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Story Time: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish


Before we head into Story Time, I want to remind you to take a look at the latest posts in the 30 Ways We Homeschool Series.  Also, we launched some Amazing Giveaways last week.  If you haven’t entered them yet, you can do so here, here, and here.  Now then.  On with the show.

Story Time-The Day I Swapped My Dad activities

Story Time is my favorite part of the week.

I love coming up with activities for beloved books, and I love Neil Gaiman.  I adore his sense of humor and his whimsy.  I’ve been a Huge Fan of his work for adults for many years, and I love his approach to children’s books.  Gaiman never talks down to kids.  He tells it like it is.  So if your little is a wee bit tired of Dad sitting around reading the newspaper or watching sports, or whatever takes Dad’s attention away from her, she will relate to The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.  And maybe see how wrong it is to try to swap Dad out for something more interesting.  I will warn you–this is not a short.  It’s kind of long.  Maybe a 10-minute read.  But it’s hilarious and I think your littles will love it.

We need some fun Father’s Day activities for this Story Time, right?  Let’s get to it!


Here’s a free download of a booklet your little can make for Dad with prompts for 10 reasons Dad is so darn lovable (and you wouldn’t trade him for goldfish).  Your little can complete the sentences then draw Dad a picture about the sentence.

story time-10 reasons i love dad download



Story Time -ginger beer

The children in the story have a glass of ginger beer while they are traipsing around town, swapping back all the things that have traded for their dad.  You and your littles can make homemade ginger beer quite easily, and you can include a lesson about yeast and fungi while you’re doing so.  How does that not rock?

What you need:

  • Empty 2-liter bottle (plastic–glass might explode because of the carbonation, and you Do Not want that.)
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 liters distilled water (don’t use tap water–yeast doesn’t like chlorine)
  • Juice of 4 lemons
  • 2-4 Tbsp ground ginger

What you do:

  • Sterilize the bottle by pouring boiling water into it.  Use a funnel.  So you don’t burn your hands.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice into a measuring cup
  • In a saucepan, heat your distilled water to 105-115 degrees.  Pour into the bottle, leaving enough room for the other ingredients.  (so leave out as many cups of water as you have lemon juice, plus a little wiggle room for the dry ingredients and a small pocket of air for the pressure to build up)
  • Add the sugar and lemons then cap the bottle and shake shake shake until they are well mixed with the water
  • Add the yeast, cap the bottle, and shake again
  • Store the bottle in a warm place for 24 hours
  • After 24 hours, give the bottle a good squeeze.  If you can dent it, give it a couple more hours until the bottle resists denting when you squeeze
  • Make sure you open  within 30 hours or so, though, because–again–explosion
  • Use a cheesecloth or strainer to filter out any sediment
  • Pour back into bottle
  • Chill in the refrigerator; it’ll keep for up to a week

While you’re making your ginger beer, explain to your littles that yeast is a fungus that feeds on sugar.  Yeast produces carbon dioxide, which is what causes the bubbles in the prepared drink.  That’s why it’s called carbonation–it’s caused by carbon dioxide.  You can find a full yeast science lesson at Kids Discover.


Fingerprint Goldfish Father’s Day Card

Father's Day Card-Story Time The Day I Swapped My Dad


What you need:

goldfish card supplies

  • Blue construction paper
  • Orange construction paper
  • Lit Mama’s Goldfish Template (click link to print)
  • Orange and other markers
  • 1 googly eye
  • Yellow Paint
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Cat that won’t get out of the picture (optional)

What you do:

folded goldfish card


  • Fold blue construction paper in half to make card
  • Set aside

Card goldfish traching

  • Print and cut out template
  • Trace onto orange construction paper
  • Cut out goldfish

goldfish card face

  • With your pencil, draw a curved line to mark off the face


  • Dip your finger into the yellow paint
  • Make lines of yellow gills along the body of the fish, leaving tail, fins, and face paint-free


  • Use your orange marker to trace over the penciled face-line
  • Make wavy lines on tail and fins with orange marker


  • Glue on the googly eye
  • Draw a smiley mouth

Father's Day Card-Story Time The Day I Swapped My Dad

  • Glue fish to front of card
  • Write message above and below fish



carrot slices

Um, carrots, please!  We already made a recipe, up there in Science.  But ol’ Dad is eating a carrot on his way home, so slice some up or buy a bag of baby carrots and enjoy them with your ginger beer!

Yeah yeah.  Won’t Dad love having ginger beer made by his own kids for Father’s Day?  Score!

Love wins,


What Do I Do with All This Free Time?


Hey, y’all.  Another school year has ended for us here at the Lit Mama Homeschool.  We studied All of the Asian countries, even those tiny Middle-Eastern ones that you hear about on the news sometimes and can’t quite place…  Oh, yeah, I know where they all are now.  Sometimes I think homeschooling does as much for me intellectually as it does for my precious Littles.  We didn’t just find out where those countries were, though.  We studied their history (boom–history taken care of for the year), their topography (boom–science in the form of geology), their native animals (Oh. yeah. Biology), their art, and their governments.  Even their gardens. It was a lot of material, but it covered almost every subject we needed.  We journaled about them, so writing was taken care of (though we did English lessons separately).  All we had to add was math.

finished garden

The Littles with their Japanese tea garden in a box

Because I make up all our curricula myself, I am constantly researching things in more depth than I ever learned them in public school.  And because we cover such a vast array of material, I also have learned more than I ever did in college.  Not to knock my college education.  It rocked.  If I could go to college forever, I would.  Homeschooling is a brilliant substitute.  But it’s over for 5 weeks.  Summer school doesn’t start until July.

So what am I going to do with all my free time?

Oh, you.

What free time?

Sure, I’ve taken a couple days off from All Things School, but I have to jump right back in.  I just told you–I plan everything myself.  So since I (thank God) already have summer planned, by week’s end I will be pulling out the notes I made throughout the year, looking at the different plans I came up with for next year–there are at least 3, and I probably won’t stick to any single one of them–and diving into the research necessary to start filling out my planner and having everything ready for the day after Labor Day, which is our official start day every year.  (Whew, that was a long sentence.  Did it make sense?!)  Here’s what that looked like last year:

planning messFun, right?

Why yes, yes it is.

I have a lot of tools I use to help this process, and it is not as disorganized as it looks.  The first thing I do is make up a school year calendar.  I like knowing exactly when we’ll be in school and when we’ll be having a blessed break.  It looks like this.

school year calendar

Go ahead.  Copy the idea.  It helps me tremendously when it comes to day-to-day planning.  Plus, it ensures I get the required 180 days of school in.  Since my wonderful state requires only that and that I keep attendance, I make sure to follow those rules to the letter so I can keep all this freedom to school my boys as I choose.  You’ll notice there are only 3 weeks between our 2 longest breaks.  We’ve always used that time (especially since it’s in the middle of the holidays and the Littles’ minds tend to be elsewhere most days) to do a concentrated study on one subject.  We’ve done Christmas, dinosaurs, pirates… It’s a fun time for us.  It’s also the time when the Littles learn and practice a Christmas play to put on for our extended family.  Last year, Littlest wrote the play.  And it rocked.

The next thing I do is get out my planning binder.  As I do my research and find reading material, projects, experiments, and crafts to add into a class, I have 3 different places to write it all down.  Why 3?  Because organization.  If I am not completely organized, my nature tends toward chaos.  I mean, come on, you’re talking to a woman who would rather be immersed in a good story than just about anything else and writes stories of her own… If I don’t concentrate, my thoughts tend to wander.  Organization helps me concentrate.

planner collageSo I have my calendar on the front of the planner.  Then a weekly schedule.  Then separate tabs for each subject in which there is a daily schedule.  And a project/experiment/craft schedule that I can glance at from week-to-week to make sure I have all the needed materials.  I can’t tell you how many times that project schedule has saved me.  If I check it on Friday afternoon, I have the whole weekend to buy whatever supplies I might need for the next week.  It’s really hard to make a solar system with Styrofoam balls if you don’t have any Styrofoam balls.

My Daily Curriculum Planner and Weekly Project Planner are yours for free in my Subscriber Freebies.  Just scroll down–they’re toward the bottom.  And you might find some other goodies you want to pick up!  They look like this:

weekly project planner


daily curriculum planner

They aren’t especially pretty, but they’re functional, and I just think that’s more important. 🙂

I plan each class for the year using all of these tools.  I jot down on the weekly planner what I want to cover each week, then I get out the daily planners and fill them out in detail.  As we approach a new school day, I have everything we’ll be doing for each subject written on that daily planner.  Then I pull the projects from the daily planner and add them to the weekly project planner.  By the time school starts in September, I am over-prepared.

I fully admit I have a problem.  Hi, my name is KT, and I am a plan-a-holic.

So yeah, no such thing as free time here.

Because at some point I have to get the very chaotic classroom cleaned up from this year and ready for next.  And that, my dear friends, is my biggest chore of the year.

chaotic classroom

Now.  Will someone please sing something so I can get this damn Alice Cooper song out of my head?

Love wins,




Reading in the Rain

I woke up to the pattering of rain against my roof and windows.  It’s funny, during winter you kind of dread that sound.  It could be ice.  It could become snow.  It will definitely be cold.  But with warm weather seeming determined to stick around, the sound was soothing and welcome.  Our lives are just as affected by the seasons now as they were thousands of years ago when our ancestors worshiped the sun and planned their year around the turning of the seasons.  Go outside today and remember that.   It’ll make you feel more connected.

reading in the rain books

Still, no matter the season, rain is important to us, and mostly we’d rather have it than not.  Because gardens.  And water supplies.  There’s a lot your littles can learn from and about rain, and there are, of course, books you can read with them to help them learn.  And there’s nothing like a cuddly, rainy day on the couch exploring the pages of a few good books.


waiting out the storm

This poetic masterpiece is a gentle question-and-answer book about what happens during a storm, including where different animals go.  You can’t get much cuddlier than reading this book with the sound of rain plonking in the background.  This book is not only excellent for making a child feel safe while explaining storms to them, the format also helps littles make their own observations about what is going on outside.  The illustrations are downright gorgeous, too.  The little girl asks what the turtles, chipmunks, and birds do during a storm, providing you with a few options if you want to do a craft to go with the book.  In fact, there’s a simple paper plate turtle craft at Glued to My Crafts that I think you’ll enjoy and won’t take too much work on your part.

the storm book

This book.  Wow.  I have to warn you, it is wordy for a picture book.  But oh, these words.  From the hazy heat of a summer day to the first crack of lightning to the rainbow following the storm, this book is such a great intro to description your little will swoon.  Take your time.  Read it slowly.  Enjoy the lyrical description of a thunderstorm and how it affects several people.  Then make a thunderstorm of your own from construction paper and ribbon, like this:

thunderstorm craft

Pretty self-explanatory–jut cut out some cloud and lightning shapes, let your littles glue them together however they want, and tape some curly ribbon to the back so it looks like falling rain.  Yeah yeah.

listen to the rainIf you’re looking for sparer text and beautifully painted pictures, look no further.  This book is full of onomatopoeia, and could be a great way to get into a discussion about figurative language.  Also, it just plain sounds pretty.  If you’re looking activities to go with it, check out my post 11 Awesome Activities to Do in the Rain.

water danceFinally, my favorite.  More onomatopoeia.  Told from the first person, this book goes through the water cycle as if the water were tell you its story.  But you can just look at the cover and see how lush and breath-taking the illustrations are.  And this one provides many options for activities.  Set up an evaporation experiment.  Create a cloud in a bottle.  Break out your watercolors and paint the storm taking place around you.


nat geo stormsI love these Nat Geo books, because they give simple introductions to their topics.  This one is meant for younger readers, but it can be a great starting place or refresher course for any age.  Plus, the pictures are really amazing.

who likes the rainThis book is a flap book that answers some pretty amazing questions, like what raindrops really look like, why rain makes the air smell different, and why gardens need water.  Plus, kids love flap books.  All of them do.  It’s something about the hidden knowledge, I think.  So don’t think this is only for preschoolers, because even though you know I Shudder at the thought of reading levels, the book claims to be for up to second graders.  Which means anyone can read it.  Anyone at all.  Just like any other book.

everything kids weather bookFavorite.  This book has everything in it.  Plus, puzzles and ideas for scientific activities.  Um, win.  I wouldn’t even bother with a library copy.  This one’s an owner.

It’s pretty easy to turn a rainy day into a cozy, fun-filled one if you have the right tools.  And you know the Lit Mama, the toolbox always includes books.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cuddle 2 sweet and beautiful boys and get them to make some crafts with me.

Love wins,



Solutions for When You Just Can’t

I really didn’t mean to write a series.  But I figure you would like to know how things turned out and what I’ve decided to do about next week.  If you haven’t read about the week we’ve had here at Lit Mama, you can do so here and here.

All caught up?  Great.  So it turns out Martin’s baboon heart is actually pretty healthy.  It has a slight arrhythmia, which the cardiologist is treating with pills.  But they really think the underlying problem is sleep apnea.  See, when you have this problem, your body is constantly tensed to wake you because your blood is not getting enough oxygen while you sleep, which means your brain and heart aren’t getting enough oxygen for a a third of your day.  Which causes a lot of stress on the body, especially the heart.  I have to tell you, when we went into this, with all the scary tests looming and Martin feeling worse than he ever has, I would never have imagined sleep apnea being the thing.  They let me bring him home today and he may even be able to return to work next week.  So, now that I know nothing life-threatening is happening with my love, my own exhaustion from all the stress is something I intend to baby through Sunday.  I may not leave my couch, I ain’t gonna lie.

Nevertheless, I’ve been really–no, reeeeaaalllllyyyy–struggling with how to handle next week.  We didn’t really get a spring break.  Not one of us feels rested and rejuvenated and ready to jump back into school.  Our India unit we were supposed to pick up on Monday is in no way prepared.  I have so much I have to get done, because I got nothing At All done this week (and you should see my poor laundry room. Apparently, even when I’m not home people here still change their clothes every day.  Who knew?).

I think it would be physically, as well as mentally, impossible to do a full school week.

So here’s what I’m thinking.  We still have about half of Return to Gone-Away to read.  And we like science experiments, crafts, and nature study.  So I’m thinking we do our read-aloud every day.  We add in 1 science experiment or craft.  We pick 1 thing from nature to scavenge on a short walk, then the Littles can write and draw about it in their journals every day.


I got the idea because I spent A Lot of yesterday trolling Pinterest for lack of any better entertainment.  And I realized I have pinned so many things and then forgotten them.  And I Really wanted to do them when I pinned them.  So (also) here’s what I’m thinking in terms of the craft/experiment.  Because you like to find a bunch of links all in one place, right?!

DIY Nebula Jar from momdot








This is simple, sure, but since we just finished reading an Earthsky article about the recent comet flybys and we definitely aren’t schooling today, I know my Littles are still way interested in all things space. There’s a succinct explanation of nebulae on the website, the craft is pretty, and will require little work from me.  Oh. Yeah.

Magic Fluorescent Mud from The King of Random on youtube

magic mud





This is basically the same thing as the ‘oobleck’ we used to make at the library for Dr. Seuss day.  With this, you get the added adventure of making the powder from potatoes yourselves, plus it glows under a black light.  Win-win.  Again, my brain won’t even have to function.

Shadow tracing from The Artful Parent






I don’t think this is something we’ve ever done.  Though I don’t know that we’ll use grape sculptures, I love the idea of tracing shadows to get a result.  And I won’t really have to do much to get them going on this, either.

Loving this pattern!

Make a Kazoo from The Joys of Boys

diy kazoo





What boys don’t like to make noise?  I’ll turn it into a real music lesson and make them kazoo Moonlight Sonata for me from memory.  They’d better hope they know their Beethoven!

Make a Pirate Treasure Map of Our Yard from Teach Beside Me

pirate map of yard







This cool project uses Google Maps and a grid to make a map of your yard.  It’s great grid practice, as well as fun, so we’ll probably do that on our warmest day.

Egg Carton Flowers from I Heart Arts and Crafts








I heart these flowers!  And the boys love to paint!  So they can’t complain that I’m making them paint flowers.  Or else.

Coffee Filter Flowers from Fun-A-day

coffee filter flowers







Aren’t they pretty?  I might just stop torturing them by then and make these myself.  🙂

Actually, I think what I’ll do is write each of these projects down on a paper strip, drop the strips into a jar, and draw one every day next week.  I know they might be a little young for my boys, but I am also sure they will lead to conversations in which we will learn something–organic conversations that I don’t have to work too hard at, that we can have at 8 or 10 or 12 or after dinner, after a full, stress-free night of sleep.

Sounds like bliss.

If you are like me, and you’re slightly neurotic and unable to give yourself a break, planning a light week of fun is a simple solution that can help you feel better about everything.  You can even use some of my ideas.

Thanks for sticking with me through all this, lovely readers.  Your comments and messages have helped me more than I can express.

I’ll leave you with one final thought for the week:

Screw. Drama.

I’ll take a side of no more of that, please.

Love wins,