We started off our school year with a unit on Dinosaurs. We have had so much fun the last three weeks! Take a look at some of the activities we've enjoyed.
Last month we received the new Playskool Show Cam to review.  Let me just start by telling you that my kids fight over it and have barely put it down. We've taken over 4,000 photos with this little gem!  If you have a 3-6 year old that you need to buy a gift for, this is one to consider.  It really is one of the neatest camera's I've seen for little guys (and we've had our fair share of kid cams).

I was impressed from the moment I opened it. The packaging wasn't too difficult to open ( a bonus in my opinion) and the packaging was bright and cheerful. I grabbed a screw driver and installed the batteries. Within moments we had figured out how to operate the camera and my 4 year old son was gleefully taking photos.

Some of the highlights of this camera in my opinion are the rigid construction (code for this toy can withstand being dropped and banged around by my destructo son). BIG EASY buttons for those little hands. But here is the single best feature- with the flip of a switch kids can share their photos with family and friends by projecting them on the wall, floor or ceiling. The camera has a ton of stamps and animations that the kids can add to their photos. (one complaint, it is really hard for the little kids to line up their subject to get the animations and stamps to fit just right).  Once I explained to the kids how to line up their subject in the viewing screen to fit it just right they got better.
My daughter took about 1,1oo photos before she filled the memory. downloading onto her computer was really easy- no special software needed to be installed (hallelujah!) After one month and 4,000+ photos we are on our third set of batteries. I have rechargables in the camera now and they seem to be working just as well as the alkaline batteries.

Both of my kids LOVE this camera and have not tired of it. My daughter now sets up her stuff animals and photographs them (since we are all a little tired of saying "cheese" for her). Bottom line is that we LOVE this camera. Of all the products I've been sent to review this one was by far our favorite!
To homeschool or not to homeschool that is the question we face. Some families prayerfully consider homeschooling. Some families just know that is what they want to do. Other still have never thought about it until some event or some circumstance brings the option to light. How ever you get here, one thing is pretty consistent. There will be days when you say to yourself "What did I get us into?" In the beginning you may say this to yourself every day, even every hour. The GOOD NEWS is that there are and will be far many more days when you say to yourself, "I am so glad we homeschool."

I read a blog post this morning about a mom who had a rough first week (although she also enjoyed her first week). You can read it here. This got me to thinking about my first week last year. As I reflected I realized that it actually took us many months before we finally fell into a groove and things felt "normal"- what ever that is.

In the midst of homeschooling is something called "life". In the case of the blogger I mentioned above there was a move to a new home and some exciting weekend activities before the start of the school year.  I think for some of us we just don't really know what to expect. We may have an idea of what the typical day will look like but when the day looks completely different we begin to fret. So here are some things I learned this past year:

1. There is no typical day :) And my "Normal", will not look like "your normal".

2. Tomorrow is another day  (maybe a day to start over, maybe a day to finish, maybe a day to start or implement something new.

3. If something isn't working for you or your children don't force it, make it work for your family- who cares what the family down the street is doing if it doesn't work for you.

4. Don't fret the small stuff- and most of it, is the small stuff.

5. Don't forget to stop and pray for grace (for your self and for your children).

6. Homeschooling is such a wonderful gift for your children, how special that we get to spend this time with and watch our children as they grow.  ENJOY IT.

7. Difficult days are part of the deal. We ALL have bad days! Let it go and refer to #2.

8. Your homeschooling may go  a little smoother if you treat it with respect and make it important. So for me I learned I had to block out that chunk of time "FOR SCHOOL". Not for laundry, or emptying my dishwasher etc. I no longer take phone calls during our school time, and I try VERY HARD not to schedule anything during our school hours that can be scheduled at another time. (No repairmen, no doctors, no park play etc). Once I made this change I felt more relaxed and was able to fall into a groove with routines and predictability. It made the day go so much smoother.

9. Let's talk supplies-  Have them ready the night before. This is part of #8. I do not plan, or prep homeschool materials during our school time. For me having everything ready the night before makes my day feel more organized and relaxed.  If I HAVE to prepare something during the school day I wait until we have a stopping point and I let the kids their 15 minute break while I take care of whatever. But I NEED this break sometimes so I really do not like planning or prepping at this time.  I used to try to do a load of laundry or make a phone call etc during this break but it added to my sense of frustration when things ran long, or I couldn't find what I needed etc.  Now I use this time to check my email and have a cup of coffee. It gives me a chance to recharge.

10. Curriculum: If curriculum is what is making you feel despair, frustration, or unhappy remember you have the freedom to change/ alter or supplement to your heart's content. Don't feel obligated to continue using a curriculum that is NOT a good fit for your family.

The first week, month or months may leave you feeling less than fulfilled. You may wonder what you are doing wrong, or you may begin to feel guilty that you are not enjoying homeschooling. I've learned that most families experience this to some degree. Here is another tidbit- you may feel this way periodically after months of good days.  Guess what? That is pretty common as well.  Hang in there, don't despair! It does get better! Refer back to #2!

Well, it's back to school for us. The Princess will be in first grade this year and our Little Man will be in Pre Kindergarten. We started our Homeschool journey two years ago with "tot school" and our homeschool has taken on a life of it's own.

Since making the decision to Homeschool our daughter, she has been diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder, or Sensory Processing Dysfunction. This has really been a learning experience for me. I've immersed myself in several books on the topic, friended several new blogs and attended many hours of therapy sessions for The Princess. I am so glad we made the decision to homeschool. I am able to provide an environment that is comfortable for her and allows for her to be able to focus on learning.

The Princess will continue to participate in the Hybrid program we started last year. She really enjoyed the enrichment classes. Our Little Man will be attending a Montessori Preschool 3 days a week this year. They have placed him in the Kindergarten class but since he won't turn 5 until January he technically isn't a Kindergartner.

I will continue to share what we do on a weekly basis on my blog this year; but I will also share about the successes we have as we learn and experiment with different strategies that help the Princess along the way.

Last week we finished up our study of community helpers. We had several centers each devoted to a separate community helper. Here are some pictures of of different centers. I used toys and materials we had already and coupled them with learning activities. Our Doctor station had several books about the human body. Our Firefighter station had an addition booklet and a craft. Our Veterinarian station had a Brain Pop video about community helpers and an online quiz. Our Trash collector station had a craft and our Dental station had a counting activity and a number match activity. Our construction station had a floor puzzle (not pictured) with various construction vehicles. The kids had a blast and actually played with some toys that had been in their closet or toy box and long forgotten so win win in my book!

Wonder what other families did this week? Check out 1 +1+1=1 and 123 Homeschool4Me for many more great ideas.
We released our butterflies this week. It was the perfect day it was a little on the cooler side with a breeze. Butterflies need a temperature of 72 degrees I believe in to be able to fly. So on day five with our butterflies we headed outside with our picnic blanket and our afternoon snack and with a nice 74 degree day we released the butterflies. In past years the butterflies have flown out of the Butterfly Pavillion immediately upon opening. This year since it was a bit breezy the butterflies hung around a little longer and we were even able to release them from our finger tips. Normally we release the butterflies on day four but it was  little too cold this year so we had to wait an extra day. In our area the Painted Lady butterfly is quite common. We purchase the caterpillars from a local Children's Discovery Museum. The kids love checking the caterpillars each morning to see how much they've grown or if they've formed their chrysalis' yet. This year we had two firsts- 1. my husband used a time lapse app to actually record one of the butterflies forming a chrysalis and 2. My daughter and I had the unique experience of actually seeing one of the butterflies emerge from the chrysalis. It tool only about 15 seconds which is why if you turn away you miss it- lol. It seemed every time we left the room a new butterfly emerged.  Here are a few photos from our release.

I realized that I had not posted the pictures I took of our classroom space. We do not have a separate room for our homeschool space so I took a section of our family room and bought some great space saving furniture from Ikea and made us this great Jungle themed space. It works great for both the Princess and Mr. Man.

Well it has been quite awhile since I've posted anything that we've been doing. This is for a couple of reasons: 1) I haven't been using anything that is original that is ours and it is a lot of work to put all the links in and also trying to remember where I downloaded each activity and 2) I have not been very diligent about taking pictures and keeping up the blog.

This week Mr. Man is working on the letter K and the Princess is continuing in our various curriculums. But I did want to share just a couple things with you. The first is an activity practicing Left and Right. I used some of my old Creative Memories stickers left over from my scrapbooking supplies. I tried to find animal stickers where the animals were facing left or right. (We were working on an animal unit last month by Unit Studies it was called astonishing animals and I really recommend it) I made a grid 4 x 5 on a piece of copy paper using a ruler and thick black marker. Then I placed an animal sticker in each square. Next I laminated the sheet then cut out all the individual squares. I wrote Left with an arrow on one sticky note and right with an arrow on another. I placed each of the sticky notes in the appropriate side of a 2 section tray and let the Princess sort all the animals into the correct section of the tray. Mr. Man wanted to try too. They both got them all right, I think the arrows really helped. I scanned my finished sheet incase you just wanted to use mine instead of making your own. However by varying the stickers you could personalize this activity to your child's interests or your own theme (dinosaurs, cars/ trucks etc). Look under my resources tab for the Left/Right animal sheet.

The second activity I want to share was a pouring/ measuring activity. I got out our old sensory bin filler from last Thanksgiving (three beans and fall colored rice) some scoops, measuring spoons and several cups, jars and bowls. I challenged Mr. Man to count how many scoops it took to fill the jar. The I challenged him to scoop some beans into one clear plastic cup then try to get the matching or equal amount into the second plastic cup.  I had an old mayonaise jar that had some lines molded into the plastic and asked him to guess how many scoops it would take to get to the second line etc.  For the Princess I put out a 1/4 measuring cup and we talked about Halves, Quarters and worked on equal amounts etc. This was good for Mr. Mans motor skills but also touched on science with predicting and testing and math with the counting and measuring and estimating. They really enjoyed it.

This month we have focused on bugs. I purchased a Butterfly home and a ladybug home from Amazon and the Easter Bunny was kind enough to leave them with the Easter Baskets. We watched our caterpillars grow, form their Chrysilis and then emerge as butterflies. We later let them go. I can not seem to find my camera which has many of the activities we did this month.  I did make a couple printable to play Swat! One is an ABC review game for my Little Man and one is a sight word game for the Princess. Both are available in the resources/ printables tab of my website.
There were so MANY bug activities we could have done a whole other month on bugs and insects. I have a ton of great pins on my Bug/ Insect Pinterest Board. Check it out here.

Update 6/11/12 The Camera has been found!! Yay!  SO here is a mish mash of pictures of some of our bug fun.  There were many other activities but since I misplaced my camera I didn't take pictures. Check out the pinterest boards because that is where most of the ideas came from that didn't get photo graphed here. (Like the Pringles Can with the Caterpillar in the back.
Warning this post is not for the faint of heart!!!  Below is a slide presentation of the toys that have taken over our home. Yesterday I posted about entitlement. The truth is My Husband and I are guilty of this "sense of entitlement" our children have. (Although there is plenty of help from the grandparents- lol).  As you will see our children have so MANY TOYS that they don't even play with the vast majority of them. It's not their fault, how could they? There just are not enough hours in the day. Not to mention that they can't even get to some of them because they are buried so deep. Here the CHRISTMAS EVE presents are so superfluous they can't even all fit in the corner under the tree.

I feel like my children have no sense of appreciation and they have no idea what it is like for some families who have to make huge sacrifices for their children to have the basic necessities and a couple extras.  We talk abvout less fortunate families/ kids. We go through the toys and clothes and weed out occasionally and donate the surplus but they just really don't get it.  It drives me crazy when I see then standing on a book or throwing a toy. I want them to respect not only their own belongings but other people's belongings as well.

Recently my daughter made the connection that she has money in her piggy bank and toys at the store cost money. She asked why she couldn't take the money out of her piggy bank to buy more toys at the store. I was thinking to myself "What toy could you possibly want that you do not already have?"- LOL