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Just Out in Nature!

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Rivers, lakes, streams, ponds… we’ve enjoyed them all this summer!  The kids had a blast at our friend’s floating dock…

They got a real kick out of the fish who would come and nibble on their fingers and toes!

The kids have spent lots of time exploring and playing in the creek behind our house and looking out for critters. The tadpoles have turned into little froglets and the skinks are much larger now!

And the mushrooms are impressive (I guess that’s one benefit of the oppressive humidity, right?!)

Last Monday we spent a lot of time out along a nearby river:

So that’s some of mid-summer fun!  If you missed it earlier this spring, you might want to send the kids out on a Nature Scavenger Hunt. Here’s the free download:

You can download a copy of our Nature Scavenger Hunt here.

  • Photo Nature Hunt — I sent the kids out with cameras and had them take pictures of everything from a fence and stump, to another person’s hand and a flock of birds.
  • I made another Second Nature Scavenger Hunt that is a bit more challenging for the kids last year.  They spent close to three hours hunting for the creatures on this list… This second scavenger hunt is probably best near a creek/pond. We have one that runs through the back of our yard, so I had the kids try to find algae, a frog, toad or lizard, etc.

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Summer Activities: Making Marbleized Paper (20-30 mins)

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Here’s a fun indoor activity that takes under 20 minutes. All of my kids and my niece (13) enjoyed making their own stationery.  All you need for this activity is shaving cream, tempera paint and a thicker paper. We used medium weight drawing paper.  Here are the easy steps:

  1. Spray the shaving cream, 
  2. Add spoonfuls of the desired paint, 
  3. Mix lightly with a finger or spoon, 
  4. Press the paper down on top of the mixture
  5. Lift the paper up and scrape off the shaving cream (We used a cereal box folded over to provide a straight, solid edge.)

That’s all there was to it! The kids each made three or four cards (and so did I!!).  This is a great activity and the bonus is, we can get them to write to Grandma and Grandpa later for a bit of writing practice!


Looking for other fun ideas for the kids?  Be sure to check out the entire Summer Activities SeriesWe have lots of indoor and outdoor activities to share with you all summer long – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays!

Clipart Image Credit: SweetClipArt

See you next time or at our Homeschool Facebook Page.

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10 Australian Children’s Books

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Some of you may not know that we lived overseas for many years. In fact, all three kids were born in Central Australia.  ED was just young enough when we left that she doesn’t remember very much about Australia any more. We’ll be doing a short unit on Australia when we start back up with school. With the help of one of my Australian friends, we came up with a list of books for that unit that I thought I would share with you today:
Some of the books we have enjoyed include:
Wombat Stew – A funny tale about a dingo who plans to make a meal out of a wombat and all the animals that conspire against him.
Bilby Moon – Little Bilby leaves her burrow each night and notices the changing moon. She meets a lot of night time creatures native to the Australian desert on her adventures.
Possum Magic – Grandma Poss uses bush magic to make Little Possum invisible. While searching to make Possum visible again they travel around Australia and try Australian foods like lamingtons and Anzac biscuits.
The Pumpkin Runner – This is the story of how an eccentric farmer from Blue Gum Creek in Australia who won a 542 mile race.
Going for Oysters – The story of an Australian aboriginal family who lives outbush. After spending the day gathering oysters, a young aboriginal girl and her siblings venture into the dangerous Eastern Swamp.
The Story of Rosy Dock -This story is set in Central Australia along the Finke River. The author explores the consequences of introducing non-native plants (Rosy Dock) to the area.
Are we There Yet, A Journey Around Australia – A friend gave us this book as we were leaving Australia. It’s the story of a family who travel around Australia in a camper van.
My friend said her kids have loved books about the aboriginal dreamtime.
 Their favourite is How the Birds Got their Colours. You can hear it being read at this youtube link:
Another favourite dreamtime story was:  Tiddalick the Greedy Frog
 Two more books my friend suggested that we include in our unit are
Where the Forest Meets the Sea – This book is set in the rain forest in far North Queensland.
The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie - A tale of two gumnut brothers who go on various adventures. Along the way they meet many Australian animals.

I also asked my friend if she had any suggestions of movies the kids and I might watch together.  Here were her suggestions. We haven’t yet watched these, but I thought I’d share them here and you can preview them yourself to see if they are appropriate for your family.

1.  Storm Boy:  This is a classic Australian movie.
2.  Babe
3.  Australia (not sure it’s appropriate but it’s very Australian! This might be good for us  parents to enjoy after the kids are in bed!)
Finally, I thought I’d share a collage of pictures from when we lived in Australia.  If you are interested, you can browse through the Where We Used to Live – Australia category. I loved putting this collage together. It sure brought back a lot of good memories!
See you next week for another post  in our Saturday Summer Reads:  Children’s Literature series. Click on the link to see the previous books in our series.
If you have any books that we should add to this list, come tell us over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page.
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Ideas for Keeping the Family Close-Knit and Strong

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.

– Eva Burrows

Does your family hold a regular family meeting?  We started holding one a couple of years ago and started some traditions that are still family favorites… “candle night,” the “smiley under the plate” and getting downright silly with the kids in “knock your socks off.”  At the end of the post, you’ll find 10 other ideas for keeping your family close, but first a little bit about holding a family meeting…

We started holding family meetings when the kids were 4, 6 and 8.  It has been a real positive experience for our family. We use this as an opportunity to share good feelings, to talk about what’s going well in our family, to brainstorm ideas that might make our family work better as a team, to talk about things we’d like to be going better and probably most importantly of all, to have fun together.  We want the kids to know they have a real (and important) voice in the family.

Here were some guideline we first came across about family meetings:

  • Meet Regularly
  • Make an Agenda or List of Topics to be Discussed
  • Plan the Time (so you can do something fun immediately after)
  • Take Turns
  • Limit complaints
  • Take Notes

Meet Regularly: Our aim is to meet once a month, but to be honest this only happens every other month or so. At least that’s a start.

Agenda:  Hubby and I usually jot down some topics for discussion and leave space to take notes as each person contributes. Here was last Sunday’s agenda:

  • Say something nice about somebody else.
  • Talk about things that are going well in our family
  • What are some ideas to make family life better?
  • Upcoming Family Events/Family Calendar (we talked about our upcoming trips)
  • In what ways do we feel like a team?
  • What ways can we get along better?
  • How can we all pitch in more around the house?

Other ideas you might include in your family meeting:

  • allowances
  • kids’ activities (what they like, what they don’t, how it affects your family time)
  • chores/jobs around the house
  • time spent on electronics
  • goals you are working toward (individually and/or as a family)
  • extended family & how to stay close (letters, art, phone calls, special trips)
  • things you’ve noticed from the week (help that was given, chores that were done unsolicited)
  • Need more ideas? I came across a post called Family Meeting Topics that might be helpful especially if your kids are older than mine.

First we talked about each point in our agenda as I took notes. Then I read out the notes from our previous meeting if they added anything relevant to the conversation.

I’m not sure how much you’d be interested in the nitty gritty details of our family meeting, but I’ll just add a few comments…  (This is from two years ago.)

Something nice: DD and LD said they were proud of ED for making it to the top of the rope at gymnastics (about 40 feet in the air which she had done for the first time earlier in the week).  Even ED chimed in nice things, “Mom cooks great food.” [I don't know about that, but it's cute for her to say!]

Things that are going well: The kids love “candle night” when we turn out all the lights during dinner.  They also love when we do the hidden smiley face under a plate. (pictured right) Everyone sits down and checks under the bottom of their plate. We go around the table saying lots of nice things about the person who has the sticker under his/her plate for that meal. You should see how much the person glows when we all talk about them, their strengths and the positive things we’ve noticed about them lately.

 Some of our ideas for making family life better: to make sure we each clear away all our dishes after every meal/snack; to actually put shoes into the basket;  to put laundry away promptly; to make labels for where things go.. and things like that.

When we talked about what ways we could get along better, the kids had some honest comments about not saying “Noooooo ”  (in a whiny voice) when someone wants to play something they’re not interested but to use a nicer tone of voice (I thought that was really insightful!)

As I said before, the most important part of the family meeting from our perspective is the family funthat comes at the end of the meeting.  We actively spend time doing something together which creates a close family bond, makes kids happy to do the family meeting, and builds fond memories together.  A couple times this year, we all put lots of fun ideas into a jar and pulled out one or two to do as a family.  The kids especially loved the game we played one time after our Family Meeting called “Knock your Socks Off.” We all crawled around on hands and knees trying to protect the socks from being pulled off our own feet while trying to go after and remove the socks from other members of the family. The last person to survive with a sock still on won the round.  We all roared in laughter and we still talk about that game all the time! Some of the other things in our jar? go hiking, lay in the grass to relax, play tickle monster (tag), mummy wrap, go to a park, play board games, do a family craft, go bowling, go to a restaurant, read books in front of the fireplace, go to a museum…

This time we decided ahead of time what we were going to do and didn’t pull from the jar. LD and ED really wanted to go bowling while DD wanted to go on a hike.  We decided to do both (with a trip to DQ in between!).

Bowling with the Family

Followed by a hike at a park.  We came across an owl, deer, a beaver and a couple of foxes (it was in the evening so the wildlife was quite active)  in addition to this pretty little waterfall.

And other ways to keep your family bonds tight and strong: 

  • Write notes to one another and leave it on their pillow.
  • Have a family game’s night.  (You can see some of our favorite family games.)
  • Do meaningful things as a family. Volunteer in the community. Go on a walk and pick up trash in your neighborhood or at your local park.
  • Have a strong community of support (beyond your family).  Attend (or organize) neighborhood barbecues, block party or picnic. Participate in a church, temple or mosque.
  • Go on a family bike ride or walk in the neighborhood together.
  • Hold hands, hug, snuggle and sit close.
  • Sing songs together as a family.
  • Go on family trips. It doesn’t have to be far, it doesn’t have to be expensive, but create a history together.
  • Look through old family photos together and talk about some of your favorite family memories. Ask questions that start with, “Do you remember the time…”
  • Make time for your spouse and keep your marriage close.
  • Support one another, not just emotionally, but also help with odd jobs and chores.
  • Talk about problems and keep the lines of communication open.

Do you have some other good ideas to keep the family close? Come tell us at our Homeschool Facebook Page!

Image: Family via Shutterstock

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Summer Activities: Slip-n-Slide

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Slip-n-Sliding is really fun when it’s hot out, just as long as there are no water restrictions.  For some reason, ED asks all year long when we’re going to go slip-n-sliding… It will be mid-January, snow everywhere and she’ll ask when it’ll be time! This year I promised myself I’d bring it out as soon as it was warm enough. So, we set up the slip-n-slide a week or so before my ear surgery — and even *I* went down the steep hill! Whew… it was fast!  I was actually happy I was wearing yoga pants.  I included ED’s blurry picture… just to prove that Moms can have fun in the summer too!

The kids are actually off this week on a trip with Hubby out to Arkansas and Missouri. I’m holding down the fort and recovering from my surgery a few weeks ago. Hope you’re having a great summer so far!

Looking for other fun ideas for the kids?  Be sure to check out the entire Summer Activities SeriesWe have lots of indoor and outdoor activities to share with you all summer long – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays!

Clipart Image Credit: SweetClipArt

Be sure to come visit us at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page.

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