archives: homeschool

Kitchen Science – Water Play I

Welcome to our new series…Kitchen Science!!

Instead of doing “preschool playdates” with our SPB students, we decided to do park playdates so that more families could feel like they were welcome to join us.  The home educator in me has a hard time offering no activity for the children to explore while they share time with us…so I started bringing kitchen science experiments to the park with us.

I am calling this series “Kitchen Science” because most of the activities we will be doing use household items, and all the exploring can be done on your kitchen counter.  Join us over the next few weeks as we share the activities we are enjoying with SPB friends of all ages!

The inspiration for all these activities is this book:


We received it as part of the Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum that we use.

One of the first concepts we teach children about water is “sink” and “float”.  We used that vocabulary throughout all the water play.


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This activity is to help the children explore the idea that some things are going to distribute weight differently than others.  When it’s dry, the basket would hold more things…this is what happened when we added water:

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There are lots of ways to add skills to this activity…

Level 1: Gross motor skills ~ place the glass beads in by the handful

Level 2: Fine motor skills ~ place the glass beads one-by-one into the containers

Level 3: Count the beads as they go in

Level 4: Science Journal ~ note how much each container held, and at which point it sunk to the bottom.

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We like these picture journals from Miller Pads and Paper.
The Sweet Peas can draw a picture to remind them of their experiment,
and also write notes or dictate notes to the parent.

You may have noticed the green lines on the side of the tub…we drew those to measure the starting and ending point of the food tray and the blue rectangular container.  After we emptied the water, the children could measure the difference between the change of the containers in the water.


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Here is another variation on the theme using two metal containers.  I asked the children to guess which one would float.  Some said neither since they were both metal…they got a surprise, and also an “aha” moment when we talked about how giant ships made of metal can sail in the ocean.

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The solid container floated…the enjoyed watching the sieve gurgle bubbles and sink.
You might also fill the solid container with beads to see what it’s sinking point was.


Next we explored what would happen if the cargo on our “ships” was evenly distributed or one-sided.  We don’t buy plastic egg cartons so I had to improvise with a cardboard carton and some plastic wrap. For this activity we used 24 glass beads.

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For comparison on this activity, you could draw lines to measure the change in angle of the containers, and then measure the angles with a protractor after the water was drained.


Blowing bubbles!! This activity demonstrated what would happen if you forced air into a submerged container.  I added two glass beads to our container to better demonstrate the effect of air on an objects ability to sink or float.

We connected this experiment back to the metal containers that float. Showing how air adds buoyancy to an object, we talked about how ships and submarines use ballast to sink or float in the water.

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So those are three experiments you can do at home with household objects…I would love to hear how your Sweet Pea enjoyed them!


Preschool Playdate: Johnny Appleseed

Playdate: September 29, 2016
Theme: inspired by Johnny Appleseed’s birthday on September 26th

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity: “A” sound box
— Centers | Free play
— Closing

This is actually the second time we have done this theme – what’s not to love about apples?! We brought back some of the activities that the children loved last time and added new ones that better fit the age of the children attending last Thursday. Click HERE to see last year’s event.

This is actually a narrative biography of Johnny Appleseed’s life that is WAY to long for a preschooler to listen to all in one sitting. We broke it up over five days for our big kids!!  However, the book boasts one-page and two-page illustration spreads, so I searched the internet to come up with the high points of his life, made up two sentences to summarize those points, and showed 7 pictures to go along with the summaries.  It all worked out!


Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend; Written and Illustrated by Will Moses


Fun with magnet letters!

Level 1: Match the letters to the corresponding letter in the word “apple”
Level 2: Sort the letters into Uppercase/Lowercase or sort by specific letter
Level 3: Turn over the “apple” word card and have the child spell out the word; then check for accuracy.


Number recognition/spatial recall
The apple cards are programmed with numbers and the Spanish words for the numbers. We had two levels of play:
1) jumble one set of cards and put them in order/
2) use two sets and place them apple-side up to play a memory match game.


Modifying the “Cookies on a Plate” game from Lakeshore Learning to fit our theme…

Here is “Apples in the Bowl”. Roll the die, count out that number and place the apples in the bowl. The first player to reach the number ten wins.

This game is great for teaching one-to-one correspondence as well as addition; and for older children you could introduce the idea of “greater than” and “less than”.

There is also a sensory interaction with the apple shape and noticing the differences in color. Another level of play would be to sort by color into the separate bowls.


Tasting apples and apple products!

We showed the different colors of the outer skin, as well as the different tastes of each apple (sweet, sour, tart)

We also did a texture and flavor comparisons between fruit, sauce, and juice.

We always enjoy a good tasting center!!



ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
Fun fact about apples: there is a star hidden in the core!!


My intention was to use the core to stamp….



The sweet peas decided to use them as painting implements instead!!



I love how they adapted to materials at hand to suit themselves and create their own art.


We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye poem where children are welcome to give hugs; then we sing our closing song and say a final good-bye.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards. The rest of us stay and visit for a few more minutes and watch our Bradley babies enjoy their extended playtime 🙂

Thoughtful Thursday: Sorting Through

As we continue to unpack, I dread the fact that we still have LOTS of boxes in our garage. On top of all those boxes, we have LOTS MORE boxes in storage.

It’s stuff.  Literally just stuff. Holiday decorations. Cherished baby items and favorite outfits from when our sweet peas were little.  Toys.  And papers. And old artwork. All of it reminding me that we have too much, I keep too much. I have so much to release.  Especially: books!!!

As I was moving things around today to clear some space in the garage, I found a laundry basket full of books…and I have to face the fact that there is literally no more shelf space for them.  (I cannot buy another bookcase!! Where would I put it?!?!)

We are bursting at the seams in our home – I don’t want to bring anything else inside.  Right now, everything has a spot. Nothing is piled up or so full that I can’t easily put it away in the right place…but there are still boxes.

So now I have to decide: am I going to let things go? Or am I going to insist on holding on?

It almost feels like a metaphor for our children. As we are in the midst of the 64-day span in which we celebrate the birthdays of our 3 younger sweet peas, I am struck by the fact that they are *really* all growing up.  Our “baby” is turning five this year…she is in kindergarten!!  We are only six years away from our oldest going off to college…and she is making noises about wanting to try out for a performing arts school next year.  I hear a rustle in our little nest…

They are all stretching their wings and getting ready to fly.  It makes me take inventory of what we are teaching them…will they be equipped? Will they have the confidence to spread their wings? Will they know how to do critical thinking?  Will they have the courage to do what is right instead of doing that which is most convenient or gratifying?  Sometimes those things intersect; and when they don’t, will they be able to live with their choices?

So here I sit…wondering.  Wondering what will become of the pile of boxes.  Wondering how our sweet peas will grow.  I hope and pray that they will grow and mature in their faith and self-esteem, knowing that they are loved.

Letting go…holding on…the art of living a meaningful life. The inspiration continues to choose and lead with love. My filter is the question, “Am I living love right now?” If I am, we go onwards. If I am not, it’s time to adjust an attitude, a voice, a tone…and live with love, nurture with love, grow with love; trusting that the end result is going to be greater than I can imagine.


Preschool Playdate: A.A. Milne

Play date: January 21, 2016
Theme inspired by A.A. Milne’s birthday (January 18, 1882)

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme: talked about the characters in the series
— Storytime: Tigger’s breakfast
— Unsquiggle activity: “take the ants out of your pants”
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

Thank goodness for all our dollar store flash cards! I had purchased these when Puma was a preschooler because she adored Winnie-the-Pooh.  They came in handy today, after a good dusting off!

Today’s craft and discovery table were inspired by the Sugar Aunts blog.  The take-home mask craft was printed from the Surburban Mom blog.

We got these little books for Puma’s first birthday party so that guests could share a little story time with their Sweet Peas.  I selected a story that recounts Tigger’s search for the perfect breakfast. I emphasized that he tasted everything until he found the food that tasted just right to him.  We also had our stuffed animal friends help us tell the story!



We had two options here – both games created out of the cards.

Activity 1: Word Match
It could be played as a memory game, or very simply as a “show and find the match” for the younger children. If they were playing the “show-match” version, I encouraged the parents to emphasize the first letter/sound as their child searched for the matching card.

The second activity was for word correlation.  It was a self checking game – if they matched the words correctly, they would form a picture on the reverse side that incorporated the two words that they had matched.  This is a great game to reinforce the “go-together” concept, and also to do visual recognition once the items were shown on an illustration.

We had two card games for this center as well…

Activity one: Shape or Color Match
This could be played as a “show and find” or a memory game.  We added the same shapes in orange if the Sweet Peas wanted to play memory.  Otherwise, we stuck to the primary colors to reinforce the colors as well as the shapes for the younger Sweet Peas.

Activity 2:  Number Match
The Sweet Peas matched the number to the card with the corresponding number of pots. To further emphasize 1-to-1 correlation, they could pin the “honey bee” clothespins to the card to match the number of pots.



Another use for the “honey bee” clothespins! There are several ways to play:
Level 1: fine motor skills only – celebrate picking up a flower with the clothespin!
Level 2: Pick up flowers of a certain color
Level 3: Name a number to pick up of a certain color.  This could be done progressively: take out 1 pink, 2 yellow, 3 blue, etc.,
Level 3a: Name a size of flower to take out…you could also request a certain amount here, too.



ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
We made a couple of adjustments to the craft as suggested by Sugar Aunts.  We have lots of younger siblings that come to play date, so wiggly eyes were definitely out, and, there was absolutely no way we were going to plug in a hot glue gun for the wings…so we put out markers for the Sweet Peas to draw faces on their “bees”, and we used tacky glue for the wax paper wings.  They ones we made as samples and for the centers all held up pretty well; here’s wishing that they survived once the Sweet Peas took them home!



We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.

Join us next week when we share all the fun we had today for our Australia theme!

Tuesday Tip: Household Help

Ah, the new year!! Lots of promise and commitment to home organization….ring a bell?  I am so encouraged by this new season of having four capable children that I am jumping on the home organization bandwagon lifestyle this year.

The idea for this started brewing when I saw my friend’s system for having her children help with chores around the house. She made hers super-fancy: typed out the chores, pasted them on colorful cardstock, laminated the cards…I am not very ambitious in that regard…I just wanted something that I could use for our Sweet Peas.

Daunted by the idea sitting down and coming up with a chore list, I did nothing.  Then along came a tweet yesterday, with a link to THESE amazing home organization charts from simplystacie.net.

I printed out the “Daily Cleaning Checklist” thinking that this would be a good list for my jobs to do after I finished homeschooling for the day…and then lightbulb!! Here was a good working list to start with for the chore rewards I had been wanting to do!!

So I sat down with my index cards from the Dollar Tree, a sharpie, and started writing.  I did not use all of them for the children…there are some that I want to do (sort mail) and some that are part of the daily chores they already do as part of helping out because we are a family (making the bed, clearing up after meal times).  I did put a couple of kitchen items in there so that the Sweet Peas would have incentive to really clean other areas in the kitchen after they had finished with the dishes in the sink.  And quite frankly, since little hands are typically helping with meal preparation (read: things get spilled), the kitchen floor can use a good sweep after every mealtime.

I started by making 15 cards so that each of my five homeschoolers can pick out three chores a day.  The expectation is that they will do their chores before our school day ends at 3:00 pm.  When they are finished, they hand me their cards, I check their work, and then record their daily “pay” in my planner as long as everything is satisfactory, or they get a chance to re-do it with or without my help as the case may be.  At the end of the week, they get to collect their “wages”.

And…I was so excited by our first day results yesterday!! I love having the house tidy, I love having the Sweet Peas help, and they are so excited to be earning spending money!  Puma and Busy Bee are saving up for their Europe trip, the boys want to save for Pokeman cards, and Otter just likes the idea of having money.

I hope that you are blessed by the handy charts as I have been.  I was also inspired by the chart on 31 days of decluttering.  After experiencing the loss of family members, and seeing all the work that goes into closing down their homes; and just the waste of energy and time trying to filter through all the accumulated possessions of our lives, I really want to get on top of this in 2016. I adjusted the 31 day chart for a year, and then every day THIS year, I will start paring down what we have.  I am looking forward to releasing the things that we do not use for someone else to enjoy who might actually enjoy them rather then letting them sit in a closet or drawer or box for another year.

Want more inspiration?  Here are some charts that show age-appropriate life-skills, kitchen skills, and chores from 30 Handmade Days:




Preschool Playdate: Children’s Books

We held this playdaye on April 2, which also happened to be Children’s Books Day.  It was hard to plan for any specific theme since we invited our guests to bring theire favorite book to share.

Getting the morning off to our regular start:
— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

Here are the books our guests brought to share:

  • Opposites by Sandra Boynton
  • The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurray

We alternated sharing books with unsquiggle games.

You can read the instructions for this center in the photo below.  I wrote the child’s name on an envelope, then put their “carrot” letters inside the envelope. They had to find their name, and then sort their letters to spell their name.

We added another component to this center by having the children separate the stuffed animals into two groups: carrot eaters and non-carrot eaters.



This was a simple sorting center since I didn’t have a theme to guide me.  We used buttons and egg cartons for this activity.  The kiddos could sort by color and/or by shape on this one.  Another idea was for the parents to start a pattern and have the children finish the pattern.


Another improvisation since the there was not a particular specific book/theme.  I chose containers with different size holes so that the kiddos could experiement and see what kind of “rain” would fall on the boats.

They could talk about small and large, fast and slow, sink and float.  They could also talk about the different kinds of rain: drizzle, sprinkle, rain, storm, hurricane.


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This idea and pattern came from the Toddler Calendar.  I printed the duck on white and yellow cardstock, and cut out the umbrellas from some fun Spring paper we have in our stash.  Kiddos used glue to put it all together, and then the cotton swabs to paint the rain.


We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.  Otherwise, the kiddos and parents are welcome to stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives.



Preschool Playdate: Chinese New Year

We used to host a great group called “Peas & Pods” that met every other week.  It was for parents (mostly moms) and Sweet Peas to get together, meet other families, and support each other on the parenting journey.  Then one of our alums started hosting a breastfeeding group at her home, and another alum started offering parenting classes…so our group seemed redundant.

After seeing Dr. Harvey Karp speak about the importance of toddlers being socially stimulated on a regular basis, I decided to offer an opportunity for our alums with toddlers to get together.  This was a need that wasn’t being met by the other groups, and after teaching childbirth classes for almost four years, there were toddlers amongst us (including our own!).

Thus, the weekly Preschool Play-date was born!  We started doing these in September 2014, but I didn’t think to start documenting with pictures until February 2015.  I am looking forward to sharing some of the themes we did last Spring with you.  My hope is that they will inspire you to get creative with your own Sweet Peas.

We started with Circle Time:
— Welcome Song where every child found their name and placed it on the Name Table
— Spanish Welcome Song that reinforced each child’s name so that the Sweet Peas could get to know each other.
— Story Time
— Squiggle Activity – something to get the wiggles out!

Every week, I planned at least four different centers:
— Letter/Writing/Literacy
— Math
— Arts & Crafts
— Discovery

Some weeks, we would have other activities as well – it would depend on how much I could find around the house to fit the theme.  I purchased very little outside of craft supplies and paper.  You can definitely do these themes on a shoe-string budget!

Story: “The Ivory Wand” from Stories From Around the World – Usborne Children’s Books

Circle Time: Talked about the Chinese Zodiac and shared that 2015 was the Year of the Sheep according to the Chinese calendar

Now for the center activities:

One thing I remember from living in Taiwan is that people exchanged red envelopes on Chinese New Year.  I wanted to incoporate that idea with an activity that would allow children to recognize their name letters and organize them in order, because when you get an envelope, it ususally has your name on it!

So I used red card stock, and printed a good wish that I found HERE.  Then I programmed an index card with each child’s name, used punch out letters I picked up from the Tuesday Morning craft section, and put them in an envelope with the name clipped to the outside.

When the Sweet Pea participated in the center, first they had to find the right card with their name.  Then they pulled the letters out of the envelope, organized them in order, and glued them to their sentiment card.
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This math center is one of my favorites.  The Sweet Peas get to use their motor skills as well as their ordering.  Each tee-shirt was programmed with a number and correspodinging dots.  The child could either hang them on a “laundry line” that we tied up between two chairs, or simply clip the clothepins to match the number on the shirt.

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make+Take:
This craft idea came from Enchanted Learning.  I used the red paper I had on hand, plus craft sticks and a print out of a dragon’s head and tail on card stock.  I took a line drawing found in the Internet, cut off the tail and head that I wanted, and then enlarged it so it would look somewhat balanced.

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We filled old prescription bottles with five different fillers that made distinct sounds: dry rice, dry beans, seeds, bells, and beads  We covered them with contact paper, and also made them self-correcting so that a Mother-Toddler pair could move ahead without waiting for me to check their matching.

150219 PP04 150219 PP05Thanks for taking a peek into our “Chinese New Uear” theme! Until next week when we share what we did to celebrate Black History Month.


How a Homeschool Day looks at our house

A recent question on social media made me think about how we run our homeschool day.  The question was akin to, “How do you homeschool your older child when there is a needy younger sibling running around?”

I will preface my answer with some transparency.  Homeschooling works well for us because I have been blessed with two amazing helpers.  We have sacrificed some budget items to finance this luxury; very worth to me it since it means that my sanity is intact.  One helper works M-W, and the other one works TH-F.  When our children were younger, my helpers were “nannies” in the traditional sense: when I wasn’t babywearing, they entertained the smaller children so I could homeschool the older children.  As our children grow, they all seem to want to be in the school room at the same time and/or they are old enough to entertain themselves.  Now the “nannies” have taken on housekeeping duties: laundry and meal preparation, interspersed with child care.

Before we had a nanny (2 children in the family at time), I would homeschool when the younger sibling was napping.  Which meant maybe 2-3 sessions scattered throughout the day.  As that sibling grew out of naps, then we would wait to homeschool until Daddy Bruss got home from work.  He would spend time with Night Owl while I “played school” with Puma.  It took me a couple of months to figure that one out.  It took a while for the idea to sink in that homeschooling didn’t have to happen during traditional school hours.  “Homeschool” just means allowing learning to happen at home – the bonus is that it can happen anytime that it is convenient as the day unfolds!

If I had to run the homeschool and take care of housekeeping with four children, our life would be much more chaotic.  I would probably make different choices about how to run our days.  For one, would be eating a lot of cereal and crock pot meals (which is what we did pre-nanny, and that was okay, too!).  Thanks to our helpers, we eat a lot of healthy, whole food prepared from scratch every day.  It is a blessing that I thank God for *every* day, especially during the summer when they get time off to recover from the Bowman clan!

So, having said that, what does a typical school day look like for us?  I will share the general outline, plus share ideas to entertain younger siblings while you are spending time with the older children.

Our homeschool day actually starts the night before.  We use the Sonlight curriculum for the older three, and we used Horizon for our preschooler.  Both curriculums include parent/teacher guides, so I lay out the materials they will need for the next day ahead of time.  It gives me the opportunity to glance at what the following day will entail and prepare any activities.  An added benefit of laying everything out the night before is that allows for any early risers to get a head start on their schoolwork that they can do without me: handwriting, math review worksheets, language arts review exercises, reading.  It motivates our kiddos – they enjoy being the first one to finish and have more playtime.  Works for me!!

Our school day ususally starts at 8:00 am with the younger two (Charger and Night Owl).  I set the timer for 25 minutes, and they get my undivided attention until the timer rings.  We will read their books, play games, sing songs, do their worksheets – basically work through our checklist until the timer rings.  Once the timer rings, it’s time to switch “teams”.

The cycle starts again as I work with our older set of children (Puma and Night Owl).  I set a 25 minute timer and focus my attention on them.  We usually start their day with the Sonlight “Read-Aloud” list so that they start the day with art or some other quiet activity (building, puzzles, play dough, etc.) as they listen and ease into the day.  When the timer rings, the older set get a break to play or help around the house, and the younger kiddos get my attention again. And so progresses our school day, in 25-minute segments.

We all take a break for snacks and meals.  We also do a “recess” after lunch. It’s usually around 25 miuntes while I check and answer pressing emails, or make phone calls. Once the breaks are over, the timer starts again.

So that is our day in a nutshell.  Although it is somewhat tedious to live by a timer, it works for our family.  The Sweet Pea Kids even ask if it has been set! We usually start “school” at 8 and finish by 1 or 2 pm.  This system takes longer than if I barreled through the day or worked in longer time blocks.   Why I stick with it: all the kiddos get my attention through the course of every hour, and their learning time is paired with playtime, which makes them happier scholars when it’s time to focus.

To add variety, sometimes we will homeschool in different settings.  On occation, I set up in the kitchen.  We have three outdoor areas at our home that are available when the weather is good.  Other days, we have gone to the library or a park with a segment of the day’s work for all of us to have a change of scenery.

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We also take the time to do activites outside of the home throughout the week or month.  Most Friday mornings are spent outdoors.  We take advantage of children’s programs at museums or the mall in our area.  There have been times when we participate in programs at the zoo.   A great benefit to homeschooling is the flexibilty to take a “field trip” on off-peak days.  This allows us to spend a whole day out with the kids enjoying an attraction with little to no lines.  I plan one “field trip” every month.

140122 wwSPF.4BLOG ww 1113 spf.4Another way to keep ourchildren motivated is to have what we call a “Reading Day” or a “Reading Week”.  Aside from the read-alouds, the older set have 7-8 subjects we work through every day; and the younger set have about 4-5*.  “Reading” means that all we do on those days are the read alouds; plus their own grade-level reading, math and logic. All Thursdays are “Reading Day” because that is the day we host preschool.  It lowers the stress level considerably by scheduling less. If we focus, we are finished before the parents and children arrive for the Preschool Playdate, then they have the rest of the day to play.  In addition, every six weeks I schedule a “Reading Week”.  All of us enjoy those!

Over the last year, the younger two have decided that maybe they want to stick around the school room even if it isn’t their turn with me.  I am a believer that the younger children learn by osmosis, so they are welcome to be around while I am teaching the older children as long as they are not distracting us. They can paint, use play dough, do puzzles, play quiet games (memory, dominoes), etc.  There is an expectation that they must play quietly so the older siblings can focus on their learning activities.

If the preschooler and the kindergartener do not want to play quietly, then they are asked to go play away from the school area, or to help the nanny who will put them to work. If they opt to help out, it is a passive opportunity to learn life skills.  By helping with laundry or with meal prep, they are learning skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.  In addition, as they help, they are still learning: sorting (math), recipes (reading), measuring (math), mixing (chemistry!), in addition to exercising their gross and fine motor skills…it’s all good.

Now you know what homeschooling looks like for our family.  If you homeschool, how does it work at your house?

Check out the Homechooling page under the RESOURCES tab for links to our favorite homeschooling websites.

*School Subjects
For Puma and Night Owl:  Science, Spelling, Reading, Language Arts, Handwriting, Creative Expression (writing), Math, Logic, Spanish, French
For Charger and Otter: Reading, Math, Logic, Handwriting, Spanish

Tuesday Tips: Busy Books

We are going to be taking a few road trips this summer, so when my friends posted THIS link, I was intrigued.  A portable activity kit could definitely entertain our kiddos on the road.

I also thought that they would have the added benefit of keeping the little Sweet Peas entertained when I was reading out loud to the older kiddos during our morning school session.  So far they have been a big hit.

I am sharing our modifications and some new ideas that occurred to me based on the skills we want to improve. I decided to start from scratch with most of the activity cards instead of printing off the provided links for a couple of reasons. I want to provide a print-rich environment, so I added words to many of the activities.  In addition, I also want everything the Sweet Peas see to be bi-lingual so that they are exposed to both of the languages we speak in the house in print as well as sound.  (Even when some of the activities had words, they were English- only. )

The books were such a big hit with Otter and Charger! Puma and Night Owl were also flipping through the books, checking out the different activities.  I felt badly that I hadn’t created something for them, so when the opportunity presented itself, I bought more supplies to create books with age-appropriate activities for them.  They helped me choose what they wanted in their books.

As far as the little Sweet Peas go, I am thrilled that they are enjoying their books and looking for new pockets to unzip.  I loved all the printables (free!) on the Busy Little Bugs site. I am thinking that I will have to go back there to the to find new games that I can swap out periodically so that the littles do not get bored doing the same activities.  Ideally, I would like to have twenty different “busy bags” with activities to rotate through, maybe putting in five zip pockets at a time into the Busy Books, and letting them choose their favorites when it’s time to hit the road.

We are three days into having these books around, and every day I still hear (several times a day!), “Where is my Busy Book?” YEAH!


  1. Links to all the websites I used to make the Busy Books are at the bottom of the post.
  2. If you would like my English/Spanish activity cards, then please send an email to sweetpeafamilies@gmail.com.  I will send you the file I used so you can print them out for your Sweet Peas.
  3. Felt sticks to itself!! You probably knew this – I am thrilled since it is new to my memory bank! Saved all the leftovers – looking forward to cutting it up and using it for future activities.
  4. Cardstock and Con-Tact® Laminate paper are the best! I wish I had picked up the cardstock the first time around at the store.  Since I didn’t and I am not patient when my mind is set on finishing something, most of the activity cards are printed on regular copy paper.   Still okay – the laminate paper make them durable enough to get good use out of them.  In the future and for any recipients of Busy Book gifts, we will definitely use cardstock.

Charger’s Book (5 years old)BLOG Busy Book Overview

Felt Name Board with letters color-coded for vowels and consonantsBLOG Busy Book Name

Shape-MatchBLOG Busy Book Shapes

Buttons + Boards for sortingBLOG Busy Book Sorting

Counting Cards 1-10 odd/even color-codedBLOG Busy Book Numbers

Memory Game / Puzzle Cards

BLOG Busy Book Memory

Charger’s pieces double as a puzzle and a memory game; I chose a fun chevron print for the top-side of Otter’s game

Color Card MatchBLOG Busy Book Rainbow

“Copycat” bags: Felt “Snake”, Velcro Craft Sticks, Before & After number game from Busy Little BugsBLOG Busy Book Copycat

Mona MELisa Sticker Playset – we store it in a page protector sleeve so that the sleeve also serves as sticker storage.


Image from Mona MELisa Webpage


Otter’s Book (2.5 years old)

  • Felt Name Board with letters and shapes
  • Shape-Match Buttons + Board for sorting BLOG Busy Book Toddler Sort
  • Counting Cards 1-10 odd/even color-coded – Otter’s set has pom-poms to put on the circles – she is still having a hard time with the mini-clothespins.  She reminded me that she can use the big ones 😉 I tried to explain to her that they don’t fit in the bags and we’ll have to save those for the schoolroom games.
  • Felt “Snake”
  • Velcro Craft Sticks
  • Memory Game
  • Color Card Match
  • Mona MELisa Sticker Playset – we store it in a page protector sleeve so that the sleeve also serves as sticker storage.

    Blog Busy Books TRVLPPPONY-1

    Image from Mona MELisa Webpage

Puma’s book (nine years old): BLOG Busy Book Puma

  • Felt shapes for creative design
  • Beads + Cord for jewelry making
  • Horse coloring pages
  • Memory Game
  • Mona MELisa Sticker Playset – we store it in a page protector sleeve so that the sleeve also serves as sticker storage.

Image from Mona MELisa Webpage 


Night Owl’s book (six years old):BLOG Busy Books Owl

  • Sorting Cards + Buttons
  • Velcro Craft Sticks
  • Knights (Printed on cardstock /laminated.  They stand-up for play and fold flat for storage)
  • Memory Game (Dragon Images + a Bowman Family Crest for top-side)
  • Dragon Coloring Pages


Link List

Inspiration Post From Mama.Papa.Bubba blog

Busy Little Bugs – Printable activities

Travel Play Sets – Mona MELisa Designs

Chevron Paper

Pirate ship background turned puzzle

Flowers for Puma’s Memory Game

Google Searches
Knight Images
Horse coloring pages
Dragon coloring pages



Tuesday Tips: Cultivating Exercise

BLOG ww spf 130925.3This article is a part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering hosted by GrowingSlowerEvery Breath I TakeI Thought I Knew MamaAfrican Babies Don’t Cry, and Adventures of Captain Destructo. This month’s topic is Movement. Be sure to check out all of the participants’ posts through the links at the bottom of this page.

Prompt:  It is so important for us moms to be physically active and to cultivate that in our kids. Important but not easy! How do you make time movement or exercise? How do you encourage it for your kids?

Dance has been part of my life since I started taking lessons as a child around three or four years of age.  The easiest way to get our children moving has been by sharing that love with them.  Regardless of gender, as soon as they are old enough, our children are registered in a combo class at the dance studio.  If their level of interest increases, then we encourage them to enroll in more classes.  If not, we continue with once a week for their combo class that includes tap, ballet and tumbling.

In addition to dancing in their classes, we usually get a nightly dance show of some kind.  The Sweet Peas put on their music, plan out a playlist, and set a performance order.  After a brief rehearsal, my husband and I are called in to watch the evening entertainment.  These occasions are completely organic – we have never had to ask them to do this.  It just started happening on it’s own and has now become an almost nightly after-dinner tradition.

We want ALL our children to take advantage of the benefits of dance: learning rhythm, moving in opposition and in sync, the confidence, the carriage and the sense of movement and space that comes from learning to dance.  I am saddened when I hear mothers say their partners would NEVER let their sons dance.  They are missing out on a great opportunity, and chances are that if they really have a bug for it, they will find their way to it eventually.

We are equal opportunity dancers in our family because both my husband and I enjoy dancing – it’s how we met in the first place!  As a ballroom dance instructor, some of my best students were professional or amateur athletes who came in to learn to partner dance.  It has long been known that some male athletic teams enroll their players in ballet classes to improve their balance and coordination.  We have no issues with our sons enjoying dancing and tumbling as much as our daughters.

Another way we add movement to our day is by walking our dogs.  That is something we could stand to do more often!  Since we have a decent-sized yard, it is not at the top of the list when our days are full.  I know I need to move more so that I can shed the extra fluff I put on growing babies, so one of my intentions this year is to get back to a “walk a day” habit.  It provides a great opportunity to breathe in fresh air and have some one-on-one time with our son that likes to walk his dog when I take out our other four-legged friend.

We also practice yoga – another “before kids” habit we have shared with our children.  We go to classes or we practice in our home.  We are so fortunate to have a studio that offers children’s classes near our home.  We want the Sweet Peas to participate because of the way yoga strengthens the body, and because it teaches about breath and harmony.  That deep abdominal breathing, reflection and introspection that are part of the whole yoga experience are a great foundation for dealing with stress in a healthy way.

As far as tying movement into our homeschool day, we have a dance break or create obstacle courses to break up the sitting and listening time.  When we do an obstacle course, we set them up inside or outside, depending on the time of day and the weather.  I think of the old Sesame Street™ song, sung by Grover when I set up the course: Over, Under and Through.  The older kiddos like to help set these up. We encourage their creativity by putting out the elements and then have them design the run.  We use things like a tunnel purchased from IKEA, chairs, stools, exercise balls, laundry baskets, cones, tables (inside) and a baseball bat/tee (outside).

Our Sweet Peas are also enrolled in swimming lessons and horseback riding…and soon, we are adding sports to the repertoire.  Our goal as parents is to expose them to as many different ways to move and exercise so that they can find their own favorite for a lifetime of enjoyment.

Parenting wisdom tells us that the best example the Sweet Peas can learn from is one that they see.  I commit to being active by working out three mornings a week with a trainer who comes to our home.  If I didn’t have him there, I know I wouldn’t work out because there is always something to occupy the time.  My husband is much more disciplined in this area – he will get on the elliptical machine a few times a week without needing someone to show up at the door.  We also go out on walks together on the days that our schoolwork is done and his work is done before the nanny has to go home.  Now that our children are older and I don’t have a round-the-clock nursling, we have started going out dancing again, too!  One of the styles we enjoy is Argentine Tango; going to the milongas (tango dance) is a family activity in Argentina.  We have started teaching the Sweet Peas and some day soon, we can all go out and do that together as a family.

BLOG ww 131016.5 tango

When they ask why we exercise, we tell them it is so that we can stay healthy to see them grow, and meet their children someday.  For me, movement it is not about losing weight.  I was not healthy as a dancer because I wanted to be a certain size, and I don’t want our children to have any negative associations with food and exercise.  I want our children to know that we will love them in whatever shape they grow into.  My primary goal is to teach them to love movement because their body needs it to be fit, be healthy and to stay strong.