Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Into Reading {The Witch of Blackbird Pond}

We've been reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare all month as a read-aloud during our nightly story time. Even my six-year-old has become absorbed in this story.

It was a childhood favorite of mine, and I've enjoyed revisiting it as much as my kids have enjoyed discovering it. Kit's story of life in Puritan New England is so compelling that the boys don't realize how much history they are learning. 

You can download a study guide sampler from Progeny Press if you'd like to go further in-depth with it, and there is a study guide at McGraw Hill that is intended for classroom use but can be adapted for the homeschool.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall Into Reading {The Penny Whistle Halloween Book}

The Penny Whistle books are full of recipes, games, crafts, and decorating ideas, and the Halloween Book will inspire you to have some fun tomorrow night (we are celebrating Halloween on Saturday.) I found my copy at a used book store, but you can usually find them at the library.

Freely Educate has a link for a free Halloween recipe ebook and a free Halloween craft ebook.

Have fun!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall Into Reading {Halloween}

Jerry Seinfeld's Halloween is the funniest book!  If you were a child in the 1970s, you will be able to relate to Jerry's costume dilemmas. 

Today we are off to buy Halloween candy (no marshmallow peanuts allowed!) Since we don't get many trick-or-treaters where we live, I'm buying "name candy only."

You may enjoy searching for "vintage halloween costumes" on ebay to show your kids what our options were as kids. My favorite costumes were and still are always homemade, but I vividly remember those costumes that came in a box, with the oh, so fragile mask and rubber band strap.

My boys have all three decided to go as Star Wars characters -- Jango Fett, Anakin, and Sebulba!

Today, we are going to decorate trick-or-treat bags. This is a yearly tradition for us. I bought canvas bags at the craft store for $1.25 (used a coupon on the 3-pack) and some fabric paint.  

The boys have drawn out their designs on paper, then we will outline them on the bags with chalk before adding the paint. These bags will be used again and again all year for outings to grandparents, waiting at the auto mechanic, carrying light sabers and other necessities to the park, etc. The boys still have their bags from the last few years. When they get tired of them, or move on to a new "theme," they make great reusable grocery bags, and they always bring either a smile or raised eyebrows from the checkout clerk!

What's your favorite costume and/or candy memory?
My favorite was the year my friend Sheila and I dressed up as fifties sock hop girls, complete with poodle skirts and saddle oxfords. Candy: anything chocolate, except malted milk balls (yuck! always traded those to my brother.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Into Reading {Pumpkin Eye}

I love Denise Fleming's picture books -- they are so pretty to look at, and the text is so fun and flowing.  My kids have been enjoying her book Pumpkin Eye since they were little, and we look forward to pulling it out each fall. 

Denise Fleming has a fantastic website with all sorts of activities to accompany this and her other books. She even explains her art process using paper pulp to create her pictures. 

It is almost pumpkin carving day here at out house, and  our own pumpkin eyes are due to make an appearance on the front porch.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Into Reading {Stellaluna}

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon is the story of a non-scary fruit bat and her adventures in friendship and acceptance. It is a beautifully illustrated story and is perfect for the fall season.
  • Here is an online storytime with  Stellaluna for you to watch, and here is a free lapbook unit study on bats.
  • You can make your own Stellaluna with a toilet paper roll and free printables found here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Into Reading {Pumpkinhead}

Caldecott winner Eric Rohmann's Pumpkinhead is a slightly macabre cautionary tale of a boy with a pumpkin for a head. It is sure to bring on some giggles, and the creepiness factor is fun for this time of year.

  • Martha Stewart has instructions and free printable clipart for creating your own pumpkinhead boy (just be sure to attach his head securely, Bwahh hah hah!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Into Reading {Where the Wild Things Are}

Don't miss Maurice Sendak reading Where the Wild Things Are over at Barnes and Noble's online storytime through the end of October. You may be able to find it in their achive when next month's story is posted.  

The Crafty Crow has a whole page of activities to keep your wild things busy, including an easy hat pattern that would be perfect for a Halloween costume.

We loved the movie version too, and it is out on DVD now. Here is a Wild Things Discussion Guide that is geared towards older kids but can be used with all ages. 

If you have any Lego-maniacs at your house like I do, here are some ideas for making lego wild things.

Mama Kopp makes the sweetest wooden figures, and she has Max in her shop now. He'd make a nice stocking stuffer for a wild thing on your list!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fall Into Reading {The Trip}

Louie is a beloved character in our house, and in The Trip by Ezra Jack Keats, he travels through a diorama into a magical world of wonder.  

Keat's collage-style illustrations are appealing to all ages, and the vintage style artwork will take you back to your childhood, if like me, it was spent in the sixties and seventies.  

You can find some cool activities and animations to watch at the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and some educator's resources here. You might be inspired to gather some boxes and create a diorama after traveling through Louie's world.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall Into Reading {The Pumpkin Book}

Gail Gibbons' books are my favorites for supplementing our science studies. Her website has free downloadable teacher's guides and teacher's resources.

We've been reading The Pumpkin Book this week and learning all about pumpkins and how they grow.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall Into Reading {Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet}

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet by Diane de Groat is one of our Halloween favorites, but the boys like to read it all year round. All of the Gilbert books have been on the top of our list for story time for several years.

Diane de Groat has a page of activities you can print out on her website including a Gilbert mask! Both younger and older kids will enjoy the main character Gilbert's antics and will be able to relate to his worries and dilemmas.

We love the homemade Halloween costumes the kids in the book wear. Family Fun and Martha Stewart have some fun ideas if you are inspired to create your own costume this year. We are heading out to the home improvement store today to gather some robot body parts for one costume.

My other two are still undecided but tossing around ideas from Star Wars and The Karate Kid, to fire-fighters. Decisions, decisions . . .

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fleeting Days of Summer

This fat caterpillar attached itself to the siding on our house a few weeks ago. We left it alone since it had already attached, and it had formed a chryssalis by the next day. The next day, however, it was gone :( We've seen some lizards around our house, though they move too fast for us to get a good enough look at them to identify them, so we think either one of them or a bird ate the poor caterpillar.

We found two caterpillars on the hollyhock plant a few days later, and decided to bring them in to watch them transform. They immediately begin to form into the chrysallis stage after we brought them into the butterfly tank, and they emerged into these:

We think they are Gulf Fritillary butterflies. 

The hummers have been visiting us daily as they prepare to fly away for the winter. They are so bold, and will swoop us if we are on the porch when they decide to visit.  

The bluebirds are checking out the bird bottle again. We wonder if they are going to settle in for the winter.  

The summer days may be fleeting, but they are still teeming with life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Game Night Supper: Target to the Rescue!

Game Night!
BBQ chicken dinner all in one pot!

Football game night means a late, late supper, and all I had time to do yesterday was a quick stop at Target for some cold medicine. To avoid the grocery store, I perused the small grocery section at Target, and came up with a plan for supper after the game. 

I'm fortunate to have a big crock pot, and I had some potatoes in the pantry, so I made a foil packet supper:
  1. Lay out a piece of tin foil, place some frozen chicken breasts on top, and cover them with BBQ sauce.  
  2. Then fold the foil around them and made a little closed-up packet, and place in the bottom of the crock pot. 
  3. After scrubbing the potatoes, put them all around the outside of the chicken packet.  
  4. Pour a can of baked beans into a recycled aluminum pie tin and cover it with foil, then put it on top of everything else.  
  5. This can cook on low all day, or on high if you don't get it started until after lunch.  

I picked up a pack of Jiffy cornbread mix, and I'll cook it in an iron skillet late this afternoon and then wrap a piece of foil over it to save it for our post-game (late) supper.  

An easy and boy-friendly Target acquired lunch I have prepared several times: Fritos with a can of chili poured over them and cheese on top, microwaved for 30 seconds -- Frito Pie!

Frito pie fixin's that my boys can make themselves!

I think if we had a SuperTarget, I'd never go to the grocery store again!  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Daily journal prompts

"Could you learn every language in the world? Could you run an all-night race? Could you recognize your family with your eyes shut? What is the best thing about you?"

A uniquely charming book of questions and possibilities to get readers laughing, thinking, talking, drawing, writing and exploring the world.

Daily writing is so important, and I am using this book as a launching point for daily journal topics with my elementary and middle schoolers.  The goal is for them to express their thoughts and write for 5 minutes, with no worries about grammar or spelling.  I found small moleskine-like notebooks at Target which are to be used only for journaling.  This is a great warm-up exercise before jumping into schoolwork for the day, and it is easily transportable for school on the go.  The first topics included:  "How would someone find you in a crowd?" "Would you recognize your family with your eyes shut?  Would you know their voices, their smell, or something else?" and "How did your mom get to school when she was a girl?"

Some other things I've used to prompt journaling are to have the boys close their eyes and smell something like cinnamon, crayons, or soap, and then write about a memory or feeling associated with it.  You can also do this with textures, like flannel, sandpaper, a cat's fur, etc.  Another great prompt is to show them a picture from an art book and have them write what it inspires them to write.

When I did daily journal writing with my remedial students in the classroom, it was very successful.  I had a topic already written on the board when they came to class, and I kept their notebooks in a file box in my classroom, so nobody "forgot" to bring one.  The kids seemed to enjoy expressing themselves without judgment or worries that they would be graded down for poor spelling, etc.  It also gave me 5 minutes to get the roll done, etc.  Several kids looked forward to this time so much, that they stopped being tardy so they wouldn't miss it.  I also learned so much about them by reading what they wrote, some wonderful, some heartbreaking.

This one makes for some interesting topics as well, but is better suited for older kids. You may want to edit some questions if you don't want to address them yet:


Now more than ever, parents are told how important it is to talk meaningfully to their kids. This is the book that makes it happen. A revised and expanded second edition, The Kids' Book of Questions, with 634,000 copies in print, makes it easy to ask hard questions and fun to answer them. Questions to challenge, questions to provoke. Questions to entertain and expand young minds. Questions about right or wrong, about fears and hopes, ethics, religious beliefs, about why parents act the way they do--even about ruling the world.

Updated to include questions on subjects that have arisen since the book's original publication in 1988--from the internet to issues like school violence and terrorism--the book is a sure way to prod young people into discovering who they really are and what they really believe. There are inquiries into values: "If you knew you wouldn't get caught, would you cheat on a test by copying someone else's answers?" Intriguing fantasies: "If you could email any famous person and know they'd read and answer your note, who would you write to and what would you say?" Philosophical queries: "Have you had any personal experiences that lead you to believe in God?" Provocative scenarios: "After being given a truth pill, what would you say if you were asked to describe your family?"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Great American Postcard Swap {Louisiana}

The Louisiana Tourism site has tons of stuff -- Louisiana should be called the festival state as it hosts celebrations for everything from jazz,cotton, shrimp, and gumbo to sugercane and crawfish!

Food and music go hand-in-hand in Louisiana. We listened to some chank-a-chank here since we aren't able to go to Mulate's in person right now. My sister-in-law,  who has Cajun roots, has a cousin who is in a chank-a-chank band!

We learned some Cajun history and printed out this unit study.

The movie Belizaire the Cajun taught us a  great deal more about Cajun history:

Belizaire the Cajun starring Armand Assante

For my younger state fact learners, Thacher Hurd's Mama Don't Allow is a fun romp through the swamp with an animal band -- great illustrations provide inspiration for some coloring fun. Crank up some jazz and pull out the pastels!

Mama Don't Allow by Thacher Hurd

Laisez les bons temps rouler!
(Let the good times roll!)

Follow all of our Great American Postcard Swap posts here!