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Story Time: Gus Was a Friendly Ghost

believe in humans

I promise every single post coming up won’t be a Story Time, but I am enjoying this series so much that I have to do another.  In fact, I’m even going to keep with the Halloween theme today and offer you a story time about Gus Was a Friendly Ghost by Jane Thayer, a gem from my childhood.  There are more recent ghost books your littles might enjoy with this Story Time, such as Ghosts in the House.  Feel free to use that book instead if you wish, but for me, nothing quite compares with this warm-hearted story of friendship and the simple  but imaginative illustrations by Seymour Fleischman.

gus the ghost book


Here is a free, four-page download with handwriting practice, a writing prompt, and poetry comprehension about ghosts from the Lit Mama, for your English-learning pleasure:  Ghost worksheets ghost worksheetsAlso, Head over to Education.com for a great reading comprehension compare/contrast of ghost stories.  You have to register to download it, but it’s free and there are lots of other goodies to be had at that site.

Finally, check out this cute, printable, Free board game for practicing tense at ISL Collective.  Again, you have to register, but it’s another site I’ve used for years and it’s free and full of the good stuff.


ghost balloon

IMG_20151005_083629120 IMG_20151005_083708455 IMG_20151005_083744451 IMG_20151005_083801893 IMG_20151005_083809363

If you have a white balloon handy, you can go with my beautiful husband’s vinegar and baking soda demo, and use a water bottle to blow up a balloon ghost. Easy peasy—draw ghost eyes on a white balloon with a black marker. Use a funnel to fill the un-inflated balloon with 2 TBSP baking soda. Fill the bottle with about a cup of vinegar, then stretch the balloon neck over the mouth of the bottle without letting the baking soda fall into it. Stretch as much of the neck over the bottle as you can so the balloon will really stand up. Shake the baking soda down into the bottle quickly. The chemical reaction will blow up the balloon, providing your littles with a magical ghost!

If you’re tired of my baking soda and vinegar experiments, try some Static Electricity!

IMG_20151005_084449930        IMG_20151005_084640856   IMG_20151005_084619051

Cut a ghost out of white tissue paper. Use a marker to add eyes and a mouth.  Tape the bottom of your ghost to the floor or a table.

Rub your balloon on your hair (or you could use a sweater) to build up static electricity (electrons). When you move the balloon over your ghost, he will appear to rise up and dance!

If you want to read some Real Science about ghosts, check out this intriguing article about scientists creating ‘ghosts’ in a lab at Telegraph. It definitely provides some conversation sparks!

Get Active

Play Ghost Hunter

This is a fun take on a scavenger hunt. You can use a ghost you’ve made from the Art/crafts section of this post or a ghost decoration you already have. Here are the rules:

  1. Decide on a ghost hunter agency name
  2. Discuss who and how the ghost is haunting
  3. Have mama or dada hide the ghost
  4. Littles ask mama or dada 20 yes or no questions about where the ghost might be such as
    • Does the ghost like toys?
    • What does the ghost eat?
    • Does the ghost wear grown up clothes or little clothes?
  5. When the littles have figured out which room the ghost is in, the questions can get more specific until they finally find the ghost.

Or head over to No Time for Flashcards to get directions on how to set up Ghost Bowling.



You can, of course, make a Tootsie Pop ghost, which requires a sucker, a tissue, a marker, and something to tie your tissue to your sucker with.  They are popular and tasty.

But if you want a more permanent ghost you hang from your ceiling fan (and he won’t get eaten)….

Mini Hanging Ghosts


1” or2” Styrofoam ball

8” x 8” square tissue paper or cheesecloth (looks especially spooky)

School Glue

Google eyes

8” embroidery thread, any color



Cover top half of ball with glued. Place, glue side down, in center of tissue paper. Fold tissue paper around ball so ends drape around it. Glue google eyes on for a face.

IMG_20151004_091814847 IMG_20151004_091850644 IMG_20151004_091958003_HDR IMG_20151004_092622620

Use a needle to pull embroidery thread through top of ball. Tie thread in a knot. Cut off excess.


Hang your ghost wherever he makes you happy. Or tie him to the handlebars of your bike and watch him float along with you as you ride.

Felt Gus the Ghost


All you need for this cute and cuddly craft is some white felt, a marker, and some googly eyes.  Oh, and this template from your ever-faithful Lit Mama.  Just cut out the template, use it to cut your ghost from felt, then follow the template to make the dash lines, hands and mouth.  Add some googly eyes.  Done!  A ghost your little can take to bed if she wants!


Boo Brownies

boo brownies

Serves 6 (makes 12)

Cooking time: 2 hours 

What You Will Need: 

For the brownies: 

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup)
  • 6 oz dark chocolate, broken into small cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

For the meringue ghosts:

  •  3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1⁄4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 sugar
  • black writing icing

What To Do: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Butter and lightly flour an 8-inch square pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper, then butter and flour the paper.
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring to blend.
  3. Remove from heat.  Stir in sugar, egg, salt, flour, walnuts, and vanilla.
  4. Spread in prepared pan.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a rack and peel the wax paper off the back.  Cut into squares.
  6. To make the meringue ghosts, place the egg whites in a large, clean, grease-free bowl and whisk with electric beaters until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until the mixture forms soft peaks. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking after each addition, until you have a smooth, thick, glossy mixture.
  7. Heat the oven to 250 F. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle
  8. Pipe small mounds of meringue on to the baking sheets (you might get more than 12, but extras can be saved and used later). Bake for 1 hour 30minutes,untilcrispanddrytothetouch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  9.  When cool, use the black writing icing to draw eyes and a mouth on each. Top each brownie with a meringue ghost to serve.

If you want a healthier snack for ghosts, try these Banana Ghosts:

banana ghosts

What you need:


semi-sweet chocolate chips

mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

What you do:

Peel bananas, keeping ends intact. cut in half.

Press the point of a chocolate chip into the center of the top of a banana half (the mouth).

Press the points of 2 mini chocolate chips above the mouth for eyes.

You can see why I’m so excited about this series.  Coming up with all these ideas for you guys is So Much Fun!  Now I have an interesting way to spend a Monday afternoon, too.  I hope my littles don’t get tired of picture books any time soon.  At least, I hope they don’t tell me if they do…

Love wins,


Autumn Camp

Fun activities and crafts for an autumn camp for kids

The Littles were thrilled to be woken up last Friday with the news that it was Autumn Camp Day.  I posted about last year’s summer camp a while back, and I thought it would be fun to share our autumn camp itinerary with you.  We purposely waited this year to be able to do autumn-y things in our homeschool camp, and it turned out to be really fun.

Continue reading

What?! Your Kids Don’t WANT to Homeschool?

I was contacted this week by a beloved family member who, along with his really fantastic wife, has decided to pull his littles from public school this year and give this homeschooling thing a try. I am so thrilled and excited for him and his family and, as ever, pleased to have another family join our ranks.  Unfortunately, my congratulations were not what he was looking for.  He was seeking advice.

Because his kids are being… uncooperative.  And they won’t really tell him why.

Image from theharriedmom.com

Image from theharriedmom.com

I started homeschooling the Littles in their 1st and 3rd grade years of school, so they were close to the age of my family member’s kids.  What did I do to ensure my kids cooperated?  And what should you do if you find yourself at home with littles who aren’t so willing to be homeschooled?

The first thing we did with our littles was establish a clear line between when I was Mama and when I was Teacher.  Granted, we did this by having summer science for 7 weeks before we notified the school of their withdrawal (and so the tradition began).  We told them it was a trial run and if they could learn from me we would continue to homeschool.  But my Littles Wanted to be homeschooled.  So they cooperated. If you have already withdrawn your kiddos from public school and are facing this dilemma, I would try a couple of things.

Establish yourself

First, ask your littles what they like about school.  It can be public school, homeschool, imaginary school, college… Just find out what turns them on to learning. Try to get them to talk about what might be cool about homeschooling.  What do they think would Not Be cool about homeschooling?  Address their concerns.   This can be a conversation as short or long as you want it to be, but use it as a time to let your littles know that when the homeschooling parent says, “It’s time for school,” he or she is no longer Mama or Dada, but a teacher who expects the same respect as their public school teachers.  And don’t just talk, act.  As parents, decide what the consequences will be if your littles don’t show you that respect.  I have to be honest here, when we first started, I utilized the same colored-stick pulling rule as their school did.  Just the threat of being in trouble if they pulled 3 sticks was enough to keep them cooperative and well-behaved.

Also, start out slow.  You have a little time.  So spend a week only schooling for an hour a day, where you are mostly watching for signs of cooperation from your littles.  Let them test you.  Follow through on your consequences.  They will start to see this homeschooling thing is as serious as public school was.  Teach for an hour and a half or 2 hours the next week.  Same deal.  Most homeschool families only school for 3-5 hours a day, so it won’t take you long to build up to speed.

Make a plan

Another good way to garner cooperation is to set a firm schedule for a while and stick to it.  Five years in, the Littles are still up at 7:30 for farm chores and breakfast and in the classroom by 8.  We don’t really waver from that unless someone is really sick.  We have loosened up over the years as to what happens after 8, but that schedule helped them establish that ‘school’ still took place at a certain time.  For the time being, set a time that school is over.  If you are going to allow snack time, do that at a specific time, too.  Kids like structure, and part of their uncooperative-ness may stem from the sudden lack of it.  It’s hard to take it seriously when your mom is in her jammies and you might start school at 9 or 11 or 2, depending on everyone’s whim.

Make a ‘classroom.’ Even if it’s just your dining table or living room floor, designate an area that is for school.  And have school there every day for the amount of time you have set.

Trust me, you can ease up on all of this once you get them in a groove and get them appreciating how much More Awesome homeschool is than public school.

How do you get them to appreciate it?  Make school Fun.

Remember, we are Educating our children, not schooling them in the traditional sense.  We don’t have to teach them like a public school teacher does.  In fact, in some states (including my own), there Aren’t Any Tests homeschoolers have to take.  So we don’t have to teach rote memorization or testing skills the way they do in public school.  We can teach in unconventional ways.


Make learning fun

Most public school teachers don’t have time for reading aloud with their classes, especially by 3rd or 4th grade.  So make part of your school day the sharing of a story.  And make it a story that will engage the littles You Have, not one that someone says all littles should read (even if that someone is me!).  If you lead with this, they will already be accustomed to listening to you and focusing on you before you move on to history or math.

Do tons of projects.  Reading from a book or doing worksheets or notebooking are good ways to help your littles retain information, but building a volcano is a whole lot more fun that writing about one.  Research has its place but–especially while they’re young–they will likely learn more if they are also getting their hands dirty.

Make a craft.  Every day.  Of course it helps with motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but it also gives your littles something tactile to hold onto and remind them of whatever lesson the craft is related to.  And it’s fun.  Way funner than filling out boring old worksheets.

Do experiments.  There are tons of free science experiment printables on the interweb and so many resources for different experiments your head will spin.  So ask your kids what kind of science interests them and Google experiments.  You could do 3 a day for their entire schooling and still never complete all the experiments you’ll find.

Cook together.  We often find recipes related to what we’re reading, studying in geography or history, or learning about in science and spend time in the kitchen learning math and life skills making them.  Then enjoying them.  It usually means trying something new for all of us, so it helps us remember to be open-minded, too.

Take nature walks every day.  Schedule them into the middle of your school time so your littles get that they are getting ‘out of class’ to learn.  Give them a sketchbook and a couple of colored pencils and ask them to record or draw at least 3 things they see on the walk.  It won’t even seem like learning to them.  When you get back to class, get out your books or magazines or tablets and look up their sightings in greater detail.  Have them record the information under their drawings.  You just had a whole class.

Take field trips.  Often.  Once you’ve established with your littles that this is a serious school, you can step away from the dining table and out into the world.  Go to the zoo, the museum, the park, the local historical site, the house of another homeschooling family.  There is only one Civil War site in our state and we were lucky during our American History year that it is only about 25 minutes away.  Take a field trip every week.  That will convince your littles homeschool is better.

What shouldn’t you do?

I think the worst thing you can do with uncooperative homeschool kids is stand over them with a set of textbooks and worksheets and fight them over what they will complete.  It’s a good way to make them hate school and resent you.  Ease them into it by implementing the above ideas, and keep using those ideas to keep school fresh and interesting for the littles.  Middle is in 7th grade.  We still do a craft and a project every day.  Because why not?  He still enjoys them.  Who told public school officials that 13 year olds only learn with strict reading and writing courses?  He or she was wrong from what my experience has shown me.

Don’t get in a rut.  Remember that schedule I mentioned?  Remember that I also said you can loosen up on it eventually?  That.  When math worksheets or books are getting boring, make games.  When attention is wandering, get active.  There is a terrific free resource over at iHomeschool Network to help you get out of that rut or keep from establishing one.

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that we have the opportunity to play with our kids while they learn.  We get to observe each of our children–see what excites them, what makes them tick, how their brains intake information–and we get to put all that together for a learning experience that is fun for all of us.  We aren’t sitting in desks in rows surrounded by 30 other kids who need to keep up or wait on us.  So be playful.  Be joyful.  Hopefully, they will follow suit.

For more advice on scheduling, look here.  If you need help dealing with your fears, check this out. For a bit more information on nature walks, this might interest you.  Here are some reasons to give your littles for why you homeschool.

Love wins,



6 Ways to Have a Fabulous Fourth of July Celebration!

With Independence Day coming up, we took the day off from science today to prepare.  Following are some craft, lesson, and food ideas to get your littles involved in your July Fourth celebration and pretty it up a bit.


We’ll start with crafts.  Here are two that are super simple to make and will add a little spark to any celebration.

Miniature American Flags


These are so fun to make and can be used for various things.  We have used them for coasters, glued them to the front of jars to hold plastic ware on the food table, and attached them to sticks for the kiddos to wave around.


IMG_20150702_112839655For each flag you will need

8 craft sticks

red, white, and blue tempera or craft paint



1.  Cut or break one of your craft sticks in half, making sure the pieces are as equal in length as you can get them.  These are what you will attach the other sticks together with.  Set them aside.

2.  You will only be painting one side of the remaining craft sticks.  Paint 1/3 of 4 of the sticks blue.  I put the sticks together and mark them with a pencil so it’s all even.


IMG_20150702_115539114Warning: If you’re using tempera paint, you will have to do 2 or more coats, especially on the white.

3.  Alternate painting the remaining 2/3 of those four sticks red and white.

IMG_20150702_1205389154.  Paint 2 of the remaining sticks red and the final one white.


  1. Once the paint has dried, turn the sticks over, being sure that your blue field will be on the left-hand side and your top stick is blue and red.  Also, alternate the red and white sticks so you have a true-looking flag.  Line them up so that they’re straight at all edges.


  1. Now it’s time for the stick you cut in half.  Run a line of glue along one side of one piece and place it about 1/2 inch in from the end.  Be sure it touches all 7 of the flag sticks.  Now glue the other piece the same distance from the other end.  It should look like this:


7.  Now that you have assembled your flag, you can paint a white star in the center of your blue field, or make white dots to represent whatever number of stars you want to place on your flag.


That’s it!  Cute and simple! (You can see that Littlest forgot to make sure he started at the top with a blue and red stick.  Make sure you don’t do that!)

Fireworks Pom Poms


These are also really easy to make, though younger littles may need a bit of help with the scissors.  Also versatile, we’ve used them for centerpieces, individual decor, or twirly toys for kiddos to replace sparklers.  You can make a bunch of red, white, and blue pom poms, or you can mix up the colors for variety.  Also, you can make the pom poms a little fuller by adding another strip or two of crepe paper, but don’t use too much–they stop looking like fireworks and start resembling flowers.


Red, white, and blue crepe paper

Small dowel rods or kabob sticks



(Cat is optional!)


1.  Cut a 6-inch strip of each color of crepe paper.


  1. Stack them atop one another.


  1. Fold the stacked crepe paper in half once.  Fold in half again.


  1. With your scissors, cut thin strips on one long edge of the folded paper.  You should leave about a 1/2-inch strip along the bottom for attaching it to your dowel rod or kabob stick.

IMG_20150702_121930320It should look like this:


5.  Place one end of the dowel rod or kabob stick onto the uncut edge of the paper.  Roll the paper up from the short edge, making sure your cut edges are above the stick, which you are rolling up in the paper.


6.  Tape the bottom edge of the pom pom around the stick.


7.  With your fingers, fluff the cut edges until they resemble a firework.


Also simple and cute!

Learning About Independence Day

Adding a short lesson to your preparations helps your littles remember why we’re celebrating this particular day.  It’s not just fireworks and potluck suppers!  There is a great selection of Independence Day poetry here, including Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Concord Hymn and Henry Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride.  I remember memorizing Paul Revere’s Ride in the 5th grade, and it still pops into my head from time to time in quiet moments. It has amazing rhythm.  To save you some time, here is a great American poem by Walt Whitman that reminds us of the diversity of people who live in this country and how they contribute to its success.

I Hear America Singing
Walt Whitman (from Leaves of Grass, first published in the 1867 edition)
clr gif

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—
Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—
At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

That Whitman.  What a genius.

Product Details

There a several great children’s books to help littles understand more about the 4th of July.  Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong celebrates our independence and our diversity.  It’s about a Chinese-American girl who is disappointed that her family is being so Un-American as to make Chinese food for their 4th of July celebration.  But she learns her own lesson about what America is in the end.

Product DetailsThe Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence by Judith St. George is a brightly-colored, well-researched book about the many places that document has called home throughout our history.

The Signers: 56 Stories behind the Declaration of Independence by Dennis B. Fradin is good for older kids who want to learn more aboutProduct Details how the document came into being.  And because there is a story for each of the Declaration signers, your littles can pick and choose who they want to learn about.

If you would rather just read the Declaration with your littles and discuss it at your own pace, you can find an online copy of it here.  The site even has a printer-friendly version.



Red White and Blue Tiramisu


If you have a tiramisu dish, this red, white and blue yummy goodness is sure to make a beautiful smash!  I don’t have a finished pic for you because I’m not making it until Saturday, but hopefully you’ll get the idea.  This simple dish is a great way to sneak fresh fruit in on your littles if they don’t normally dive on it the minute you get home from the store like mine do.


2 21 ounce cans cherry pie filling

2-3 cups fresh blueberries, to taste (and visual effect)

8 ounces fresh strawberries

2 5.25-ounce packages instant vanilla pudding

1 8-ounce tub cool whip

(Again, lazy cat optional.  Though I don’t recommend it for this particular project.)


1.  Start by making the pudding according to package directions, then putting it in the fridge to thicken.

  1. Slice your strawberries and set aside.

3.  Spread both cans of cherry pie filling on the bottom of your dish.  Top with pudding.

4.  For your blue layer, add blueberries until they can be easily seen through the sides of the dish.

  1. Top with whole tub of cool whip.

  2. Arrange strawberries in any design you want atop the cool whip.

Easy, yummy and (somewhat) good for you, this dish is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

  Strawberry-Peach Shakes


For a fun way to cool off from the July heat, make these shakes and watch the smiles break forth.


14 ounce sliced peaches, undrained

8-12 ounces fresh strawberries

1/2 cup milk

1/2 to 3/4 of a 48 oz tub of vanilla ice cream, depending on desired thickness


1.  Pour peaches with syrup into food processor or blender

  1. De-stem strawberries and add them to the peaches

  2. Add milk and ice cream

  3. Pulse until mixture is thick and creamy

That’s all there is to it!  My littles beg me daily to make these yummy shakes.  I hope you and your littles enjoy them as much as we do.

There you have it, beautiful readers.  My favorite ways to make the 4th of July amazing for all of us.  I hope there’s lots here you can use to enhance your celebrations.

Happy Independence Day!

Love wins,