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Free Garden Planning Pages

This time of year provides us homeschooling mamas and dadas with a great opportunity to teach our littles about life and biology and botany and how connected we are (or should be) with our planet.  Getting into the garden or the greenhouse is one of my favorite ways to teach.

morning garden 4

You can study life cycles in the garden, simply by growing a plant from seed and watching it for an entire season.  Keeping a diary or calendar of the plant’s growth can help your little understand scientific observation.  Planning a garden helps your little learn about how things grow together.  If you’re planting flowers, you can add an ongoing color lesson for art studies.  If you’re planting vegetables your little can learn about where food comes from and what is good for his body.  Littles can learn how plants need water, soil, and sunlight.  If you’re starting in a greenhouse, they can learn about how different seeds need different temperatures to sprout.

morning garden 1

There is so much a little can learn about life from gardening, but one of the most important lessons they can take away from gardening is that hard work pays off.  Gardening takes some work–you have to baby those seedlings, make sure your plants are getting the right amount of water, keep weeds from stealing the necessary nutrients, and harvest at the right time.  My Littles have been helping with the gardens since they were old enough to walk, and they groan when the weeding or hoeing needs done, but they realize that all that work is going to result in lots of fresh food and beautiful flowers to enjoy from the patio.  So they do it.  I love that it keeps them physical all summer, beyond jumping on the trampoline or swimming in the pool.  It makes them work those growing muscles in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.

morning garden 2

We always grow one special thing for each of the boys in our veggie/fruit garden.  For Littlest it’s watermelon.  For Middle, it’s our grape arbor.  This year we bought some new seeds that are supposed to grow giant watermelons, so Littlest better have his grubby hands ready to get sticky.  We’ve walked out to the orchard and looked at how our fledgling apple trees are covered in blooms this year, promising an actual crop of fresh apples for the first time.  Even the pear trees are producing this year, though not quite as much as the apples.

morning garden 3

Every year the things we grow provide fresh insight and lessons into science and nature.  I want the whole world to enjoy that connection.  I’ve made up a couple of freebies for you, and you don’t even have to subscribe to get them.  Though it’d be a lot cooler if you did.

Here’s a set of Garden Planning Pages to get you and your littles started:

 

garden planning pages

 

And here is a set of Garden Diary/Calendar pages to help your littles learn all season:

my plant diary

 

Print these out and get outside with your littles and enjoy glorious spring.  Learn while you’re having fun?  Yeah yeah.

That’s the stuff.

Love wins,

KT

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.

Done.

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

How-to-make-a-galaxy-jar-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

Shadow-Tracing-Art-for-Kids

 

 

 

 

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

EggCartonFlowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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,

KT

Psssst… A Lit Mama Surprise and a New Free Download

The Littles think when I wake them this morning they are going to have a normal day of school.  Little do they know…

IT’S AUTUMN CAMP DAY!

I promised you back when I did my summer camp post that I would have an autumn camp this year and let you know my ideas.  So stay tuned, because some time between tomorrow and Monday I will post the full itinerary with pics and instructions.  Believe me, it will be worth the wait.  This day is going to be fun Fun FUN!!!!

In the meantime, do this autumn scavenger hunt with us today.  We can pretend we’re all playing and homeschooling together.  autumn scavenger hunt

Download Now

 

Have a frabjous, supercalifragilistic, beautemous Autumn Weekend, my beloved friends.

Love wins,

KT

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.

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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,

KT