Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Top 3 Posts from 2015

It is hard to believe it has almost been a year since I started this blog! It has been fun as well as a great learning experience for me.

As 2015 is drawing to a close, I just wanted to share with you my top 3 most-viewed blog posts from this year. If you missed any of these or if you would like to re-read them, now might be a good time! :)

Here they are:

#3 - Teaching My 7 Year Old to Have Daily Quiet Time

In this post, written soon after Big Brother turned 7, I shared how he was beginning to learn how to have his own daily quiet time with the Lord.

#2 - You Might Be a Homeschooler If...

This was definitely a FUN post to write! Here you can find 75 guaranteed ways to tell if you just might be a homeschooler!

#1 - Learning with LEGO: History & Geography

This post has been all over Pinterest! I just shared a few simple ways we have used LEGO to study history and geography in our homeschool.

Have you been reading this blog for a while? What has been your favorite post so far? What kinds of posts would you enjoy reading here in 2016? Feel free to leave me a comment!!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Cumberland Gap Field Trip

Even though homeschooling is technically out right now for Christmas break, learning never really stops around here! ;)

Before starting our break, the last person Big Brother had read about in history was Daniel Boone. Since we live in Kentucky, this part of American history is especially interesting to us.

Daniel Boone is best known for exploring and settling Kentucky. He paved the way for thousands of pioneers to move west through the Cumberland Gap.

Cumberland Gap is now a beautiful National Park. While making our annual trip to visit family in the region, we decided to take a field trip there.

There is a nice visitor's center at the park, and there are no admission fees whatsoever. We enjoyed browsing through the small museum and gift shop. There is a theater upstairs where we watched 2 different short films.

The first film was about the natural phenomena of the Cumberland Gap itself. Other than several references to "millions of years," this film was interesting.

The second film was more about Daniel Boone and the historical significance of Cumberland Gap. Big Brother really enjoyed this film the most. (This film did depict some violence, and some children might find the scenes where Boone's sons are killed disturbing. Big Brother had already read about these events and was expecting to see them depicted. Just use your own judgement here.)

Outside there was a real Civil War canon. We learned that during the Civil War, both armies at one time or other controlled Cumberland Gap as it was a very strategic location. But there were no major battles fought there.

There are all kinds of hiking trails in the park, and visitors can actually walk some of the original trails used by Boone and the pioneers. We did not have time to do this, but we did make a quick drive up to the Pinnacle Overlook to see the amazing view of Cumberland Gap and the surrounding towns and scenery from its height. It was absolutely beautiful!!!

I love how homeschooling really allows us the freedom to explore Big Brother's interests this way...even when "school" is out!!!

For more information about Cumberland Gap, or to start planning a fun field trip of your own, click here

Friday, December 11, 2015

Scripture Memory for Toddlers

Reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture are a top priorities in our homeschool. I want my children's shield of faith to be strong, and the Bible tells us "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks!!

I have mentioned before that we are using the Scripture Talk DVD this year in our little homeschool co-op. Big Brother and his friends are having lots of fun learning passages of Scripture together once a week. Big Brother also spends time each morning at home reciting his verses and doing the accompanying hand motions.

However, I had no idea how much Little Brother (now 19 1/2 months old) would enjoy learning verses as well!

At first he would just watch in awe as Big Brother recited and then would perhaps try copy some of the motions. Something about the poetic flow of the words (another reason to love the KJV) seemed to have a calming effect on him, so at naptime or during diaper changes I would recite the Bible verses for him, much to his delight.

Over the past few weeks, we have realized that Little Brother has been memorizing these Scripture passages! I will begin quoting one of our passages, and if I stop, he continues on with the next word or phrase. Many times he will crawl up in my lap and start doing some of our Scripture hand motions, indicating that he wants to recite verses. He has happily spent as much as half an hour at a time totally engaged in this!

His favorite passage so far seems to be Matthew 7:24-27, the parable of the wise man and the foolish man. We pat our knees to say "the rains descended," then raise our hands when we say " and the floods came," and then we wave our arms for "and the winds blew (or 'bwew' as he says). Then his favorite part (which he says very well as he claps his hands together loudly) "and BEAT upon dat house!" It is just so sweet, and even though many of his words are not so clear, he definitely knows them all!

So far in this manner he has learned:
Matthew 7:24-27
Psalm 1
Mark 12:28-34
Psalm 100 (Not on the Scripture Talk DVD, but we made up our own hand motions for this one.)

Similarly, he has learned the words of both "Amazing Grace" and "What a Day That Will Be" quite unexpectedly. Those are the songs Daddy always sings to him when he rocks him at bedtime. :)

I am sharing all this not to brag, but to hopefully encourage and inspire those of you who have babies and toddlers. THEY REALLY ARE LISTENING AND WATCHING!! Their brains right now have the ability to learn and soak up language more than they will have at any other time in their lives. What an amazing season of opportunity we have RIGHT NOW! Yes nursery rhymes are fun and lullabies are sweet, but how much better to teach them early to love the Words of Life?!

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7

 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Monday, November 30, 2015

Our 2015 Jesse Tree

With a toddler on the loose at our house this year, we have decided it would be best if we leave our regular Christmas tree in the box. We have no place to put it this year where it would be safe from his curiosity.

So in place of our traditional Christmas tree, we made a simple tree out of construction paper for our living room wall. (I made sure to place it high enough to be out of Little Brother's reach!)

This year our tree is a Jesse Tree. It is fun way to count down the days til Christmas while completing daily Scripture readings that point us to the birth of Jesus! The basis for the Jesse Tree idea is found in the book of Isaiah chapter 11. This is where Isaiah prophesies of the coming of the Savior saying, "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots."

The Scripture readings begin in Genesis and from December 1-25 we will see how all of the Old Testament points to Christ. For each day's Scripture, there is a picture or symbol to place on the tree.

This year, we are using free materials I printed from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler. She has the daily pictures in both black & white and in color. I glued the black & white pictures on our Jesse Tree this morning. Beginning tomorrow as we read each Scripture, we will place the color version of each picture on top of the black & white version. This way we will have a fun way to see how many days are left until Christmas as our tree becomes more colorful each day until we finally reach the star at the top.

I first heard of the concept of a Jesse Tree last year when Big Brother and I went through the Jesse Tree LEGO Challenge at Proverbial Homemaker We really enjoyed that challenge! Big Brother did the LEGO builds each day, and we pasted each picture in his Bible notebook.

Some people use a regular Christmas tree for their Jesse Tree. We may do that another year! For now, our wall tree is much safer! ;-)

Tomorrow I plan to decorate the top of our big upright piano with lights, garland, and a couple nativity scenes. After all, JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!!!!

How do you keep your Christmas season focussed on Christ? Have you ever done a Jesse Tree? How do you decorate with toddlers in mind? I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences! Feel free to leave a comment!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bless A Child With A Shoebox Gift!

This morning we delivered our family's shoebox gifts to our local Operation Christmas Child Collection Center. The center is located at a church close by and is staffed by volunteers from our community. We were greeted with lots of friendly smiles and homemade cookies. :)

With National Collection Week soon coming to a close for 2015, I just want to urge you to consider packing a shoebox gift for a needy child. There is still time! Drop Off locations are open through Monday, November 23, 2015.

At our Collection Center, we were able to pick up free Operation Christmas Child brochures, bookmarks, ornaments, stickers, prayer cards, magnets, ink pens, packing lists, balloons, and much more. We also got to see pictures taken by volunteers from our area who have actually been overseas to deliver shoebox gifts. There was also a table that had simple crafts and neat ideas for things that could be included in shoeboxes for next year.

We also got to take a look at what The Greatest Journey discipleship program materials look like. The Greatest Journey is a follow-up Bible study program for Operation Christmas Child shoebox recipients.

The booklets look awesome! Big Brother enjoyed looking at them, so I know children worldwide are going to love them, too!

I love, love, LOVE how this ministry provides a way for children to minister to other children! Click here to download a FREE OCC Let's Be Friends coloring sheet to have your children color and place inside their shoebox gifts! Your child just might make a new friend through Operation Christmas Child!

So now, our family is eagerly waiting to find out where our shoebox "Gospel opportunities" will go thanks to the Follow Your Box option! Big Brother says he hopes our shoeboxes will be sent to little boys somewhere in Africa. We shall see! I will post an update as soon as we get that info!!

Again, if you have not yet...pack Your shoebox gift today! Each one is an opportunity to share Hope and the love of Jesus with a hurting child.

Visit Samaritan's Purse for more information about this amazing ministry and to find out how you can be a part of Operation Christmas Child all year long!!

Images courtesy of Samaritans Purse

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The ABC's of Homeschool Advice

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a homeschool graduate who is now a homeschool mom. I was homeschooled for 7 years, and my 3rd grade son is currently in his 5th year of homeschooling.

Today I want to share with you what I am calling "The ABC'S of Homeschool Advice." Some of these are inspirational; some are more practical, but hopefully all will be helpful!

A - Accept your God-given calling as a parent to teach your children.

B - Begin each day with God.

C - Character building is more important than any academic subject.

D - Dress for the day. (This was one of my mom's rules that I have continued in our homeschool. Yes, we could spend the day in our PJs...but we feel more alert and ready to learn if we are dressed.)

E - Enjoy your children!

F - Follow your child's interests.

G - Give your children opportunities to serve others: beginning with their own family.

H - Homeschooling does not always have to happen at home! Take field trips, go on nature walks, and meet up with friends for co-op classes.

I - Inspire your children to love learning new things.

J - Join HSLDA!

K - Keep good records of your homeschooling adventures.

L - Let go of the public school's schedule, methods, and mindset.

M - Motivate your children with positive reinforcement. "You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar!"

N - Never let school interfere with your child's education. (From a quote by Mark Twain)

O - Object to further state regulation of homeschooling!

P - Protect your marriage. Don't let all the busyness of homeschooling cause you to neglect your relationship with your spouse.

Q - Quit worrying about "socialization!"

R - Read. A. Lot. 'Nuff said

S - Surround yourself with people who will support you in your decision to homeschool and will be there for you along the way. A good support group, family members, and church family can all be a blessing!

T - Turn off the TV and interact with your family.

U - Understand that each child is unique with his or her own strengths, weaknesses, interests, and learning styles.

V - Visit your local library regularly.

W - Workboxes are a lifesaver!

X - EXcitement is contagious! When you get excited about your homeschool activities, your children will likely follow your lead.

Y - You know your children better than anyone else. You ARE qualified to teach them.

Z - Zoom through your housework by implementing easy routines.

I hope you found this little ABC list helpful! At some point I would like to do a blog post focussing on each of these little nuggets of wisdom one at a time. What other homeschool advice could you share?

Linking up at: I Choose Joy, Growing in Grace, Fellowship Friday, Faith Filled Friday, TGI Saturday, Dare to Share

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why is the Ocean Salty? Science Experiment

This week in science, Big Brother is exploring the Ocean!

The question was posed, "Why is the Ocean salty?" He read about how the rivers that flow into the oceans carry minerals like salt with them when they empty into the oceans. We also talked about how some water from the ocean evaporates each day. We believe God created the ocean to be salty.

We did this simple experiment that was suggested by his textbook reading yesterday. I like easy experiments that I can put together quickly! This one gave us an opportunity to discuss some important vocabulary like mineral, dissolve, solution, and evaporate.

Here's what we needed:

liquid measuring cup
small saucepan

Here's what we did

1. Big Brother measured 1 cup of water from the tap into the liquid measuring cup.

2. He measured out 4 Tablespoons of salt and dumped them into the water. As he measured out the salt, We talked about how salt is a mineral. He remembered that a mineral is made up of things that were never alive.

3. He took a spoon and stirred to help dissolve the salt into the water to make a solution. Then he carefully poured the saltwater solution into the saucepan.

4. He turned on the stovetop burner to heat the saucepan. We allowed the water to boil for awhile as we continued our science reading for the day. We observed the steam as the water in the pan began to evaporate.

5. We waited for all the water to evaporate, and then checked to see what was left in the pan. We discovered that there was a lot of salt in the pan...over a cup!

So the ocean is getting saltier because salt is always going in without going back out again.

We are both enjoying 3rd grade science!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Operation Christmas Child 2015

It's that time of year! This week (November 16 to 23, 2015) is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child!

If your family has packed a shoebox gift, this is the week you need to make sure your box gets to a designated OCC drop off location. You can visit the OCC website to find a location near you.

Never heard of Operation Christmas Child? OCC is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief organization founded by Franklin Graham (son of famous evangelist Billy Graham). Each year people from the U.S., Canada, and several other countries fill simple shoeboxes with small gifts for needy children around the world. Shoebox gifts are always collected the week before Thanksgiving. OCC has blessed MILLIONS of needy children worldwide with gifts and the Gospel message!

Anyone can pack a shoebox for OCC! I have participated in this ministry since I was a teenager, and I am blessed now to pass on this annual tradition on to my boys.

Yesterday, Big Brother and I went "shoebox shopping" together. Before we left home we set a budget, decided how many shoeboxes we were going to pack, and determined the gender and ages for our gifts. (Shoeboxes should be designated for either a boy or girl, and the age categories are 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14). This year, Big Brother wanted to do 3 "boy" boxes: one for a boy in each age group.

We shopped at our local Dollar Tree and Wal-Mart stores. This is a very good activity for Big Brother because it gives him the chance to practice thinking about the needs of others rather than his own wants and desires.

We had so much fun shopping around and picking out specific items to go in each shoebox! Big Brother helped load and unload items as we checked out at the registers. When we got home, he helped to sort out the items into groups and we worked together to figure out the best way to get all the gifts to fit in each shoebox (this is not always an easy task!!).

Here's a list of what we included in our OCC Shoeboxes this year!

Each shoebox got:

-Travel size toothbrush & toothpaste
-Colored Pencils
-Bar of Soap
-Baggie of Hard Candy
-Pencil Sharpener
-Toy Cars
-Mini Thomas the Train Toy
-Top Toy


Boy Age 2-4

-Sippy Cup
-Small Bowl & Spoon set
-Hand Puppet
-Farm Board Book
-Mini Elmo figurine
-Stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh
-Small Package of Wipes
- 2 Pairs of Mittens

Boy Age 5-9

-Paddleball game
-Tic-Tac-Toe Travel Game
-Slinky Toy
-Ink Pens
-Mickey Mouse Coloring Book
-Glue Stick

Boy Age 10-14

-Same as 5-9 plus a small LEGO set instead of Slinky toy
-Also gave this box extra pens & pencils instead of a coloring book

Of course, the most important thing to pack in any shoebox gift is a PRAYER! We will be praying for the child who will be receiving each of these shoebox gifts. We pray that He will bless these children and give them an opportunity to hear and accept the Gospel. We also pray that the Lord will go before those who will distribute the shoeboxes and that each child will receive the exact gifts they need!

Be sure to check the website to see a list of items that are OK and items that are not OK to put in your shoeboxes.

A $7 donation is requested for each gift-filled shoebox that is donated to Operation Christmas Child. This just helps cover the cost of shipping these gifts to the uttermost parts of the earth. It also helps provide each shoebox recipient with a Gospel storybook in his/her own language and the opportunity to attend a Bible class where they can learn more about Jesus and receive a Bible. What a wonderful ministry!

We are blessed to have a Shoebox Collection Center (staffed each year by volunteers) located at a church less than 2 miles from our home. From this local drop-off point, our shoeboxes will then be transported by semi-truck to one of the OCC Processing Centers where teams of volunteers check each box for safety and prepare them for their journey to a needy child.

In recent years, OCC has added the "Follow Your Box" option so that we are able to see to exactly which country (or countries) our shoebox gifts go! They send an email that also gives lots of information about the country. This makes for a very meaningful geography lesson!

We usually try to include a personal note in each shoebox as well. If you are comfortable including your mailing address, the recipient of your gift might just send you a letter back! My brother ended up with a pen-pal from Malawi that he corresponded with for a few years as a child because of Operation Christmas Child.

So of you have not yet filled your shoebox for this year, you still have a little time! If are too busy to go out and shop, you can actually fill a box online!

This is such a simple missions project that practically anyone can do, and this ministry is really making and impact in the lives of desperate children in need of hope all over the world. I encourage you to consider joining us in spreading the love of Jesus to hurting little ones through the power of a simple shoebox!

Visit Operation Christmas Child for more information!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tot School: Color Game (18 Months)

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At 18 months old and full of boundless energy, Little Brother is learning and growing by leaps and bounds every day!

We are working a lot on learning colors. His ABeka Nursery Arts & Crafts book has been great as it has different activities to focus on a new color each month. He has done lots of coloring, fingerpainting, Q-Tip painting, and pasting torn up construction paper to make collages.

He also loves playing with different colors of Play-Doh (mostly he loves tearing it into the tiniest pieces possible and scattering the pieces onto the freshly vacuumed living room carpet...ahem).

Yesterday I made a very simple color matching file folder game for him.

What I Used:

- 1 plain file folder
- 9 sheets of construction paper (9 different colors)
- glue stick
- scissors
- pen
- Play-Doh can lid (for tracing circles)
- clear Duck tape (use a laminator if you have one...I do not)
- markers or crayons to match the construction paper colors

Step 1 -

Trace 2 circles on each sheet of construction paper. Cut them out.

Step 2 -

Paste one circle of each color onto the inside of the file folder. Write the color word under each circle using a matching marker or crayon.

Step 3 -

Laminate each of the remaining circles. I do not have a laminator, but I did happen to have a roll of clear Duck tape! Works just as well! ;-) You just want these little game pieces to be somewhat sturdy before eager little hands get hold of them! I have a Ziploc baggie for storing them. It stays in the file folder.

To Play:

Match the play pieces to the correct color on the file folder!

I introduced the game to Little Brother this morning, and it surprised me how long it held his attention. We spent around 15 minutes practicing saying and signing color words as I helped him figure out how to match up the pieces.

He had never done any kind of matching game like this before, so this is great practice for him. The more we play together, the better he will get. And it's fun!

Later on I will probably make more of these as he moves on to learning shapes and eventually letters and numbers. You could also easily make matching games like this using pictures from any number of themes (holidays, animals, favorite books, pictures of family members, etc.).

These little games are great because they are quick to make, they take up very little space, and they can be easily stored on a bookshelf or in a file box.

Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for more great Tot School ideas!!

Did you find this post inspiring? Feel free to Pin and share! Let me know if you make a game like this of your own! I would love to hear about it!

Linking up at: Tot School Gathering Place, TGI Saturday, Growing in Grace, Hip Homeschool Blog Hop

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Learning Wrap-Ups in Our Homeschool

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks!!

Big Brother is working hard at learning his multiplication tables in math this year. He is doing very well with the 3rd grade Rod & Staff curriculum we use, but I know he needs plenty of practice to make sure he really knows his facts.

So he has been using a set of Multiplication Learning Wrap-Ups for some independent extra math practice. I had no idea he would enjoy using them quite so much! (When was the last time you had to tell your 7 year old it was time to please stop practicing his multiplication tables??)

Learning Wrap-Ups are pretty simple to use. The child starts at the top of the plastic key works his way down wrapping the string around to point to correct answers. Then he can simply unwind the string and do it again!

There are several different kinds of Learning Wrap-Ups available covering various subjects. I would love to get Big Brother more sets soon. (They would be perfect stocking stuffers!)

I love manipulatives like this that make learning a fun, multi-sensory experience! Learning Wrap-Ups appeal to all types of learners. Kinesthetic learners will appreciate being able to physically wrap the string around to point to the correct answers. Visual learners will like being able to see the string matching answers to the facts. Auditory learners will want to say the facts out loud as they wrap the string around the key.

Learning Wrap-Ups can easily be used independently by the student since they are self-checking. All Big Brother has to do is turn the Learning Wrap-Up over and immediately he can see if he matched the answers correctly.

They are great for putting into Big Brother's workboxes. If I need to tend to Little Brother or some household chore, I can give him Learning Wrap-Ups to work on until I get back. So handy!! They are also great for travel.

You can click here to find many sets of Learning Wrap-Ups that are available! Do you use these in your homeschool? I would love to hear about it!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Homeschooling Through Busy Times

One of the great things about homeschooling is that we have lots of freedom and flexibility with our schedules!

But even knowing this, sometimes homeschooling through busy times can still seem overwhelming.

We recently went through a 10-day busy period while my family and I were very actively involved in a Share-a-thon (sort of a fun mix between an old-fashioned revival campmeeting and a fundraising event) at a Christian outreach ministry in our community. While this is something our whole family really enjoys and looks forward to working in twice a year, there were lots of quickly grabbed suppers, very late nights, really rough mornings, and a pretty distracted homeschool teacher and student!

Here are some things that helped us manage to keep our homeschool afloat during this very busy time:

Know Your Priorities

Knowing which school subjects or activities are the most important to your family can help you better determine the things that really need to get accomplished. If you really need to do a math lesson each day to stay on target, then you will want to focus on at least getting that done. Or if Bible time or reading are most important to you, then focus your school time energy during those busy times on getting those done.

During our busy time, I knew if we could at least get Bible, math, and spelling accomplished for the week, we were doing fine. Those were our top priorities at the time. We actually managed to get in much more, but those were the most important. Having that in my mind kept me from feeling overwhelmed or worrying that we were getting behind.

Life is School

Do not underestimate the importance of simple life lessons that can take place in the midst of all the busyness.

Chores and housework are worthwhile activities both for us and our children. Whether you call it "Home Economics" or simply "Life Skills," these are very important, character-building learning experiences; and it is perfectly OK to focus on those sometimes!

What is the nature of your "busyness?" If you think about it, I am sure you can find something worthwhile and educational in what you are doing for your homeschooler(s).

Participating in the Share-a-thon included some fun learning activities for Big Brother! Just as a few examples, he was able to talk on live radio (science/technology/public speaking), help figure up fundraising totals (math), recite Scriptures (Bible/public speaking), as well as listen to and sing along with some great Gospel music and hymns (music)! So even though we were supper busy and were not on our "normal" homeschool schedule, learning was still taking place. And it was meaningful!

Fill in the Gaps in Fun Ways

We put our history textbook work on hold for those 10 days. We were up to the beginning of the War for Independence, so Big Brother enjoyed listening to some dramatized history stories about that time period on tape. While this was not our "normal" history curriculum, it was very enriching. This was something he could do on his own while I was busy preparing a simple, quick meal! And once our busy season was over, he was able to really get excited about reading about that time period in his History book.

If there are subjects like this that have to be put on hold through a busy season, try finding a fun and/or simpler alternative to fill in that gap until things calm down at your house.

And It Came to Pass

I have heard it jokingly said that some of the sweetest words in the entire Bible is the phrase "And it came to pass." Busyness and being "off" your routine does not last forever. Soon life will calm back down and things will be back to "normal." Just realizing that adjustments needed only to be made for a season helped relieve much of the stress for me and I was able to actually enjoy this time much more.

Not every busy season our families face involves something as nice as a Share-a-thon event or revival meeting. Maybe you are going through a time of sickness, a move, the loss of a loved one, or some other kind of busy season. We all hit those times. Hopefully the ideas I have shared here can also apply in those situations.

Remember, homeschooling is real life schooling. Our students are learning in everything we do together, not just by studying their textbooks while sitting at a desk from 8 to 3 every weekday! Don't let seasons of busyness or stress get you in a bind. Stick to your priorities and embrace the many learning experiences God sends your way!

How do you handle busy times as a homeschooler?

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How We Start Our Homeschool Day

I like to think of homeschooling as more than just an educational choice. It is a way of life! And just like in life, there are good days and...not so good days. How our day begins many times determines what the rest of the day will be like, so getting the day off to a good start is pretty important for us!

I am always tweaking and playing around with our schedule. If something is working out great, we keep it in our routine. If not, we try something else.

There are a few things that have been working for us lately to set the tone for a good homeschool day. All of these things happen in the morning before Big Brother ever sits down at his desk to work.

This post contains some affiliate links. Thanks!

A good morning starts the night before!

As much preparation as I can do the night before the better. If I already have Big Brother's assignments and the materials he needs for completing them loaded into his workboxes the night before, that saves us a ton of time and chaos! I also like to get the dry erase board ready for the next day's Board Work (see below).

Also, I have found having the kitchen and living room cleaned up before bed makes for a better morning. It doesn't take so long to get a good breakfast ready when I don't have dishes to wash or messes to clean up beforehand. Big Brother's workboxes and desk are in the living room, so being able to get to those areas in the morning without having to step over piles of toys is a blessing, too!

Getting a good nights rest instead of staying up late reading, watching videos, or surfing the web also helps to make everybody happier in the morning! If for some reason we are late getting to bed, I love having the freedom to allow a little extra sleep time in the morning.


Lately I have been turning on a Bluegrass Gospel hymns CD in the morning as we are going about our morning chores and breakfast. I don't know of anything that will wake you up and get you going quite like banjo music! :) The boys love it, and the hymns are a real blessing by turning our hearts and thoughts toward the Lord. And there's just something so sweet to me as a mother watching Big Brother load the washing machine while singing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." :)

Bible Time & Prayer

I have determined that even if we are not able to accomplish anything else during our day, if we have had Bible and prayer time then we have done the most important thing. My biggest goal as a homeschool mom is to help my boys take up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16), so I want to make faith-building a #1 priority.

Big Brother and I spend some quiet time reading our Bibles. He is currently working through Gotta Have God 2, a devotional book for boys ages 6-9. I enjoy reading a chapter along with my online Good Morning Girls. Big Brother also spends a few minutes quoting his memory work. Little Brother dearly loves joining in and doing the motions that go with the verses we are memorizing using the Scripture Talk DVD!

I am so thankful as a homeschooling mom to also have the freedom and the time to kneel down and pray aloud with my boys every morning! We all look forward to praying together. Both boys are quick to remember when it is prayer time, and they take it seriously. How wonderful it is to join with them in thanking God for His many blessings and asking for His grace for the day ahead. And Little Brother's little "Amen!" at the end is just so precious!!! :)

Board Work

After Bible and prayer time, we usually do some work at the dry erase board on the wall. I usually use this time to introduce any new concepts Big Brother might be encountering in his work that day. I write a few quick math problems up there just for some practice. I might also write a new English rule on the board for us to go over, or some new science or history vocabulary. We don't spend a whole lot of time on this (maybe 10 minutes or so), but it goes a long way toward helping him be ready for the day's school assignments.


We like to spend at least 30 minutes in the morning playing our homemade review games. We have 4 different sets of cards right now including: Math, English, History, and Science. I add new cards to our sets each week as he is learning new things. This has been a super fun way for him to review old facts as well as for me to gently introduce new material. Sometimes we play a memory match style game, and sometimes we play Go Fish! Big Brother has retained information he is learning in school so much better since we have started our daily game time!! Little Brother usually sits at the table with us and either colors or eats snacks during game time.

By this time, Big Brother is ready to get started on his homeschool assignments for the day. Starting the day out right with good preparation, uplifting music, God's Word, prayer, and FUN really helps to set the stage for a great homeschool day at our house!

What do mornings look like at your house? How do you get your homeschool day off to a good start? I would love to hear your ideas! Please feel free to share a comment!

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Monday, October 12, 2015

5 Simple Chores for an 18 Month Old!

I have already shared 32 Chore Ideas for a 7 Year Old.

Now, I want to share with you 5 Simple Chores for an 18 Month Old!

Little Brother will be 18 months old soon. He is definitely a handful, and making messes is his specialty! But he is our sweet little blessing, and he loves to be helpful!

So we have found a few simple "chores" that he is able to do around our home. While Little Brother doesn't have any interest in earning screen time like Big Brother does with his chores just yet, high fives and lots of praise go a long way with him right now. :)

Here are 5 simple chore ideas for an 18 month old:

1. Throwing away his diaper
We started teaching him to do this one a few weeks ago, and now he eagerly does it on his own after each diaper change. At first I would just carry him with me to the trash can and say, "Now we have to throw your diaper away!" as I dropped it in. Pretty soon he got the gist and started asking to do it himself. He is being helpful, and I figure this is a great way to start leading up to potty training at some point.

2. Picking up toys & books
He is the king of tearing out books and toys all over the living room, but most of the time he is also just as happy to help clean the mess back up! We have a few baskets that his toys and books go in, and when I ask him to clean up (and do the ASL sign), he is usually pretty eager to start grabbing things out of the floor and dropping them in the baskets. (But then of course it is also fun to dump everything back out and pick it all up again...and again...) ;)

3. Cleaning up his own little messes
Spills and dribbles are bound to happen with little people! When Little Brother spills something, often we will hand him a rag or towel and help him clean it up. Daddy has even let him "help" sweep up some cracker crumbs from under his chair. Again, Little Brother thinks this is all great fun!

4. Dusting
This one is a really big hit with my toddler! I do not particularly enjoy dusting...at all! But having Little Brother as an eager helper makes it fun. :) We have a big, old upright piano in our living room. I love it, but the shelves really collect alot of dust. Little Brother loves the "nano" just as much as I do (maybe more!) So dusting the "nano" is now his job. :) I put socks on his little hands and help him wipe all over that great big thing. Since it is so tall, I let him stand on the bench (with me standing there holding on) and wipe the upper shelves. For the very top I have to lift him up high and let him wipe. Could I do this job faster and easier by myself? Sure I could...but it would not be nearly as much fun! ;)

5. Gathering up dirty laundry
We sort out laundry into hampers that stay in the laundry closet. Many mornings there may be dirty clothes lying in the bathroom or bedrooms, so Little Brother can come with me and help gather them up and put them in the right hampers. This way everything is ready for Big Brother to get the day's laundry washed. Super simple, but also super helpful!

I could do any of these little chores myself and probably do them faster. BUT I feel this is as good a time as any, while he is still eager to please and full of energy, to start teaching my toddler how to take a little bit of age appropriate responsibility and to make a contribution to our home and family.

I hope you found this post helpful! What kinds of chores do the littlest helpers do in your family? Leave your ideas in the comments!!

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

32 Chore Ideas for a 7 Year Old

We are implementing a new chore system for Big Brother. Giving my 7 year old son chores to do is a win-win situation for everyone. He is learning important life skills and responsibility while I get some much appreciated help around our home.

Big Brother has responded extremely well to the motivational system I came up with for his school work. By doing all his homeschool assignments in a timely manner and completing his regular laundry job, he can earn an hour of screen time for any school day. Getting to watch DVDs is a big deal for him, so he is willing to work to earn that time.

However, he has been a little unhappy some days because he really wanted to be able to finish watching a show or movie that lasted longer than one hour. And he also had no way of earning his screentime on the weekends. So I decided I was more than willing to let him earn some more screen time! Introducing: our new chore system! ;)

On our refrigerator is a list of 32 chores that he can choose from to do in addition to his regular laundry job. Completing any one of these chores earns him 5 minutes of screen time.

Note that these are all things he is capable of doing either on his own or with a little instruction from me or Daddy. He does not actually have to do any of these chores. These are just extras he can do to help out and earn more screen time. He is free to choose to do as many or as few of these chores as he wishes in a day.

So here is the chore list he can choose from:

1. Sweep the kitchen
2. Clean the kitchen floor
3. Wipe off the table
4. Clean the countertops
5. Wash dishes
6. Put away dishes
7. Clean cabinet doors
8. Clean windows
9. Pick up the living room
10. Dust the living room
11. Vacuum the living room
12. Make his bed
13. Pick up in his bedroom
14. Vacuum his bedroom
15. Clean all doors
16. Clean all light switches
17. Clean all door knobs
18. Sweep the bathroom
19. Clean the bathroom floor
20. Clean the bathroom sink
21. Clean the bathroom mirror
22. Clean the toilet
23. Spray the tub
24. Pick up dirty laundry around the house and sort it out into baskets
25. Fold a load of clean laundry
26. Clean the baseboards
27. Throw away old food and leftovers in the fridge
28. Clean trash out of the van
29. Clean trash out of the car
30. Sweep the entryway
31. Vacuum the hallway
32. Vacuum Mom & Dad's room

Today was the first day of trying this new system. It is a Saturday. He willingly and eagerly completed 18 of these chores and earned 90 minutes of screen time for this evening!! Happy boy & happy Mom!!!!

What kind of system do you use for chores in your family? Do your children earn money or special priveleges by helping out around the house? What kind of chores do you have them do? Leave me a comment!!

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Monday, September 28, 2015

BEST DIY Tub/Shower Cleaner!

As I said in my last post, we are taking advantage of our fall break week by doing some home blessing! :)

Today I want to share a simple, 2 ingredient do-it-yourself tub/shower cleaner that has got our tub looking better than it has looked in over 3 years! :) It is totally safe, and does not have that agonizing smell of store bought tub cleaners. And best of all: it works wonders!!

BEST DIY Tub/Shower Cleaner!

What you will need:

* 1 cup of Blue Dawn dish soap
* 1 cup of white distilled vinegar
* Plastic spray bottle
* Sponge, scrub brush, or rag

Step 1 - Pour the cup of vinegar into a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Step 2 - Pour the warm vinegar into your spray bottle (if you happen to have a funnel it would make this step easier!).

Step 3 - Put the cup of Blue Dawn dish soap into the spray bottle and shake to mix.

Step 4 - Spray this lovely blue mixture all inside your tub/shower and let it sit for about 1 hour.

Step 5 - Rinse your tub/shower out with warm water. If it was pretty dirty, you may want to use a sponge, brush, and/or rag to wipe it out as well.

This little homemade cleaner got our tub sparkling clean! No harsh chemicals or ammonia smell to deal with either!

Have you ever tried making your own cleaning supplies? Tell me about it! I love comments! And don't forget to follow my Homemaking board on Pinterest for more great ideas!

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Baking Soda & Vinegar: The Dynamic Duo!

We are taking fall break this week! Big Brother is loving some time off from school and Daddy is off from work. We have a little vacation and some fun family activities planned for later on in the week, but right now I am taking this time to do some much-needed housecleaning home blessing! ;)

I feel like I am a horrible housekeeper most of the time. I am one of those creative messy types who can always dream up better things to do than clean my house.

Plus, with a toddler underfoot making 2 or 3 new messes for every one I clean up, housecleaning can sometimes seem as pointless as trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos...

BUT...I love my family, and I want them to have a home that is at least clean enough to live and eat in. So I try. :) I make an effort to learn simple ways to clean that even I can do. I read books and search Pinterest often in hopes of finding ways to be a better "keeper at home."

So I want to take a few posts here during our fall break and share some of the knowledge I have gained with you! :)

Baking Soda & Vinegar: The Dynamic Duo!

OK, so I am probably the last woman on earth to make this discovery; but did you know that you can really do some serious cleaning with baking soda and vinegar?! (And they make this really nice "fizz" when you mix them together that makes it kinda fun! Little boys might even be ready to help out with cleaning if you show them the "fizz!" It would make a neat little science lesson!)

For example, my stove had some pretty serious burned on food stains on and around the burners that I had never in 3 years been able to get to come clean. I try to give my stove a good wipe down after cooking, but I had tried soapy water and every kind of cleaner I could think of all to no avail. I had resigned that these ugly brown stains were there to stay. But then I read about the cleaning power of paste made from baking soda and vinegar, and I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try!

So I first removed the worst stained burner from the stove. I sprinkled a light coating of baking soda on the circle of food gunk that had built up around it. Then I added some droplets of vinegar (fizz!) Then I took a dish rag and started scrubbing.

Over three years worth of ugly burned on food gunk disappeared with very little effort!

My husband heard me exclaiming "OOOOHHH YEAH!" from the living room and came to see what I was so excited about. He was pretty impressed when he saw how clean the stovetop was! :) It had not looked that good since we moved in!

The burners were also pretty bad. I soaked them in the sink for a while with warm water and vinegar. I scrubbed them down with the baking soda/vinegar paste. Then I rinsed them off with warm soapy water. They still are not perfect, but they look 10 times better than before!

I got a little excited after my success in the kitchen and used this fizzy dynamic duo to clean the gunk out around the faucet on our bathroom sink. It worked great!

Two awesome things about cleaning with baking soda and vinegar:

1.) It's Natural! No weird or smelly chemicals. We use both for cooking, so they are totally safe!

2.) It's CHEAP! You can easily buy enough baking soda and vinger to last a very long time for just a couple $!

I hope you have found this post informative! How have you used baking soda & vinegar around the house? Leave your tips in the comments! For more helpful articles, be sure to follow my Homemaking board on Pinterest!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Resources for Teaching the Books of the Bible

One of Big Brother's goals for this year is to learn all 66 books of the Bible in order.

As a child, I learned the books of the Bible on my own by simply reading the names out of my Bible's table of contents and reciting them over and over. But Big Brother does not learn or retain material very well that way.

So we are using a fun, multisensory approach to learning the books of the Bible! Today I want to share some free resources and activities that have been helpful to us so far!


Songs always make memorizing easier! There are all kinds of songs out there with the books of the Bible. We have been using this one I found on YouTube for learning the books of the Old Testament and their divisions. I love it because the tune is simple and familiar, and I like the way it shows how the books of the Old Teatament are divided into groups.

There are several songs out there also for the New Testament books. Right now we are still finishing up the Old, but I am working on choosing a New Testament song that we can use.


Adding a movement aspect to learning anything always helps the information stick! I found these free printables from ABC Jesus Loves Me that list detailed hand motions for every book of the Bible!

We use these motions as we sing our song, and it definitely helps Big Brother's memory. And it makes reciting the books way more fun and interesting. The motions for each book have something to do with the book itself, so along the way he is actually learning more about each book of the Bible instead of simply memorizing a list.


We use several different games and activities to help him practice the books of the Bible:

* Write each book name on an index card (or on a LEGO brick using a dry erase marker). Have him arrange or stack them in order.

*Using the index cards or LEGO bricks above, have him put books under the correct division. (Example: Isaiah would go under Major Prophets)

*Call off a book title and have him give the hand motion.

*Show him a hand motion and have him give the book title.

* Call off a book and have him tell the books that come immediately before and after it.

Learning the order of the books of the Bible is very important to being able to study the Bible on his own, find particular verses quickly, or follow along in church.

I hope you have found these resources and ideas helpful! Do you have any others you could share? Please leave a comment!!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Science "Go Fish" Game

Yesterday I posted about the Memory Match Games I had made to use for reviewing material Big Brother is learning in science and history.

Well this afternoon, I had planned for us to play the Memory Match game with our science cards. But then Big Brother had a really neat idea!

We can use these same cards to play "Go Fish!" :)

To start I mixed the cards and dealt 5 cards to each of us. The remaining cards were placed in the center of the table face down for a draw pile.

Then we took turns asking the other player if he/she had a match for a particular card in our hand.

For example, if Big Brother had the card that said "the process by which plants make food," he might ask me, "Do you have 'photosynthesis?'" If I had the card he requested, I had to give it to him and he got to lay down the matching pair and ask for another card. If I did not have the card he wanted, I would say "Go Fish!" Then he would draw one card from the draw pile and his turn would be over.

The player with the most matched pairs at the end of the game (when someone runs out of cards in their hand or the draw pile is emptied) is the winner!

These games have been a great, painless way for us to review important information. Apparently they are working, too! Big Brother had quizzes in both his ABeka history and ABeka science classes today, and he scored 100% on both! :)

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Memory Match Review Games

We are into our 7th week of homeschool for this year. We have kinda gotten into our routine now, and I am always trying to come up with ways to make our days more fun and Big Brother's lessons more engaging. I have also been looking for ways to work with Big Brother on improving his working memory (something he struggles with). So I have made some simple games for this purpose.

I have created a Memory Match Review Game for science and another one for history. These are Big Brother's favorite subjects.

I went through his textbooks and found important vocabulary words, facts, dates, people, etc. and wrote them with marker on index cards.

I used green marker on our science cards and red marker for history so I can keep the games separate. The games will fit nicely in a card box or ziploc bag.

The games are easy to play! First mix the cards well. Then lay out all the cards face down on a table or the floor. The first player turns over two cards. If they are a match, he keeps them. If they are not a match, he turns them back over. Then the next player (or the teacher) takes a turn. Play continues until all the cards have been matched. The player with the most matching sets wins the game.

This could also be played by the student on his own as just a fun way to review concepts or study for a test.

Big Brother loves reviewing what he has learned this way! And he is building up his memory muscles as he plays, too.

A game like this could work for reviewing basically any academic subject on any level.

Have you ever used games to teach or review in your homeschool? Tell me about it!!!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Studying Acts - Chapters 1 & 2

Good Morning Girls are studying the Book of Acts right now! We have read the first two chapters so far, and I am enjoying the study and interacting with my email GMG study group made up of other homeschool moms around the country!

I just want to share a few brief thoughts from these first couple chapters with you! :)

Acts 1

Verses 10 & 11 were a real blessing to me. The promise that "this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner..." is such a sweet promise indeed! The apostles were no doubt comforted by these words as we also can be today. Looking at all the evil that this world is coming to these days makes me ready to say "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"

I want to make sure I am ready for His coming, and I also want to find ways to help others get ready.

At the end of this chapter, the disciples cast lots to determine who should replace Judas Iscariot as an apostle. This practice was brought up in my study group, and the question was asked as to whether we should cast lots to make our decisions today. My answer was that we are never specifically told in Scripture to do this. There are no instructions for exactly how it was done either. If we were supposed to cast lots to make decisions, God would have given clear instructions. Prayer, reading the Word, and staying in a close personal relationship with the Lord so that we can be led by His Spirit are the things I believe we need to be doing in order to make wise decisions in our lives.

Acts 2

In chapter 1, Jesus promised His disciples that they would receive power to witness for Him after the Holy Ghost fell on them (Acts 1:8) This promise came true in a big way in chapter 2! One hundred twenty people coming together for one purpose and all of them being filled with the Holy Ghost brought 3,000 people to the Lord in one day!!! And in the days that followed more and more people were saved every day.

I especially notice the amazing boldness to witness that Peter has now! Before the crucifixion, Peter was too scared to admit that he even knew Jesus. Now, he is loudly declaring that Jesus is Lord! What a miraculous change!

I pray that I may also be bold in my witness for the Lord!

Are you studying through the Book of Acts with Good Morning Girls right now, too? What are your thoughts from the first chapters? I would love to hear from you in the comments section!

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

First Day of Homeschool Co-op 2015

Today was our first day of homeschool co-op for this year! We are blessed with a small group of friends who get together for fun activities and field trips throughout the school year.

We have 1 hour of class activities one afternoon each week. I happen to be leading the activities this semester. We have 7 children involved in the weekly classes right now between the ages of 7 and 10. (We have more families who will just join in for field trips.)

Today's class activities went really well! The children were excited to be together. We have some awesome activities for them this semester!

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For the first 30 minutes of our co-op we are doing Scripture Talk, a Bible memory program on DVD. Over the course of this program, we will be memorizing 10 KJV Scripture passages (79 individual verses!) using fun hand motions and interesting lessons.

I LOVE this program because it really helps students with all learning styles to be able to enjoy memorizing God's Word! We watch and listen to the children and teacher on the screen demonstrate each verse. The words appear on the screen to read along as we practice together. The biggest help is the hand motions that really make the words stick!

This afternoon we began learning Psalm 1. We will be committing the whole chapter to memory. Today we watched as the teacher on the DVD explained how the children can apply Psalm 1 to their lives. I asked a few simple questions just to double check their comprehension of the lesson. Then we began working on the first 2 verses.

We practiced quoting the verses with the motions along with the DVD several times over and over. We practiced on our own slowly several times, too. I was really proud of how quickly the children were able to quote the verses on their own! I had the girls quote the verses and do the movements together, then the boys took a turn. They really had fun with it! The movements kept their attention and gave us a good work out, too. They were all super excited to go home and practice with their families. Who says Bible memory has to be boring? Not me! :)

Click here to see a short trailer about the Scripture Talk program.

You can order your own copy of the DVD from Scripture Talk Ministries or it is also available from Amazon

I highly recommend this program for all ages! (Even my 1 year old has picked up a few words and motions from seeing the DVD!) This program works great as a homeschool co-op class; but it could also be used by individual families, Sunday Schools, VBS, Youth Groups, or Christian schools!

Our second half hour activity is Speed Cup Stacking (also known as Sport Stacking). This is a fun P.E. activity!

We have 2 Speed Stacks sets that we set up for the children to use. I started off by showing them how to do a basic 3 cup stack. Everyone practiced using both hands to upstack and downstack 3 cups quickly. They learned the proper way to handle the cups, basic stacking rules, and how to use the timers.

The simplest official stacking pattern is called the 3-3-3 stack. Three stacks of three cups each must be stacked up and back down as quickly as possible. This afternoon we did 3 rounds during which each child timed him/herself doing the 3-3-3 stack. I must say, we have some pretty fast cup stackers among us!

I made clear that we are stacking for FUN, and that good sportsmanship is expected. Each child's stacking times are written down each round, and their goal is to beat their own best times. It was good to see the children applauding and encouraging one another as they cup stacked today.

Some weeks we may do relay races or other fun games with our speed stacks. This activity is great for building hand-eye coordination, concentration, and so much more.

Never heard of Speed Cup Stacking? Neither had I until I attended an A.C.E. Student Convention with my brother a few years ago. Our family has been hooked ever since!

Check out the World Sport Stacking Association for more information on this interesting sport! Get your own set of Speed Stacks here!

So after a fun, busy afternoon at co-op, we were thoroughly exhausted! I scored some "Super-Mommy" points with the boys by stopping by McDonald's on our way home for supper since Daddy was working late.

Does your family participate in a homeschool co-op and/or support group? What kind of classes or activities do your children enjoy?

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Tot School 8-24-15 (16 Months)

Today was Little Brother's first "official" day of Tot School!

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Basically, I spent about 45 minutes engaged in some intentional playtime with Little Brother this morning while Big Brother was completing some of his independent work.

I am using ABeka's Nursery Arts & Crafts book as somewhat of a "spine" and adding in simple activities as we go along.

Little Brother will be 16 months old at the end of this week.

For the next month, our theme will be the color Red. As soon as Little Brother heard me say "red" this morning, he immediately did the ASL sign for RED. I had not actively taught him this sign, but he seems to have picked it up from when Big Brother and I were signing colors during our Morning Memory Hour over the past few weeks. Little people don't miss much, folks! :)

So we pulled out the first sheet in his ABeka book which had a nice big, simple picture of a red crayon for him to color. He has a set of Jumbo Crayola crayons that are just perfect for his chubby little hands. We sat down together at his little table, I gave him the red jumbo crayon to use, and he colored to his little heart's content. All the while I repeated the word "Red" and the ASL several times.

We placed his artwork proudly on the fridge for Daddy to see when he gets home! :)

Next, to go along with our Red theme, we read the book Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. I pointed out the red barn on the cover and then I read the book while Little Brother practiced making animal sounds.

We also read Goodnight Moon by the same author. We paid special attention to the red balloon in the book today.

Then we went back to the little table for some playtime! I found a red fire truck and a red fire helmet for him to explore. The truck had red lights that would flash at the push of a button, and he found that very amusing for a while.

Then I pulled out his basket of scrap construction paper (one of his favorite things right now!). We found a sheet of red paper and just took turns ripping it up. He loved it!

Last I got out a small can of red Play-Doh for him. He liked squeezing the Play-Doh and tearing off pieces. I rolled into a ball for him and let him press it flat. He mostly seemed to enjoy playing with the little can and lid.

And that was our version of Tot School for today! :) Otherwise Little Brother has been free to play and toddle around all day (except for an hour nap). He is a busy little person right now for sure! So much to explore and so little time!

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my toddler son's "school" time today! What kinds of activities have your children enjoyed at his age? Leave a comment!

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