Monthly Archives: May 2011

Tot Time at the Funny Farm

This week Dora was sick, so we stayed home most of the week. She was not so sick that she didn’t have a lot of energy, so we did a LOT of reading, playing pretend, and gluing (yes, she is currently obsessed with gluing).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         We are still “studying” farms. Since she is so interested gluing right now, I had her work on this adorable Farm Fun Pack from Musings of Me. Dora is on the young side for some of the activities, but she really liked completing the patterns.
She also liked gluing the right number of ducks (or are they chicks?) to the coop.
I modified the roll a farm scene and just had her glue the pieces on a background that I made. I didn’t quite understand her explanation as to why the pig was in the cloud….

A book that we read this week and was new to me was Barnyard Banter (affiliate link). I thought I had read it before and didn’t like it, but if I had read it before, I missed the whole “find the goose” element. Dora really enjoyed going back and looking for the goose on each page.

Moo Baa La La La 1
I also was looking for some new apps for Dora and thought I’d try some farm-themed ones. Her favorite farm-themed app has been Moo, Baa, La, La, La! which is an animated version of the book by Sandra Boynton. The thing I like about this app is that each page has a lot to do on it. Some even have things that you miss the first time around. For instance, on one of the pages, you can “shoot” the dogs off the page and the dogs’ collars will fall down. If you turn the page and come back, you can shoot the dogs more than once. Eventually, you will have several collars on the ground. Well, if your child then turns your iPhone to the side or upside down, the collars will bounce around or slowly float to the bottom of the screen. They don’t just flip with the scenery, but act more like the snowflakes in a snow globe.
Moo Baa La La La 3
That’s our week in a nutshell. What about you? Did you do anything exciting? Have you had any of these nasty spring colds that have been going around? I guess we’ve been lucky that this cold has been so mild, compared to what other people have been going through.
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Labels: Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Free Resources for Teaching Astronomy

Journey to the Stars from Yvette Wojciechowski on Vimeo.

Finally! The first in a series of posts about free resources for teaching and learning about science! I am starting with astronomy, which is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, though none of my kids give a hoot about it. There are definitely sites that I am not listing by choice, but I’m sure I also unknowingly missed some good ones, so please let me know of any that you think are great. Due to the sheer volume of websites about astronomy, I am only including sites with interactive activities, directions for offline educational activities, printables, lesson plans, or information presented in a particularly kid-friendly format.

image Amazing Space – this site has interactive games, teaching tools, a video guide to the night’s sky, and lots more!

image Cosmic Quest – this site, from The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, has lots of information, presented in a kid-friendly format, but I personally like the Living in Space game best

imageCosmos 4 Kids – a semi-online textbook, complete with quizzes

image The Nine 8 Planets Just for Kids – Lots of interesting information presented in a kid-friendly format

image Hubble Gallery – lots of seriously cool photos from the Hubble Telescope

image Journey to the Stars is a wonderful show that you can see at the American Museum of Natural History. They were giving away free copies to educators, but ran out. You can request to be added to the list to find out when more copies will be available

image – animations, “online classes”, games, puzzles, jokes, information, coloring pages and more!

imageMoon Base Alpha is a computer simulation/game about colonizing the moon.

image NASA: Challenging the Space Frontier is a timeline about NASA from Scholastic. There is a free teacher’s guide that you can download on the bottom of the page.

image NASA’s Educational Media Archive

imageNASA for Students – for grades K-12, lots of information, games, coloring pages, videos, etc.

imageNASA Kids’ Club – news, photos, and games for kids in grades K-4, includes a teacher’s area

image NASA Mars for Kids – a site based on the exploration of Mars with games, activities, information, videos, images, etc.

image NASA Quest – NASA Quest Challenges are FREE Web-based, interactive explorations designed to engage students in authentic scientific and engineering processes. The solutions relate to issues encountered daily by NASA personnel. NASA Quest offers a wide range of FREE online tools and resources for teachers, students, parents and others including Web and print lesson plans, educator guides and workbooks.

image NASA Science for Kids – Come and explore your world and beyond through NASA’s eyes. Experience an inspiring view of science with games, activities, movies, and even resources to help you with your homework.

imageNASA Solar System Exploration – some activities, puzzles, news about the solar system, etc. (Check out Space School Musical!)

image NASA Solar System Simulator

image NASA Space Place – offers information, games, and cool activities for both kids and teachers.

image NASA StarChild – for early elementary, information, puzzles, teacher resources

imageOlogy is the kids science site of the American Museum of Natural History. The Astronomy portion has many fun and interesting activities, including directions for hands-on projects.

imageScale of the Universe – Interactive tool that allows users to see how big everything is in relation to everything else

imageStar Zones Animation – watch various stars form and die with these animations

image We Choose the Moon allows users to explore the flight of Apollo 11.

Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Tot Time–Fun on the Farm

This month we started a new theme, farms. Coincidentally, Counting Coconuts also started the same theme and our sensory buckets look almost the same, though neither of us knew about the other’s beforehand. Counting Coconuts is doing lots of cool Montessori activities for her farm-themed unit, and I highly recommend you check out her blog if you haven’t already.
Dora really enjoyed her sensory tub for a while, but her enthusiasm has since waned. I think part of the issue is that as our weather has improved, she just wants to be outside. The sensory tub is filled with corn feed, farm-themed figurines, a couple of tractors, and a miniature pitch fork and broom. While she was playing with the sensory tub, Dora was using the corn feed to to do a lot of spooning, and dumping. She also used it for a lot of imaginary play and I am kind of toying with the idea of trying to start combining sensory tubs with miniature play scenes, like the ones that I saw over at Childhood 101.
I also mixed up Dora’s open-close basket, yet another wonderful idea that I got from Counting Coconuts. I added some horse harness clasps, a brown bottle, and some bolts with nuts on them. Unfortunately, these were really too hard for Dora to manipulate. I am looking for more containers for Dora to work with, but have not found anything too wonderful. The items that came with the open-close basket when I bought it from Montessori Services, were so nice, I just can’t seem to find other items that work as well.
We visited a working farm that is part of one of the local parks. I had hoped for us to attend their annual sheep shearing event, but the line for the shuttle was just too long so we left. Who knew that sheep shearing was such a poplar activity? So we went to the park later in the week with my parents instead. We saw some piglets, horses, rabbits, ducks, and chickens. The sheep, mysteriously, were no where to be found. Maybe they were recovering from the shearing event? Without a doubt, Dora’s favorite farm animal is chickens. Previously, we saw some two-day old chicks at a store and Dora could have watched those chicks all day if I let her.
Dora’s favorite farm-themed book of the week was The Big Red Barn (affiliate link) by Margaret Wise Brown. I love this book’s sweet story and cute drawings, it has been a favorite of several of my children.
Not in keeping with our farm theme, our ladybug larvae finally arrived. Sorry this photo is so blurry, my camera is on its last legs and really struggled to focus on something this tiny. Dora is absolutely terrified of the ladybug larvae. They are a bit creepy looking…. So I am raising ladybugs by myself. Coincidentally, in her Kindermusik class, she made a ladybug out of paper plates and construction paper.
Speaking of music, music is really Dora’s passion right now. She spends a good portion of the day singing, playing instruments, dancing, and listening to music. I don’t want to pigeon hole as “our musical child”, but her passion for music greatly reminds me of Tertia’s passion for animals at this age and Tertia is currently attending a vet assistant program at the local college, volunteers 2-3 days per week at a local shelter, and works another 2-3 days per week at a doggie daycare/boarding center. Not to mention, spends countless hours with our own dog and cats and frequently pet sits for our neighbors. I never pushed Tertia in her interest in animals – I am not personally a big animal person, though I like them well enough. She just seemed to come out of utero as being passionate about animals and Dora seems to be the same way about music and dance. None of my other kids had the same level of passion about a particular subject. I suppose there could be some sort of “passion gene” that runs in my family as my father was supposedly equally passionate about planes from an extremely early age and then went on to be a pilot. Certainly, I was never so passionate about any particular subject. I would also mention that I am not particularly fond of music or dancing, though my husband used to be a professional musician. So if Dora continues with this interest, it will all be new territory for me.
MC900441798[1] copy
What about you, were you passionate about anything as a child? If so, are you still passionate about it? Are you children passionate about anything? I personally believe that homeschooling makes it easier to have passions, since homeschooled children have more time to pursue their personal interests.

Have you been doing any farm-themed activities? Or do you live on a farm of your own? I’d love to operate an urban farm (at least in theory I would). I’d particularly like to raise chickens as I’d love to have fresh, organic eggs.
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Labels: Montessori, Summer, This and That, Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

A Biologist’s Mother Day Song

To all mom’s out there, biological and otherwise, Happy Mother’s Day!

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Wrapping Up Our Week–May 6

In my life this week… Once again, I haven’t blogged a weekly wrap-up for Gohan in a while. As I mentioned before, I’ve been very busy working furiously on photo albums for Mother’s Day gifts.

In our homeschool this week… Since my parents were here, we took this week off of bookwork, though Gohan did attend his classes.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… We spent the week with my parents. We went to a couple of parks with them. We also spent a couple of days in the Greenlake part of Seattle – my parents wanted to buy me a new bike.


My favorite thing this week was… Getting a new bike. My old bike is a mountain bike. This new bike is much lighter and has better quality parts. I’m donating my old bike tomorrow to Bikes for Africa:

Bikes for Africa is a non-profit organization created to provide the people of the Mpumalanga province of South Africa with bicycles. The donated bikes will help local people in various ways. Travel to and from work is expensive and can be dangerous. Bikes would allow more of their hard earned cash to be spent on necessary things for the family like food and clothing. Then there are the care workers who visit the sick. In the rural areas they have to walk many miles a day to reach their sick patients. Other bicycles will benefit AIDS orphans who need bikes to get to school and for collecting water and firewood.


What’s working/not working for us… All About Spelling continues to amaze me. It teaches spelling in such a logical way, that Gohan can actually spell really long words now. Some of the rules, I didn’t even know. For instance, “C says ‘s’ before i, e, or y”.One big thing it teaches that really helps with longer words is to teach kids to address each syllable as if it were a word. The rules for spelling syllables are the same as for spelling shorter words. Of course, the only problem with this is that Gohan has a some trouble with breaking words up in to syllables, which is pretty common for dyslexic children. Still, he has made tremendous strides in spelling. I have been completely amazed with the program (I am not an affiliate for All About Spelling, I just love the program).

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have… I’m still trying to plan for next year. I really need to have Gohan be more independent. He’ll be in 7th grade next year, but due to his dyslexia, it can be very difficult for him to work independently. It may be time for me to start using the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Learning Ally, and/or Washington Talking Book and Braille Library. These programs can provide recorded books, including textbooks, for people who are unable to read in a traditional manner. It may be, however, that I will first need to get Gohan retested to prove his handicap to qualify for these programs. I am also looking into a math program that has lessons provided both in print and via DVD or computer. He prefers not to listen to lectures, as he also has oral language issues such that a lecture often just goes in one ear and out the other. At the same time, reading is clearly problematic, but if we can combine the two, he usually can get enough information to understand the lesson.Fragrant Rose

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… 

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” – James M. Barrie (speech, 1922)


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Labels: Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Time to Enroll in the Book It! Program for 2011-12


The Book It! program from Pizza Hut rewards kids in grades K-6 with free personal pizzas for meeting reading goals each month during the “school year”. Registration is currently open for the 2011-12 school year. The homeschool enrollment page is . The deadline to register is September 1st, 2011. The site also has printables, goal setting helps, and more.

Labels: Freebies, Language Arts, Literature, Phonics and Reading
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Hands and Hearts is Giving Away Two Kindles


Hands and Hearts is an online store that sells hands-on learning products. It is owned and operated by the Estes, a homeschool family of eight children. They are currently giving away two Kindles to newsletter subscribers.

Labels: Educator Discounts and Curriculum Sales
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff