Activities for the New Year

Changing from the old to the new.

As one year comes to a close and another one begins, we’ve begun to plan some activities to celebrate and learn about 2012.

For my newly-turned 3 year old, we will begin teaching him what New Year’s eve is all about, how we count down and celebrate and how to recognize the numbers: 0, 1 and 2.

For my 5 year old, who has been learning about the calendar for the past few months, we will focus on how twelve months have passed and how we will change the year from 2011 to 2012.

For both my 5 and 7 year olds, we will talk about what it means to make New Year’s resolutions.  For that, I’ve cobbled together a little activity for them to do.  They can color in the numbers “2012” and then set a goal in each of the categories: Learning, Family, Community and Me.  I wish I had a slick printable to share with you.  I don’t,  but I can share the pieces of this one with you, and if you are so inclined, you can print the pieces out and cut and paste/tape them together, as I did. (scroll to bottom of this post for the links)

For fun, we can play “New Year’s Eve”, in the week leading up to the holiday itself, set the clock to 12:00 midnight, countdown from 10 to 1, then change the year hanging from the mantle.  We’ll get out our little box of noisemakers and party hats from years past and toast with milk and cookies.  Then, when New Year’s Eve arrives, we will be all ready to ring it in, although we’ll do an early “kid version” at around 8:00 p.m.

New Year’s Resolution Worksheet Printables:
New Year’s Resolutions
2012 pictures.jpg (there are extras in addition to the example above, so you can customize your worksheet)
Numbers for the top of the worksheet (choose “small templates”)
Large number templates to hang up can be found here.  We painted ours with gold paint and glitter, cut them out and glued them to cardstock.

Wishing you and your family peace and joy in the coming year from the Creekside Learning family.

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Posted in Early Elementary Years, holidays, homeschooling, kindergarten, preschool | 13 Comments

Slowing Down to Enjoy the Busy Season

We are having a relaxed month in our schooling this December. How, I wondered, did I do that? I had to stop and think.   Last year was our first year homeschooling and I suppose I put pressure on myself to continue school as usual and do all the holiday stuff: shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking, mailing packages and cards, attending every holiday related thing in a 25 mile radius.  I don’t do all that holiday stuff because I think I should or that it’s what one is supposed to do, but because I like all that stuff.  The thing is, who can do all that and educate their children and you know, feed said children? And launder said childrens’ clothes? Without losing major amounts of sleep or sanity or both? Well probably some people can, but I am not one of them.

And I surely can’t do it all and still relax and enjoy my family. So this year, I scheduled “light school” from Thanksgiving to the new year.  We stopped history  altogether.  Our science co-op finished up until we reconvene in the Spring and I didn’t rush to fill this spot with other science stuff, even though I have a fun book about experiments that Firefly and I both have been wanting to delve into.  I scheduled all the fun holiday things  we want to do, and then sprinkled schooly stuff around it.  So a typical day in our house this month has gone something like this:

9:30ish Advent calendars. We have three. One has activities, one is a character advent, and the third is just a fun felt Christmas tree with a numbered decoration for each day and a musical star that plays Jingle Bells, which we press and then dance around with the dog each morning.

10:00ish Depending on what our Advent activity is, we might do that (bake, read a Christmas book, make a card for someone), then we do a little school work (reading and math).  We throw in a few fun activities like our Gingerbread Man theme or a Grinch theme. We practice some of the things we’ve been working on over the past few months, a review of sorts (telling time and math review for Firefly, calendar stuff and money counting for The Queen Bee).

11:30ish The kids play. I make lunch. Then if it’s warm enough and not raining we might go outside to play in the yard or the woods or take the dog for a hike.

2:00ish We seem to always have afternoon activities of some sort.  The Queen Bee has ballet, Firefly has piano lessons. Or we play with friends. Or we go run errands. Or the kids scamper upstairs to play whatever elaborate pretending game they have going on while I get some time on the computer or catch up on laundry.

Eveningish The Husband comes home, we have dinner. Some nights we have Lego Club or Basketball for Firefly. We read some Harry Potter before bed.

It’s a really nice rhythm that we’ve gotten into, now that I see it all written down.

Firefly gives Love Bug a boost to reach the Character Advent calendar.

And in between, we have done so many fun things:  made little gingerbread houses with Daddy, gone to a holiday show, hung out with the grandparents. And perhaps the highlight of our month so far has been, not all of the holiday stuff, but the celebration of Love Bug. He has turned three.  As a Mom, I am now required to make the following official statement: “How is it possible that my baby is three?”

Well, I don’t know, but I am glad that my second-year homeschooling self is slowing down a bit more to enjoy it.

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December Printables and Activities

We are going to start this week off with The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth.

I made these picture cards:  

These are mainly sight words for my kindergarten-aged daughter but you can bet her older and younger brothers will want a turn with them, too.  They can take turns holding them up at the appropriate parts of the story, copying them onto paper and putting them in the order that they occur in the story.  You can download a pdf file of the gingerbread man picture cards to print.

We also plan to play a dice game, inspired by something similar that I saw on Pinterest.  I downloaded a large gingerbread man template  and made a few copies.  I wrote numbers on it to correspond with one die for my kindergartener and two dice for my 7 year old (he can add them together). First one to find all the numbers on their gingerbread man wins.

And then, we will do the most fun activity of all….make gingerbread cookies!

Here are some secular December vocabulary word cards that I made. My daughter loves these. We review them several times and then get more practice when the words come up in books that we read.  We say, “Hey, we know that word!”   She also likes to copy the words onto paper and to hang them on the wall as decorations.  You can download a pdf file of the December word cards and print them.

I also wanted to share something that we had great fun with last week.  I saw a Montessori present wrapping activity on Pinterest and got to work setting one up for my kids. They loved it! I don’t know why I didn’t think to take pictures. Anyway, it was a great way to show them how to wrap presents (without using massive amounts of tape), how to graciously give and receive presents and to remember to throw away the wrapping paper after opening. They can’t wait to wrap real presents now.

Do you notice how Pinterest has taken over my life inspired me to make so many things for my kids? Here are more things I’ve pinned that are Christmas related. Hoping to try a few more this month.

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Posted in Christmas, Early Elementary Years, holidays, homeschooling, kindergarten, Montessori inspired, Printables, secular homeschooling | Tagged | 7 Comments

A Different Kind of Advent Calendar

In addition to our secular holiday Advent calendar we’re adding something new this year.  I couldn’t pass up this adorable hat and mitten string Advent Calendar at an after-Christmas sale one year, but have never used it.  Then I had an idea.  I decided to fill the hats and mittens with positive character traits, one for each day (think Gratitude, Patience, Courage and more).  I’ve talked about many of these with the kids as we’ve read various books but for some time I have wanted to focus on them more.

We do this in everyday life, too, of course, but ruminating in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking, “Do we talk about these things enough?”   I’d like to do something more deliberate, more intentional.  I keep thinking about how learning things like self-respect, forgiveness and perseverance will take them far in life, as important as their academic achievements, perhaps more so. We’ve all known people who are highly intelligent, have multiple advanced degrees but who struggle to simply get along with others.  So  “character” has been on my mind of late.

I started by making a list of the values I want my children to have, the things I want us, as a family, to focus on more, even some things my kids in particular may be struggling with.   I think every family’s list will be different.   Here’s ours, in no particular order,  with more than enough to fill the 25 days of the Advent calendar:  Perseverance, Kindness, Determination, Helpfulness, Self-Respect, Respect for Others, Respect for the Environment, Honor, Trustworthiness, Sportsmanship, Gratitude, Courtesy, Creativity and Flexibility, Forgiveness, Cooperation, Acceptance, Honesty, Loyalty to Family, Courage, Patience, Caring, Giving, Peacemaking, Adventurousness, Sense of Humor, Responsibility, Giving, Hospitality/Being a Good Host, Being a Good Friend.

We could easily spend a week or more on each one of these traits and I hope to do just that in the future, but for now, I thought this would be a great way to touch on each trait, define it and look for examples in our own every day life as well as in the characters we read so much about.

I think I will make a list of some of those characters, to make it easier for the kids to connect a trait with someone we’ve read about or seen in a movie or television show:   all of our Five in a Row characters, the Historical figures we’ve learned so much about in our Ancients studies, our read-alouds.

And maybe a list of family and friends, too. I’m really hoping they identify some these traits in  our extended family, and could they, would they, possibly, identify some of these traits in……each other? Well, now, that would make this Momma’s heart full.  Just in time for Christmas.

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Posted in Christmas, homeschooling, secular homeschooling | Tagged | 10 Comments

Thanksgiving Play Set Craft

Native American family: cardboard toilet paper/paper towels tubes, construction paper. Tipi: sticks, rubber band, paper grocery bag.

Pilgrim Family; Lincoln Log house.

Campfire: cardboard circle, stones, sticks, tissue paper.

Toasting Marshmallows: because The Queen Bee insisted that where there is a campfire, there are toasted marshmallows. Always.

Our books:

Great beginning book for introducing the concepts of the holiday: Pilgrims, Native Americans, Mayflower, harvest, feast. etc.

A more in depth look at the first Thanksgiving. Explains the hardship of the trip on the Mayflower and the first year in North America. Good detail of what life was like for Pilgrim children on the journey as well as how they helped their families with crops, food preparation, and more. A great book for kids beyond preschool level.

All of the links for these crafts can be found on my Pinterest Thanksgiving board.

Play time.

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Posted in creative play, Early Elementary Years, homeschooling, kindergarten, preschool, Thanksgiving crafts | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Learning With Literature: Angelina Ballerina

I have a 5 year old daughter who loves all things ballet. Thus, the idea for Angelina Ballerina Week.  I packed Mommy’s Book Bag with some Angelina supplies:  a stack of Angelina books, by Katherine Holabird, and a little Angelina posable doll  (all found at a consignment sale for only $10!).

Each day, I’d take out the book bag (signifying time to transition to learning activities), and we’d read a book or two. I’d ask her a few questions for reading comprehension, define a few new vocabulary words, and she would act out the story with the Angelina doll.  If there were any character traits of interest, we’d talk about those. For example, Angelina works very hard at ballet.  She practices a lot, and thus, she is good at it.  There are examples of this in many of the Angelina stories, so we talked about perseverance and working hard at something you love.

Here are some more Angelina activities that we did:

  • Make Your Own Tu-Tu Kit. I found this in the discount bin at the craft store.  It should be called “Mommy Makes a Tu-Tu While Her Five Year Old Watches Her and Asks Repeatedly How Long It Will Be Until the Tu-Tu is Finished”. Nevertheless, The Queen Bee was thrilled that I was making her a tu-tu and she spun and twirled and modeled it for her brothers.

By the way, if you can’t find this kit and really want to make one it is just a thick elastic band with strips of tulle netting and  a few ribbons tied to it.  We added that to our Angelina Book Bag, to be worn when we did other activities, such as…

  • We looked at pictures of Edgar Degas’ paintings of ballerinas.

  • We practiced our basic ballet positions, Angelina style. “I’ll be Miss Lilly, you be Angelina,”, then switch. We played classical music while we did this.
  • We made an Angelina Ballerina “puppet” theatre by cutting up the book jackets and glueing the pictures to popsicle sticks.

Using the window to our play kitchen as an impromptu puppet theatre.

Click here for my Pinterest links to many Angelina and ballerina themed activities.

She asked if she could have an Angelina play date. This turned out to be a great opportunity for her to do a little writing practice (addressing invitations), calendar skills (to plan the date of the party) as well as just plain fun.

I made the invitations by cutting out pictures from the book jackets.

We made mouse ears for our play date guests out of  dollar store headbands and foam, you can Google “mouse ears template” on line (there’s one in the Pinterest link mentioned above) or use a scrapbooking circle cutter.


Finally it was time for our Angelina play date.  Three little friends, dressed in their  ballerina gear came over for an Angelina story, some snacks, Angelina coloring pages, dancing and fun.  The Queen Bee and I went all out with the decorating.  I’m afraid once I start, I can’t stop. It’s an illness really. It runs in the family.

I began with a simple roll of crepe paper and a package of pink polka-dot napkins and before the night was over, I had also made tissue paper flowers, wrapped the juice boxes in Angelina printables, and used some of the pretty napkins to make the plates of food snazzier.

This learning unit was more  fun than academic.   My main goals were to give The Queen Bee some special Mommy time with a  project all her own, apart from her brothers and engage her in learning with books.

“Mommy, I like learning about Angelina,” The Queen Bee says for about the zillionth time.  She then proceeds to bring me a pile of other books, asking, “Can we learn about these, too, Mommy?”

Mission accomplished.  And that makes my heart happy.

Upcoming Learning with Literature Units:  Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy

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Thankful Tree

I’ve been so inspired by all the wonderful ideas for Thankful Trees on Pinterest this year. There are so many beautiful, creative ideas.  Here’s our version.

Materials used:
Tags:  scrapbooking paper, tag punch, embroidery thread
Tree and container:  copper colored, spray painted branches, half-gallon mason jar, unidentified nuts we found in the woods by our house.

The Husband and I began by filling out a few tags to show the kids the idea.  Big kids can write words. Little kids can dictate words or draw pictures, or both.

We are going to keep adding to it leading up to Thanksgiving, then invite our visiting family and friends to add even more as we celebrate the holiday together. Won’t it be fun to read what everyone is grateful for?  And the tags can easily be saved to look back on in years to come.

So much to be thankful for.

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