Wednesday, September 6, 2017

First Day of School: Our Journey to Heart of Dakota

First Day of Homeschool 2017

Is it cheating if we started school before our first day of school?

Last year, after tons of research, I bought a curriculum for our kindergarten year that in theory was perfect… You can read all about it in my earlier blog post HERE.

While on paper (literally) it was all paper work. It looked good, when presented as “school” to my children, it wasn’t a hit. The Curriculum wasn’t the only thing to blame for our difficult kindergarten year. My son had at the time a medical issue we weren’t aware of that was diagnosed in January causing issues with focusing and other areas. Not to mention, once he was diagnosed, we had to take a month off of school just to get our lives back together.

Unfortunately, all the stress from last year has caused him to think of school in a negative way. That last statement has literally caused this Mama-teacher’s heart to break. In my years as a kindergarten and second grade teacher, I have always strived to make learning enjoyable even for the strugglers. “I hate school!” is not an easy thing to hear from your own kid when you have dreamed of being his kindergarten teacher for 5 years, eagerly waiting for the day to officially homeschool him and bring that same love of learning that you ignited in other people’s children to your own.  

So, I began my search again for another curriculum that would help guide me through his first grade year… Something that tied learning about God’s world throughout the subject lessons. Something that kept lessons short, engaging, and rich academically. This year, I chose to go with the Heart of Dakota Curriculum (HOD). Little Hearts for His Glory is their first grade level. I purchased the first grade economy package and the first grade basic package for Caleb and then some extras for Lily because she always does work with us. I decided to continue on with Cupp Readers for our phonics program instead of purchasing the ones suggested.

I loved how the lessons were divided up on the page for each day. You can see a sample HERE. I loved the activities they suggested. I loved the books that we received from our purchases… I was excited!

But… I was also nervous. We have 12 more years of homeschooling. 12 miserable years if I can’t change his attitude about school. This leads me back to the question I first asked…

Is it cheating if we started school before our first day of school?

We took our new HOD curriculum out for a test run. My initially thought was to do one lesson a day and see how it went, but to my surprise and delight, when we finished the first Science lessons, they were asking for more! I almost cried, but I didn’t have time, because I was too busy reading the directions for the History lesson, and then the Bible study lesson, and the Rhymes in Motion lesson, and then Music lesson! We finished the entire school day except reading and math. Over the course of the next 3 weeks, we did a little more and a little more. Before the actual planned first day of school, we had finished 6 days of lessons! On September 5, 2017, we started with a little photo session (as you can see) and then began our official first day of school, which went great! We still have up and down days and times within the school day, but things are better. I pray they continue to improve as the school year goes on so I never hear those horrible 3 words again.

I may be crazy wanting to add any more to our plate during the school day, but I still think calendar time is important and keeping track of the number of days of school is a great way to develop number concepts. HOD does not include lessons for these activities, so I decided to create my own, which I plan to share more about in a future post, so visit back soon to hear more about it.

I hope your school year is off to a great start. I pray you never hear those 3 awful words and if you do that you are able to restructure your homeschool in a way that works for your whole family. I’d love to hear your first day stories below and I’d be happy to answer any questions about the first grade Heart of Dakota curriculum.

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Monday, March 13, 2017

Roadschooling: A Snowy Experience

Roadschooling:  A Snowy Experience

There are many children that get to experience snow first-hand every winter. But there are many that don't. Because we stay in Florida for the winter, our kids have not seen snow very much, but the great thing about roadschooling is that when your children want to experience snow first hand, you can pack up and go find some. That's exactly what we did. We watched the weather and headed to Maggie Valley, North Carolina on Saturday night where they were predicting 3 - 5 inches. On the night we arrived, snowflakes began to fall! As you can see we were VERY excited!

 We found this cute cozy cabin, Country Cabins, where the kids would have a large area to play when the snow arrived. I’m so glad we did! Not only did they have a play house with toys inside just for the kids, but the manager also provided our kids (and ME!) with toboggans! We had such a great time! Check out our cabin!

The inside even had a wood burning fireplace to warm us up after our cold play!

Check out their expressions when they first stepped foot in the snow the next morning! There was about 4 inches of snow covering the ground.

When we first walked outside, the snow was light and powdery. The kids had a great time playing in it!

We eventually got cold and tired, so we went inside, dried off, changed clothes, and ate a late lunch. By the time we went back outside it was above 40 degrees, so the snow was melting, making it perfect for snowball fights and snowman building!

Like I said, the awesome manager of the Country Cabins brought us toboggans to play with. Of course Mommy had to test it out to make sure it was safe a few  LOT of times. Honestly, I've never ridden a toboggan myself. I'm a Georgia girl, so snow is not the norm for me. I have to say it was super fun and probably my favorite thing to do! 

Was it worth it? Absolutely! We had such a great time playing in the snow and making awesome memories together. Caleb told me repeatedly, “Mommy, I’m never going to forget this day!” “Me either, Bud… Me either!”

This will definitely go down as one of our more memorable trips. These kinds of trips and experiences are the ones I love the best. How about you? I’d love to hear about your memorable travel experiences too!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Roadschooling Adventure: The Atlanta Zoo… FREE!

Roadschooling Adventure: The Atlanta Zoo… FREE!

I have lived my entire life in Georgia and I’ve been to the Atlanta Zoo one time for a field trip in fourth grade. I was telling my husband that I don’t remember much about it except that it was a really hot day and I was disappointed because I didn’t get to see my favorite animals, the lions. I’ve always wanted to go back. Even though we’ve visited close to ten zoos around the country, I haven’t made it back to my hometown zoo in Atlanta. That is until this past Saturday!

I always try to Google discounts to the museums, zoos, and other attractions we visit along our travels. Earlier, I shared about the See 3 Pass in Savannah, Georgia. This time I came across a great one for anyone that lives and has a library pass in Georgia. Many of you may know about that, but I had never heard about it, so I figured there were others like me.

The Atlanta Zoo Library Pass:

Once a year, you can go to your local library and check out the Atlanta Zoo Library Pass. It’s a DVD that lasts 18 minutes. You watch the DVD that describes the history of how the Atlanta Zoo became what it is today either at home or possibly at the library and return it. I found it quite interesting since this is some of my hometown history. When you return the DVD, the librarian will fill out and provide you with a voucher that will provide entrance to the zoo for up to four people… FREE! You only get to check it out once a year and you only have 14 days to use it from the time you return the DVD, so you need to plan ahead and look at weather.

You can learn more about the Atlanta Zoo Library Pass HERE!

When I talked to the librarian, she shared some insight about peak times the Library Pass is checked out, like Fall Break and Spring Break during the public school year and in the Summer it’s pretty hot too. Call ahead to make sure the pass is there before you make the drive. They may even put it behind the desk if you tell them you are on your way to get it right then.

The Atlanta Zoo is a small zoo, but it has some great exhibits. It’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you can do it for FREE! That's my favorite word!! I love that many of the exhibits are set up where small children can see the animals at their level instead of needing to be lifted over a fence or other barrier. We were literally 3 feet from the Moma Panda eating bamboo!  Check out some of the animals we saw…

Did you know about the Atlanta Zoo Library Pass before? Would you care to share any other great discounts to fun and educational attractions either near or far? I’d love to hear from you!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Candy Heart Subtraction Craftivity


I know this is a bit late, but I’m playing catch up around here. You may choose to do this activity now or save it until next year, but I know you and your students will love it.

Both my children and I love doing crafts, but I’m not a fluff person. I usually tie my crafts into some academic learning that we’re focusing on in school. This is a fun craft to practice subtraction and story problem skills.

Craft Time:

Construction paper
        * 1 (9” X 12”) Sheet of red construction paper
        * ½ sheet of pink construction paper cut length wise
        * Cut 2.5” hearts out of red (1/student). Cut 2” hearts out of pink (1/student).
        * Cut 1” hearts out of pink, purple, blue, orange, green, and yellow
        *Print and cut out prior to lesson

1. Provide your students with a sheet of red construction paper and have them write their name on the back.

2. Provide each student with a half sheet of pink construction paper and have them fold it in half length wise.

3. Have students glue the outside of one side of the folded pink paper and place it toward the upper center of the red paper with the fold at the top. The pink paper should open by lifting it up.

4. On the outside of the pink fold, have students glue the Sweethearts label found on the Subtraction paper download. I created this for you. As you can see from the example above I just wrote the word Sweethearts on construction paper. Then, glue the red 2” heart below that and a pink 1” heart inside the red heart.

5. At the lower center of the paper, have students glue the subtraction story paper found on the provided download.

6. Provide students with a variety of 1” hearts in the colors listed in the materials section.

Now, that the set is ready, the learning begins…

Begin by telling the students subtraction stories. For example, you might say…

There were 5 candy hearts in the box. 
(Students should move 5 hearts to the inside of the box.)
You ate 2 candy hearts.
(Students should move 2 hearts out of the box.)
How many candy hearts are left?
(Students count the hearts left in their box and provide the answer.)

Progress into helping your students tell the story with you. An example, might go like this…

How many candy hearts did you start with in your box?
(Accept a number from your students and have them move that many hearts into their box.
How many candy hearts did you eat?
(Accept a number from your students and have them demonstrate removing that number from the box.)
How many candy hearts are left?
(Students count the hearts left in their box and provide the answer.)

Last, allow students to make up their own stories and demonstrate them to you. Allow the students to glue their hearts to match their story.


Then, have them fill in the blanks of the subtraction story and write the subtraction problem to match.

We had a great time with this activity. It was definitely a fun way to practice subtraction. Even my 3-year-old was excited about telling the stories.

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Friday, November 25, 2016

Painting with Shaving Cream

Shaving cream is one of those things teachers either love or hate. I tried it once in my kindergarten classroom in a whole group lesson and learned my lesson not to do that ever again! However, I didn’t give up on it… I tried it again in small groups and it was much more manageable, but it’s not like it came out once a week… or once a month even.

Now that I’m homeschooling the shaving cream has come out of the cabinet a few times this year. We’ve practice writing letters, our names, sight words, and numbers. I’ve figured out a few tricks through the years that have made things a little easier, which I’ll share with you later.

This week is Thanksgiving week, so we’re taking a break from the routine and just having fun so I gave the kids a choice…

Shaving Cream or Watercolor Paint

It was a tough choice. They love both, but obviously, they chose Shaving Cream! Since they love painting also and they didn’t choose that I thought maybe they could combine both worlds by painting with shaving cream. They liked the idea, so I pulled out the paint brushes and this is how we got started!

Painting with Shaving Cream:

Shaving Cream
Paint brushes (any size will work, but small watercolor paint brushes work great)
Squeegee or cut plastic square (I’ll share more about this later.)
Optional Decorations: beads, cut pipe cleaner, cut straws, bells… the list goes on!

Tip #1.  Choose a good spot. Shaving cream can get messy pretty fast, but it can be cleaned up pretty easy if you do it right. I like to be near a sink or water source. You don’t want 10 five-year-olds walking down the hall with shaving cream covering their hands, because that’s not the only place the shaving cream will be in the next 5 minutes.

Tip # 2. Choose a smooth surface. You want clean up to be fast and easy to make transitioning into the next activity fast. We have a plastic picnic table that has a gritty surface. While it might be a fun sensory experience at some point, in general the rough surface would make clean up difficult unless you could just spray it off with a hose.

Tip #3. Wear a smock to cover clothing. Even a large old t-shirt would help.

Tip #4. Keep some wipes or paper towels nearby to do a quick wipe up of any shaving cream that drips on clothing, the floor, or anywhere else it is not supposed to be.

Tip #5. Go through your behavior expectations before you spray the shaving cream on the table. It’s important to mention rules like, “Do not clap while you have shaving cream in your hands.” I even explain the WHY. “It might go in your eyes or your friends and it hurts. Even still they might try it, so be prepared with wipes or a sink for eye washing. Also, it’s important to let them know where the shaving cream is allowed to be and where it is not. For multiple students painting in a general area, let them know where each student’s personal painting area is. If they have a difficult time understanding this concept, use painter’s tape to mark a square in front of them.

Tip #6. Squeegees work well to easily clean up shaving cream from a table, but there have their cons. One drawback is their size and shape. Even the smallest size is pretty big so whether you keeping just one or one for each student, storing them could be a setback. Instead, I recommend using a cut plastic square. How? you may ask… It’s simple.

Take a plastic folder and cut it into about 3 inch squares. These are great because storage for even 30 would take up minimal space. They are cheap. One folder would make enough for several students. Also, these work great as erasers. Their small size makes them easy to have on hand for each student. Just show the kids how to use the edge to scrape the table clean and the bend the plastic square while smearing the cream back on the table in a pile. In addition, you can also have them use the squares to spread the shaving cream evenly in front of them.


1. Spray a pile of shaving cream in a central location. I typically choose the middle of the table if students are sharing. As I learned during my first experience, less is more with shaving cream. You can always add more.

2. Provide the students with a paint brush that they can dip in the shaving cream and then paint a chosen object or scene in front of them. They can also paint words or numbers if you want to add academics back into this activity.

3. When finished, have them use their “eraser” a.k.a. cut plastic square, to wipe their area clean and begin again.

Even I joined in the fun...

Christmas Activity:

We had fun shaping the shaving cream into a triangular Christmas tree shape. Then, decorated the tree with cut pipe cleaner as garland and a yellow star topper as well as beads for ornaments. It would be fun to see what designs kids could create. There are many shapes that would be fun to decorate in this fashion from wreaths to snowmen.

Last Thought… If you have some food die to change the color of the shaving cream, I think it would even make this activity more interesting. We might try that next time!

Do you love this idea? Try it! I’d love to hear all about your learning experience and share your pictures too!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Learning to Sew A Button: Creating a Buttoning & Unbuttoning Activity

Club Time

In an effort to spend more time individually with our children, my husband and I have set aside a time each week for Boys’ Club & Girls’ Club. This gives us a specific opportunity to teach our children to become Godly men and Godly women. We plan specific learning experiences where we can teach our children life skills and role model Godly character in specific situations.

Today in Boys’ Club, Caleb learned gun safety skills at the gun range with Daddy. They shot at our left-over pumpkins to see the damage a bullet can cause.

During our Girls’ club time, I introduced the skill of sewing a button to Lily. Then, we practiced the fine motor skill of buttoning and unbuttoning.  We had a lot of fun together. Would you like to hear about what we did? If so… Keep Reading!

Sewing a Button Activity:

Scrap Fabric Square or Embroidery Interfacing Square

*Disclaimer:  I didn’t have a plastic needle that would fit through the holes of the buttons I had bought for this activity, so we used a real needle. My little girl is 3 years old. I took into account her fine motor abilities, listening skills, and focusing skills when deciding if she was ready to be trusted with a real needle under focused and cautious supervision.

1. The first thing we did was introduce vocabulary of the needle. I stressed that this was a real needle with a real sharp tip that would hurt if it poked into skin… hers or mine.

2. I introduced the word thread and showed her how to thread the needle through the eye.

3. I introduced the word knot. I demonstrated making a knot and explained why it was needed.

4. I demonstrated how to sew the button on the interfacing square a few times and then held the button while Lily stuck the needle through the hole of the button and pulled it through the opposite side. (You may choose to use a scrap piece of fabric for this part of the activity.)

5. When the thread became short, I tied it off in a knot, and cut the string.

6. After the first button was completed, I got her started on the following buttons, but I allowed her to hold the buttons on her own.

7. She sewed the last 2 buttons on a separate interface square on her own with just a little help from me to make sure she continued to go in the right direction. When she finished, I cut 2 holes to match the buttons in the opposite side that were just big enough for the large buttons to fit through.

8. After cleaning up our mess, I showed Lily what we made. A new “toy”! One where she could practice buttoning and unbuttoning on her own. She was so excited that she had made something herself and enjoyed using it over and over again. When Daddy got home she eagerly told him and showed him what she had made and what she could do with the buttons.

For the first button, I allowed Lily to select a button of her choosing. She chose a pink one that just happened to be a large button and it worked well because there was space for my fingers to help her hold the button as she pressed the needle in and pulled it out.

The second button she chose was a purple button that just happened to be a small button. This button made our activity difficult as there wasn’t a safe place to hold the button and caused an accidental poke. No worries! She didn’t even draw blood… tis the life of one that sews.  

After this, I encouraged her to choose a large button instead. We made it through with no further pokes! Yay!

Have you started teaching your child to sew? What are some of your favorite lessons? We had such a great time with this activity that I am definitely planning more sewing during our Girls’ Club time!

Do you like this idea? Try it! I’d love to hear all about your learning experience!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Friday, November 11, 2016

Digging into Reading

Digging into Reading

Our kids LOVE their sandbox. We built it for them a few months ago and it is their favorite place to be. A few weeks ago, we played paleontologist. We hid some plastic dinosaurs and sea shells under the sand and then used a paint brush to carefully dig them up. We all had a blast with this game!

This week for reading Caleb was learning some new sight words and Lily was practicing some new short a-blends. We’ve played matching games and sorted words/blends, and used stickers to build the words/blend, but this week I took a little different approach.

I quickly selected 10 sight words I wanted Caleb to practice and I pulled out 10 a-blend cards for Lily. I quickly stuffed them into the sand about an inch down or less as they were playing without saying a word. This caught their attention and right away they were excited to play… and READ!

Playing Word Paleontologists:

Hand your children a paint brush and their off! We get into our paleontologist role by pretending that each flashcard found is rare and fragile. They must carefully use the paint brush to wipe away the sand until it is all swiped clear. (It helped that we did this when playing paleontologist with the dinosaurs and seashells as well!) We are all excited about a dig find and eagerly work to figure out what message is on the card.

As I mentioned, we practiced reading sight words and short a-blends, but this activity is great for practicing all kinds of skills such as letter names/sounds, blends, sight words, and vocabulary words. You could bury a card that had a picture or a word on it and have your child tell you a rhyming word. You could bury index cards with complete sentences on them to have them practice fluency skills. I also think it would be fun to bury a sentence in the sandbox each word on a different card and have your child try to figure out the secret message once all the words are uncovered!

We became Word Paleontologists, but your children might become Number Paleontologists! This would be a fun way to practice recognizing numbers, counting how many dots, addition, or subtraction problems and so much more! They could uncover a number and you could ask them to tell you a number that was more, less, or equal to that number. The list goes on and on!

Don’t have a sandbox? This activity could easily be done by anyone just by placing flashcards face down in a large plastic bin and covering them with some play sand.

On a side note, our sandbox is outside and although it is covered the sand just a few inches below the surface is damp from rain water that comes up from the ground. Caleb’s sight word cards were laminated and were unharmed in the process of this activity. Lily’s blends were written on index card stock and were not laminated. After finding them, although they were not damaged, you could tell they were near some moisture.

Do you like this idea? Try it! I’d love to hear all about your learning experience!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

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