Our Thanksgiving Lapbook – LINKS LINKS LINKS!

Well, I guess you could say I’m a lapbooking convert.

We did our first lap book back in October and I loved the way it neatly tied our lessons together, so we are working on another now. What better subject to study in November than the first Thanksgiving?

I confess, up until this point, I hadn’t tried to communicate much of our nation’s history to Noodle. Last Thanksgiving she was a young three, so we kept it simple with “today is a day we say thank you to God.” But this year I’m going to give it a real go to teach her a little more about the origins of the holiday.

I didn’t really know where to begin with someone who had absolutely no context for history and very little idea of geography, so we started out by reading The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern. Noodle was very interested to learn about how the Pilgrims lived, and asked over and over how they made their own soap. And THIS is why I love homeschool, people! I took myself to Hobby Lobby and bought a Something Fabulous Soap Making Kit for $12 (after 40% off coupon frequently found on Hobby Lobby’s website). Did the Pilgrims use melt and pour soap? No sirree they did not. But Noodle got to do something fun and we did make a lesson of how the Pilgrims would have done it, and about our modern conveniences. Plus, now we have some yummy, peppermint, candy-cane striped soap for Christmas time! Too bad we didn’t make enough to give as gifts.

We also picked up Squanto and the First Thanksgiving by Joyce K. Kessel at the library. I really would have preferred Metaxas’ Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving as God’s sovereignty is more emphasized in that telling, but it wasn’t available, so I had to do the lesson on how God saved Squanto for a purpose by myself. Not a big deal. Noodle enjoyed the story and I’m pretty sure she got the point.

Anyway, back to lapbooking. After my success with the simplicity of our first lapbook, I searched all over for a preschool-appropriate Thanksgiving lapbook kit. You know what? I couldn’t find a free one! So I decided to get ambitious and plan my own using free resources I could find from all over the internet. Noodle will reap the benefits of this for sure, but since I went to the trouble of finding all this stuff, I figured I might as well share it with you, too! If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out this post at 1+1+1equals1, which is also a culmination of links I found really helpful in planning my own page.

For the lapbook’s cover, we used this cute coloring page I found on a google search. On the left flap will be a TBD Native American coloring page and few sentences about Squanto. On the right flap will be a Thanksgiving Maze and a pocket for Pilgrim and Indian popsicle puppets we will make out of these coloring pages. (Noodle really has a thing for puppet theater these days.)

On top of the middle flap will be a “thankful turkey” on whose feathers Noodle can list the things for which she is thankful this year. Below that will (I hope) be a pocket for Thanksgiving Bingo cards and a baggie full of Indian corn kernels to use as the markers for the Bingo game. (As of right now the links at the blog for the Bingo game are down… Hoping they get those back up but if not, we will paste corn kernels onto something or other.) Hubbo picked up three “mini” ears of Indian corn at Smith’s (our Kroger store) for $1.99, and we tweezed the corn kernels off for a fine motor activity after discussing…

The colors of salvation Indian corn activity, which will go on the back of the top flap to be seen when it opens. Below that will be a copywork page of Noodle’s Thanksgiving memory verse from Awana, Psalm 118:29 – “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (By the way, if you want to make your own copywork pages, I hope you’ve discovered this amazing tool! Noodle is in trouble now that I’ve found this…)

And finally, underneath the middle flap, we will be assembling our own paper Mayflower! Can you tell I’m pretty excited to get going on this project? Mama loves history!


Less is More and the Two-Step Rule

If you’ve never taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, I’d recommend it. The actual test is extremely long and I think you have to purchase it, but there are several knock-offs around the internet. I took one last week and found out I am still an INFJ – that’s always been my result – but something I did not know was that INFJ is the most rare of all 16 personality types, being that only 1% of the population tests there.

A few afternoons after taking the test I found myself locked in the bathroom trying to soak away some of the day’s irritations in a bubble bath. Why, I was wondering, did everything seem to aggravate me so much? Why couldn’t I just be happy with my life the way everyone else seemed to be?

I’ll spare you the details of the self-analysis that followed, but what came to me was that, hey, I am a one-percenter! I am a unique individual and I have unique needs. What works for you may not work for me; what makes you feel happy and successful may not make me feel that way; and overall, I need to stop comparing myself to others and just be myself.

Ironically, this post applies to you, too.

Take care of yourselves, mommas. Don’t try to be the mother that your sister is, or that your best friend is, or that your mother-in-law is or wants you to be. God chose you to be the mother of your children because you are the mother they need. Now, be yourself! Find out what works for you and do it.

For me this week, that meant instituting what I like to call the “two-step” rule. I often find myself getting extremely irritated with my four-year-old and feeling completely overwhelmed by the number of things she requires of me every day. I so badly want to be a “yes” parent – not somebody who says “no” out of laziness or fear, but who gives their children every opportunity they can if there is no good reason not to. But adding her “mommy can we” and “mommy can you” requests to my own day’s to-do list ends in an explosion nine times out of ten because I feel under an enormous amount of pressure to get way too many things done.

Enter the “two-step” rule. Each morning I sit down with my to-do list and plan my priorities for the day. But no longer will I spend every waking moment of each day running through that list. I will look no more than “two steps” ahead. I will concentrate on step one: what I am doing now, and step two: what I will do next. Beyond that, I will remain flexible. If I am in the middle of feeding Squirt and planning to start a load of laundry when Noodle makes a request, I have two options: I can replace the laundry with fulfilling Noodle’s request, or I can explain to Noodle that I am about to start a load of laundry but she can ask me again later. I will no longer put a mountain of tasks to climb over between myself and satisfaction. Baby steps.

At the end of the day, this will most likely mean getting a lot less done. But the cleaning will be here tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow; my babies grow further from the nest every day. It is time to be satisfied with less productivity and more peace of mind.

First-Timer’s First Impressions

I had lots of reasons I wanted to homeschool my kids – lots of “benefits” I could go on and on about theoretically. That was last year.

This year, it got real. Let me tell you, the “perks” and “benefits?”

They are way better than I ever dreamed.

Of course there are days that teaching my own child is hard. But parents struggle teaching their kids the materials they bring home from public school, too. At least I have the freedom to troubleshoot those struggles any way I want – including by changing the material! If something is just. not. working for my kids, I don’t have to push through it just to check off a box for the curriculum fairy, or for their teacher.

My absolute favorite thing is custom-designing Noodle’s lessons. This sounds so “duh, of course that’s a benefit of homeschooling.” But in practice, it is everything.

Custom lesson planning means my girl doesn’t have to spend her precious childhood completing worksheets to prove she is competent at a skill. It means we can spend as much time learning how the letter “S” looks different from the number “5” as we need to. It means we can integrate fine motor skills into everything so she can catch up on those seven weeks her right arm was casted this summer. It means we can do above grade-level work because I, her mom, know more than anyone else what she is capable of.

And it means I can design projects for her to complete that not only educate her, but that she truly enjoys. Nothing warms my hear more than hearing my sweet girl tell me she loves me. But a close second is the several times just this week that I’ve heard, “Mom, can we do school?” or “Mom, can we do another activity?”

The best thing is this: being my child’s teacher makes me feel like I’ve gained more insight into being her mom. Our relationship is growing so much, and I can’t imagine what it would look like without those forty hours per week that many kids spend away at school. Beyond that, what would her relationship with her sister be like?

So I guess what I’m saying is, as hard as it may be, this is right for us. Nothing could be better.

Fall Scavenger Hunt and Nature Walk

If you’ve never been to Albuquerque, your idea of the the scenery here probably comes mostly from the filmography of the recent TV hit “Breaking Bad,” or from a vague sense of the definition of the word “desert.” But I assure you, there is a lot to recommend our city and state – there’s a reason New Mexico’s nickname is “The Land of Enchantment.” The sunsets, for one thing, are more spectacular than 90% of the sunsets you’ve ever seen about 90% of the time. There’s also the International Balloon Fiesta, which fills the skies with hundreds of hot air balloons for eight days every October. But one of my personal favorite sites here in Burque is the changing of the trees along the Rio Grande in the autumn.

The Bosque in November

The Bosque in November

This morning we took down the Halloween ghost Noodle made from our front door and made a fall tree activity I saw on Pinterest to replace it. I’m always looking for good fine motor activities to build her hand strength since breaking her arm a couple times has set her back, and scissor exercises are especially necessary. This tree was really fun for her, and she even got a little creative and whimsical, making “falling leaves” and piles for jumping into at the base of the tree.

Noodle was especially on task today and we finished all her school activities ahead of schedule, so I decided to soak up one of the last warm days we’re likely to see, pack up a picnic lunch and head down to the river for a little walk. A moment of genius and a google search later turned up an adorable printable fall scavenger hunt from Mrs. Bremer’s Kindergarten blog.

The one issue I have with scavenger hunts is that my girl happens to be a bit of a hoarder. Anything she makes or finds interesting or puts in her pocket is V.E.R.Y. hard for her to ever let go of, so I really didn’t want her picking anything up along the way. Enter stroke of genius number two: we grabbed her Fisher-Price Kid-Tough See Yourself Camera* and a packet of fall stickers. Now Noodle’s “job” was to take pictures of everything on the list and mark each item off with a sticker.

Our ecosystem here in the desert is a little different from Mrs. Bremer’s, so we didn’t quite find everything on the list. Noodle photographed ducks and geese instead of crows, we saw only one lonely desert flower in bloom, and we never did find a squirrel. But we had a lovely little “hike” together anyway; it’s always good to get a little fresh air and, as I mentioned in our Backwards Day post, any variation from routine is a huge fun bomb for a preschooler.

What fun activities do you have planned as the weather gets colder?

*This is not an endorsement of Fisher-Price or an affiliate link, and Fisher-Price has not paid me to say anything about their product; in fact they don’t even know I exist.

Hooray, Hooray it’s Backwards Day!

Noodle is a big fan of the PBS Kids show “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” If you are not Supermom and you let your preschool-age kids watch too much TV, like I do, I highly suggest you check it out. It’s a spin-off of the legendary “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and is full of fun, heartwarming life lessons.

One of Noodle’s favorite episodes is about Backwards Day. The characters on the show wear their clothes backwards, put on a backwards show, and generally turn things around. For my four-year-old, this is endlessly amusing. So when I came upon this post on The Runcible Spoon blog, I knew I had struck gold.

Noodle counted down the bedtimes to Backwards Day eagerly. Mom chose a nondescript outfit for her to wear backwards without being too conspicuous (I’m so boring). We said “goodnight” to her when she woke up, ate bacon pizza bagels for breakfast, and engaged in all sorts of backwards fun.

The thing about this day was that it reminded me just how little effort it takes to give a preschooler the time of her life. I’ll admit, telling my child that she must finish her dessert before she can have lunch is not something I’d be willing to do every day… But in general, the tiniest routine upsets are huge fun bombs for her. She told her grandfather the night before backwards day that she was “really excited to go to Costco tomorrow, because we are going to eat lunch before we shop!” Wow, Bumpa. Can you believe it?

Enjoying a churro before lunch

Enjoying part of a churro before lunch

We finished the day with some homemade cinnamon rolls for dinner and I sang her bedtime songs in reverse order. It took very little pre-planning and no sacrificing to make her day so special. She is still talking about it and asking when we can do it again; and I am itching to find new ways to make her feel special.

What little treats bring your little one joy? “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matt 7:11 (ESV)

What’s in a Day? Our K4 Schedule

I’ve said before that Noodle is somewhere between preschool and kindergarten, so for labeling purposes I’ll call what we do a K4 homeschool day. Basically, she can read, but not yet write. She knows her numbers, but not arithmetic. We are in that gap space right now where she is beyond many curricula, but doesn’t have the skills to accomplish others.

There’s a gap space, right? Is it just me? Or is this where the veteran homeschooling mom realizes that every child is different…?

Anyway, I promised a while back that I would make a post about what kind of activities actually fill our homeschool days. Here it is! I’m just trying my hand at this, so my disclaimer is that this schedule is very subject to change! But I know I am always wondering what other moms are doing with their kids, so I might as well share the imperfect routine we have in our house.

Because Noodle is such a young four and we are still two years away from being legally obligated to school, our schedule is flexible and doesn’t happen every day. But most days, this is how we roll:

7:00-8:30 – Wake up, morning chores, breakfast and family devotions (we use Long Story Short)

8:30-8:50 – Phonics: Read about our experience with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons here. When we finish the book we will use this time to play phonics games, work on sight words, and read aloud.

8:50-9:00 – Calendar Time: We start by singing the “Days of the Week” and “Months of the Year” songs, then use Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Preschool Pack. We end Calendar Time singing Daddy’s phone number and our address.

9:00-9:20 – Fine Motor Activities: Noodle is a little behind in this area, I think because she broke her arm (and my heart!) twice this summer. We do a variety of activities in this time including cutting, pasting, handwriting, lacing, etc.

9:20-9:40 – Math: Noodle can count and recognize her numbers up to 100, so right now we spend most of our math time focused on handwriting and ordinals. When she is more comfortable writing we will begin some addition activities.

9:40-10:00 – Unit Study: This space is flexible. Sometimes this is where we stop for the day and head out to run errands or go to the library. On Thursdays and/or Fridays we use it for Noodle’s Awana homework. As I write this blog, we work on the Days of Creation Lapbook in this space, but hopefully by the time you read it we will have moved on to a Thanksgiving study.

10:00 – Read Aloud: Noodle has fallen in love with The Chronicles of Narnia series, so we are making our way through those books right now. I hope to read The Secret Garden with her next. Daddy also does some read-alouds for us at night.

And then our day is done! It’s really only an hour and a half of “school” time but I feel like that is plenty for my four-year-old. For the rest of the day, Noodle is free to learn through play, paint to her heart’s content, watch a little TV (yeah, I said it), help in the kitchen, earn pennies by completing her chores, or whatever! She is a busy girl, so I don’t have to worry too much free time will bore her.