Boy child

Where do I begin? Yall, I LOVE teaching. I always have. It was my dream from 8th grade on. I’ve worked hard for first a bachelor’s and then a master’s, and now three certifications. And I have soaked up knowledge from countless professional development sessions. I have read countless books (despite hating non-fiction) to help me perfect my craft. I seriously love teaching. I love watching light bulbs flicker and then stay on as a child learns to read or count or add or tell time. I love watching kids observe nature with excitement. I simply love what I do.

But this? This school at home thing is about to break me to my very core. In a way different than I have ever been broken. Because Grayson was not made for homeschooling. He doesn’t WANT me to be his teacher. He wants me to be his snuggly mama bear who reads TO him and snuggles him and only makes him do chores, which he can put up with because there are snuggles on either side. He does NOT want to read to me. He does NOT want to do any school work. He has informed me that I am NOT his teacher and I can’t begin to count how many times he has asked if he HAS to do … xyz thing.

I’m over it.

He is normally sweet and helpful and kind and a super loving big brother to Elle. Now he is disrespectful and laughs about it and looks to see what I’m gonna do. Picks physical fights with her and then gets MAD because she fights back! (Good for her!!) He whines and complains about every. Single. Dang. Thing. He is asked to do!

He has given up on riding his bike because it’s not easy. So he plays on a scooter that is Elle’s size and half the time fights me on wearing his helmet. My kid who used to be the one grabbing everybody’s helmets and making SURE they were all on. I can still hear him saying, “safety first!” My kid who was riding a bike so well last summer we could have taken the training wheels off then!

What has happened to my child?!?

Stress. Change. Sorrow.

Despite the fact that we have a schedule that we’re sticking to at home that is very predictable and gives him the structure he needs, it’s not HIS schedule. He desperately misses his teacher and friends. Despite being a shy kid who takes a bit to open up (nothing like the social butterflies his sisters are!), it’s April! His classmates are his world. And they were suddenly snatched away from him. He loves his teacher fiercely. And she’s gone. Might as well be on another planet.

And he’s sad. He cries every day multiple times a day. Ask him why, and he doesn’t know. But he’s just tired all the time, and he doesn’t know why. I know his tired. It’s depression. It’s anxiety weighing down his shoulders. I carry that tired on me. But I’m an adult. It saddens me to see him carrying that weight. No, it doesn’t just sadden me. It breaks my heart.

The girls are thriving. And their bond is even stronger than ever before. And then there’s him. He’s stuck somewhere in the middle- in limbo. An outcast. And his own behaviors keep it that way. I try to make him see what he’s doing, but it’s impossible.

Lord, you know all of these things. You see his tiny confused heart and you know it well. You loved him first- before I even knew he was in my womb, you knit him together. You knew these days would drive him crazy and drive me to the end of my rope. Lord, give him peace. Give him comfort. Help him to feel your love. Give me to words to say and the calm of spirit to handle his outbursts. You know my tired. Carry my burdens. You know I have so much experience, but none with this. Teach me your ways. Give me your wisdom for how to handle his heart gently, but his behavior firmly. I need help. Nothing has prepared me for this. I want, no I NEED my sweet boy to come home. I miss him desperately. I see him when he sleeps. Can he come back to stay? Please?

What We’re Doing to Survive… School at Home #COVIDChronicles

If you’re anything like me, you have gone through a wide array of emotions this week as you struggle to figure out how to handle all of this stuff.  It’s just a crazy mess.  But the bright side is, all of the teachers out there are working hard to come up with great ideas and find resources to help you with your kiddos at home!!  I’ve stolen some ideas from others, and come up with a few things on my own that are hopefully super helpful to yall as you’re stuck at home!!!

So first up is Stained Glass Window Painting!  A friend of Gray’s from school and church enjoyed doing this at home and his mama posted on Facebook… so we tried it!!  It was SO MUCH FUN that now we’re contemplating doing the bottom half of the kid’s bedroom windows, too!  Here’s how I did it:
Get some Crayola Washable Paint (you can get the little pots on Amazon if you’re not venturing to Walmart these days, but even with Prime shipping they are about a week out on delivering… just fyi!).  You’re going to mix the paint with dish soap and water.  The proportions I used were kinda just by feel, but I mixed approx half of the little paint pot with two (small) pumps of dish soap and probably about 2-3 Tbsp of water, and mixed thoroughly.
To prepare, I used painter’s tape and some construction paper pieces of colors we don’t use much to mask off the window sill and sides.  Even though the paint is very washable, I didn’t want to have to stress.  I also talked to the kids a lot about wiping their brush on the side of the pot before painting so that it wouldn’t drip on other shapes below.  (But they still dripped, and it’s thankfully super easy to wipe off and fix!)
Lesson learned… we did one window one day, and the other one the next day.  So I discovered that if you kinda let the first coat dry and then add another coat, they look much brighter!  You can also try fun brush strokes – try doing some straight, some swirly, some zigzag, etc – because the brush strokes WILL show when it dries.  Then, because you’re using water in the paint, be sure you LEAVE the tape and paper up for several HOURS to insure it dries and you don’t have runs into your blank spaces.  It is a super fun and easy project, and DOES wash easily off of skin AND out of clothes.
(ALSO!  A couple different friends have shared similar ideas using painters tape and sidewalk chalk on a fence – that looks super fun, too!)

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Another super fun activity that we borrowed from a coworker friend of mine was playing with Magnatiles on the Garage Door!  This was a super fun activity (and also a good lesson on gravity vs the strength of a magnet for the big kids) that we tried out yesterday morning, and this morning the littles are having fun doing the Magnatiles on the freezer drawer inside!  Elle got super excited about this activity, too, and created Arendelle (“Adondell!”) and Elsa’s castle (“Elsa’s cast-tell!”) all on her own!

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Trying to figure out what to do with the papers that your kids are doing for school at home?  Try making this easy Recycled Cereal Box Paper Holder!  Simply take a large cereal box (we get the family size boxes), completely unfold it, and let your child decorate the blank sides!  I wrote on them first and had them use stickers (because we have MILLIONS of stickers!) to decorate where I didn’t write.  But you could have your child paint, draw, doodle, or even make a collage on the box.  Then, tape it back together!  I have a roll of clear contact paper, so since we used stickers that I didn’t want to fall off over time, I covered the boxes in clear contact paper.  I’m keeping the kids’ work in folders, but they are rapidly filling.  So after I take pictures of their work for the week to send to their teachers, I’ll be sticking that finished work into their boxes, which easily fit on the shelf in the closet!

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And now for a couple other ideas that you can purchase relatively inexpensively on Amazon!  (Reminder – I am no longer an affiliate, these links are just to help you out… please remember to always shop on Smile.Amazon so that you are helping out your favorite charity with every purchase!!!)

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This Water Doodle Mat is super fun for all three of my kids (3rd grade, kinder, and 2 yrs), and was only $24.  WELL worth it!  They have used it multiple times a day since it arrived, and I love that the water pens are interchangeable with our Melissa and Doug Water WOW! Books that we have gotten from my friend Casey over at Munchkin Land Kids!  (Yall please go and check out all of her awesome stuff… now is the time to support small businesses!!!!)

We also seriously LOVE Paint By Sticker Kids books, which you can get off of Amazon.  We have done SEVERAL of their books, but the ones I got for the kids for right now are Unicorns & Magic (full of LOTS of sparkly fun stickers!) and Beautiful Bugs.  They are $10 a piece and worth every penny!  Great for number matching/recognition practice, and fabulous fine motor / hand eye coordination practice!  They also make fabulous story starters for your kiddos who need some inspiration to get WRITING!!!

I also shared in that last graphic a photo from Natalie Grant and Charlotte Gambill… remember through all of this, mama… the struggle is real.  Make sure to let your faith rule over your fear.

 

WE CAN DO THIS!

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How’s It Going? COVID-19 Distancing Day #5

Well, yall… here we are – about to start our fifth day of school at home.  Or, as I called it in my title, “COVID-19 Distancing Day #5.”  If you’re like me, this is still overwhelming to figure out.  It still doesn’t make sense.  My brain is still totally boggled trying to process all of it.  So mama, if all your kids have done is play, then that is the absolutely RIGHT thing for them to do.  If your kids have had a structured day every day, then THAT is the absolute RIGHT thing for them.  Why do I say these two extremes are both right?  Because, Mama.  What is right for YOU is exactly what they need.  The phrase “you can’t pour water from an empty pitcher” is more true now than ever before.  We as parents are totally overwhelmed.  Our brains can’t fathom what is going on.  So whatever WE need for our kids to do, is what they need to do.

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Elle is our WHY for social distancing… if you aren’t familiar with her story, you can visit her Caring Bridge site here.

Soon our schools will be providing some work for at home.  Some schools already have.  Some it will take a couple of weeks to get there.  Be patient with your school.  Be patient with your child’s teacher.  Be patient with your child.  Be patient with YOURSELF.  Plan for lots of breaks.  And take them with your kids.  I started out the week trying to clean and organize and do laundry.  All of those things are great.  But they create burn out.  Then I decided to slow down and do those things at the pace I would NORMALLY do them.  And do the relaxing, fun things with my kids.  Build with the Legos.  Build with the magnets.  Draw the doodles.  Watch the fun videos online (because let’s face it, if it’s exciting for your kids to watch Fiona getting fed Romaine, it probably is for you, too… at least it was for me!!!).  Do the brain break activities.  Because you need it too.

Last night I finally sat down with the kids and we watched the first of Mo Willems’ doodling sessions.  (link and picture below, don’t worry!)  It was AMAZING!!!  I had as much fun doodling as Becca did!  And I know that today when Gray isn’t so tired, he’ll dive right in, too!  (Which means Elle will follow along! 😉  If you’re like me, there are actually TOO MANY resources being thrown at me right now.  I didn’t know where to start.  I have to pick and choose what is right for my kids, and you’ll need to do the same.  There are SO MANY video resources, which is awesome (our kids get a LOT of tech at school!)… but I don’t want them doing so much tech at home.  Especially Gray.  I see a lot of attitudes about regular paper/book practice when too much tech has been allowed.  So I have to pick and choose what tech resources I use.  And I figure you may be overwhelmed, too.  Or you may feel like what’s best for you is for your kids to be distance learning on the computer or tv all day.  Whatever works best for YOU mama!!!

So I thought I would give you a list of the resources I have decided to prioritize for my kids at this point, and then if we add any great ones, I’ll let you know!
GoNoodle.com – We use this one at school and it’s AWESOME!!!!  My kids are loving using it at home to get moving even on rainy days!  (And yall, send up some prayers because it’s RAINING all day today and tomorrow!!!)Screen Shot 2020-03-20 at 6.56.32 AM

 

 

 

 

 

Cincinnati Zoo – They are doing Facebook live events daily showing off different animals and kids who watch live can ask questions!  Plus, they have tons of other animal videos that are awesome!

PBS Kids – My kids are loving playing their games, and they are ALL educational!!  So if you want to sneak in learning, this is a great way!

Prodigy – This is an online math program that our school uses, so Becca has an account and is loving having time to use it.  I believe that any kids 1st-5th grade can be signed up from home for a free account as well.

Girl Scout Virtual Meetings – If you have any scouts in your house, it doesn’t matter what troop you are with, the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas are doing daily virtual meetups with lots of fun activities that ANYONE is welcome to stream – just click on over to like and follow their Facebook page!

Mo Willems’ Lunch Doodles – These are streamed live at 1:00pm Eastern each weekday, but the videos remain online so you can stream anytime.  We just did day one last night.  With it raining today, we’ll likely do one this morning and one this evening. 🙂

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As we add more resources, I’ll let you know, but we really are keeping it simple around here.  I need simple.  I need organized.  I need structure.  We can do this!

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Looking for activity resources?  Check out my First COVID-19 School At Home post here!

COVID-19 School at Home

Whew.  Here we go.  So much in life is uncertain right now, but I’m going to put together links to a bunch of my activities I’ve previously shared to hopefully help yall out… and to jog my own brain to activities we can do at home again too!  Just because my kids were younger when I blogged them doesn’t mean they aren’t appropriate for older kids too, or they might just make you think of a way you can modify to make them work best for your family!  So here we go!!!

(Also – if you find any posts that had files attached, PLEASE let me know if any of the links are broken!!  I am no longer an Amazon affiliate, so not sure if Amazon product links will work.  Fyi.)

Not sure how to get started, and you don’t really want to do one of these stricter time schedules that I really need during the school year??  Check out THIS Summer Survival – Procedures post that I made last summer – it’ll give you some ideas to keep it from being all screens all the time in your house, without setting a super strict schedule!

On THIS PAGE I explained what STEAM is, and include links to all of the activities I posted in 2014.  It’s a gold mine, yall!  Man, what I could share when I was a WAHM with only two kids instead of a full time WOTHM with three kids!  I look back at these resources, and I say thank you to past me… because you can bet I’m pulling some of them out this week (and beyond?  GULP.)  THIS ONE (Water Walking) is particularly fitting with all this talk of shamrocks and rainbows and spring!!!  Water walking is going on our agenda for TODAY!

On THIS PAGE I listed a bunch more new STEAM projects, sorted by topic, so you can pick whatever subject you want to try.  Again, do NOT be turned off by the fact that I called the pages “STEAM for Preschool!”  Yall.  I did that bc I had preschoolers at the time.  But honestly, you can do this stuff with ANY age kids!!!!!

I’m going to be using some of THESE Baby Bees ideas also to have my big kids play with Elle this week… because let’s face it, I’m not really prepared to have them occupied every minute of the day, and she desperately wants them to play with her!!!

Then there’s of course THESE “Summer Survival Science” activities that I posted last summer that are perfect to do with kids stuck at home!!

Hang in there yall… and who knows?  I may actually have time to create some NEW blog posts if this quarantine lasts very long!  Lol.  I think.  Lemme go drink some more coffee and think about how I feel about all this…

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Summer Survival – Science!

Ok y’all, so we took a vacation, and I got a little bit behind on this series, BUT, on our vacation we tried out a couple of these ideas, so I have actual pictures to share!  Woohoo!

So these ideas came from a variety of places, and I’m just compiling them into one little list for you… plus, you get a bonus idea that we did on our trip that turned out super fun! But first, the list:

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 7.05.19 AMIf you’re not an educator, or a science nut, you may want some more explanation on these… So… let’s break it down!

-Mix oil and water in a jar to make waves – take a spaghetti sauce jar, and clean it out thoroughly.  Fill the jar about half way with water, and add food coloring of your choice.  Stir it up, or close the lid tightly and let your kiddo shake the jar!  Then, ASK your child, “what do you think will happen when we add vegetable oil to this?”  Get them to make predictions, then try it!  Pour the oil in slowly, so they can really see how it doesn’t mix.  Then, screw the lid on TIGHTLY.  You may even want to put a couple drops of super glue on the mouth of the jar before adding the lid, just to ensure it doesn’t get opened.  Slowly turn the jar side to side, and show your child how waves occur.  Then, let your kiddo hold the jar and tilt it, turn it, and then finally, shake it really hard!!!  ***BONUS – if you have glitter and want to add glitter to the jar, that adds a fun element and it’s interesting to watch if the glitter sink or float through the oil!***  This activity gives you an opportunity to talk about density, and also about gravity and how it pulls.  This is also a good jar to keep around – if your child gets upset (sibling crap, right?) it’s a great time-out jar – have them shake it really good, and then sit and watch it until the oil and water are totally separate again!

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-Ice Cube/Cement Experiment – this one is super easy, but you can modify it to make it really fun in lots of different ways!  Basically, on a hot day, set an ice cube on the concrete of your driveway or porch (in direct sun) and see how long it takes to melt totally!  While you’re doing that, play with other ice cubes!!  Use them to draw on the concrete.  It’s fun to first start the project inside, the day before – you can get super fun silicone molds at Dollar Tree, Walmart, or Hobby Lobby, and make your ice cubes be all sorts of fun shapes!  OR you can use a regular ice mold and put little items in the water – like tiny toy dinosaurs, buttons, or brightly colored pony beads.  As the ice melts, the items become accessible!  It seems crazy, and super simple, but you’d be amazed by how much it entertains your kids!!  (And aren’t we all about keeping their minds busy on something OTHER than a screen this summer?!?!)

-Make ice cream in a bag – ok, honestly, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve tried this one, but it’s on our summer fun list this year, and I think I want to try it while Gray is at “Mamie and Pappy Camp” at my inlaw’s house this year because Becca is my kiddo who REALLY loves ice cream.  Then, if it works well, we’ll add it to our fun “to do” list for camping trips!  Here’s the recipe I plan to use.  If you try it, let me know how it turns out!!!!  We’ll be doing ours in a couple weeks.

-Old pennies project – this one we’re actually doing today – watch my Facebook page for pictures tomorrow!!  The first step is to sort through your kids’ piggy banks… which could be as easy or as challenging as you want to make it.  You can have them sort all the coins, talk about values, who is on the coins, what they did for our country, etc.  You could count all the money, and plan for what they’d like to purchase… perhaps plan a lemonade stand to make more money to reach their goal.  Ultimately, you want to get about 5-10 really old, dirty pennies out of the piggy bank… so what you do to get to that point is up to you and the age/interest of your kiddos.  Then, in several small cups or bowls, you’re going to add a few different types of liquid.  Be sure to label each cup or bowl!!  Here are some liquids to try: lemon juice, vinegar, water, soapy water, Coke, apple juice, ETC – get creative!  If your kids are old enough, have them write predictions for each type of liquid and what it will do to the pennies.  Or, just discuss it!  Drop a couple pennies into each type of liquid.  Leave them on the counter, and come back around 24 hours later.  Record any/all changes (or talk about it).  If you want to extend it another day to see if there are more changes, draw it out as long as you’d like!  For your older kids, this is a great opportunity to talk about acidic liquids and what they do inside your body, too!

-Lemon juice and baking soda balloon project – ok, I’ve seen this one done a couple of different ways, but basically, it works best if you recycle a water bottle (or perhaps, the Coke bottle you used from the experiment above?).  Put some lemon juice in the bottle, and then add some baking soda and quickly place the mouth of a balloon all the way around the mouth of the bottle.  Watch the balloon expand, and talk about the gas reaction between the acid and base.  It’s also a good opportunity to talk about how important it is to talk about your feelings – if we hold things in and let them bother us, we can eventually blow up like a balloon, ready to pop… but if we talk through our feelings, or draw or write about them in a journal, it helps us get the pressure out so that it doesn’t  build up and make us explode!

-Egg and vinegar experiment – I posted on my Facebook page about this experiment here – go check it out for photos and more ideas that were shared in the comments!  This is a super fun and easy one to do.

-Identify cloud shapes – this is a great one to do outside on a cloudy day – you can lay on beach towels and just look at the sky – OR, you can even do it in the car on a road trip, or just randomly encourage your kids to do this around town as you run errands!  Check out this seahorse we found while on our trip to Palo Duro Canyon!

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-Collect wildflowers to press… it’s just that simple!  Press in a heavy book and check on them a few days later!  They can be awesome kept in layers of contact paper as bookmarks, too! 🙂

-Build a popsicle stick bird house (or bird feeder) – this is a fabulous pattern/design shared here… and we plan to make these later on this summer to hang up at our new house!!

-Celery Coloring – we also started this one today, so be sure to check out my Facebook page tomorrow for photos of this project and tips/ideas!

-Blowing distance experiment – this one is super fun, and easy!  You’ll need some painter’s tape to tape on your hard floor (tile, linoleum, wood, or concrete) and a measuring tape.  You’ll also need several random items, like a small ball, a little toy car, some Legos on wheels, a paper cup laid on it’s side, etc.   You’ll also want a marker or pen to write on the tape.  Have your kiddos make a large L shape on the floor with painters tape, and make measurement marks on the long side – up to 12″ (or further, if they think they can blow the objects that far!)  Then, they’ll lay down on the floor on their tummies, and start each object at the short tape line.  They’ll blow as hard as they can to get the object to roll.  You might want to mark where it stops with a sticky note flag.  See which child and which object can roll the farthest.  This one is GREAT for a rainy day when they are going stir crazy and need something DIFFERENT to get them busy… laying on their tummies and blowing uses different muscles than they use in regular activity, too!

-Evaporation project outside – this one is great for older kids on a week when you know it’s going to just be hot and sunny all week long.  On day one, record the temperature at your start time (whenever that may be).  Carefully measure one cup of water into a clear container.  (A plastic cup that you can mark on with a sharpie is the best!)  Be sure to mark where the top of the water is before you set it in the sun.  Then, check on it every couple of hours to watch the water disappear!  For your older kids who are recording in a journal, they can measure how many in/cm change occurs.  They can try the next day setting it out at a different time to see if it evaporates faster/slower at different times of the day.  OR, they could also try evaporating different types of liquid!  Does apple juice, for example, evaporate as quickly as water?  For this, be sure you have your cups exposed to the sun exactly the same amount of time, and are setting next to each other so they for sure receive the same amount of sun.

-Outdoor Scavenger Hunt – you can search for different shapes, colors, or even things that start with the letters of your name!  I’m working on creating some outdoor scavenger hunt sheets, that should be on my Teachers Pay Teachers page next week!  Be sure to look for those – I’ll have one freebie, and the whole set will be $2.00, and will cover a variety of themes and interests!

-Target practice with sidewalk chalk and sponges – this is a super fun one… just draw a target on your driveway or porch, and have a bucket of water and sponges… practice throwing the sponges from different distances to see if you can hit the target!  For extra math practice, include numbers for points for each ring, and have your kiddos add up their points with each throw!

-Build an obstacle course and complete it!  This one can be great for ALL ages – even toddlers can get involved in this one… and you can do them indoors or outdoors, getting as creative as you want.  Use recycled materials, furniture, blankets, lawn decor, etc – depending on where you are doing it and how messy you want to get.  Perhaps even have your kiddos work together to create a trophy for the one who can complete the obstacle course in the fastest time!  Get together the neighbors, cousins, or just compete within your household!  Who can win?  It IS important for kids to work hard on something, and not win the trophy.  This is a great way for them to have a lot of fun setting it up, use some math with running a stopwatch, use some art to create the trophy, and then there’s only ONE winner.  Celebrate that person, and then everybody gets to enjoy popsicles as a reward for their hard work and dedication!

 

BONUS ACTIVITY…. SOLAR OVEN SMORES!

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I found this AMAZING camping activity packet before we went on our trip, and it has some AWESOME Solar Oven Smores info in it!  I don’t want to steal Cristina’s thunder, or her ideas, so I’m going to just highly encourage you to purchase her packet (and check out her blog here).  I know $6.00 seems a bit high, but she has put a TON of work into this packet, and there’s some really cute stuff in there.  My kids have LOVED her book, “If you give a Moose a Marshmallow” that is interactive and included in the file.  Your kids will love it, too, even if you aren’t camping at all this summer!  You could camp in your very own living room with sleeping bags and turn on a sound reel of crickets chirping, make Solar Oven Smores, and just pretend you are camping, while enjoying your A/C and your own bathroom just steps away!  🙂  NOTE: We made our Solar Oven Smores for lunch time – we set it up at 11:40am, and by 1:15pm, they were ready to eat!  We did modify her solar oven plan a tad b/c I didn’t have any tape or glue in the rv, and I didn’t have clear wrap, so we used a ziploc bag in place of the clear wrap, and a couple bandaids instead of tape!  (Hey, you use what you’ve got, right?  Lol!)

Want more ideas?  I’m posting on my Facebook page a lot, plus, I’ll have the Summer Survival – Art Projects edition coming SOON!!