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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Busy Bees

Y’all, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve written.  Because, well, life.  I think I probably have started the last umpteen posts that way, if I’d go back and read them.  But seriously, life.  Three busy kids and assistant teaching two days a week has a way of keeping me busy.  We’re getting set to start building our new house, and finally getting settled into the rhythm of life living in our rent house.  This week is our Spring Break, and I must admit that yesterday threw me for a loop.  I had one fun outing planned for each day this week, but that was it.  I mean, that was IT.  I had nothing else planned.  I didn’t really think about the weather forecast for rain several of our days off, or what that would do to all of our spirits.  So they had done pretty much everything I had thought of for them to do including our outing for the day, and it was only 2pm.  Seriously.  I had pulled out worksheets, given them a craft project to make a Leprechaun trap from recycled materials, everything I could think of… I thought I might lose my mind if they kept asking me for more activities!  Yesterday was ROUGH, y’all.  Because I really don’t want to turn the tv on or let them have their kindles for the whole day… but they did end up with about three hours of screen time.  (Which I’m not proud of, but honestly admitting!)

So this morning I decided to get smart.  I pulled up my Pinterest boards and went through my sensory activity pins.  And I was reminded of all the cool, fun things I used to do before I was too busy to make stuff for my kids.  Or maybe lately I’m just too busy to care… hmm.  Need some self reflection there.  I determined we’d see what we had at home already, and then would grab a few things at Walmart to make our week a little more exciting.  So I’m combining here some things we pulled out and did yesterday, some things we’re doing today, and then some links to some activities we’ll be doing later in the week.

Hopefully these ideas will keep your kiddos busy bees this spring – through rainy days, holidays, and any other “I’m BORED!” moments!  (Although I did hear a great idea recently from an older, more experienced mom – she said if her kids ever say, “I’m BORED!” she gives them a rag and has them clean the baseboards.  BRILLIANT!!! I plan to do that later in the week… maybe we’ll get some spring cleaning done around here, too!)

Activity Ideas

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I wish I remembered where I originally saw this idea.  This one came back to me when I started going through my supply box looking for liquid starch, and there I saw the yellow colander.  This time around, I have two kiddos doing the activity, though, so I got out my good one too.  You can get an inexpensive colander at Dollar Tree or Walmart.  I love that yellow one because it’s fun for art too – you can trace around it to make a huge flower!  lol.  It’s as simple as the picture looks – give your child the colander and a bunch of pipe cleaners, and just see what they do!  You’ll be amazed at what they come up with, and the fine motor practice is phenomenal.
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This one came straight from Crystal Underwood over at Growing A Jeweled Rose.  I already had the pipettes – I ordered a big pack of them a long time ago off of Amazon.  I’m no longer an affiliate with them, but here’s the link just to be helpful!  They had a blast, and it kept them occupied for quite a while!  (I presented them with 6 bowls of colored water (the colors of the rainbow) and then they each got a bowl of vegetable oil – for more info, check out her blog!)
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I’m all about rice sensory tubs – my kids LOVE them.  They both absolutely love the feel of the rice between their fingers, and they beg for rice tubs frequently.  I had a pink, red, and white rice mix set up for Valentine’s Day, so for this one, I just scooped out most of that mix, pulled out the Valentine’s add-ins that were in the tub, and dumped in some older bags I had already mixed of blue, green, and white, and then I colored a little orange and purple just to add more spring color.  Then I hid foam letters that spell Happy, Easter, Becca, Grayson, and Elle.  I made sure to write the words on a card and attach to the box since Gray doesn’t know how to spell.  I also took some old foam egg and bunny stickers I got a couple years ago (also in that supply box with the colander…), peeled the backs off, and stuck them together.  Then I hid the eggs and bunnies and the letters to make a fun treasure hunt of sorts!

More Activity Links To Check Out!

Here are some more links to things we’ll be doing later in the week (I won’t promise a blog post because, well, life!)  And also, if you’re just looking for some fun time fillers, be sure to check out Doodle Art Alley – Samantha is an AMAZING artist and does some brilliant work.  She shares TONS of it for FREE on her website – all of it is there just ready for you to download and print!  I printed off a bunch of stuff today and not only did I color with the Bigs earlier, Becca and I enjoyed Cody joining us this evening after the Littles had gone to bed in coloring bookmarks!  We’ll take them and laminate them later this week and then she can use some, and share some with friends when she goes back to school!

Jell-O Scented Moldable Dough for Sensory Play from Sixty Second Parent

Rainbow Fruit Loop Sensory Bin from Love Play Learn

Liquid Starch Slime from Schooling Active Monkeys

Plus, here’s some stuff we’ve done in the past that is worth revisiting for St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Activities

Rainbow Celery

Bell Pepper Shamrocks

We also picked up at Walmart a new super fun Paint by Sticker book – the kids love those!  If your kids haven’t tried them, I highly recommend them for fine motor and numeral recognition practice… and plus they are just downright fun!  Here’s one from Amazon (again, no longer an affiliate, just sharing for your benefit!) that we have and the kids love!

So between all of this and a ton of wonderful books, fun outings planned to a couple of parks, and a plan to hit up Dollar Tree for some window clings, some more stickers, and hopefully an easy crossword puzzle book for Becca… I think we’ll survive the rest of the week, and be better set up for some successfully fun weekends in the future, as well! 🙂

I’m Baaaack!!

So guess what, y’all? I’m back! Not long before I quit writing last year, we found out we were… SURPRISE!!!!… pregnant!  And then last fall, I got back into the classroom at a fabulous private preschool in San Antonio – teaching three days a week as an assistant to a simply amazing teacher who has become a great friend as well as coworker.  I absolutely LOVE teaching Pre-K, and look forward to getting back to teaching this summer for a few days of summer camp, and then to diving back in in the fall.  So anyway, on February 2nd, Mirielle (a French name that means miraculous, because, she really is, ya know?) was born… and the rest of her story is yet to be written!  I’m sure God has an amazing plan for her life!

Now, I’m starting a new adventure in my life – not only being a mom of THREE, but also I have now set a new path for my career! My master’s degree is in curriculum development, and I have long loved creating products for my own classroom, so I figured my maternity leave would be a great time to join the wonderful set of teachers on the fabulous website – Teachers Pay Teachers.

The very first free product I’m offering is a cute little book I’ve titled, “My Colors.”  It’s rainbow inspired for the spring, and was created specifically with Gray in mind, because he really wants to learn how to read, and since he knows his rainbow colors, I thought a simple little reader might help him pick up the color words as sight words.  Instead of merely creating a book on plain paper, we did a super fun art project to tie it all together, and then because Sis wanted to get involved, she colored her own copy of the book for me to use to show y’all as a sample!

Here’s the link to get your free download of the book.  Directions on how to put it together can be found below.

And here’s how we did the art!  Y’all, it’s so simple, it’s like falling off of a log!  I put some rainbow paint colors in an old egg carton, and made stampers from folded paper towels and clothes pins.  First, I had Gray do the craft part – the specific stamping of the colors in order – one purple spot in the middle, surrounded by blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.  I showed him on my plate how to do it, first.  Then, I let him loose and let him just create art!  He used the sponges, his hands, and even asked for a paint brush!  I love that he was exploring with the textures, and we talked about how each material he used made different marks on the plates.  We had such great discussions, and he was happily occupied for a good 45 minutes!  (Total mom score!!  Right??)  (Sidenote – did you notice how I called this activity both a craft AND art?  Check out my post here about the difference between process art and crafts...)

rainbow plates

We’ll be using the other plates he painted as book covers, too… be sure to check my Teachers Pay Teachers page soon for more free downloads, and for other fun book ideas using the covers we made!

How to Assemble Your Books:
To put any of these books together, you’ll want to first make sure your plate is thoroughly  dry, then fold it in half, and cut.  If you’ve done the rainbow circle, it magically becomes a rainbow!  You can simply add a cloud and it becomes much like this craft from Fantastic Fun and Learning.  Or, keep going and turn it into a book cover!  Take your colored “My Colors” book, and cut it in half.  Then, placing the bottom left corner of the book pages in line with the bottom left corner of your rainbow plate, cut around the top to make the arch.  Make sure the pages are all in rainbow color order, and then staple in the bottom left corner.  Use a sharpie to write your title and name, and then enjoy reading your book over and over!

book assembly

Thank you for checking out this post!  If it’s your first time to visit, welcome!  I share lots more on Facebook, so be sure to click on over and “like” my page.  I’d also love for you to follow my Teachers Pay Teachers page – as I’ll be adding lots of files in the coming weeks and months!  I love teaching preschool, and I love that now I get to share with y’all the fun things I’m creating!  I’ll also be throwing a few older kid downloads out there as well, when I make little things for Sis!  So you won’t want to miss anything – I won’t always do a blog post for every file.  If you have something you’d love to see me create, or a topic you’d love to see covered here on the blog, please be sure and let me know!  Just shoot me an email any time – I’d love to hear from you! 

Process Art vs Crafts

This post has been a LONG time in coming.  Life has a way of picking us up and carrying us past goals and deadlines quicker than we expect.  And this post has been one of those experiences.  Real life around here has been busy.  To say the least.  Not only does the laundry keep piling itself higher and higher, but there’s working from home… keeping the house clean… and those two little ones that have to be cleaned and fed, too.  Homeschool is going well, though I’m glad that at the moment the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t appear to be a freight train.  Becca will start to a charter school in the fall.  Maybe then I’ll finally have time to go back and blog all of the units we have done this year… maybe.

Lately I’ve been discussing with some friends the difference between this new buzz-term “process art” vs the age-old “crafts” – and why I believe that both have a very important place in the lives of our children.  So, let’s talk about it.  And then later this week, I’m going to share with you a really fun (and messy!) process art idea, that will result in some amazing paper… that you can use for crafts!

If you aren’t familiar with the terms, let me step back for a moment and share.  Process Art is a term given to art work that is done merely for the experience of the process – the end result is inconsequential.  Process Art is all about FEELING the art, taking it all in with every one of the five senses.  And it’s about expression.  Letting your emotions and your thoughts go wild into this amazing art experience.  Process Art is beautiful.  Painting, coloring, pottery, glass blowing, and tile mosaics are all examples of process art.

Glassblowing image from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Website

So what, then, is a craft?  Crafts have a set end result.  They have a final goal in mind.  Crafts typically follow a pattern.   Color by number, paper crafts, card making/scrapbooking with a template, sticker mosaics, origami, and making those adorable little activities cut from paper with kids are all a type of craft.  When doing a craft, you typically view the end product, and expect that the product you create will look very similar to that product.  I have many friends who go to card making classes where everyone creates the same cards, and wreath making classes where they all end up with the same wreath.  When I taught, I frequently used crafts for my students for holidays and we would all create similar looking products to hang in the hallway.  They are beautiful and even though they are the “same”, they do have a touch of the creator in each of them, causing them to have little unique features.

Photos from the Stampin Up website

But, it’s because of the “sameness” that many people say children should ONLY be taught using Process Art.  They believe they should experience art to its fullest and put all of their emotions and feelings into their art, and learn that any end product is beautiful when it’s a reflection of their inner expression.

I agree with part of this.

My kids LOVE to create art.  They love to get messy with their art.  And they, like all children, don’t like to be told what to do.  They love to change things up as much as possible.  They enjoy an open invitation to art – where, for example,  there’s paper, paint, and cars on the table and they can just do whatever comes naturally to them.  And those times are VITAL to their creative expression!!

Check out this blast from the past – Painting with Cars!

But it’s also very important that they learn to follow directions, and that they come to realize how to get from point A to point B to reach an end goal.  This is where I believe crafts falling by the wayside is a travesty and a disservice to the next generation.

One of my favorite hobbies is scrapbooking.  It is truly its own art form – and is becoming more and more of a lost art as the world goes digital.  I don’t choose to follow very many templates, but every now and then, I see one that fits perfectly with what I want to do, and because I grew up doing paper crafts, I can easily analyze someone else’s template and make it happen on my own paper.  Because sometimes it’s a GOOD THING to not re-create the wheel.  (I mean, the wheel turns pretty good on its own without me changing the curves, right?)

I love to paint.  But on my own, without instruction, I’m rarely happy with my end product.  I crave instruction, and learn more technique and gain more experience with every trip I take to Painting With a Twist (read more about them in my previous blog post here).  But here’s the REAL twist – y’all, PWAT is the perfect example of combining process art with a craft.  Because you see the end product, and you follow directions to get to the end result… and yet, you’re able to make changes.  You can “go rogue” any time you want.  You can switch up the colors, and in the process of following directions to mix colors, you come up with your own shades.  And in the process of following directions to place items certain locations on the canvas, your own flair and the shake of your own hand makes the canvas’ end product uniquely yours.

At Painting With A Twist, we each follow directions to create a similar product, though each is unique to the painter.

So is there a place for those step-by-step/follow directions/ adorable little groundhog faces made from an upside down heart, and leprechauns made from shamrocks, and First Thanksgiving books made from millions of pieces of paper cut to certain specific sizes?  YES!!!  Our kids NEED to know how to follow directions, how to work to reach an end goal, and need to learn when it’s ok to tweak those instructions to make the end product uniquely theirs.

In other words, there is a place for both art AND crafts in this world.  Look at the amazing crochet hats and blankets folks make.  The incredible needlepoint works.  And look at Van Gogh and Picasso.  There has always been room in the past for both.  I’m not real sure why folks now, in 2017, are trying to do away with crafts – an art form that has easily existed alongside “Process Art” for thousands of years.  Why not encourage our children to do a healthy helping of each?

And seriously – is there a mom of a 2 year old anywhere in this world that wouldn’t love hanging this adorable craft on her fridge? I doubt it!

So later this week, I hope you will check back here for a super fun Process Art activity… and some ways to use the product in some really cute crafts!

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Activities

Well, so if you’re homeschooling, you may not officially have a Spring Break… or if you are public/private schooling, you may have kids who are constantly wanting SOMETHING to keep them busy!  Either way, I’ve got two fun activities for you that kids of all ages could enjoy this week as we prepare for St. Patrick’s Day.

First, if you’ve got kids under age 7, who are working on spelling, reading, or even just recognizing their color words, this super fun and easy craft stick rainbow activity is for you!  I wrote for my kids, but for older kids you could easily practice spelling and handwriting in a small space by having them write the color words on the sticks.  (Or older siblings can write for the younger ones!)

I simply had my kids squeeze glue (working on those fine motor skills!) onto the back of a thick paper plate (to provide a nice solid backing).  Then, lay the labeled craft sticks in order of the rainbow.  (I purchased colored craft sticks at Walmart, but you could also have them color or paint plain sticks.)  Then stretch your cotton balls and glue on top.  Once it is totally dry, you can cut off the excess plate and display your beautiful rainbow!

I wish I could take total credit for this next idea, but I can’t.  I saw on Pinterest somewhere a cute rainbow handprint painted sign… and then I downloaded this FREE set from Teachers Pay Teachers that was created by Lindsey from The Teacher Wife.  The two activities melded together well.

The thing I love about her free printable activity is that it’s very flexible for kids of all ages and stages.  To make my pots, I simply cut black construction paper out around Lindsey’s pot template and then cut out the coins from her template from yellow construction paper.  Becca decided she would draw her picture first, and then tell me what to write about it.  She is the one who picked that it would be a friend theme – the actual writing template says “Who is worth more to you than gold?”  She decided that Gray’s should have his friends, too, so I used the blank pieces from the set and just printed out pictures of him with his friends since he wasn’t interested in drawing them on the paper.  I just asked him who he wanted me to include and he told me.

There are multiple other template options in the set that would work for a variety of different ages.  In fact, the two blank pot pieces I used for Gray’s pictures could also easily be used in comic strip fashion and made into a pot of gold comic book by your older artists who are really dying for an engaging project this week.  I would love to see how you modify this to make it your own!

The rainbow painting was simple – I just pulled out paint, painted each child’s hand for each color, and used legal length paper to fit the most handprints together on one page.

**Note – baby wipes work great to get paint off between each color, and then you can do in-depth soap and water cleaning when you’re all done.  I prefer to use acrylic paints because they dry quickly, but they are prone to staining clothing, so if you prefer, use a washable finger paint or add dish soap to tempera paint before using.