Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Memorial Day Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is Up


Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Cheap and Free Summer Fun for Families


Summer vacation is quickly coming up for us and I always like to take advantage of the numerous free or cheap fun activities that are available each summer. Here is a list of some summer fun activities that we like to do. How about you? What are some of your favorite things to do during the summer?

  • Beaches and Parks – in addition to being a great place for active outdoor fun, many beaches and parks host special activities during the summer, such as guided tours, classes, concerts, movies, festivals, plays, etc. As an added bonus, many parks have started adding water play areas to their repertoire of play equipment.
  • Berry Picking – check this site for a list of local u-pick places
  • Bowling
    • AMF Summer Unplugged – “This summer, your children 16 and under can bowl for free at your local AMF. Sound too good to be true? It’s not! Just register your children to get weekly coupons via email for two free games per child per day all summer long.”
    • Kids Bowl Free – “Children whose age does not exceed a limit by a participating bowling center are eligible to register for 2 free games a day, all summer long, courtesy of the participating bowling centers along with the schools and organizations.”
  • City/County entertainment – check with your city and county, as well as neighboring cities, to see if they will be hosting any events, such as concerts, plays, outdoor movies, kids’ entertainment (magicians, musicians, etc.), festivals, etc.
  • Crafts – many craft, sewing, and educational supply stores, such as Michael’s and Lakeshore Learning host free or discounted kids’ craft events and classes.
  • Drop-in Play Places – if the heat is getting to be too much, but your kids need to burn off some excess energy, drop-in play places may be just the place for you
  • Farmer’s Markets are a great place to shop for healthy, locally grown, foods, but they also often host concerts, arts and crafts, and other fun activities
  • Game Stores (and some toy stores) often host free or cheap game leagues/days/nights
  • Kids’ Movie Series/Festivals
    • Cinemark Movie Clubhouse – Ten weeks of movies for kids, shown weekday mornings. All 10 movies can be purchased in advance for $5.00, or can be purchased separately at the box office for $1.00 per show.  $5 Series punch cards are limited and are now available only at the theatre box office while supplies last.
    • Malco Theatres Kids Summer Film Fest – June 7th – July 27th – Kid-friendly films every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 AM. A portion of the $2 admission price will benefit local children’s hospitals.
    • Marcus Theatres Kids Rule Kids Summer Film Series – June 21st – August 11th, 2011. Kid-friendly films every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 10 AM. $2/person.
    • Marquee Cinemas Kid Summer Movie Program – Marquee Cinemas presents a special selection of family films brought to you each week during the summer at no charge. Check your location for dates and selections.
    • Regal Summer Movie Express – During this 9-week festival, select Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards Theatres will offer selected G or PG rated movies for only a dollar on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00am.
    • I’m sad to say that the AMC Summer Movie Camp program has been discontinued. Sad smile
  • Libraries – in addition to summer reading programs, your library may have concerts, performances, storytimes, arts and crafts, etc.
  • Museums – though they can be crowded during the summer, museums often offer extra kid-friendly classes, activities, and displays
  • Reading programs – you can read my previous post about summer reading programs for kids
  • Storytimes – most libraries and bookstores will offer storytimes during the week
  • Woodworking programs for kids are free at Lowe’s and Home Depot

Labels: Freebies, High School, Social Studies, Summer Fun, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Tot Time–A Motley Crew of Activities

Dora has been cutting her bottom two-year molars. This has meant that she hasn’t been sleeping well or feeling herself, so her behavior has been just a tad bit off all week. Several nights, I found myself trying to entertain her at midnight, because she couldn’t sleep. As such, it seemed like we explored a much wider variety of activities than usual.

Outside Activities – Last week, I did not blog a weekly wrap-up, because we had spent much of the week at Great Wolf, which is a hotel with an indoor water slide park. Dora was a bit nervous to play in the water at first, but once she warmed up to it, we had to bribe her to get her to leave. She also finished up her Kindermusik class, which she has absolutely loved. So, I signed her up for another mini-session, as well as some summer symphony playdates. Finally, she also started a gym class. I was a bit hesitant about the class at first, for a variety of reasons, but Dora really enjoyed it and has spent much of the week practicing various skills that she learned in the class.

Gross Motor – Dora started riding her bike on her own! She is using training wheels. I had hoped to use a walking/balance bike instead, but she wasn’t having anything to do with that.


Fine Motor – I bought Dora two pairs of scissors. They had just been sitting on my desk, unopened for a while, when Dora decided this week that she wanted to use them. She was able to cut paper on her own with both pairs! She was so excited! She has been wanting to use scissors for some time now. She was so happy to use them, she was cutting up any paper that she could get her hands on. So I set up a basket with some heavy duty scrapbooking paper, which I cut into smaller pieces. The papers I chose were very stiff, so she was able to manipulate them much more easily than everyday craft and printing papers. In addition, I chose papers that had some texture to them, thinking that the extra texture would give her more sensory information to help her coordinate the whole process of holding the paper and the scissors at right angles to each other, while also manipulating the scissor.

The first pair of scissors is called My First Scissors and is from by Faber-Castell. It does not have any holes to put fingers in, so requires less coordination. At the same time, hand strength and coordination are still being built. The only negative about the scissors is that they are a bit harder to control for fine cutting (I tried both pairs). The second pair, Maped Koopy Spring Scissors, has holes for the fingers, like traditional scissors, but has a spring which causes the scissors to open as soon as pressure is released. This  is what Dora was really having trouble with before. These scissors require more coordination and sometimes Dora would start using them like they are a pair of the My First Scissors (not putting her fingers in the holes).
Literature We finally finished up our farm theme. We read several good books about farms and farm animals, but the two that stood out this week were:
Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox – this book reminds me a lot of a Dr. Seuss book. You have a “near sheep”, “far sheep”, “brave sheep”, “scared sheep”, and so on. It teaches about opposites, descriptive words, and rhyming. It doesn’t, however, actually teach anything about sheep. Dora absolutely loved this book and likes to pretend that she is reading it as she has basically memorized the whole thing.
Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin – we read this whole series, but this book was Dora’s favorite. In addition, last week at Great Wolf they read this story at story time, which excited Dora so much! The whole series is just really, really silly. The books are about a farmer who has some problems with his animals not knowing their proper places. In this particular book, Farmer Brown goes on vacation and leaves his brother, Bob, in charge. He warns Bob about Duck, but Duck still manages to have the last laugh.

Games – Dora also decided to start really playing UNO MOO with me. Up until this last week, she just liked to carry the farm around and play with the pieces. All of a sudden this week, she wanted to play the game, including actually taking turns and using a bit of strategy. I modified the rules some, we did not use the skunks as they are intended to be used, instead we just treated them as another animal. She still could only handle taking turns for a short amount of time, but it was really rewarding to see her so happy when she won for the first time. Equally rewarding was seeing her reaction when I won, she smiled just as much as when she won, clapped, gave me a high five, and said, “Good job Momma, you did it!”

Old MacDonald App 2
Apps – Finally, she enjoyed this Old MacDonald app from Duck Duck Moose. Not only is each page interactive, but you can change the music to be vocal, various instruments, no sound, or record your own. I had all of our family record one chorus of Old MacDonald. Dora really loved being able to listen to her loved ones singing when they weren’t around. She especially liked to listen to her daddy who got very silly with his singing. This app also has some fun and unusual things on the farm, such as frogs and construction vehicles.
Science – Our ladybugs finally completed their lifecycle and we were able to release them. Honestly, this activity was pretty big bust, since Dora was afraid of them (that is Gohan’s hand, not hers). They essentially became extra creatures for me to feed, water, and care for. Unfortunately, two of the ladybugs never emerged from their pupa stages (kind of like cocoons).
In the Kitchen – For some reason, we did a lot of baking this week. Dora helped me to make this coffee cake, which I really liked because it combines cinnamon with a subtle chocolate flavor. We also made lemon fool, which is essentially lemon curd mixed in with whipped cream and served with waffle cookies. I think lemon fool makes for an awesome summer dessert. It is also fairly easy to make, but looks pretty impressive.
And, if you are not sick of hearing about apps, we found this wonderful baking game app, called Cookie Doodle from Shoe the Goose. Kids  can make cookies with the app. The ingredients are very realistic and the child “adds” the ingredients by tilting, pinching, or shaking the phone. Then the child “rolls” the dough, “cuts” the cookie with cookie cutters or a knife, and “bakes” the cookie. The cookies can be decorated the cookie with frosting, sprinkles, candy, and/or writing. Then the child can “eat” the cookie, which is Dora’s favorite part. We have wondered if the recipes are real or not and plan to try one to find out.
Cookie App 001
So that is a rough summary of our week. How about you? What have you been doing with your child?

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Labels: Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschool Village Garden Challenge #3 Link Up



Sigh! The weather here continues to be dreary and cool. Our seeds were barely sprouting and I finally just couldn’t handle looking at a depressingly plain and gray rock wall. So I broke down and bought several azalea and wisteria plants to liven things up. I can’t tell you how much happier it makes me feel to look out my window and see the azaleas blooming. They are still starter plants, so haven’t filled out or anything, but the color is so nice right now. I’m not sure if the wisteria will actually take to climbing a rock wall, but thought I’d give it a shot. I love the fragrance of wisteria. I spent quite a bit of time debating between the scents of wisteria, jasmine, and honeysuckle. In the end, I settled on the plant that I thought would look best with the azaleas. In the fall, I’m also going to plant some bulbs, so hopefully next spring, we’ll have a riot of color and fragrance in our backyard.

Our front yard is nicely mulched, weeded, and pruned, but our flowering plants have been a bit pitiful this year. Thank you La Nina!

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Free Online Resources for Teaching Anatomy

Here are some more science links, this time about anatomy. Did I miss any good sites that you know of?

imageAll Kids Network: Kids Body Worksheets




imageThe Amazing Human Body Game






Anatomy Arcade – games, interactives, and videos



Anatomy and Physiology Interactive Flashcards – use to review what you’ve learned

imageCrickweb – Body parts labeling activity (under Key Stage 1) and label skeletons (under Key Stage 2)



imageExploratorium – Cow’s Eye Dissection




imageGlasgow Science Center – look under forensics and life/health – “Games, experiments, worksheets, posters, activities, teaching resources and more!”



imageInner Body – “Each topic has animations, 100’s of anatomy graphics, and thousands of descriptive links. Study the anatomy of the human body online using anatomy charts, models and diagrams. It’s fun, interactive and an ideal reference site for students or those who just want to know more about the medical descriptions and anatomical terms used by doctors and nurses”

imageKids Learning Games: Body Parts Games



Otter’s Homeschool Science Curriculum: Human Body (Little Otter’s, Elementary, and High School)



image Neuroscience for Kids – click “Explore” to learn about neuroscience and “Experiment” to access games, coloring pages, lessons plans, etc.


imageScience NetLinks – Providing a wealth of resources for K-12 science educators, Science NetLinks is your guide to meaningful standards-based Internet experiences for students.



imageSoftschools: Human Body – label online diagrams, worksheets, quizzes, etc.





imageSparklebox: Ourselves/All About Me printables – playdough mats, posters, sorting pictures, word cards, templates, etc.



imageSuper Teacher Worksheets: Human Body





imageTeacher’s Domain – free membership required – “Teachers’ Domain is a free digital media service for educational use from public broadcasting and its partners. You’ll find thousands of media resources, support materials, and tools for classroom lessons, individualized learning programs, and teacher professional learning communities.”



The Yuckiest Site on the Internet – From Discovery Kids, lots of gross stuff about the human body – burps, farts, earwax, sweat, and more!



imageVideos From How Stuff Works – videos from Discovery Channel, the Science Channel, and more



You Tube Videos:



Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Carnival of Homeschool: The Flag Edition is Up!


Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

NASA is Accepting Applications for the 2011-12 Inspire Program


NASA will be accepting applications for students in 9th-12th grade (for the 2011-12 school year) for their INSPIRE online learning program. INSPIRE stands for Interdisciplinary National Science Project Incorporating Research and Education Experience. Here is a blurb from their site:

The Interdisciplinary National Science Project Incorporating Research and Education Experience, or INSPIRE, is a multitier year-round program designed for students in ninth to 12th grade who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.

The centerpiece of INSPIRE is the Online Learning Community, or OLC. The OLC provides a place for INSPIRE students to interact with their peers, NASA experts and education specialists. Through grade-level-appropriate educational activities, chats and discussion boards, students and their families are exposed to the many careers and opportunities NASA has to offer. In addition, the OLC provides the parents/guardians of participating students with resources designed to help them champion their child’s education and career goals.

The deadline to apply is June 30th, 2011.

Labels: Astronomy, Online Learning, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

2011 Summer Reading Programs for Kids


Update – Be sure to read my updated list of summer reading challenges.

It’s that time again! Summer time is a wonderful time for some lazy day reading. Another incentive for summer reading are summer reading programs, which reward kids for reading. We always enjoy our library’s summer reading program, but several companies also offer rewards programs.

  • Barnes and Noble Summer Reading: Imagination’s Destination – this program is for kids in Grades 1-6, and runs May 24 – September 6, 2011. Kids earn a free book after reading eight books
  • Bookworm Wednesdays – Every Wednesday at 10:00 am beginning July 6th for six weeks. Bookworm Wednesdays entitles kids to free admission to a select children’s film when they present a book report at a participating Showcase Cinemas, Multiplex Cinemas or Cinema de Lux box office. Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six receive free admission and do not need to submit a book report. 
  • Borders “Double Dog Dare” – this program is for kids under 12, who can earn a free book after reading ten books The program runs May 4 – August 26, 2011.
  • Chuck E. Cheese Reading Rewards Calendar – Agree on a reading goal with your child. Fill in the reading chart every day that your child meets that goal, and after two weeks, he can turn it into Chuck E. Cheese for 10 free tokens (with pizza purchase). They also have other calendars to work on other goals.
  • Half-Price Books “Feed Your Brain” – Kids 14 and under, who read a total of 600 minutes during the summer, can earn a $5 Back-to-School Bucks reward. Runs from June 1 to July 31, 2011.
  • H-E-Buddy Reading Club – Kids read ten books, submit the form before October 1st, 2011, and receive a prize in the mail
  • Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge – kids aged 15 and under must log on to between June 6, 2011, 12:01 a.m. EST and June 25, 2011, 11:59 p.m. EST, log their reading minutes, and fill out the sweepstakes form. Grand prize is 6 books.
  • TD Bank Summer Reading – this program is for kids aged 18 or younger and runs May 4 – September 30, 2011. Kids, who read ten books, get $10 deposited into a new or existing Young Saver Account.

Labels: Phonics and Reading, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Scientific American: At-Home Activities for May


From their site:

For the month of May 2011, Scientific American will feature one science- related activity each weekday, which parents and their six- to 12-year-olds can do together. We consulted with members of the National Science Teachers Association so that the activities would echo themes taught in early grades. Parents will also find additional background to help them explain the concepts. But the overarching goal was simple: each activity had to be easy and fun, done with household ingredients and completed in less than an hour.

Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Wrapping Up Our Week–Testing Time

In my life this week…  Next week is testing week at the ALE that Gohan attends. Due to his learning disabilities, I have always opted out of annual assessments for him. I feel that he can handle it this year, so he will be taking his first standardized test next week. Interestingly, it will be administered on the computer. So this week he did the trial test. The math portion included questions about pi! He’s only in 6th grade, so that seems a bit advanced. He does happen to know what pi is, but it hasn’t been taught in any of his math curriculum yet. Hopefully, the test won’t overwhelm him. I try to stay extremely low key about testing, so that my kids don’t develop test phobia (this was hard with Tertia when she was younger as she tested very poorly).  
In our homeschool this week… We started working on the next science unit I have put together. It’s a unit about weather. I’ll post it once I put some finishing touches on it.
Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… We didn’t get out much as Dora had a cold. Gohan will be having a friend sleep over this weekend though.
My favorite thing this week was… Getting to hang out at home. We don’t spend many days at home all day, so it was kind of nice to be able to have a more leisurely pace. Dora was sick, but not so sick that she was miserable.
What’s working/not working for us… Grammar is not working for us. Actually, it’s not so much that it isn’t working, but that I just haven’t been fitting it in. It seems like the least important subject right now, so when time is crunched, I just skip it. Still, I feel guilty about it.
Homeschool questions/thoughts I have… I’ve been reflecting a lot on homeschool approaches. In my heart, I’m a “follow a set curriculum or approach” sort of person, but no one curriculum or approach seems to work for any of my kids. As such, I always seem to be using a bit of this and a bit of that, which leaves me feeling very mish-mashed. Though, I suppose there are some advantages to it and I guess it is own homeschool approach – eclectic. I’m particularly contemplating this with Dora. I had been pursuing Montessori methods with her, but am feeling less and less comfortable with Montessori. I guess I just wish there was some educational philosophy that I felt I could follow for even 75% of our curriculum. Sometimes I wonder if I just like to change things up too much, if I shouldn’t stick things out more. What about you? Do you tend to find that your curriculum choices work for a long period of time or do you end up frequently switching things up?
A photo, video, link, or quote to share…  Gohan’s Van Gogh Unit from our Meet the Master’s curriculum. As you can see, his work on the final project wasn’t as good as his earlier work on the practice sheets. I think block scheduling does not work for him with art, as he gets too tired of drawing so much at once.
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Labels: Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff